WPA were founded by Mick Thomas in Melbourne in 1984, Thomas came from bush band traditions in his home town of Geelong and after relocating to Melbourne in 1981 he ultimately pursued a musical merging of punk rock, alt-country and folk, and advertised in positions vacant to find the musicians that would become WPA.The group seemed to be in a state of perpetual flux, and only momentarily settled into a consistent lineup, although Marcus Schintler (drums), Mark Wallace (piano accordian, keyboards, vocals), and Mick Thomas (guitar, vocals) were constants throughout the period 1987-92, in the lineup from left to right above is Richard Burgman (guitar), Marcus Schintler, Mick Thomas, Peter Lawler (bass,mandolin,harmonica ), and Mark Wallace.
With others they were responsible for the release of four albums including Scorn of the Women (#52 in ’87), Roaring Days (#46 in ’88) and one single, none of which reached the top 30 locally, but the band got good exposure as one of the support acts on U2’s national tour in 1989.In 1991 Paul Thomas (guitar/vocals) and Peter Lawler (bass, mandolin, harmonica), were recruited, and the band entered the Periscope Recording studios (Melb) with local producer Alan Thorne (below) (Hoodoo Gurus, Paul Kelly, and The Stems) to record their fifth album, Difficult Loves.Prior to the album’s release in July the band pre-released the Mick Thomas-composed single Father’s Day, a poignant commentary on the anguish of marriage breakdown and separation, the sensitive and divisive issues of child custody and visitation rights and the sense of alienation and disenfranchisement often associated with single parenthood. The song is infused with a melancholy brittleness as the single father clings to what’s left of his pride and self-esteem to preserve a loving relationship with his son “I haven’t always been a single man/ I haven’t always lived up here/ Along with all these other single men/ With a ring around the bath and a cigarette butt in my beer.”
Mick Thomas sings in a pronounced Australian accent with which the listener can identify, he uses words like “blokes” and his protagonist admits to drinking too much, being sad, even a bit mad “But it don’t feel half bad…/ When he calls me Dad.”The vocals are impassioned, the accompanying video features touching original Super 8 images of families, musically the song is engaging, Jen Anderson’s (above) folksy fiddle playfully insinuates itself through the song, rollicking chord changes and catchy riffs are all underscored by guitars, percussion and keyboards to produce the band’s most distinctive song. The group were a popular live act with a dedicated fan following, better known as the “wedheads”, and WPA were often compared to Irish band The Pogues. They ultimately disbanded in 1994, briefly reformed and issued their last studio album River’esque in 1996 which charted #32 nationally, Mick Thomas now works primarily in record production and engineering.The relationship between fathers and sons has inspired heartfelt songs in the past – Cat Steven’s Father And Son was an emotional tug-of-war dialogue between the two, Cat’s In The Cradle was Harry Chapin’s sentimental reflections on growing up and growing old with his son, Eric Clapton wrote two songs which plumbed the emotional depths of firstly never knowing a father – My Father’s Eyes – and losing a son – Tears In Heaven, Nick Cave also grappled with the death of his young son Arthur in Fireflies, and Bruce Springsteen eloquently re-imagined the strained and remote relationship with his father in My Father’s House.
WPA’s Father’s Day sits comfortably within the anthology of great songs about the father-son dynamic, it charted at #35 and the album Difficult Loves made it to #26, they both deserved to do better.