It's Just That They've Missed You: Julie Mostyn on the return of the Flaming Hands

jeff and julie
Jeff Sullivan and Julie Mostyn.    Steve Teece photo

The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using.  It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.

Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.

“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.

“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”

Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.

More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.

Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs. 

Vale L.A. author and Imperial Dogs frontman Don Waller

imperial dogs don wallerAnother one has passed. Hot on the heels of Norton Records co-founder Billy Miller comes news of the loss of Los Angeles writer, scenster and proto-punk singer Don Waller.

A founding member of the semi-legendary "Back Door Man" fanzine and indie record label, Waller had written extensively for Mojo, USA Today, Billboard, Variety, Radio & Records, L.A. Weekly, L.A. CityBeat and the Los Angeles Times.

The second-generation LA native was the author of best-selling "The Motown Story" (Scribner's, 1985). Waller also wrote more than 40 sets of liner notesand was a consultant to TV co ntent providers.

Long before that, Waller was a member of proto-punk outfit the Imperial Dogs -- who wrote and recorded the original version of "This Ain't The Summer Of Love", later re-recorded by Blue Oyster Cult. The band recently unearthed an hour-long video performance, "The Imperial Dogs: Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974)", released in 2009 and available from theimperialdogs.com

Don is survivied by his partner Natalie Nichols. To honour Don Waller's passing, we've unearthed this September 2009, interview by leading Australian documenter of the pre-and-punk scenes, former Dog Meat Records owner David Laing.

The Man He Used To Be: Stewart Cunningham tells the Leadfinger story

Leadfinger Heritage 2016
Leadfinger in full flight at Bulli's Heritage Hotel with Carrie Phillis assiting on backing vocals. 

They've been around for a decade but I've gotten into Leadfinger a bit late in the piece. I had heard word that they were one of the best bands in Sydney, and I knew their leader, Stewart Cunningham, from previous outfits like Proton Energy Pills and Asteroid B612, with whom I’d shared stages. So we went all the way back to 1989. 

The penny finally dropped at the Tim Hemensley Memorial at the Tote in Melbourne about three years ago. Bombarded by the hard Geelong-Melbourne garage rock sound, it was Leadfinger (along with HITS) who were the highlights for me.

Leadfinger played upstairs. I watched a band that was thoughtful, with a great collection of songs and a broad variety of influences. The guitars chimed and lashed out, there were great vocal hooks, and the tunes were memorable. I decided that I liked them a lot.

Proto-punk is so yesterday: Garry Gray on St Kilda, Sacred Cowboys and making Sydney sit up and listen

sacred cowboys st kildaSacred Cowboys on St Kilda Beach with the SS Minow.

“Sydney audiences can expect to hear much of the ‘Diamond in the Forehead’ album and a number of songs that will comprise our second album. Expect rock and roll out of the early 1970s, expect high volume in the guitar department, expect Nobel Prize-winning freak flag songs”

Garry Gray wrote this to me, and I visualise him, pounding the keyboard with pride about his forthcoming shows in Sydney in mid-November.

Gray has been making music for 42 years. I imagine by now he knows when he has a killer album ("Diamond in the Forehead") and a killer live band (The Sixth Circle) locked in. As I wrote a few months ago who when I caught The Sixth Circle live at the Tote Hotel and was blown away by a great, pure rock, street-level band:

All that dark and shade in this set; theatrics and drama. The tempo pulls back with “Club Siren”. “Our God hangs #6” is wild rock beat and with the guitars blues-based. Gray’s menacing vocals howling: 'I got hung without a trial'. "Cadillacs” has that proto punk rawness and a blues progression. There are elements of deep soul with raw gritty urban blues, and a solid rock 4/4 backbeat. Live, it is a no-nonsense rock monster.

Lindsay Bjerre re-animates psych-prog legends Tamam Shud

lindsayWe are not kind to our musical legends in Australia.

The Yanks and the Poms put up plaques and statues at a place where a musical legend bought a hamburger. In Australia, we seem to keep our legends and pioneers in vaults as cherished diamonds that are rarely spoken about. Except for a few who want to document our past and celebrate the unique scene, our music has to be sought out like hidden treasures.

