the most white jacket

News that a long-lost five-track release by Sydney band The Most was making its way onto streaming platforms has made the ears of veterans of Australia's 1980s underground scene prick up. The Most were among many terrific acts in a crowded inner-city Sydney scene, and a band that spawned future members of the Lime Spiders and The Cruel Sea.  

Originally issued as a cassette in very limited quantities by fanzine "48 Crash", the "Another Day" EP is now available online, so we tracked down The Most drummer RICHARD LAWSON to extract some historical details. THE BARMAN did the interrogating. 


It’s 40 years since The Most was a band. Why release these five tracks now? 

Because they have never been available before, not even as a CD or on vinyl and we think it was a crime that they never were heard by a majority of people and fans who were interested in hearing them. I never was able to listen to them myself. It's a great testament to a very valid period of time in our development as musicians.

How and where were they recorded? 

We recorded them in 1982 at a little studio in Brookvale over two or three nights I think. The classic downtime recording.

Who produced it?

I can't recall exactly but I think it was a guy named Stuart Amos, but I can't remember his link to us. He was good, though, and for a bunch of guys who had never been in a recording environment before he did quite a good job cleaning us up as we were probably a bit messy at the time. I did quite a bit myself in the mixing side of it.

The songs came out on a cassette with “48 Crash” zine in 1983. Why did you go with “48 Crash” and what were the band’s label prospects at the time? There was talk that these songs were originally planned to be on Green Records.

“48 Crash” editor Steve Lorkin was a big fan of the band and I do remember some talk of Green Records, but we had lost the (Strawberry Hills) Battle of the Bands and just decided we'd record it and see what transpired. There was no grand plan to go to a label.

BTW, in my opinion 48 Crash doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for being the best zine in Sydney. Your thoughts?

I do remember how good it was and there was no “On the Street” or “Drum Media” at the time and so nothing really to read or see about the scene in Sydney. He definitely filled a hole that fans were crying out for.

the most richard tony

Talk about some of the covers The Most did. 

Well we went to town on covers and generally did whatever we felt like. Phil and Greg were into the Stones and classic rock whilst Tony was into Lou Reed/Devo and darker stuff whilst Ged and I were into a lot of Detroit, punk and ‘60s rock.

“Making Time” by The Creation, “High School” by MC5, “Petrol, Whips and Furs” by The Vibrators, “Stray Cat Blues”, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones. “Lust for Life” and “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop were crowd favourites. “Ever Fallen in Love” by Buzzcocks…I suppose they were all pretty obscure and not your usual covers.

Actually, we did a lot of originals and Phil Thornton was a prolific and very underestimated songwriter.

Were there any other songs recorded other than the five making up the EP? 

No, we only did those five after an intense period of soul searching as to what songs to do.

The EP holds up very well against almost everything else that was around at the time. “Highs and Lows” is a well realised song that would have been a great lead-off single. What are your highlights of the five tracks?. 

Agree with “Highs and Lows” now but at the time we all thought “Another Day” or “New Girl” was the lead track. We just thought “Highs and Lows” was a bit too off the wall for our fans. It's a bit jazzy and esoteric but in the fullness of time it’s probably my favourite track

Where and how did The Most come together as a band?

Well, it was a conglomeration of two bands really. Phil and I had just finished with the Things, who were a high school garage band from Chatswood in Sydney, who terrorised audiences at the Royal Oak Hotel residency for a year or so with The Professors. We were playing pretty “out there” vicious punk.  

My brother, Ed ,and Ged’s brother, David, were in that band as well and Ged, who was my school friend, had got back to Sydney from his family farm near Taree. The three of us were wanting to form a band as we just enjoyed playing so much.

There were some common school friends who played in a surf band called The Wipeouts and we went to see them playing at North Narrabeen or Dee Why Surf Club (two classic location for bongs in the back of a panel van). 

They were hilarious and I remember vividly the bass player Tony Bambach playing wah wah pedal infused bass on a cover of “Mongoloid” by DEVO, and I turned to Ged and said: ‘There is our bass player’. He was awesome. 

They also had Greg Owen on guitar and he was from our school, too. He was right into Keith Richards and was an amazing performer onstage. He and Phil lit up the stage, whilst Ged Tony and I just laid down a solid groove. 

