PUB ROCK 1970-1990

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Happy Man (J Oxley) – The Sunnyboys 1981

Sydney quartet the Sunnyboys were the Oxley brothers Peter (bass) and Jeremy (guitar/vocals), Bil Bilson (drums), who all hailed from Kingsmill in northern NSW, and Richard Burgman (lead guitar)from Wagga Wagga, and their musical influences were the Beatles, the Kinks, the Flamin’ Groovies, and the Remains. They paid their dues at Chequers nightclub on Goulburn St (Syd), and in Melbourne at the London Tavern, Macy’s and the Sandringham Commodore Jump Club. They were quickly signed to Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Records and released their much-lauded eponymous debut album which was favorably compared with the debut albums by Australian Crawl (Boys Light Up), and the Sports (Reckless), from which the single Happy Man was lifted in June 1981.

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Happy Man was written by guitarist Jeremy Oxley and was the first single lifted from the debut album, produced by the late great Lobby Lloyd (Purple Hearts/Rose Tattoo/Colored Balls/X). The band’s name was inspired by a popular flavored ice confection in a distinctive tetra-pak, called Sunnyboy. the band felt that the name and the product projected a fresh, youthful, vibrant image, consistent with their shiny, power pop songs.

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The song’s lyrics are engagingly contradictory – “…I think I’m swimming in a sea of doubt“ followed by the chorus “But I’m a happy man”. A simple but engaging power pop song, Happy Man featured the impressive drumming of Bil Bilson, and the guitar rock of Burgman, and the Oxley brothers, delivered with great drive and pub rock grit, it charted #26 nationally, and deserved to do better.

By 1984 Jeremy Oxley was dealing with serious mental health issues and self-medicating, while his creative output remained impressive, it was uneven in quality, and because of his condition the band could not commit to long-term tour itineraries, and subsequently disbanded, only to reform for several reunion gigs in 1998 and 2012.

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The band surprisingly released the album Sunnyboys 40 in 2020, which featured the four songs from their original EP – Alone With You, Love To Rule, What You Need, and The Seeker – and new material that again recalled their power pop credentials and pub rock credibility of the 1980’s.

Run to Paradise (M Gable/B Carr) – Choirboys 1987 

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The Choirboys, from Sydney’s northern beaches, were the heirs apparent to the kings of pub rock, who never quite delivered, but the infectious Run to Paradise took them into the top 3 in ’87, #13 in NZ, and #33 on the US Mainstream charts.

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The quartet comprised left to right Mark Gable (guitar/lead vocals), Brad Carr (guitar), Lindsay Tebbutt (drums), Ian Hulme (bass), they toured with the Angels and Rose Tattoo but had to withdraw from a support spot on Cold Chisel’s Last Stand tour when Gable ruptured his vocal cords which effectively sidelined the band during 1984-85. During this time several bands who were competing for pub rock credibility and market domination with the Choirboys emerged – Noiseworks, Hunters and Collectors, Johnny Diesel and the Injectors – all challenged to fill the void left by the band during this period.

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In 1986 they had moved on from Alberts and signed with Mushroom Records and two years later issued their second album Big Bad Noise in 1988 which was a #5 hit and from which the definitive Run to Paradisehad been pre-released in late 1987. The song is essentially an anti-drugs anthem although the paradise referred to is also a reference to dole bludgers who surfed, smoked dope and avoided work, while hanging out on Sydney’s northern beaches. The song literally explodes out of the speakers at the intro and Gable’s incisive lead vocals are backed up by a driving rhythm section of Hulme and Tebbutt which promised much from this band in the future, but they only took one more single into the top twenty, Boys Will Be Boys at #14 in 1988. 

Pub Rock, Permed Mullets, and 80’s Power Pop.

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