YEARS AGO

 

 My Girl (D Faulkner) and I Want You Back (D Faulkner) 1984 and Like Wow Wipe-Out (D Faulkner) – Hoodoo Gurus 1985

 

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Garage rock in Australia had been a force for many years before the Drones, the Hives and Jet took up the cudgels, preceding them were the Saints, the Scientists, the Victims, the Lime Spiders and Radio Birdman who had led the charge.

The Hoodoo Gurus originated in Perth and comprised expatriate members of several of the aforementioned bands – Dave Faulkner (guitar, vocals) and James Baker (drums) from the Victims, Brad Shepherd (guitar, vocals) from the Scientists, after they had recruited Clyde Bramley (bass/vocals), and with a clutch of great songs, written primarily by Dave Faulkner, issued one of the most impressive debut albums ever in 1984 –  Stone Age Romeos.

In 1981 the band had relocated to Sydney and tirelessly worked the suburban beer barn circuit there, developing a loyal following at the Trade Union Club in Surry Hills, Syd. before heading for the US college campus circuit where they capitalised on the emerging popularity of a network of college radio stations which were breaking new guitar rock bands such as REM and over several years of touring, the Hoodoo Gurus as well.

The Hoodoos were musical chameleons capable of wild garage punk and rambunctious hard rock, their inspirations were diverse and included the New York Dolls, the Flamin’ Groovies, the Ramones, Gene Vincent, the Rolling Stones, T Rex and the Troggs. They embraced a cartoonish comic book aesthetic, dressed in what looked like retro charity shop paisley, goth threads, hippie beads and headbands, they named their debut album after a Three Stooges short film, and borrowed the artwork from the prehistoric B-movie One Million Years B.C. for their album cover, they were punky, junky and completely authentic.

The band had already released Leilani (’82) and Tojo (’83) as singles which were admired but did not chart top 40, the third single off the debut album was the more plaintive My Girl.

Variously described as a song about Faulkner’s greyhound or a love song ripped from the pages of a 60’s teenage crush romantic paperback, either interpretation may have been correct, given the band’s then-fixation with cartoonish story lines, and US sitcoms – F-Troop, Petticoat Junction, Get Smart, Green Acres, as well as the Three Stooges, which were all influences.

My Girl pivots on a love that is unrequited and the pathos of a relationship that has failed, the song is more plaintive and less unhinged than other contemporary Hoodoo songs such as I Want You Back and later Like Wow- Wipeout but its punkish pop pedigree is obvious. Sydney locations abound in the promotional video – Belvue St Glebe, Wentworth Park, Central Market Hotel in Darling Harbour, and of course there is that greyhound, it charted #35 nationally.

 

The next single lifted off the album was I Want You Back, a jangly dollop of attractive 1960’s-era power pop, merging acoustic and electric guitars with riveting vocal harmonies. Lyrically the song underscored a failed relationship between Brad Shepherd’s predecessor, Rod Radalj, and the other members of the band, as Radalj had been very critical of the band upon leaving and Faulkner’s lyric is responding by stating that “you’ll regret it, you’ll wish you were back”.

The single barely charted at #68 and deserved a better fate, but the album cracked the top thirty and the Hoodoos came out punching in 1985 with their second album, Mars Needs Guitars.

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The standout single was Like Wow Wipeout which literally jumps out of the speakers with the initial assault of drums and bass as Dave Faulkner lays it on the line to his “New York doll” “I kiss the ground on which you walk/ I kiss the lips through which you talk/ I kiss the city of New York/ Where I first met you.”

The verses build manically as guitars and drums vie for attention, but Faulkner’s authoritative vocals keep everyone focused right up to the declaration of love that is the chorus, when everything gets crazy “I love the way you talk, you walk/ Your smile, your style/ Like now, like wow-wipeout, no doubt/ But I was gone the moment I laid eyes on you.” Like Wow Wipeout, was perfect three- minute garage rock/pop from the Hoodoos and charted at #15, the album Mars Needs Guitars took the Hoodoos into the top 5 for the first time and stayed on the charts for 48 weeks.

The Hoodoos would return to tour the US and establish a fanbase there and take four more albums into the top ten locally in the period 1985-94 –Blow Your Cool (#2 in ’87), Kinky (#8 in ’91), Electric Soup (#4 in ’92), and Crank (#2 in ’94).The Hoodoos were inducted into the ARIA Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 in a stellar field that included Brian Cadd, Marcia Hines, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Radio Birdman, Nick Cave and Frank Ifield.

 

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