I vaguely recall seeing you on a bill at the Trade with Grooveyard and maybe Paul Kelly and The Dots? Is that accurate? You quickly grew a reputation in a very short time and scored some great supports. What were the best ones in your memory?

I don't know if we played with either of them as I don't think the Grooveyard had formed by that time. I do remember the Paddington Town Hall gig with Sunnyboys and the Riptides which was a seriously big thing for us at the time and probably the biggest gig we ever played. It was also our first major support. 

We played with the Church at the San Miguel which was another highlight as I was totally besotted with them. A huge bill at NSW Uni with Hitmen and numerous others where we played a 4 in the morning after a gig that night.

The Southern Cross band competition seems to be a watershed moment for The Most, mainly because you were beaten by a nascent Lime Spiders whose next line-up you, Ged Corben and Tony Bambach joined. Talk about the band comp and the Southern Cross/Strawb in general.

I was just looking at the posters for the band competition, remembering some of those bands and vaguely what they played.

The Skolars were a ska band from the Mosman area. Customer Parking had a soap opera star fronting them. Frankenstein had a young Dave Slade monstering the stage. Coupe de Ville had Bruce Tindale, Brett Eldorado and Joe Breen (I think.)The End had only just come down from Brisbane with Brett Myers and Ronnie PenoThe Big Five were a ska band with mates of mine from school. 

battle of the bands poster

It was an amazing period of time and an amazing initiative by The Audas team at the Strawberry Hills Hotel and Stuart Coupe and Roger Grierson from Green Records.

We creamed it every week with our very loyal bunch of fans and followers shouting and dancing the place down, and then we got into the final up against the Lime Spiders who I had never seen but had heard stories about how wild and good they were. We thought we were the only band with great ‘60s punk pedigree.

That was a very powerful night. Two sets of rabid fans. I vaguely remember seeing the Lime Spiders hanging round outside with their gear and being slightly intimidated or scared somewhat by this intrusion into the inner city by a band of “Westies”, as we called them in the day. 

We did our set which was a cracker and the crowd duly went nuts. Then the place emptied and their crew rolled in and filled it up. They started and just lifted the roof off the place. Mick Blood'svoice was incendiary and Richard Jakymszyn’s guitar sounded like Gary Moore on heat. I knew we'd lost it after two songs. They were just that good.

What about the story that the band comp was rigged and that The Most were supposed to win?

Not that I remember. The Lime Spiders just blew EVERYONE away.

the most live

Around that time I was starting to manage bands for a living and had already started managing the Scientists around their “Swampland”/”Blood Red River” period. I also managed or promoted the GrooveyardThe IntrovertsSekret Sekret plus numerous others, and also (ran) all the “Swamp Stomp” events at the Gaelic Club. 

I do remember one week having booked or managed ALL the bands appearing at the Strawberry Hills Hotel. Very heady times in Surry Hills in 1982, ’83 and ‘84. We all just lived up the road. Very fertile and a shitload of fun!

How did The Most come to fold and the offer to join the Spiders come about? 

I don't know. The Most just ran out of steam after a few years and I was managing bands quite heavily; the Scientists were huge at the time and I was managing and playing with the Grooveyard as well. Tony got the call from Mick Blood to come and join and he got me into the frame. 

I that day recall vividly. I'd been given some songs to learn, including Dead Boys’ “Ain't Nothing To Do” and we rocked up to this shitty little rehearsal space in Kings Cross. Mick was chatty about bands and whatever. Jakymyszn was quiet and pensive and Tony was being cordial. And when we were all set, we launched straight into “Ain’t Nothing To Do” and was smokin!!! 

We just were in heaven and now I know what Led Zeppelin felt like at their first jam...the song finished and we all just looked at each other and laughed...we never looked back

Phil Thornton joined a forerunner of the Sunnyboys in Perfect Cousins. I’ve been told. What did Greg Owens go on to do? I’ve been told he ended up in a band with a pre-Cruel Sea Jim Elliott.

