American-born, Mark Denis Lizotte (May 1966) emigrated from Fall River, Massachusetts to Australia with his family in 1971 when he was five, the Lizottes ultimately settled in Perth (WA). There the young guitar-slinger, who took his musical cues from James Taylor, Johnny Cash, and the Band, decided to leave Scarborough High School in Year 8, in 1979 “I was trying to get my head around algebra […] and suddenly I thought: ‘Hang on, I don’t have to do this. I can play music as a job!”, which he did, and subsequently learnt his craft, and paid his dues, on the Perth pub circuit.
He formed Johnny Diesel and the Injectors in 1986, Mark Lizotte became Diesel after an in-joke about the corruption of their bass player John Dalzell’s name, and the definitive lineup emerged as Mark Lizotte “Diesel” (guitar/vocals), Yak Sherrit (drums), Bernie Bremond (sax, vocals), and Johnny “Tatts” Dalzell (bass). L-R below – Diesel, Bremond, Sherrit, and Dalzell.
The band released their debut self-titled album in 1989, and immediately attracted national attention, their guitar- driven style was a blues-rock revelation, and Diesel’s authoritative vocals stamped them as worthy pub rock contenders, the first three singles taken off the album were top ten hits locally. Don’t Need Love ticked all the boxes for a classic rock song, Soul Revival became their biggest hit to date when it climbed to #8 nationally, followed by Cry In Shame which was a down and dirty track with great reverb and a brilliant sax solo by Bernie Bremond, which also charted #8. Their album peaked at a credible #3, charted for 34 weeks, and sold 140,000 copies, the band came to the notice of Jimmy Barne’s wife Jane, who recommended them to her husband as a support band.
Diesel subsequently contributed to Barnes Freight Train Heart album and he and the Injectors joined Barnes on the road to promote the album. Diesel would ultimately share a more fraternal relationship with Jimmy Barnes when he married Jane’s sister Jep and the two rockers became brothers-in-law.
By 1993 Diesel had gone solo and was making his debut album Hep Fidelity at variously the Hot Tin Roof Studios (Los Angeles) and Studio Six (Memphis) with gun American producers Terry Manning and Don Gehman.
Come to Me was the first song lifted off the album and it charted #8 in Aust and NZ, it was a brilliant blending of strings, bass, Atlantic/Stax brass and gospel-style vocal harmonies, a great blue-eyed soul song which was both sexy and funky, and deserved greater success.
Tip Of My Tongue was the second song released and it was a unique slice of sassy rock-funk and soul in contrast to the prevailing trend of Seattle-inspired grunge, Diesel co-wrote the song in LA at the home of Danny Tate, a local musician who let Diesel use his piano and basic four-track machine to record a demo of the song. On first hearing producer Don Gehman was impressed, but Diesel was more concerned that his bass-playing was sub-standard, however at #3 locally and also in NZ, it became Diesel’s biggest hit to date.
His rhythm section of Yak Sherrit (drums) and Matthew Branton (bass) laid down the rhythmic base of this song, Diesel displayed equal proficiency with both acoustic and electric guitar, his heavily-strung instruments produced a resonance and depth that set his guitar-playing apart from others. Strings enriched this production and Diesel’s guitar solo at the bridge was convincing.
Diesel was a luminous presence, not showy or demonstrative, but assured and convincing, he looked like Eddie Cochrane and sounded like Bryan Adams, and he quickly became one of the most popular singers in the country, winning the ARIA Award for Best Male Artist three years in a row from 1993-95. The monochrome promo video of this song intercut performance of the song with suitably steamy, sexy bedroom/bathroom scenes which would all assist Diesel to get those important words off the tip of his tongue.
Follow up singles from Hep Fidelity included Love Junk, a punchy merging of rockabilly and Lenny Kravitz-style riffs which went to #18, and Man Alive, a brassy, percussion-driven song which echoed Never Miss Your Water, which would be a future hit for Diesel, and charted at #20, while Hep Fidelity stayed at #1 for four weeks and sold over 200,000 copies.
The band’s next big hit would be the rock-funk blues of Never Miss Your Water when it was lifted off Diesel’s second studio album, The Lobbyist, and here he recaptured his mojo, evident on his debut album. The rhythm section again worked tightly in support of Diesel, who also provided double bass accompaniment, strings delivered a subtle counterbalance, the harmony backup singers were right on the money, and overall the sound was crisp, precise, almost sparse and very effective; it charted at #13 and the album went straight to #1 to replicate the success of Hep Fidelity. Below Diesel and wife Jep.