Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do the Pop! The Radio Birdman Story and Show # 150

Radio Birdman were a punk band that came out of Sydney, Australia. The band who were classified as punk, took its influence from Detroit bands such as The Stooges, and The MC5; The band also had a surf rock influence. The name of the band came from a lyric in a Stooges song, "1970". The lyric is actually "radio burnin' up above", not "radio birdman up above", but nevertheless that's where the band got their name from. Deniz Tek who was one of the founders of the band was originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He would move to Australia in 1972. The band would be formed by Deniz Tek (guitars) and surfer Rob Younger who would do the vocals. After recruiting three more members Pip Hoyle (keyboards),Carl Rorke (Bass)(then Gilbert Warwick), and Ron Keeley (drums), the band would record the EP titled Burn My Eye in 1976. The EP was a rough sounding recording containing four tracks. The EP was quite different from the styles of Aussie rock at the time.

The band would record and release Radio's Appear in 1977. The album title came from a Blue Oyster Cult song titled "Dominance and Submission"; Blue Oyster Cult was another one of the bands influences. When Sire Records came to Australia to sign fellow Australian punks The Saints, Radio Birdman were also signed to the label. After getting signed, the band would record Radio's Appear again and release it under Sire in 1978 (known as the overseas version of the album). The album would feature tracks such as "Murder City Nights", "Do the Pop!", "Descent into the Maelstrom" and "Aloha Steve & Danno", which was a song about the cop-drama TV series Hawaii Five-O. The song showed the bands surf influence as well as punk ethics as did the majority of Radio's Appear. The original 1977 Australian release of the album started off with a cover of The Stooges song "TV Eye", the song is played twice as fast as the original, and is angry loud and vicious. In 2005 a CD re-issue of the album featured "TV Eye" as well as a few other bonus tracks.

Before Radio's Appear was even released Radio Birdman would play at a pub that would be named The Oxford Funhouse (taking the name from a place where The Stooges would play and live, called The Funhouse). The club would be a home for the Sydney punk scene, but as Radio's Appear took off commercially, the place would begin to attract crowds of gangs who would commit violent acts. Radio Birdman were blamed for the violence so around this time, the band took a little break. After a short European tour the band was dropped from it's label and were essentially over. In 1978, the band recorded Living Eyes, which would be their last album until recently. The album itself never saw release in the USA, and wasn't released until 1981. Following one more live show, the band split up in 1978.

Living Eyes the album, was originally released on and mastered from a cassette tape due to the fact that the master tapes were lost. In the 90's the tapes were found, the album was remixed properly and released. The album was re-issued in 2005 with bonus tracks as well. The album itself featured another band member Chris Masuak on guitar. Masuak who joined the band shortly after their first EP, is credited on Radio's Appear, but he is more prominent on Living Eyes. The album itself drew more from the Detroit sound of The Stooges and and less from the MC5, but the the band also had different attitude here. Examples of the new but still similar sound of the band are on tracks such as "Breaks My Heart" (a more melodic track), and "More Fun". "More Fun" is a surf influenced track with heavy drowning organs. The album ends with the track "Alone in the Endzone". A song featuring chugging guitar riffs and keyboards and a climbing bassline in the chorus. The album itself is just as good as its predecessor, too bad it didn't get the proper released when it should have.

After the band split members of the band would form other bands and projects. Rob Younger would form New Christs, Deniz Tek would from the short lived band, The Visitors with previous Birdmen, Ron Keeley and Pip Hoyle. Tek would also form another short lived live band New Race. The band consisted of Ron Asheton of The Stooges, and Denis Thompson of MC5. Warwick and Chris Masuak formed The Hitmen. After his New Race days Deniz Tek would become a surgeon, and serve in the Navy. In 1996 Radio Birdman would reform for some live shows, in 2006 the band recorded another album titled Zeno Beach. A tour followed, the band toured for the first time in the US supporting Zeno Beach, as well as some of their classics. In 2001, a greatest hits compilation titled, The Essential Radio Birdman: 1974-1978 was releeased on Sub Pop. Radio Birdman were one of the punk originators in the Australian music scene. While they may not have been a huge commercial success, the band are known as Australian punk legends.

More Information:
1. Richard Hell & The Voidoids – liars beware
2. Rage Against The Machine – down rodeo
3. Sublime – same in the end
4. Buzzcocks – why can’t I touch it?
5. Iggy Pop – dog food
6. Modernettes – celebrity crack up
7. Marble Index – all that I know
8. Neil Young – shock and awe
9. Radio Birdman – hand of law
10. Love Me Nots – heart on a chain
11. Soundgarden – bleed together
12. The D4 – north shore bitch
13. Pearl Jam – hail, hail
14. Nirvana – frances farmer will have her revenge on seattle
15. Ride Theory – on fire
16. Hot, Hot, Heat – eyes ears mouth (demo)
17. Fiction Plane – two sisters
18. Dead 60’s – you’re not the law
19. Exploding Hearts – shattered (you left me)
20. The Subways – city pavement
21. Sloan – Iggy & Angus
22. White Stripes – bone broke
23. White Stripes – rag and bone
24. White Stripes – effect and cause

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Hi Dave, Thanks for the great post on the Visitors: a little known but
cool band. The Visitors lineup, with keyboard and one guitar is the same
as what we started out with in Radio Birdman in 1974. We hired Chris
Masuak as second guitar player when Pip left the band in 1976 ... so for
me it was actually getting back quite close to the original RB sound,
except for the vocals.

We recorded all the album tracks plus the tracks for the ep in one
afternoon on 8-track at the Palms studios in Sydney, the same place I
produced the Lipstick Killers single. We set up like at a show, Marshalls
at full volume, and simply played through the entire set live. The only
overdubs were a couple of vocal tracks. So it is essentially live. The
good thing is that we didn't expect it to ever come out, so we were quite
relaxed and low stress, drinking, joking etc. It was just meant to be a
demo. Rob did not mix the ep. I mixed it with Charles Fisher. Rob started
his production career a year or two later, after he transitioned from the
Other Side to the New Christs.

The original ep was a 12 in vinyl release on Phantom Records. Phantom was
a little record store in Sydney run by Jules Normington. The LP came out
on Citadel a couple of years later. Steve Harris our bass player did the
artwork. He also played keyboards with The Passengers, sometimes even on
the same night, playing with them early then jumping in a cab and crossing
the city to play bass with the Visitors. The Passengers also featured
Angie Pepper on vocals, whom I later married, and Jim Dickson on bass, who
went on to the Barracudas, New Christs, Deniz Tek Group, and Radio

The Visitors album has been remixed once and remastered twice for CD
releases on Redeye/Polydor and Citadel Records. The recent Citadel reissue
is still available through their mail order."