Turn Up Your Radio (D Ford/J Keays) 1970 and Because I Love You (D Ford/J Keays) – Masters’ Apprentices 1971
The new decade saw the Masters’ moving beyond the psychedelic pop of Living in a Child’s Dream and Elevator Driver, and embracing harder-rocking sounds, more synonymous with the garage rock for which the original Adelaide line up of the band had been known in the 60’s.
They were also becoming more autonomous, they had left their manager Darryl Sambell who had been focusing on promoting Johnny Farnham to the exclusion of the Masters, set up their own booking agency and promoted several tours by overseas artists including the Four Tops and Paul Jones (former front-man for Manfred Mann). Glenn Wheatley was emerging as a competent manager in his own right, as he would amply demonstrate in the future with such acts as the Little River Band, John Farnham and Delta Goodrem.
Their next release was the thumping rock-steady Think About Tomorrow Today, originally named Brave New World, but to avoid copyright issues and confusion over Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel of the same name, the title was changed. The song reflected a growing awareness of youth culture and associated socio-political issues by Keays and Ford and charted strongly for a #12 hit in late 1969.
The band went into Armstrong (Melb) recording studio with Howard Gable in April of 1970 and recorded another Ford/Keays composition, Turn Up Your Radio, a loud, brassy, raucous slice of garage rock evocative of classic early rockers such as Rock Around the Clock, from which it borrowed lyrics, and Eddie Cochrane’s Summertime Blues. This was the song that would declare to the world that the Masters’ were a rebellious, raw, and even obnoxious group, Jim Keays has admitted that he was inebriated when he recorded the song and had to be supported at the microphone to get through the session, nevertheless his primal vocal attack was still impressive.
Turn Up Your Radio was the perfect antidote for the insipid bubblegum music which was dominating charts at the time, Doug Ford’s lead guitar and scratch technique was very mod rock, Wheatley’s beefy bass lines were memorable, and drummer Colin Burgess closed the whole thing out with pounding percussion and a cymbal crash. The group’s new leather stage outfits also helped the band to reinforce its bad boy rocker image, 3UZ DJ Stan “The Man” Rofe commented at the time that “The Masters are to Australia what the Rolling Stones are to England and the Doors are to America.”
This song, one of the biggest hits for the Masters’ to this time, peaked at #8 nationally, and demanded to be listened to as it jumped out of transistor radios in 1970 with brass blasting out the infectious opening riffs. The sound achieved by Gable and the band on this record was so typical of the music that had been produced by Phil Spector, Joe Meek, and Motown to this time, and it was all about nailing a focused wall of sound that connected with the listeners of AM radio, not striving for the curated separation of sound that no one could hear through a tiny speaker, and that wouldn’t change until the arrival of more advanced production systems, and the digital age of recording and listening to music decades later.
The band had competed in two National Battle of the Sounds competitions only to be relegated to second place behind the Groove and then Doug Parkinson In Focus, but ultimately Sitmar agreed that they deserved a free passage to the UK on the SS Fairsky and they departed for Swinging London in 1970 to follow their dream.
The band departed for the UK in May 1970 on the SS Fairsky arriving in London in July and took up residence in London, at 28 Durham Rd. North Harrow, they lacked funds, equipment, and new material, unfortunately they were destined to fail in the UK, like so many other Australian bands who had gone before them.
Eventually they convinced EMI to record them at the legendary Studio One, Abbey Road with producer Jeff Jarratt and engineer Peter Brown whose previous credits included albums with the Beatles and Pink Floyd, recorded in that very same studio.
Ford and Keays were maturing as songwriters and were impressed by the recent acoustic tracks on albums by Donovan (Mellow Yellow and Open Road), Van Morrison (Moon Dance and particularly Astral Weeks) and the Small Faces (Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake), and these influences would be reflected in what became the seminal track on their new album Choice Cuts – Because I Love You.
Because I Love You is a tender love song, the opening acoustic guitar refrain by Doug Ford is sensitive and affecting, Keays vocals are almost whisperly quiet to begin, then the rhythm section of Glenn Wheatley (bass) and Colin Burgess (drums) and backup singers build to the anthemic chorus “ooh, ooh, ooh!! do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah,” which is repeated so many times that people think this is the title of the song, Paul McCartney’s famous white grand piano was played by Jeff Jarratt during the recording session. Conceptually the song reflects the emotions of people living away from home, separated from their loved ones, just as the band were in London; the consequences of loneliness and separation and ultimately, as the chorus emphasizes, the need for independence, it has become an endeared classic and perennial favorite. Choice Cuts was a #10 hit in Australia and remains the band’s most popular album, it was favourably reviewed by the UK musical press but by then the band had returned to Australia and weren’t able to promote it.
Because I Love You charted #15 locally, the promo video was shot by ex-pat Aussie, Tim Fisher, on a misty Hampstead Heath (London), with band members and unidentified partners intercut with footage of the group, performing the song at the Speakeasy Club in London.
The band returned to Australia to re-commence touring to raise much-needed funds, they were almost bankrupt, the local scene had changed, pub rock was on the rise, radio programmers controlled playlists, they toured nationally for six months, often to small crowds in one-horse towns for small returns, they even went back to London to record again, but by 1972 Glenn Wheatley had left, and Jim Keays also decided to call it day as well.
Because I Love You was revived in the1980’s when used in a television commercial in 1988 and returned to the charts at #22, in 1998 the Masters’ Apprentices were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, along with another member of Adelaide rock royalty, the Angels. Jim Keays sadly passed away in 2014.