Better (D Gleeson/G Whalmsley) – Screaming Jets 1991
Newcastle’s favourite sons, before Silverchair arrived, were the Screaming Jets, who formed in 1989 and by the time they hit their stride were Dave Gleeson (vocals), Paul Woosen (bass), Grant Whalmsley (guitar), Brad Heaney (drums) and Richard Lara (guitar).
In 1991 they broke through with their first big hit, Better, a strident chunk of blue- collar pub rock written by Gleeson and Whalmsley which propelled the band to #3 nationally and drove their debut album All for One to #2 in May 1991.
The band took their musical cues from Van Halen, the Angels and AC/DC and quickly perfected the heavy riffing guitars and sneering bad boy vocals from Gleeson that would define the Jets sound and with whom their fans would identify.
When the band first went to Sydney to play and were followed there by their Novocastrian hometown supporters, there were often violent crowd incidents, doubtless fueled by the sometimes confrontational attitudes of band members, and the controversial nature of several of their own compositions, such as the famously single entendre outing Fat Rich C…s, which was variously aimed at Russ Hinze or Michael Gudinski.
Better was recorded at the Paradise Studios in Sydney with producer Steven James, an English music industry insider who had previously worked with such international artists as Thin Lizzy, the Sex Pistols and the Jam and local acts including Cold Chisel, Angels and Mental as Anything.
The song has a great rock riff and the energy of the band shines through, the promo video was shot indoors but with peculiarly Australian/outback touches – blue sky backdrop, red earth floor, cricket bat-wielding Gleeson, sandy scrub, burning cars, birds and lizards, a skeleton wearing a top hat – the band performs the song amongst all these strange props until the whole set appears to burn down at the end – Apocalypse Nowra perhaps!
The band struggled for that elusive follow up hit and had several minor chart successes with Stop the World (#37) and Shine On (#41) in 1991 but did not return to the top 20 until February 1993 with the sparsely minimalist and moody Shivers which was a funky, more nuanced performance by the band and hit #19. The album from which it was lifted, Tear of Thought, charted well at #3, as did their next eponymous album outing which charted at #7.