the johnnys - The I-94 Bar
2019 was first year for a while that I wasn’t doing a radio show and being in Canberra for work, I felt I was little bit out of the loop. Nonetheless, it was another memorable rock ‘n’ roll year and here’s my top10 in no particular order.
Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests at Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney
This took me back to when I first started seeing bands in Melbourne in the mid ’70s. It was no-nonsense loud rock. Two really good guitarists on top of a solid rhythm section. I loved how the band occupied half the stage and hardly broke formation through the gig. The record’s pretty good, too.
Sue Telfer Tribute in Sydney
It was really sad to lose Sue. She was seriously special and it was great to see so many people come out and so many good bands turn it on. All the bands I saw were great with X as a four piece the standout. I reckon it was the best gig I’ve seen Steve Lucas do.
TOP 11 ALBUMS
Eddy Current Suppression Ring - All in Good Time
Nine years is a long time between drinks, but this was well worth the wait. For my money the most important Melbourne band of the last 20 years returns with an LP up there with their first two albums. In true Eddy Current style this LP just all of a sudden dropped out of nowhere, with no shows and little media presence to promote it. Garage rock the way it should be, messy but tight, loose and fast and songs ending whenever it feels like that’s enough.
Hexdebt- Rule of Four
Punk meets shoegazing with social’political messages that come straight in your face. The long awaited debut LP of Hexdebt backs up their reputation as a killer live outfit
Cereal Killer – The Beginning and End of Cereal Killer
The first and last long player of this Geelong supergroup. I saw ‘em live a few years back with feedtime and was blown away, so was keen to hear the LP as I wanted to see how that stage show was put on record. The LP has plenty of the power of the live show, combining elements of garage, punk and electro, one of the most fresh and finest releases of 2019.
Plastic Section - Trouble is Our Business
Sun City meets John Spencer. Killer '50s guitar and vocals, two ripper instrumental tracks and only one song cracks the three minute mark. Its sounds old but in a new way, powerful but not flashy guitar. Singer-guitarist Ben Edwards sounds like he could ave played with the Killer himself.
Mick Trouble- Here’s the Mick Trouble LP
Thanks to Ritchie Ramone at Strangeworld for putting me onto this. Was amazed this came out this year as I thought it was a lost Television Personalities recording. One of those gems I would only discover via the man behind the record store counter. Buzzcocks style harmonies meets the storytelling of Wreckless Eric.
Imperial Wax - Gastwerk Saboteurs
Pete Greenway, Dave Spurr and Keiron Melling had been the core of the Fall for the last decade of the band's existence until the passing of Mark E Smith. The three lads hooked up with Sam Curran to make an LP their old taskmaster would ave been proud of. It’s not the Fall, but without MES how could it? Theres certainly elements of the Fall in there but the lads ave their own approach and ideas, much like the Fall, taking a simple idea and expanding, taking rock music to new places.
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF - Last Punk Standing
With the exception of Mark E Smith no one has given me more joy then Billy Childish. Pretty much every year theres an LP with the name Childish that appears in the top 10 list. The mans a hero of mine. On top of the massive discography of amazing albums, what I love about him is the fact the man just gets on with it. Bangs out two LPs a year, with just two, if that, chords and bangs out a record in one take. No overdubs no time for being precious, just doing it and doing it well. I wish I had this talent and discipline.
The Gov, Adelaide
March 17, 2019
Photos by Alison Lea
It's the last night of the Adelaide Festival and the city centre is abandoned to the tourists, and no doubt some "end of festival" official shindig, doubtless adding anodyne "vibrancy" (one of Adelaide City Council's favourite buzzwords) to the joint.
Meanwhile, Adelaide's finest and most intelligent people are voting with their wallets and pile into the Gov, many having come from miles around. One bloke is here with his wife from Kangaroo Island (more expensive than a trip to Melbourne or Sydney); another bloke flew 300 miles to arrive at 4pm, with a return flight at 8am. There are many happy drunks.
Tonight was the most beautiful gig I've seen in years, if not ever. I cannot remember a more wonderful, cathartic experience.
It's almost 2019… and the world seems to be going mad. But the big question I ask myself… is rock dead?
I see alternate styles of music like rap, hip-hop and commercial pop dominating youth culture. I wouldn’t recognise Drake or Flume if they dropped their USB sticks in front of me. In closeted rock’n’roll enclaves such as the I-94 Bar dirty rock’n’roll seems to be thriving, but one by one icons are dropping off the perch. How much longer can it survive?
The benchmark I’ve been looking at is guitar sales. Electric guitar sales have slipped 22.7 percent since 2008… the price of guitars is rocketing, yet it appears that the acoustic market is on the up… Something like a 15 percent increase over the same period. Although insipid, whiny vocal sounds have probably been tied to the same trend.
