Nips Are Getting Bigger (M Plaza) 1979 and If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? (M Plaza) and Too Many Times (G Smith) – Mental as Anything 1981
The Mentals established their Sydney following in the claustrophobic back room of the Unicorn Hotel in Oxford St. Paddington, where they often performed atop a rickety pool table, the group members were mostly art students from the neighboring East Sydney Tech who dreamed up zany nicknames for themselves and were amusing, quirky dags.
Blessed with four songwriters producing unashamedly commercial, classic pop, rooted in rockabilly and early R&R, that was utterly engaging, warm, witty and charming, the Mentals were Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty, guitar, vocals), Wayne “Bird” Delisle (David Twohill, drums), Peter “Yoga Dog” O’Doherty (bass, vocals) Andrew “Greedy” Smith (keyboards, harmonica, vocals) and Martin Plaza (Martin Murphy, guitar, vocals).
In Plaza and Smith the band possessed two distinctive lead singer/songwriters, while the O’Dohertys were brothers whose family had emigrated from New Zealand to Sydney in 1969, who often contributed artwork to the band’s album covers.
Martin Plaza wrote The Nips Are Getting Bigger which delivered their trademark off-kilter brand of comically ambiguous words and music in this top twenty ode to drinking, with Plaza providing lead vocals. But not everyone got the joke, Sydney’s Catholic Church-owned radio station 2SM initially banned the song claiming that the band’s name was insensitive to those who were disabled, and the song title was deemed to be offensive to the Japanese, even though the nips referred to, were the standard size of a glass of spirits. The song charted #16 nationally, and their debut album Get Wet, produced by US-based Australian Cameron Allan, and recorded at the United Sound Studio (Syd) followed the single into the top twenty, four months later in November, when it climbed to #19.
The Mentals followed up with the album Espresso Bongo in 1980 which was a minor hit but they returned to form with the Cats and Dogs album in 1981, the first single released was another ambiguously-intriguing composition from Martin Plaza, If You Leave Me Can I Come Too, with Plaza again on lead vocals. This song possessed a typically quirky left-of-centre lyric that was driven along by an infectious beat and seductive vibe; by now the Mentals were really starting to hit the mark with poppy, accessible well-crafted melodies and lyrics that by turns deployed irony, satire and an engaging self-deprecating humour. They reflected much of the zany goonish antics and larrikin eccentricity of such British new wave bands of the late 70’s and early 80’s as Madness and UK Squeeze, and offered indispensable relief from the self-important poseurs that comprised a large chunk of Aussie rock sensations of the day, and their line-up remained largely unchanged for thirty years.
If You Leave Me Can I Come Too charted strongly at #4 nationally, in September of the same year the band followed up with Too Many Times, another ode to over-indulgence following on from their first hit in 1979 The Nips Are Getting Bigger.
“Too many times I’ve seen the sun come up through bloodshot eyes this week…”
It was again quirky, accessible pop, written by Greedy Smith who also played harmonica on the recording, and shared lead vocals with Martin Plaza. They took this one to #6 locally and surprisingly top 40 in Canada, which earned them a spot on the Men at Work North American tour in 1982.
The Mentals would be one of the most successful bands throughout the 1980’s taking no less than eighteen songs into the top 40 including nine top 20 hits, they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2009 along with Kev Carmody, The Dingoes, Little Pattie and John Paul Young.