SPECIAL FEATURE – ZOOT

Zoot4

 

1 Times x 2 Times x 3 Times x 4 (T Britten) and Monty and Me (B Woodley/ H Poulsen) – The Zoot 1969.

 Darryl Cotton and Dutch emigrant Beeb Birtles (real name Gerard Bertelkamp) emerged from the burgeoning mod rock scene in Adelaide in the 1960’s after they met while gigging in separate bands in the Noarlunga-Christies Beach area. Their first band was Times Unlimited, which became the Down the Line Band, who in response to a suggestion by Doc Neeson, became Zoot, a name inspired by the UK’s Zoot Money Big Roll Band. Their musical influences included such UK mod bands as the Small Faces, The Move, and the Hollies.

The Zoot quickly emerged as one of the most entertaining bands in Adelaide and regularly featured at the top discos of the era there – the Kommotion Klub, Shindig, The Scene, the Oxford Club and Sergeant Peppers. They were encouraged to relocate to swinging Melbourne, mod rock HQ in Australia, where their lineup was Darryl Cotton (lead vocals), Beeb Birtles (bass, vocals), Ric Brewer (drums), and Roger Hicks (lead guitar/vocals), they became regulars at such discos as Berties and Sebastians.

The band’s manager Wayne de Gruchy had devised a “Think Pink, Think Zoot” campaign to promote the band, kitted them out in pink outfits and pushed them onto the market as teen scream idols, deliberately limiting their stage time, to keep their teenybopper fans panting for more.

 

zoot 2

The band’s second single was a classic slice of bubblegum pop written by Twilights guitarist Terry Britten and produced for EMI by Howard Gable, then married to fellow-Kiwi Allison Durbin who was having a red hot affair with Rick Springfield. The song lyrically played up the notorious reputation the handsome bandmembers had, for stealing other guys wives and girlfriends, and used a numerical countdown lyric lifted from the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s 1,2,3, Red Light, to take 1x2x3x4 into the charts at #25.

 

Their follow up record was Monty and Me, written by Bruce Woodley (Seekers) and Hans Poulsen, it was a jaunty feel-good song about a guy and his dog named Monty. Darryl Cotton could not produce a whistle sound during the recording session, so John Farnham, who was in the Armstrong Studios at the time, popped in, did the whistle insert and sang harmonies as well, the record charted #36 nationally.

 

But upon the departure of Roger Hicks and the arrival of guitar supremo Rick Springfield, the pink outfits were ceremonially “burned” on Happening 70, the band collectively bared their bums in a group photo shoot and fleetingly enjoyed a period of popularity on the Sydney gay scene.

 

Zoot 3

But more importantly they began to embrace meatier musical styles, which had emerged during the psychedelic era, and were evolving as such heavy metal UK groups as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath stormed the charts. Zoot’s beefed-up version of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby in 1970 would be their biggest hit.

Zoot proved to be a useful stepping stone – guitarist Rick Springfield went solo later and made the US charts with Jessie’s Girl, and many other hits, bassist Beeb Birtles followed him there in 1976 as a member of The Little River Band, vocalist Daryl Cotton recorded stateside with Cotton, Lloyd and Christian, and drummer Rick Brewer was at #1 in Australia in 1977 as a member of the Ferrets with Don’t Fall In Love.

 

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