Nobody Wants Me - Babeez (Buttercup Records)
Do you have even the slightest interest in the early Australian punk scene? Are you looking for an excuse to your drop hard-earned on a lovingly-packaged, beautifully rendered piece of long-playing vinyl? Look no further.
Melbourne’s Babeez grew out of glam rock, parties, 5/4 rhythms and the arty Carlton music scene of the mid-1970s. Their epiphany came with hearing the Ramones’ first album. They never fit the punk mould - whatever that was in a confused Australia that absorbed “the real thing” by way of tabloid TV and sea mailed magazines that arrived months after trends had been and gone overseas.
Brief exposure to the post-Funhouse Sydney scene (a gig with Johnny and the Hitmen and The Survivors at the behest of Radio Birdman manager George Kringas, no less) led to Babeez recording a handful of songs on borrowed gear in Melbourne in late 1977. The result was the “Dowanna Love”/“Hate”/“Nobody Wants Me” single, one of the most desirable independent Oz punk singles issued.
(Babeez would go on to change their name to The News to avoid confusion with a one-hit wonder then soaring up the local charts, but that’s another story.)
Cue the boys at Buttercup Records who released three Babeez tracks (two of them alternate versions of earlier songs and one, “Mainline Honey”, previously unheard) on a Babeez seven-inch in 2015. That one disappeared in an inkling and so will this.
There are eight tracks on “Nobody Wants Me” (nine if you count the fleeting “Outro”) and they incorporate all three tracks from the aforementioned Buttercup single tracks coupled with the original ’77 single songs. “Nasty Nazi”, “Livin’ By The Chain” and “Outro” are all unreleased.
There are four numbered editions of “Nobody Wants Me”, each with a different colour vinyl or range of customised covers. You can read about the various permutaitons here. Mine was intricately hand-drawn by label honcho Scotti (thanks mate!) so its like won’t be seen again. Inside, there’s a colour, fold-out rendering of the range of covers and a booklet, outlining the band’s history and told through mostly unpublished interviews with members Jaryl Wirth (guitar-vocals), John Murphy (drums) and Henry Vynhal (violin), plus supporter Bruce Milne.
Great packaging but it’s all about the music isn’t it? That early Babeez single was always something out of the box, its buzzsaw sound hitched to a slightly art-school wagon with off-kilter vocals and left-of-centre lyrics. Lots of punk songs were about aggression. "Nobody Wants Me" drew from a wellspring of pathos and wallowed in not a little teen angst.
The “new” track, “Mainline Honey”, is a naive gem with a catchy melody and energy to burn. There’s maximum fun in the minimalist attack of the alternate takes of “Hate” and the less familiar “Livin’ by the chain” and “Nasty Nazi”. They’re barely untouched by a production hand and wonderfully raw. Importantly though, the mastering is top-shelf. The music jumps out of the speakers with force five hurricane punch.
I usually find amusement in the antics of “vinyl only” fan-atics (they used to be called “collector scum” not long ago) but this is one LP that gives them, you and me a reason for living. Get it at the label website now or regret it.