AUSTRALIAN CRAWL & JAMES REYNE

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Things Don’t Seem So (G McDonough/S Higgins) and Errol (J Reyne/G McDonough) and Oh No, Not You Again (G McDonough) and Lakeside (J Reyne) – Australian Crawl 1981

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In 1980 Guy McDonough (above), former member of Spiff Rouche, younger brother of drummer Bill McDonough and co-composer of Downhearted, became the sixth member of the band (guitar), he provided another proven songwriter and, crucially, an alternate lead vocalist. The definitive line up of the Crawl now emerged – James Reyne (vocals, occasional guitar, piano, percussion), Guy McDonough (vocals, guitar), Simon Binks (lead guitar), Brad Robinson (guitar), Paul Williams (bass) and Bill McDonough (drums). Despite the success of their debut album the band would not work with producer David Briggs again, they approached Peter Dawkins (below) (Air Supply, Billy Thorpe, Dragon, John Farnham), who commented on the background to the change “I was approached by Australian Crawl, who were about to do their second album, Sirocco. They had been tortured to death by David Briggs, or at least by his studio style, and needed a change. We got along incredibly well and it was all so comfortable. They played me twenty new songs, I gave them a list of the eleven I liked, and we just said “let’s go.”peter dawkinsIn 1981 the band went into Studio 301 in Sydney with Dawkins to record what would be their second album and their first #1 hit, Sirocco, which was the name of both a hot southerly wind which blows from Africa across continental Europe, and the late legendary Australian actor/womaniser Errol Flynn’s yacht.Aust crawl6Former Flathead bandmates Guy McDonough and Sean Higgins co-composed the attractive guitar pop of Things Don’t Seem So, which  was the perfect follow up to the hit songs that had come off The Boys Light Up album, it charted #11 nationally while the album Sirocco was heading for #1 on the album charts where it would stay for six weeks. James Reyne handled the lead vocals for this song, which was punchy, urgent, and up tempo, in his typically baffling ‘Reyne speak’  which rendered the song’s chorus as: “Things just-a / Don’t seem-a / To-hoo / Be goin’ ra-hiiite,” others claimed that he was singing “Bang sister, loan saver, doooog we’re going right”

The band were everywhere in 1981, touring nationally to huge crowds at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl (100,000), Sydney’s Domaine (90,000) and the Narara Rock festival (70,000) and breaking attendance records at indoor venues in Brisbane and Perth.Aust crawl8The second single lifted from the Sirocco album, was Errol, named after the Aussie screen legend, and dedicated to the acting icon who cut a swathe through Tinseltown in the 1930s and 40’s as an action man and romantic lead par excellence – “I would give everything / Just to be like him.” It was a waggish tribute to a questionable role model, Flynn lead a colorfully carnal life as captured in his autobiography, “My Wicked, Wicked Ways”, born in Tasmania hence the lyrical reference to “Apple isle, the inbred smile…” and beaten by his mother “His mother’s hand , he could not stand…” and he was a suspected Nazi sympathizer which would explain the line “billing the Nazis”. The promo clip captured all the boisterous energy and carnal intent that epitomised Errol Flynn, with band members surfing, water sliding, water-skiing, running along the sand, then frolicking with sarong/bikini-clad girls in a giant hot tub, sauna and bed, it was suggestive but within what passed for the dictums of good taste at the time.

Errol charted at #18 in October ’81 and TISM subsequently parodied the song and James Reyne’s idiosyncratic vocal style as “Yassa Ara-Thin -A-Go-Go in 2002, even though lead vocals on Errol were by Guy McDonough, who closely followed Reyne’s template, so the lyrics are only marginally clearer than normal “Reyne speak”.

The third single from Sirocco was Oh No, Not You Again, a seemingly innocent strum-along tune written and sung by Guy McDonough, which had a darker sub-text, which was McDonough’s heroin addiction “He’s out on the town/He’s hoping to score/ Oh,oh,oh,oh – oh no, not you again,” it was a more introspective and nuanced song than others on the album, and deserved to chart higher than #58 which was its peak position. In 1984 Guy would check himself into a rehab facility to detox but would unwisely check himself out in favor of undertaking naturopathic treatment at home, but he would be hospitalized later that same year, diagnosed with AIDS and subsequently die of viral pneumonia, at the age of 28.

Lakeside was written and sung by James Reyne, as a random collection of juvenile vignettes from his wild days on the Mornington Peninsula, including  sneaking out at night to meet yacht club girls on the beach or to park in his Torana, while also taking aim at the overfed matrons of the area who dared to parade their ample flesh on his beach “They’re going to wallow in the shallows/ Great puce hippo/ Bar-b-que and blubber/ Please don’t show, please don’t show/ They’re gonna steal my sand space.”

The album Sirocco was very much a family affair, with Brad Robinson’s (below) father, James, a Federal Arbitration Court judge co-writing Way I’ve Been and Walk My Way with his son Brad, and both the Robinsons’ contributing to a third song Indisposed, Brad also collaborated with his girlfriend actress Kerry Armstrong (below) and Simon Binks on Easy On Your Own.Aust crawl20

An interesting postscript to the Sirocco album were claims from within the music industry  that the track Unpublished Critics, had a very similar chord structure to the Guns N Roses 1986 hit Sweet Child ‘O’ Mine, but Australian Crawl never pursued the Gunners for breach of copyright or a share of their royalties, even though the similarities were obvious.

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