JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN A VERY HUGE WALL
RICK & THE BAD BOYS was just one of hundreds, if not thousands of 60’s Sydney suburban Beat Groups, crewed by teenagers with overblown ambition and limited experience than their present experience and talent should ever permit. I was one of them.
YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE
I first became intrigued by the sound of the electric guitar before my birthdays had reached double digits courtesy of records by Duane Eddy, Johnny & The Hurricanes, The Ventures and The Shadows. Then came Wipeout and Pipeline, soon thereafter followed by Number One hits from our own Denvermen (Surfside) and Atlantics (Bombora). Just as I was getting my head around all of this, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones materialised. I was hooked and the fuse was lit.
My final year of school, 1964, included working a paper route so I could by a guitar. I had my eye on a Barclay (Guyatone) for 29 quid in Harry Landis Music Store in Park St Sydney. I would often catch the train into the city on a Saturday morning just so I could look at this guitar in the display window! I had seen Maurice from The BG’s playing one on TV, so they must be good . . .right? I used an old radio for an amplifier!
As soon as I began working in early ’65 I purchased a Challenge amp. It looked more like a like a cheap piece of furniture and did not sport the sleek lines of the Fenders and Vox’s the big boys were using; but it was loud enough to alert the neighbourhood of my impending stardom! (Challenge was locally produced for Nicholson’s, another music store always on my visiting list whenever I trained it into the city)
Just out of high school, where long hair was a punishable offence and with parents who adhered to the same edict ” While you are under our roof it’s our way or the highway” I fashioned what there was on top of my head into a form of ‘Liverpuddlian likeness’ and in April 1965 auditioned for Sydney North Shore group, PETER & THE WOLVES.
The band rehearsed in their drummer’s home. Imagine a post civil war southern mansion, stripped of all its former grandeur, history still seeping from its overgrown grounds, transported to the suburban backwoods of Wahroonga! Perhaps nervous anticipation of my impending ‘trial by fire’ exaggerated my perception of the residence as I drove through the front gates with guitar and amp perilously affixed to my motor scooter.
The band comprised bass player Peter Snerling, drummer Barry ‘Butch’ McClause, guitarist Bob Gunn and singer Rick Suey, a local ‘push bike postie’, whose reputation of extraordinary Beatlesque vocal capabilities preceded him.
My own musical experience at that point was limited to about four months of trawling through the pages of Nick Manaloff’s ‘Spanish Guitar Method’ and working out the guitar solo from ‘You Really Got Me‘, by slowing the 45 single down to 33rpm.
Luckily, this was the first tune the band wanted to try me out on.
It was smiles all round as the last, severely out of tune D7 chord rang out from my twenty nine quid Barclay guitar. I was offered my first ever gig, along with tea and bikkies by the drummers Mum.
I was very impressed by both his playing and the sound of the guitar! A lefty who simply flipped the guitar over, my assumption was he had switched to bass to capitalise on Paul McCartney’s popularity.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Over the next couple of months the solo from ‘You Really Got Me’ served me well as I moved it around the fret board to accommodate the key of other songs in the groups repertoire. I began to extend my capabilities by adding small motifs I worked out from Rolling Stones and Aztecs records.
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
Freshly rebranded as THE LOOSE ENDS with three months of rehearsals under our belts, we deemed ourselves ready for world domination. Armed with a repertoire of Stones, Easybeats, Missing Links, Kinks, Who, Pretty Things and obligatory Beatles tunes, we successfully beat The Precious Few (later to gain fame as HEART & SOUL) in a play off for a residency at the Turramurra Teen Tavern on Sydney’s upper North Shore for 2 quid a night.
DEAD POET’S SOCIETY
We had band uniforms made by our drummer’s Mum, long black velvet coats and white lace bibs, which we coupled with black jeans and Beatle Boots, copied directly from a photograph of Scottish group, ‘The Poets’.
To our dismay, another local group, ‘The Showmen,’ also adopted the same look!
FEE FI FO SONIC
I upgraded to a 1965 Harmony H75 guitar, a model also sported by well know Sydney acts Ray Brown & The Whispers, The Legends, The Sands and The Missing Links.
Keith Richards was also a Harmony user, so what better endorsement could I have asked for? We all invested in matching 30watt Fi Sonic amps, a local brand, (also the first amp used by Angus Young)
Dan Auerbach of ‘The Black Keys’ plays the later released Harmony H78, the same guitar in a redburst with Bigsby. Harmony closed shop in 1975.
