In early ’73 I joined forces with drummer Gordon Heazlewood and bass player Vic Pisani, both from CHASER, recently suffering the loss of their very formidable lead guitarist Richard McKewan to PIRANA. (Australia’s version of Santana)
With the addition of vocalist Jim Willebrandt previously with THE DAISY ROOTS,CLAPHAM JUNCTION and STAFFORD BRIDGE, the STUMBLE line up was complete. My thinking to continue on with same formulae that had proved successful for HOT COTTAGE, adding an emphasis on rhythm section led improvisation.
To my thinking there had not been a page left unturned with the putting together of this line up. Jim was the consummate front man with a proven strong radio friendly voice. Vic and Gordon were not only an inventive rhythm section but also formidable songwriters whilst my role was that of tying it all together with the advantage of several years of commercial success with Hot Cottage.
Of special interest was the inclusion of Rod Elliot into the fold, a former school mate of mine and by 1973, a successful amp designer (SKAM) and all round electronics whizz.
Rod was inspired by the technical achievements of Pink Floyd, and under his guidance I believe we became the first group in Australia to carry our own multi component PA system (stereo), in tandem with using smaller amps DI into the PA, a fully miked up drum kit, in ear monitoring and utilising a F.O.H. sound mixer.
Our PA, mixing desk and instrument amps we all designed and built by Rod. Combined with a Teac 4 track recorder, we had a complete mobile recording studio which we utilised for demos and recording gigs, a service Rod and I also provided to numerous other bands.
Despite our technical achievements, musically we had been left behind, our original material with its riffy rock undertones falling victim to the Chinn and Chapman epidemic.
The venues, which 2 years earlier had welcomed HOT COTTAGE with open arms were now the exclusive property of a new generation of pop savvy bands which ticked every media box, all led by Sydney’s SHERBET and Melbourne’s SKYHOOKS,
Whilst Sherbet followed the current popular formulae to the letter, Skyhooks were the most original band Australia had produced since the Easybeats.
These bands where just what radio and television were looking for, With their pin up personas and well crafted, universally appealing pop anthems, the two groups became household names as the the result of a Beatles’ vs. Stones style media fuelled popularity contest.
Instigated by girlfriends of the band, Stumble then jumped on the glam image bandwagon, a misconceived manoeuvre in a battle for the crumbs, left in the wake of the SHERBET and SKYHOOKS blitzkrieg.
Our numerous self recorded demos circulated amongst friends on cassette. Our only mainstream release was on the Infinity Label in the form of a collaboration with Maureen Elkner on the track DYNAMITE (and that merely as a backing band.)
An in house project for the team at the legendary UNITED SOUND STUDIOS (located on the site now home to the IMAX cinema in Sydney’s Darling Harbour) DYNAMITE featuring vocalist Maureen Elkner was originally intended to be an epic in the style of The Real Thing, Eloise, MacArthur Park and Everlasting Love but fell short of its intended mark.
Maureen went on to have quite a sizable novelty hit with ‘Rak off Normie’ in 1975.
For the session, I played my ’68 Les Paul and Rod Elliot designed 25 watt SKAM transistor amp.
The random ultra distorted guitar flurries which pepper themselves over the track were added by guitarist John Robison from BLACKFEATHER when producer Wyn Wahuni decided he wanted to add some sonic unpredictability to proceedings.
United Sound had become a regular haunt for me as a session player during those early years.
Under the auspices of iconic producer Pat Aulton, HOT COTTAGE had recorded jingles at United for Schweppes with popstress MARY JANE BOYD.(1952 -1991)
STUMBLE returned to United Sound to record music for a Film Australia produced army recruitment film. Given our anti Vietnam stance, taking this turncoat gig was taken purely out of our need for funds to keep the band afloat!
The exit of drummer Gordon Heazlewood at the beginning of ’74 and the bringing in of Gary Riley (ex Stafford Bridge) gave STUMBLE a much more conventional rock sound, but alas, did nothing to change our fragile fortunes.
After an initial round of gigs, booking agents were not overly interested in what STUMBLE had to offer and we closed shop in late ’74, only clocking up about 20 performances during our two year existence, an accurate reflection of our lack of commercial appeal.
Rod Elliot and myself were doing far better hiring out our PA and doing demo recordings for other bands, which in 1975 lead to the setting up of our own studio, FLY BY NIGHT.
Jim Willebrandt has since become a world renown, commercially successful artist, bass player Vic Pisani now sports the nickname 007 working for ASIO, drummer Gordon Heazlewood, at the time of writing, is playing with THE SWINGING SIXTIES and appears in my 2012/13 videos for GUITAR PENITENTIARY and THE SILENCE. Rod Elliot, after a stint working as a designer with LENARD amps, committed his innumerable talents to the world of I.T. during its infancy and has accordingly reaped the benefits.