The trend that parallels the increase of Ed Sheeran wannabes is the rise of vinyl sales. I’d guess that pot smoking hippies, listening on their Technics SL1200 to Bob Dylan re-masters trying figure out how to play protest songs while avoiding the dreaded F chord are to blame.
Despite my sense of foreboding I did manage to catch some quality rock’n’roll but I put that down to confirmation bias. My personal faves:
After seven years, thousands of kilometres and innumerable demolished backstage riders, The Johnnys were Australia’s indisputable, rough riding champions of cowpunk.
Fresh from two gigs in New Zealand, The Johnnys – Graham Hood (bass and vocals), Slim Doherty (guitar) and Billy Pommer (drums) - will play their first Australian show in two years, headlining Marrickville Bowling Club on Friday, April 13.
They’ll be joined by The Four Stooges (Australia’s only Stooges homage band), Maximum Security (launching their debut album) and Bob Short & The Light Brigade.
The Johnnys formed in Sydney in 1982 when bass guitarist Graham Hood tried out for the Hoodoo Gurus after quitting the Allniters. He met Hoodoo Gurus' guitarist Roddy Ray'da and, with drummer Billy Pommer, they formed The Johnnys, playing their first show at Palms Disco on Oxford Street in Sydney.
New Zealand-born Spencer P. Jones joined on guitar and the four-piece released their single "I Think You're Cute" in October on Regular Records. Ray'da left and the band signed with independent label Green Records before joining major imprint Mushroom.
Rock and roll cowpunks The Johnnys are proud to be sharing a stage for two special shows with a true Australian country music legend, Chad Morgan, in April.
The Johnnys will perform with Chad Morgan at the Hardys Bay Club on the NSW Central Coast on Friday, April 5 and Marrickville Bowling Club in Sydney on Saturday, April 6.
Chad Morgan, 86, has been performing to generations of Australian music and comedy fans for more than 50 years. Dubbed “The Sheikh of Scrubby Creek” after one of his most popular songs, Chad released his first album in 1952.
He is renowned for his vaudeville style of comic country and western songs, and goofy stage persona. Chad is the ultimate comic of Australian country music and is instantly recognisable for his unique trademark – those teeth!
A platinum and gold record artist, Chad has an enormous and devoted following and is constantly touring the country, performing songs such as “I’m My Own Grandpa”, “The Shotgun Wedding”, “Double Decker Blowflies” and “There’s Life In The Old Dog Yet”.
Tex Morton once described Chad as the only original country music artist in Australia. Slim Dusty called him the crown prince of comedy. When Gordon Parsons came up with “The Pub With No Beer”, Chad’s the bloke who wrote the words down and contributed a verse of his own.
Chad and The Johnnys go back 30 years. Guitarist Slim Doherty said: “Chad Morgan played a few shows with us in Sydney many moons ago and loved us as we did him.
“He has a cameo in our 'Buzzsaw Baby' film-clip and it is an honour to have shared the screen with this legend. I have an Eko Electric guitar Chad 'signed' with his pocketknife which I still treasure immensely.”
The Johnnys are Slim Doherty, bassist Graham Hood and drummer Billy Pommer Jr and they will be coming fresh off a national you’re with The Beasts. These shows will be a unique pairing and will sell out so don’t delay. Pre-sales tickets are available here.
It’s the match made in Cowpunk Heaven - those hard drinkin’, Slip Slap Fishin' men, The Johnnys, going Stetson-to-Stetson with unruly, Spurs For Jesus, in an all-hitches-no-britches rock and roll rodeo deep in the heart of Sydney’s Inner Western Delta.
Saturday, August 4 pitches this mighty pair at each other in the main paddock of Marrickville Bowling Club, presented by the I-94 Bar.,
Opening the gate will be Broham, the new country band for globe-jaunting Vanilla Chainsaw frontman Simon Chainsaw and assorted reprobates, making their world debut.
The Johnnys wrote the book on Cowpunk back in the ‘80s; Spurs re-worded parts of it a decade later and Broham intend on tearing some pages out.
Who will come out on top after the hay-bales disintegrate and the rodeo clowns vacate the ring is anyone’s guess.
Wear your best Western wear (double denim is cool) and expect a few surprises along the way, as well as prizes of a Johnnys pack for the Best Dressed Cowgirl and Cowboy.
The last Johnnys show at the Bowlo sold out so get in early for this one and pre-book. You won’t see ‘em again in Sydney any time soon and the girls and guys from Spurs don't play that often, either.
Book by phone on 1300 762 545 or online here.
Our late friend Sue Telfer has been named the Australian Women in Music Awards 2019 Music Leadership Award gold medallist. The award - which recognises a female CEO, managing director, label manager, A&R director, artist manager or publisher who has made a significant impact in music industry leadership - was announced at the Brisbane Powerhouse last night.