It did not take long for the ‘Teen Tavern’s’ popularity to spread and groups far more well known and experienced than ours began applying for gigs there. Our termination from The Teen Tavern was inevitable.
THE FOLK NEST
What to do? We would open our own venue! An empty store room above a Hornsby coffee shop. The owners readily took to the idea of their vacant real estate becoming an income earning undertaking and ‘The Folk Nest’ opened Saturday nights from 7 through to 10 pm. It was a no brainer.
With refreshments available downstairs, and bathroom facilities in the building, all we had to do was throw a few old sofas into the space and we were away. The name may appear to be a bit dour but the business model was the brainchild of our leader and rhythm guitarist Bob Gunn. It was a moniker that would not have parents overly worried about where their kids were going and would tie in with the cafe’s more ‘Greenwich Village’ vibe.
To ensure we wouldn’t be backstabbed by our musical competition, we kept our friends close and our enemies even closer! The Loose Ends played every second week and offered the alternate evening to other local groups. About four months later the cafe’s lease was not renewed and the Folk Nest became just another forgotten by-line in the history pages of North Shore Rock & Roll. We continued to run our own dances at The Chatswood Town Hall and occasionally played The Lindfield Laundromat and The Beach House, Surf City’s sister venue in Elizabeth Street in the Sydney CBD.
We also ventured into the wilds of the western suburbs, playing the even rougher Sound Lounges in Parramatta and Liverpool. The gig at the latter was a Saturday afternoon spot supporting the Easybeats, with only half a dozen punters in attendance. When entering the manager’s office to pick up our fee, his request for me to “Fuck Off” was underscored with gun in hand! It soon became obvious we only got these gigs because no else would take them!
Although never securing a gig at the famed venue, we became an occasional inclusion in the travelling ‘Beatle Village Cavalcade of Stars’ which featured assorted line ups from a pool of the venue’s regular performers, ‘The Easybeats’, ‘The Missing Links’, ‘The Creatures’, ‘The Rhythm Beats’, ‘The Cavaliers’, ‘The Midnighters’ and ‘The Vedettes’.
Located in Taylor Square which was home to Sydney’s, Gay, Beat and Jazz culture, Beatle Village was ‘the gig’ for the new wave of up and coming rock bands with post Beatle aspirations.
CREATURES OF HABIT
Led by two German brothers, ‘The Creatures’ became our own personal bodyguards.
The most outlandish of us all, with their long unkempt multi coloured hair, the guys had no qualms about bashing the crap out of a of a horde of gun toting, drunken bikes who had trapped all the bands in the Bathurst Town Hall at the end of our ’66 NYE gig. They were throwing rocks and bottles thru the halls’ windows and overturned the Midnighters van as they attempted an escape.
We were dismayed to see members of The Creatures being arrested when the bikies disappeared.
SEX IN THE CITY . . . . .AND COUNTRY
Our trump card, was without doubt, our sixteen year old singer, Rick Suey, gifted with one of the purest pop voices you were ever likely hear. This, coupled with angelic good looks, melted the heart, and panties, of every young damsel who dared look his way, and immediately tagged for some horizontal action.
Rick was very much influenced by the flirtatious showmanship of The Easybeats ‘Stevie Wright , imitating his idol’s every mannerism, then coupling this with the more aggressive aspects and unruly behaviour of Andy James, front man for another of our favourite Sydney groups, The Missing Links.
Constantly with cigarette in hand, Rick was now regularly drinking to excess on the job, baiting male members of our audiences by bedding their girlfriends backstage and then throwing assorted edibles and projectiles at these severely agitated, scorned young men while we played.
Being behind Rick on stage was akin to being part of Custer’s Last Stand version of Groundhog Day.
THE SWINGING SIXTIES
One instance at a Carrington Hotel gig in Katoomba saw a flying mic stand knock a young girl unconscious, the green light for the locals to attack us and tear the venue to shreds, smashing every bit of furniture in the place. I was defending myself with a swinging guitar, a borrowed ’62 Stratocaster!
We managed to get back to our hotel rooms, but there was more to come. Our drummer had brought his new girlfriend with him on this particular overnighter without her parent’s consent!
