SUMMER HITS

Summer Love (Porter/Shakespeare) 1975 and Howzat (Porter/Mitchell) 1976 – Sherbet.

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Sherbet had reigned supreme throughout the 1970’s, at times sharing top billing with the Skyhooks, but they would ultimately take nineteen singles into the national top 40, and their last two releases in 1974, Slipstream and Silvery Moon had both been top 5 hits. In 1975 Festival Records hooked the band up with Richard Lush, who had been sound engineer on the Beatles Sgt. Peppers album at Abbey Road studios in London, to produce their next single Summer Love. Band members below left to right- Clive Shakespeare, Daryl Braithwaite, Alan Sandon, Garth Porter, and Tony Mitchell.

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Summer Love was a revelation, an infectious, driving, dollop of summery pop penned by band members Garth Porter and Clive Shakespeare, whose trademark ringing guitar riffs were to the fore, Alan Sandon’s pounding drums and Porter’s organ flourishes also stood out, and he also played saxophone for the first time on a Sherbet recording. Catchy riffs were appropriated from another song, according to Garth Porter, lead vocals by Braithwaite were authoritative and fulsome, and although Sherbet’s lyrics were never Dylanesque, they were insistent and emotionally engaged the fans.

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The whole song was wrapped up in the shimmering production of Lush (above), it was perfect pop and became Sherbet’s first #1 hit and the fourth biggest-selling record of the year, beating out such challengers as Status Quo, The Carpenters, and the Bay City Rollers “Summer love is like no other love…”

Glam rock/pop, all that hair and satin outfits, and Dazza’s bare chest, definitely the 70’s.

But 1975 had been a difficult year for the band, their Life tour had been derailed by a drug bust of Tony Mitchell and the loss of one of their crew who was killed in a road accident. Prior to recording their fifth studio album Howzat, founding member Clive Shakespeare confessed he was tired and disillusioned about remaining in the group. he subsequently departed and set up his own recording studio in Sydney, guitarist Harvey James (below second from left) was recruited from Ariel and proved to be an admirable replacement, the resulting album and the title single Howzat, became their biggest hits, both climbing to #1 locally.

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Howzat was written by keyboardist Garth Porter and bassist Tony Mitchell, and inspired by a cricket colloquialism used by bowlers to appeal a decision from the umpire, which was equated to the ebb and flow of a relationship “you messed about/ I caught you out/ Howzat!” The distinctive bass line which itros the song, doo-doo, doo-doo, was devised by Mitchell and Porter quickly came up with the line “I caught you out“. Lyrically the song was straightforward as were most of Sherbet’s songs, which were not distinguished by lyrical artistry or memorable prose, but strong on engaging guitar riffs and cascading keyboards.

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The song used a stop-start tempo and insistent Garth Porter clavinet riff to heighten the drama and propel the song along to the rousing chorus, it was an accomplished production by Richard Lush and again Braithwaite’s vocals were convincing and assured.

The Poms loved this one, Harvey James even wore a Sheffield Wednesday satin bomber jacket, great bass lines too.

Howzat was an international hit for Sherbet in NZ and Sth. Africa (#1), the UK (#4), and top ten in Norway and the Netherlands, the album charted for 36 weeks locally, and took the band to the peak of teenybopper adulation in the mid-70’s. Sherbet toured in support of Howzat in the UK and played support to Queen at Hyde Park but their promotional effort was ultimately stymied by lack of music company support as well as union bans on foreign acts in the UK.

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In 1977 the band recorded the Photoplay album which was a convincing #4 hit and the single lifted from it was Magazine Madonna, a catchy and engaging slice of guitar pop with a rousing chorus, the rhythm section of Sandon (drums) and Mitchell (bass) delivered a solid back beat and the overall production and ambience of the song was reminiscent of the Little River Band, who were cutting a swathe through the US soft rock market at the time. A discreetly sudsy nude shot of the original band at the height of their teenybopper adulation , left to right Braithwaite, Shakespeare, Mitchell, Porter, and Sandon.

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Following an ill-fated US tour in 1978 the band returned home but never really recaptured their mojo, and although they returned to the top ten with Another Night On the Road (’78), Sherbet had lost its fizz. Braithwaite would re-emerge in the late 1980’s and 90’s with more solo hits, and Garth Porter would become a respected music producer. Sherbet were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1990 along with Percy Grainger, and former members Clive Shakespeare (2012) and Harvey James (2011) have both sadly passed away. A recent photo of surviving band members fully clothed, left to right Alan Sandon, Garth Porter, Daryl Braithwaite, and Tony Mitchell.

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