My Girl (D Faulkner) and I Want You Back (D Faulkner) 1984 and Like Wow Wipe-Out (D Faulkner) 1985 and What’s My Scene? (D Faulkner) – Hoodoo Gurus 1987
Garage rock in Australia has been a musical force since the 1960’s when early practitioners included the Missing Links, the Throb, and the La De das, following through into the 70’s and 80’s with Radio Birdman, Lime Spiders, Celibate Rifles, the Stems, the Victims, the Scientists, New Race, Cold Chisel and of course the Hoodoo Gurus.
The Le Hoodoo Gurus originated in Perth and comprised expatriate members of several of the aforementioned bands – Dave Faulkner (guitar, vocals, above top right) and James Baker (drums, above bottom left) from the Victims, Brad Shepherd (guitar, vocals, above below right) from the Scientists, and recruit Clyde Bramley (bass/vocals, above top left) and with a clutch of great songs, written primarily by Dave Faulkner, they issued one of the most impressive debut albums ever in 1984 – Stone Age Romeos.
In 1981 the band relocated to Sydney and tirelessly worked the suburban beer barn circuit there, developing a particularly loyal following at the Trade Union Club in Surry Hills I(Syd), before heading for the US college campus circuit. Here new campus-based radio stations such as WESU, WFUV, WLUW and many more were emerging as an alternative FM network and breaking new rock bands such as REM, the Cure, The Smiths, and U2, and over several years of touring, local bands like Died Pretty, The Church, the Celibate Rifles, and the Hoodoo Gurus established a solid fanbase there too.
The Hoodoos were musical chameleons capable of wild garage punk and rambunctious hard rock, their inspirations were diverse and included the New York Dolls, the Flamin’ Groovies, the Ramones, Gene Vincent, the Rolling Stones, T Rex and the Troggs. They embraced a cartoonish comic book aesthetic, dressed in what looked like retro charity shop paisley, goth threads, hippie beads and headbands, named their debut album after a Three Stooges short film, and borrowed the artwork from the prehistoric B-movie One Million Years B.C. for their album cover, they were punky, junky and completely authentic.
The band had already released Leilani (’82), a novel ditty about a maiden sacrificed to the gods of an erupting volcano while her true love helplessly looked on and Tojo (Never made It Into Darwin) (’83) about the Japanese attack on Darwin in 1942. This was an answer song to Bill and Boyd’s Santa Never Made It Into Darwin (1975), a fund-raising single recorded to raise money for the relief of Darwin residents after Cyclone Tracey flattened the city in 1975, both Leilani and Tojo were admired, but did not chart top 40, the third single off their debut album was the more plaintive My Girl.
Variously described as a song about Faulkner’s greyhound because of the promo video, or a love song ripped from the pages of a 60’s teenage crush pulp paperback, either interpretation may have been correct, given the band’s then-fixation with cartoonish story lines, and US sitcoms – F Troop, Petticoat Junction, Get Smart, Green Acres, as well as the Three Stooges, which were all influences. In 2005 Dave Faulkner revealed that the song was supposed to be a tribute to 1960’s beach movies entitled Gidget Goes Ape, but while the Gurus were out on tour the record’s producer Alan Thorne, added keyboards, and session-singer backing vocals, which horrified the band, but pleased their record company. (Internet Archive- Wayback Machine 2005)
pivots on a love that is unrequited and the pathos of a relationship that has failed, the song is more plaintive and less unhinged than other contemporary Hoodoo songs such as I Want You Back and later Like Wow- Wipeout but its punkish pop pedigree is obvious. Sydney locations abound in the promotional video – Belvue St Glebe, Wentworth Park, Central Market Hotel in Darling Harbour, and of course there is that greyhound, it charted #35 nationally.
The second single lifted off the album was I Want You Back, a jangly dollop of attractive 1960’s-era power pop, merging acoustic and electric guitars with riveting vocal harmonies. Lyrically the song underscored a failed relationship between guitarist Brad Shepherd’s predecessor, Rod Radalj, and the other members of the band, as Radalj had been very critical of the band upon leaving and Faulkner’s lyric is responding by stating that “you’ll regret it, you’ll wish you were back”. The single barely charted at #68 and deserved a better fate, but the album cracked the top thirty and the Hoodoos, who had by now dropped the “Le” from their name, came out punching in 1985 with their second album, Mars Needs Guitars.
The standout single was Like Wow Wipeout which literally jumps out of the speakers with the initial assault of drums and bass as Dave Faulkner lays it on the line to his “New York doll” “I kiss the ground on which you walk/ I kiss the lips through which you talk/ I kiss the city of New York/ Where I first met you.” Surprisingly this song was only recorded as a B-side but producer Charles Fisher liked it so much that he insisted that it be included on the album. The band were surprised when it became the second single released and their biggest hit to that time, Dave Faulkner has said that he liked it because “it was noisy.”
The verses build manically as guitars and drums vie for attention, but Faulkner’s authoritative vocals keep everyone focused right up to the declaration of love that is the chorus, when everything gets crazy “I love the way you talk, you walk/ Your smile, your style/ Like now, like wow-wipeout, no doubt/ But I was gone the moment I laid eyes on you.” Like Wow Wipeout, was perfect three- minute garage/pub rock/pop from the Hoodoos and charted at #15, the album Mars Needs Guitars took the Hoodoos into the top 5 for the first time and stayed on the charts for 48 weeks.
The band would re-form several times over its life but always deliver a heady brew of paisley, pop, pub rock and punk under the leadership of Dave Faulkner. Lifted from their #2 hit album Blow Your Cool, What’s My Scene continued to display the Gurus power to deliver an infectious riff, the opening line draws you into a conversation that you didn’t even know you were having “And another thing, I’ve been wondering lately” and the song is also unusual in that it has two different choruses, when usually one is enough.
It charted at #3 nationally and was embraced by the NRL who have used the song, in various incarnations, for example That’s My Team – to promote the game and raise funds for charity. 1987 was a stellar year for Aussie music with no less than eleven local singles featured in the top 25 best-selling records of the year, the Gurus made it at #25 with this one, and were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007.
The Hoodoos would return to tour the US and continue build on their enthusiastic fanbase there, taking four more albums into the top ten locally in the period 1985-94 –Blow Your Cool (#2 in ’87), Kinky (#8 in ’91), Electric Soup (#4 in ’92), and Crank (#2 in ’94).