Somehow learning of his daughter’s whereabouts, her father made the five hour drive to Katoomba to rescue his ‘kidnapped’ offspring. On the stroke of midnight Dear Dad broke down the hotel room door, screaming obscenities and proceeded to demolish the wardrobe in which his petrified daughter was taking refuge, dragging her out by the hair.
Meanwhile, Rick our singer lured a girl into a nearby back yard and had removed sheets from the clothes line to create a love nest on the midnight dewy grass. The family dog quickly alerted the neighbourhood. Rick selflessly abandoned his concubine and was last seen vaulting a high rear fence with his jeans in hand!
We were on more than one occasion run out of country towns with guns pointed at us, pursued by convoys of irate locals in their hotted up V8’s as we pushed our poor overloaded, underpowered Kombi to its limit. Bloody scary stuff!
TO BE, NOT TO BEE . . . . GEE
Enter Bee Gee’s manager and producer Nat Kipner, a hustler and entrepreneur directly cast from the mould of the legendary Lee Gordon.
Nat Kipner in conjunction with Ossie Bryne (St Clair studio operator) were still celebrating their smash hit with the Bee Gee’s (Spicks & Specks) when they signed us to their newly formed Down Under record label.
They immediately insisted on a spruced up image, a cleaner pop sound and a name change to Rick & The Bad Boys, all their other signings receiving rebranding of a similar nature featuring their lead vocalist’s name out front.. Gino and The Affair, Kevin Bible & The Book, Steve & The Board, Derek’s, Accent, and the list went on.
We felt these suggestions were perhaps a backward step, yet this may have been a blessing in disguise. With ‘The Loose Ends’ name now on many a scorned young man’s (and venue owner’s) most wanted list’, this could well be our get out of jail card.
A GIFT FROM THE GODS
At the time I was working at Artransa Park Studios on the Beatles TV cartoon series. Every episode of the show was based on one of their songs and imagine my surprise to have their version of ‘Bad Boy’ land in my lap for an upcoming episode, a track completely unknown to Australian audiences.
To record a cover version virtually guaranteed success of unimaginable proportions. This was the perfect song with which to launch our recording career.
We had to fight tooth and nail to convince Nat and Ossie this tune should be our first single as they had plans for us to record a ‘Merseyfied’ version of ‘I Found A New Love, originally released in the 50’s by local rocker Lonnie Lee and co written by Nat. Had we been a bit more industry savvy, we would have at least agreed to record the song as a B side, so as to stay in their good books.
The studio was always bustling with musicians and it was there that I first met fellow novice guitar players Dennis Wilson with Kevin Bible & The Book, who would go on to form ‘Khavas Jute’, and Jim Kelly with ‘Gino & The Affair’, later evolving into ‘The Affair’ (featuring Kerrie Biddell) after Gino moved on and found fame with The Executives.
Others regularly seen in the studio making their breakthrough recordings there included , Toni McCann, Bobbie Thomas, Tony Barber, Marty Rhone, Ronne Burns, Vince Maloney plus the aforementioned Bee Gee’s.
Engineer Ossie Byrne ran two Revox 1/4″ tape machines and overdubs were done by bouncing from one recorder to the other. Band racks were recorded live in the studio with the group forming a circle around a lone centre mic although I do recall at a later session my amp being allocated its own microphone.
My primitive playing style at this time very much indebted to the style of Vince Maloney, lead guitarist with the original line up of Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs. A lasting memory of our first recording session was being completely horrified when instructed by engineer Ossie Byrne not to use my obnoxious, noisy fuzz box, the device which to that point, had successfully masked my guitaring inadequacies.
The resultant guitar sound on Bad Boy is very twee indeed, and not worth consideration. For some reason we were not afforded the use of reverb to give our sound any depth. Being technically ignorant at the time about such things I couldn’t figure out why we sounded so much ‘bigger’ on the rehearsal tapes we recorded in a local hall. Perhaps the reverb button wasn’t working that day?
But I do recall being completely amazed when hearing Rick’s lead vocal being double tracked. What was this studio magic?
HOW MANY DRUMMERS DOES IT TAKE TO………
Our drummer Butch struggled a tad more than the rest of us at that first session. It was pointed out by Nat and Ossie that he was unable to coordinate the playing of his kick and snare drum. The bass drum was eventually recorded as an overdub in true Salvation Army Marching Band style!