When I look at the local ’60s underground legends, a few names crop up. In Melbourne, there was Lobby Loyde, once with The Purple Hearts in Brisbane and then later fronting the Wild Cherries.

And in Sydney we had Lindsay Bjerre (pictured right) with his bands, The Sunsets and Tamam Shud.

How I stopped worrying and learnt to love the (Cherie) bomb

runawaysThe Runaways. That's Cherie on the left.

It has taken some time but I have finally found my inner klutz. Fortunately, Cherie Currie is a wise and generous woman. So, if my tale lacks substance, the blame is on me.

On Saturday morning, lacking even the first sip of caffeine, I received an e-mail. Robert Brokenmouth couldn’t do the Cherrie Currie interview. Could I step into the breach? Grown up me was fine with this. I’ve done phone interviews before. I just ring the number and try to build a narrative that gets you, the reader, so excited that you’ll hand over your hard-earned dollars for tickets or discs or downloads or whatever. I know the job.

The trouble is, grown up me is suddenly no longer in charge. Fifteen-year-old me is essentially melting down and demanding attention. Fifteen-year-old me is terrified. Grown up me is trying to explain how things that terrify you can also be fun and exciting. Fifteen-year-old me remains unconvinced.

Our shout! Why The Fleshtones and Peter Zaremba still drink for free after all these years...

Fleshtones photo cred JacopoBenessi
Meet Keith Streng, Ken Fox, Peter Zaremba and Bill Milhizer.  Jacopo Benessi photo. 

Here’s another plea for justice and a call for long overdue respect. Add another name to the list of bands whose “failure” (such a harsh word when applied without context) to break into the mainstream is not just unfathomable but criminal. Ladies and gentlemen, I speak of The Fleshtones, stars of stage and screen and bearers of a vibrant new record, “The Band Drinks For Free”, on Yep Roc.

The Official Biography lists it as Album Number 21 (including live releases) and says the band is in its 40th year,  but let’s dispense with the figures and deal only in facts. The first one is: If you’re not listening to The Fleshtones, you’re a loser.  The second is: It’s never too late to shed your loser status.

The Fleshtones emerged from a basement in New York City’s Queens borough and onto a stage at CBGB in 1976. Largely written out of histories of the Lower East Side scene despite being fixtures at places like CBs, Max’s Kansas City, The Pyramid, Danceteria and Club 57, they went through a trailer-load of trials and tribulations (labels going broke, line-ups in flux, drugs and drink) to “almost make it” in spectacular style.

Robert Quine remembered

quine marcia resnickMarcia Resnick photo

A handful of songs into just one album, and Robert Quine had staked a claim as one of the most distinctive guitar sounds on the New York punk scene.

Quine was part of that small but influential coterie of musicians, artists-turned-musicians and assorted dilettantes that populated a seedy ex-biker bar called "CBGB and OMFUG" at 315 The Bowery, on the Big Apple's seamy Lower East Side. He was the principal guitarist in Richard Hell and the Voidoids, a unique quartet spitting out some of the New Wave's most disturbing music.

On the 12th anniversary of the passing of Robert Quine, we present this archived interview from May 2000. 

Take a Chance on Me: Brooke Delarco and the sound of the Heartbreakers at the Village Gate

Heartbreakers tape

Want to know what the classic line-up of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers sounded like live? Most of us missed them the first time around and with three of them no longer with us there’s no chance whatsoever of them reforming - at least in this life.

So you’ll just have to settle for listening to “Live At The Village Gate”.  

Glad you asked.

“Live At The Village Gate” is a newly-minted album on Los Angeles label Cleopatra Records. It’s out on LP and CD. It was recorded at the legendary jazz venue, The Village Gate, in New York City in 1977. Our review is here.

To many ears, it represents the ultimate recording of the infamous Heartbreakers at their highest peak. No slop, no pop. Pure power and energy that’s powerful enough to level a New York City block. It captures the notoriously drug-addled quartet in clear-eyed form and totally on their game. Out to impress and definitely Down To Kill.