SILVERCHAIR/DANIEL JOHNS – 1994-2018

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Daniel Paul Johns, Benjamin David Gillies, and Christopher John Joannou were born in 1979 (above right to left), Johns was the first of three children and his parents Greg and Julie ran a family fruit stall. Ben was the second child to plumber David and his wife Annette, and Christopher was one of three children and had a twin sister, his parents David and Sue operated a dry-cleaning franchise. All three families lived in the Newcastle (NSW) suburb of Merewether, they were unpretentious, working class people, and all three boys attended the same local primary school, and ultimately pursued a secondary education at Newcastle High School. Newcastle is a NSW coastal town with a long history of steel-making, ship-building, and heavy industrial production, which has declined significantly in the past thirty years, it remains the largest coal export port in the world, which co-exists alongside many beautiful beaches and renowned surf breaks, all members of silverchair were keen surfers. Pictured below are the very young Innocent Criminals, the band’s first name, as a foursome with left to right Chris Joannou, Tobin Finnane (rear), Ben Gillies (front) and Daniel Johns.silver12Several of their parents had dabbled in music in their youth, David Gillies was a rhythm guitarist and David Joannou had played bass guitar in local bands, Daniel’s  brother Heath would start his own band with the help of his successful sibling, and later segue to music management with BMG Australia, and post-Silverchair, he would manage Daniel’s solo career. Johns and Gillies were tight from early on and formed a garage band known as the Innocent Criminals, they used the Gillies garage as their practice space, but neither could play bass guitar, however they knew that Chis Joannou ‘s father had a bass, and they invited Chris to join their band, and he came on  board.silver3Their early musical influences reflected the record collections of their parents – Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, and by 1993 they were getting noticed, Terry Farelly of Platinum Sound Studios in Newcastle invited the trio to record four demos of their original songs.silver17Tomorrow was the standout track from that first recording session, it had originally come together in Gillies bedroom, when Daniel and Ben were inspired after watching the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same, and were particularly impressed by the sheer length and power of the song Dazed And Confused. As they played along to the Zep song Daniel growled the lyric ‘You wait ‘til tomorrow”, and the creative spark was lit, Johns then came up with the riff to the chorus, and despite Ben’s enthusiasm, Daniel remained sceptical about the song, it was a classic case of teen understatement. The video shows the thirteen year-old Innocent Criminals performing the demo of their song Tomorrow, which was submitted for the Pick Me contest.

Television network SBS and Radio JJJ were running a music competition called Pick Me, to find the best unreleased demo by an unsigned Australian band, and out of over 800 entries Tomorrow was chosen. One of the judges was expat British video director Robert Hambling, who was very impressed by the song and the band Tomorrow had great lyrics, a really good hook, and there was no doubting their connection to the Seattle sound … three very young kids living in Newcastle, playing out of their bedroom – what else do you want?” Their win in the SBS/JJJ contest funded the development of a promo video and provided national exposure, the four demos were  re-recorded and issued as an EP which became the band’s first #1 hit in October 1994 and stayed on top for six weeks, it was also a #1 hit in NZ. The four songs on the EP were Tomorrow, Stoned, Blind, and Acid Rain, but their creative output was so prodigious even at  that time,  that on their eleven song debut album Frogstomp, released in 1995, Tomorrow would be the lead track, but the only other EP track included was Blind,  as a bonus track on the vinyl edition of Frogstomp.silver20The Innocent Criminals would become silverchair, the name was either inspired by the accidental fusion of two song titles, You Am I’s Berlin Chair and Nirvana’s Sliver, by Chris Joannou, although manager John Watson recalls that it may have been  inspired by one of CS Lewis’s Narnia books, the Silver Chair. silver13By 2011 they would have taken five albums to #1 in this country, enjoyed great chart success in the USA, accumulated global album sales in excess of 10 million and won a record 21 ARIA Awards for excellence over their journey. They commenced an indefinite hiatus in 2011, from which they never returned, Daniel Johns thereafter pursued a solo career and vastly different musical directions and lifestyle.silver2

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