Nat Kipner soon thereafter informed us we would have to replace him if our deal with Down Under was to continue. We had become an inseparable band of brothers, combined with the fact the Butch’s Mum was our most ardent ‘adult ‘supporter. Firing him was heartbreaking.
I still remember Butch voluntarily handing over his Loose Ends uniform so we could pass it on to his successor. A true act of selflessness form a great guy.
Finding a suitable replacement was much harder than first anticipated, reiterated by our drummerless publicity poster.
Fronted by later Little River Band lead singer Glenn Shorrock, The Twilights, with EMI backing had also secured a copy of The Beatles recording of Bad Boy. We were devastated. It appeared to us at least that the release of our version was deliberately held back to allow The Twilights first bight of the cherry.
Their version was released to the accompaniment of huge fanfares from the pop industry and in particular from Go Set Magazine, the country’s pop music bible. In all retrospective fairness, our rendition was not a patch on that of Mr. Shorrock & Co. and our record later scored a ‘D’ rating in a Go Set review.
Our original B Side, Listen, was found to be equally worthy of complete dismissal.
HE WHO HAS THE LAST LAUGH
The Rick & The Bad Boys record is now much sought after collectable. In 2007 a copy sold on E Bay fro $106.00! and I was recently offered $400 for the lone copy I have. Offer rejected!
THE POWER OF THE PRESS
In a complete turnaround, Rick and myself found our next mutual project three years hence as ‘Hot Cottage, ‘the darlings of Go Set magazine’, thanks to their chief writer, Lily Brett.
Go Set magazine also published reader’s letters:
“A big go-go to Rick and The Bad Boys. The best and most exciting group in Sydney. Everybody is waiting for their new record – so hurry up please – Bad Boy Fans, Hornsby. P.S. +- They used to be called The Loose Ends. Like The Rolling Stones and their guitarist Keith Richard, the Bad Boys follow the beat of Kim Humphreys’ guitar work.”
I was chuffed of course to see my name in print, but I’m sure Charlie Watts would not have been too pleased with the prequel to the observation of my ‘fan perceived’ role in the Bad Boys
I FOUND A NEW LOVE
My first recording experience under the auspices of Ossie Byrne and Nat Kipper opened my eyes to a whole new world, giving me a lifelong interest in the art and science of recording.
I also developed an awareness of developing a guitar sound, rather than just plugging in and accepting whatever came out of the speaker.
The result: I upgraded to a Fender Bandmaster amp and continued learning to tame my unruly fuzz box, also experimenting with primitive treble boosters, tape echo units and compressors .
Rick & The Bad Boys managed one TV appearance, a pre recorded episode of the ABC’s national 6pm pop culture program BE OUR GUEST but the episode never went to air. A special news bulletin coverage of Francis Chichester arriving in Sydney Harbour on his around the world raft at the time the show was scheduled to go to air took precedence over our one and only opportunity to gain national exposure via ‘the box’.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE Bee Gee’s
After the failure of our first record, we were given a second chance, with our new drummer. Peter Jaeggle had moved to Sydney from Adelaide to audition for Steve and The Board, whose drummer Colin Peterson (former child star of the movie Smiley) had moved up a rung up the ladder and joined The BG’s. Pete didn’t get the gig he was hoping for but Nat Kipner teamed him with us.
Then, another BG’s related occurrence gifted us the perfect song to record. Rowed Out, by English band, The Eyes, which had not been released in Australia. Initially intended as solo record for former Aztecs lead guitarist Vince Maloney, the track was passed onto us when Vince was also conscripted into the BG ranks as The Gibb Brothers prepared for their assault on the UK. The tune certainly suited us as it was in the vein of the music we were listening to by The Kinks, Who, Yardbirds and Pretty Things.
ON A SERIOUS NOTE . . . . . .BLACK AND WHITE
If you wanted an Australian locality that shared its social values with the redneck, Ku Klux Clan infested Burroughs of America’s deep south during the 50’s and 60’s, look no further than the South Australian mining town of Broken Hill, home for a number of years to our latest recruit, drummer Peter Jaeggle.
This was the time of The White Australia Policy when government viewed our Aboriginal population as second class citizens, to be brushed under the carpet at every opportunity.
