Voodoo Child (E Costello/D Ash/S Davis) and Way To Go (J Appleby/D Isaac) and Watching You (Fieger/Averre/Ash/Appleby) – Rogue Traders 2005
The term rogue trader emerged in the early 1990’s to describe currency or derivatives brokers, who recklessly manipulated vast sums of money, in trading or “gambling’ on international stock exchanges.
Nick Leeson of the Singapore office of Barings Bank, one of the oldest merchant banks in the UK, were sent sliding into liquidation in 1992 after Leeson lost an estimated £827 million on unauthorized dealings. He subsequently went to prison and wrote a book “Rogue Trader – How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World” “which did not appear to indicate any remorse on the part of the brazen felon.
The term rogue trader has a certain devil-may-care, swashbuckling ring to it, not so much sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, as forex, fraud, and bankroll, Nick Leeson’s misadventures inspired a movie predictably titled Rogue Trader in 1998, starring Ewan McGregor, and was also the inspiration for the name of a new Melbourne band.
The movie was terrible, but it inspired two British emigrants, James Ash (real name Jamie Appleby) and Steve Davis who were working as DJs in Melbourne, to form electro-rock group Rogue Traders in 2002.
Ash and Davis had previously worked together on various dance projects and performance acts under the names Faith In Technology, Thunderchild, Elan and Union State, and had charted as Elan with their song Midnight at #21 in August 2003.They had subsequent hits on the dance and club charts and enjoyed initial mainstream success with their cover remix of INXS’s Need You Tonight, which was re-titled One Of My Kind, which charted nationally at #10, and picked up an ARIA Award for Best Dance single in 2003.
In 2004/05 Ash and Davis reformed Rogue Traders, recruiting Natalie Bassingthwaighte, then currently playing the role of Izzy Hoyland on the long-running TV soap Neighbours, as lead vocalist, Cameron McGlinchey (drums), Tim Henwood (guitar), James Ash (keyboards) and Steve Davis who focused on songwriting and production.
The band’s live appearances showcased the vampish persona of Bassingthwaighte, who brought a sexy theatricality to her role as frontwoman, her voice was surprisingly engaging, albeit with a limited range, her husky, often spoken-word vocal inserts were regularly swamped by the booming percussion on the band’s early singles as the Rogue Traders took over the dance floors with their anthemic, head-banging, breakthrough hit, Voodoo Child, in June 2003.
The single had been released in advance of their debut album Here Comes the Drums, which was recorded at the Twang Vicarage Studios (Melb) and produced by James Ash. The songs were written by Ash (using his real name Jamie Appleby), his wife Melinda Appleby and Steve Davis, but there was a significant sample riff taken from Elvis Costello’s 1978 hit Pump It Up in Voodoo Child, which was included as a writing credit to Declan McManus, Costello’s real name, on the record.
Costello’s original song was impressive new wave power pop, driving drums, guitar, and keyboards, inspired by Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues which had in turn been inspired by Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business. Davis and Ash were artful but honest samplers of great riffs and power chords from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and they would go back to the late 1970’s to sample another legendary riff from the Knack when they released Watching You, the third single off the album, and they would also co-credit Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith for the use of re-recorded elements of the Tears For Fears 1985 hit Head Over Heels, on their album track In Love Again.
Rogue Traders achieved an impressive merging of their original technobeats and electronic music with some full-blooded rock and roll; resounding percussion, bass and guitars inexorably drive Voodoo Child forward, Bassingthwaighte’s lead vocals are teasing, foxy and convincing with a hint of sexual menace and doubles entendre about “poison running through her” and “twisting or folding” abounding. She sang lead vocals on every track on the album except Casting Aside, which was sung by Ash.
Voodoo Child was an international hit, charting #3 locally and in the UK, #7 in NZ, the album also charted #3 in Australia and occupied the charts for seventy weeks!
The second single lifted from the album was Way to Go, released in October 2005, it too charted well at #8 locally for the band’s second consecutive top ten hit, an addictive punky, alt-rock dance song written by James Ash and David Isaac. The promo video amped up the sexy image of Bassingthwaighte as the teacher who is every adolescent boy’s wet dream, shot in a derelict building adjacent to the Sydney Central railway station, Natalie quickly gets down to rock chick attire of gingham hotpants and then a Union Jack dress and the class becomes a rock concert with James Ash doing some crowd surfing towards the end.
The third successful single lifted from the album was Watching You, the opening power chords of which clearly identify the sampling of The Knack’s My Sharona, their 1979 smash hit, with its characteristic inversion of the signature riff from Spencer Davis’s 1967 hit Gimme Some Lovin’, and the tom-tom drum rhythm which was a rewrite of the drum pattern in Smokey Robinson and the Miracles 1965 hit Going to a Go -Go.
Watching You was another artful act of sampling by the band, it didn’t actually improve on the original hit by the Knack, but the deliberate stop-go drum and guitar breaks were still catchy, Bassingthwaighte imparted the necessary suggestive tone to the lyrics, although lacking Sharona Halperin’s (Doug Feiger’s girlfriend) background chant of “fuck-a-me” on the original recording, and the memorable guitar solo by Berton Averre of the Knack at the bridge, was replaced by a keyboard solo by James Ash. The Rogue Traders had their third consecutive top ten hit when Watching You climbed to #5 in February 2006, their debut album Here Comes the Drums sold over 300,000 copies in Australia and the UK, and they had already started work on their second album Better In The Dark.