Phil and Ged both ended up in Perfect Cousins who eventually morphed into The Sparklers with the addition of Melanie Oxley and Chris Abrahams (of The Necks!!!) Greg Owens and Phil did play briefly with Jim Elliott in a funk band with the actor Rachel Perkins. I remember seeing them at the Trade Union on the first floor. I can't remember seeing the Perfect Cousins

Ged and his brother David did join up with Danny Rumour and Jim Elliott about this time to start up the Cruel Sea and they had a residency at the Evening Star Hotel, just doing surf and Shadows covers really fucking well.  I remember Danny playing me all his four-track demos of songs he'd written and was blown away by how many and how good they were . It's no surprise the Cruel Sea got so big. 

See, I was pretty heavily involved at this time in the Sydney music scene because I managed or was friends with quite a lot of these bands and could have joined the Hoodoo Gurus or Divinylson drums if I’d chosen (I got lots of offers) but decided to stay with the Spiders.

And you were a part of the Lime Spiders for the best part of 20 years. What were the personal highlights? 

So many...

Recording “Out of Control” b/w “Save My Soul” at Trafalgar Studios where Midnight Oil and Radio Birdman recorded. 

Recording “Slave Girl” b/w “Beyond The Fringe” and realising we were onto something.

The whole writing and recording experience of “The Cave Comes Alive” LP in Paradise Studios with all our psychedelic ideas flying everywhere.

The American and European tours in the late ‘80s with all the amazing gigs/festivals and people we met. IggyBlondie and Joey Ramone were fans of the band and came to our New York City gigs.

Hanging out backstage with Johnny Rotten, Stewart Copeland and Billy Idol at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

The Roskilde Festival in Denmark and playing to 10,000 people.

The Lime Spiders name was allegedly retired earlier this month. Any comment on that from a long-time ex-member?

I'm sad and glad about it. I see bands like OMD, Sparks and Simple Minds still playing huge venues now and sort of wish The Lime Spiders could still be a viable proposition now, like the Died Pretty and Hoodoo Gurus, but Mick is pretty sick and no one wants to go near him. I left in 2007 and haven’t spoken since, and anyway am too busy with my own gigs and soundtrack and music work.

You deservedly get wraps for your drumming on “Out of Control”.  How does that rate in your own estimation? Any other stand-outs?

Funny I was just talking with Elizabeth, my musician-writer partner who has NO idea who the Lime Spiders were, and telling her I ripped off Rob Hirst’s drum breaks on that song. And then Andrew Farriss from INXS ripped off the opening of “Beyond the Fringe” for his work with Jenny Morris on 'You're Gonna Get Hurt”. 

My proudest moment was in ’84 or ‘85 when we played at the Chevron Hotel in Kings Cross and just about as we were going to go onstage someone came in and said Rob Hirst and the bass player from Midnight Oil were in the crowd.

I was very much into Keith MoonJohn BonhamGinger Baker and Mitch Mitchell on drums, and generally just laid down as best as I could some of their drumming chops . Which is what all drummers do. Some work, some don't!! That's how I learnt I teach them.

Of course the Lime Spiders is very much removed from the music you’re playing now which is electronic pop and classical. I believe you’re back on the Far South Coast of New South Wales and have just released your 14th solo album or EP. Talk about your current music.

I've just put out two compilations. “Music At Night (Selected Ambient Works 1994-2014)” and “Retrospective (1992-2016)” plus a bunch of EPs (“Glow Baby”, “Kingdom Come”). They sum up pretty well what I've done the last 20 years or so.

Now I'm writing classical scores for one of Australia's biggest string quartets, Acacia Quartet, which is being recorded on August 4, 5 and 6 at the Windsong Pavilion, which is part of the big Four Winds festival down here in Bermagui. It's a huge thing for me and a huge learning curve diving into the world of classical scoring with 24 pieces whittled down to 7 with countless revisions going on...sostenuto, legato, ritterando, pizzicato and that sorta shit!

I've always got lots of gigs going on and just played yesterday at a local hotel in Tilba...just me and the guitar and a shitload of favourites and originals...

I do still play some drums in a multi drummer performance group that I started with ex- students...they are called Kings of Congo Congo and we play festivals etc and it goes off!!!

Richard Lawson on Bandcamp

Richard Lawson website