During this time, Sydney’s own Redfern was an overcrowded ghetto for the city’s indigenous population, living in run down overcrowded housing and with no prospects. Perpetual drinking was the norm, with criminal activities being how one financed merely living from one day to the next.. The place was a definite no-go zone for long haired ‘poofs’ from a pop group.
This sets the scene for myself and Peter to be driving home from a gig at about 1am when he suggested we take a short cut through Redfern. We were in my mechanically unreliable Mini 850 when I slowed at an intersection and was instantly confronted by a group of inebriated youths.
Time to hit the gas and get out of there!
Peter put his head out the window and yelled a few obscenities, a ‘sporting habit’ he had picked up back in Broken Hill, and I stalled the car! With empty beer bottles raining down on my poor Mini I managed to restart the engine and execute our escape. Peter was laughing his head off while I needed a change of underwear!
This was an awakening into a side of Australian life I had never given much thought and that incident remains at the forefront of my mind to this very day. Not one of the proudest moments in my Bad Boys chronicles.
Doing a gig in Broken Hill in the late 70’s, as part of Jeff St John’s band, I was absolutely appalled by what I saw. The abuse and denigration of the black population by the white, worse than I could have ever imagined
Coming a close second in our ‘Shame Shame Shame’ files was playing a Young Liberals black tie dinner where our inebriated vocalist began a food fight with our country’s future political leaders. In Rick’s defence he was being goaded by a small minority of the attendees but the final upshot was newspaper publicity we definitely didn’t need.
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD
Then, without warning, to us at least, Down Under Records and St Clair Studio ceased operations! The label had lasted all of five months and managed to release thirteen singles during its short existence. The focus, of Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne was now set on getting the BG’s to the UK, along with launching Nat’s son Steve, (he of Steve and The Board) internationally with his new group, eventually to be known as Tin Tin.
ONE OF OUR TAPES IS MISSING
Several years ago I attempted to find the whereabouts of the studio’s tapes . The general assumption is that St. Clair work experience engineer Bruce Brown (later to be part of Alberts’ King St Studios during its halcyon days of the late 70’s and 80’s (recording AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo etc), now living in Mexico, was gifted or bought much of the equipment and inherited the tape library when The Bee Gees moved to England in ’67.
IT IS NOT SO MUCH THE SHIP, BUT THE CAPTAIN
It is not so much the ship, but the skilful navigation of it’s captain that assures a prosperous voyage. We never got to record a B side for Rowed Out, the single that would never be, and The Bad Boys became a rudderless ship.
Peter packed up his drums and we went thru a series of replacements. The last, Michael McCormack, convinced me it was time to move on and join him in the highly respected blues outfit, The Sect. This was after we foolishly elected to replace our fearless leader and rhythm guitarist Bob Gunn with Paul Adams. Paul’s Dad was involved in the highly suspect Kings Cross nightclub scene. He was managing and dating the notorious stripper Sandra Nelson, getting her onto newspaper front pages.
This was the manager we believed we needed, and a service he would provide on the condition his son was in the band. I was at a loss as to which path to follow but having been exposed to the ruthless reality of the music business over the past 12 months, I resigned myself to the fact that this was how things worked and Paul became a Bad Boy.
In all fairness he was a talented musician but his Dad was nowhere to be seen and it was only a matter of weeks before the wheels fell completely off our wagon. My move to The Sect became imminent.
Records on the Down Under label now fetch a hefty price from collectors and according to the net, a copy of Bad Boy fetched $106.00 back 2007!
THERE AIN’T NO SANTA CLAUSE
My time with the band was definitely more about social education rather than a musical one, yet those heady days produced many lifelong friendships which I continue to value to this day. The end of ‘The Bad Boys closed an impossible-to-forget chapter of my life.
The carefree naivety, magic and mystique of sailing uncharted waters was gone forever. Playing in a band from then on became a serious business.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Three years later, singer Rick Suey would join me in Hot Cottage, but after the recording of the band’s first single for EMI he became too unreliable and we had to replace him. Fortunately Rick is still a friend but no longer involved in music.
Prior to becoming a successful theatrical agent, rhythm guitarist Bob Gunn formed the Woodstock inspired MELLISSA, recording an album for the very prestigious, INFINITY label
Our bass player, Peter Snerling didn’t pursue music any further and these days lives the quiet life Byron Bay,
In true Spinal Tap fashion, our many drummers have all vanished into the ether.