Sue was a 27-year manager with APRA-AMCOS and a long-term band booker/den mother on Sydney’s live music scene. We’ll be celebrating her life at a tribute concert at The Factory Theatre in Sydney on Sunday October 20 from 2pm, featuring X, the New Christs, The Johnnys, Kim Salmon, The Cruel Sea (instrumental), Front End Loader, The Mis-Made, Penny Ikinger, The Holy Soul and The On and Ons. Tickets are selling fast and are available here,
Friends of Sydney music scene legend Sue Telfer have banded together to assemble a line-up of bands to pay tribute to this much-loved lady at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville on Sunday, October 20. Over eight hours and two stages, a line-up that includes X, the New Christs, The Johnnys, Kim Salmon, Front End Loader will crank up the volume for Sue.
Sydney’s live scene suffered a monumental blow in June when long-time administrator, venue booker, confidante and den mother to countless bands, Sue Telfer, passed away suddenly at her Sydney home.
Sue grew up in in the halcyon days of Sydney’s inner-city scene of the 1980s. A employee of musicians’ rights organisation APRA-AMCOS for 32 years, Sue was around Surry Hills’ vibrant music pubs and clubs for even longer, most notably as the long-time booker for its legendary Excelsior Hotel.
Sydney’s music community is rallying to get behind much-loved rocker Spencer P Jones in an hour of need.
Spencer is battling serious illness and fund-raisers have been popping up all over Australia. Sydney is responding with its own show, The Axeman’s Benefit, on Friday, June 24 at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville.
Died Pretty is headlining a heavyweight bill which will include Spencer’s old band The Johnnys (with guest vocalists), the Hoodoo Gurus (playing a mini-set), home-grown garage up-starts Straight Arrows and psych-punk veterans Young Docteurs. The Johnnys will close the night.
The killer line-up will be augmented by a bevy of guest musicians including Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil), Simon Day (Ratcat), Jack Ladder, Murray Cook, MC Anthony Morgan, Jason Walker, Peter Fenton (Crow) and Kane Dyson (Spurs For Jesus.) FBi’s Jack Shit will be lending his DJ talents.
All of the acts have played alongside or recorded with Spencer in some capacity. Died Pretty is fresh from a summer of sold-out A Day On The Green and club shows and is re-convening especially for Spencer.
Although his career has been mainly under the mainstream music radar, Spencer P Jones has been a tremendously influential figure in Australia.
Arriving in Australia from New Zealand in 1976, Spencer came to prominence with hard-drinking cowpunks the Johnnys and then inner-Sydney swamp supergroup the Beasts of Bourbon, he’s also played with the Gun Club, Renee Geyer, Chris Bailey, Rowland S Howard, Nick Cave and Paul Kelly.
In recent years he’s been recording and playing with his own solo bands as well as members of The Scientists and The Drones.
Tickets for The Axeman’s Benefit went on sale last night and are here. A substantial number have gone already so don't delay.
SPENCER P. JONES
In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", Robert Pirsig interrogates the very nature of quality through the lens of motor mechanics. Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.
Spencer Jones knew a thing or two about quality - especially musical quality. Born in 1956, the Year of Elvis, Spencer wanted to be a working musician as long as he could remember. Spencer’s family moved from the regional town of Te Awamutu to Auckland in 1965, the same year the British invasion swept through New Zealand, with tours by The Rolling Stones and, infamously, The Pretty Things.
Spencer’s grandfather was a gifted musician; his mother, too, was born with a natural ear. Recognising Spencer’s musical abilities, Spencer’s elder brother Ashley recommended his parents buy Spencer a guitar.
Carbie Warbie photo
Much-loved Australian rocker Spencer P Jones is terminally ill and may have months to live.
Spencer’s wife, Angie, confirmed the news on Facebook about 5.30 this afternoon. In a statement, she wrote:
First of all Spencer & myself would like to thank everyone in the community for all the love & support since Spencer was struck down with illness in 2015, rendering him unable to pursue his creative musical career.
For the past two years, we have been under the wing of the wonderful peeps at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Unfortunately after another scan in March this year the doctors found a cancer tumour in Spencer's liver.
In short , as a result Spencer has now been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer.
Rumours that Spencer’s health had hit a new hurdle had been circulating for weeks. His Beasts of Bourbon bandmate, Brian Henry Hooper, passed away on April 20, just days after a benefit show for him while he fought cancer.
Australian musical legend Spencer P Jones has passed away in Melbourne following a long fight against cancer.
The news broke tonight with outpourinfs of grief breaking out all over social media. Spencer is survived by his wife, Angie.
A member of Beasts of Bourbon, The Johnnys, Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls, Hell To Pay, Chris Bailey and The General Dog, Maurice Frawley and The Working Class Ringos, and Sacred Cowboys and a solo artist with 10 albums to his own name. Spencer was one of the Australian underground music scenes's leading lights.
Born in Te Awamutu, New Zealand, in 1956, Spencer moved to Melbourne in the mid-'70s and played with Cuban Heels among others before a shift to Sydney where he joined cow punks The Johnnys.
Carbie Warbie Photo