THE BEAT GOES ON 1960’s – THE WILD CHERRIES

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Krome-Plated Yabby (B Lyde) and That’s Life (B Lyde) – Wild Cherries 1967

The Wild Cherries started life in 1964 as a trio of architecture school undergraduates at Melbourne University lead by Les Gilbert (bass and keyboards) with Rob Lovett (rhythm guitar) and John Bastow (harmonica/ vocals). They were soon joined by local bluesman Mal McGee (lead guitar and vocals) and they adopted the name Wild Cherries, a corruption of the name Chuck Berry, and had their debut gig at the Fat Black Pussycat disco in Toorak, Rd. South Yarra). Below L-R – Mal McGee, John Bastow, Les Gilbert, and Keith Barber.

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Kevin Murphy joined as their first regular drummer, but they were a fragile lineup as McGee left to join Python Lee Jackson, Lovett became part of the legendary Loved Ones, Bastow returned to university studies, and Murphy hitched up with a re-constituted Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. Les Gilbert (keyboards) recruited new drummer Keith Barber, while the arrival of guitar supremo Lobby Lloyd (real name Barry Lyde) from Brisbane’s Purple Hearts, and the recruitment of Danny Robinson (lead vocals) and Peter Eddey (bass) from the Weird Mob, completed what would become the classic Wild Cherries lineup. Below L-R – Les Gilbert, Peter Eddey, Danny Robinson, Keith Barber, Lobby Lloyd.

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Initially the band specialized in covers of UK R&B groups like the Rolling Stones, the Who, Manfred Mann, and the Yardbirds, but it would be Lobby Lloyd who would lead the group in a uniquely original and uncompromising direction, via his songwriting and live performances, which were described as “Exciting, revolutionary excursions into a musical void with no concessions to commercial demands” (Ian McFarlane Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop). Below- Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck.

Lloyd’s outstanding contribution to the live and recorded work of his former band the Purple Hearts – Early In the Morning and Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones for example – confirmed that he would bring an inventive, incendiary, and uncompromising sensibility to the Wild Cherries future recordings. This was the era of Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Beck, Bloomfield and Townshend and Lloyd took his musical cues from them, he quickly became one of the foremost guitarists in the country, with his unique plectrum guitar-playing technique, and ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth at live performances. Below – Lobby Lloyd.

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Melbourne DJ Stan Rofe assisted the band to secure a contract with Festival Records, but in reality Festival did not to know what to do with the Wild Cherries, who had a loose, underivative, free-flowing style, closer to jazz with a soul-R&B ambience, than either pop or mod rock, and they wrote and recorded songs that were highly improvisory, surprisingly avant garde, and not apparently highly commercial. They refused to mime on TV shows which upset the producers, but they duly did the rounds of the discos – Here (Syd), and Thumpin’ Tum, Sebastians, Catcher, and Berties (Melb) where they were feted – and released their debut single.  

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Krome-Plated Yabby was one of the first examples of recorded psychedelic rock in Australia, produced by Pat Aulton, it was inventive, fueled by Lloyd’s feedback guitar pyrotechnics, a driving rhythm section and the powerful and commanding vocals of Danny Robinson “Those other guys just put you down, babbyyyyyy/You’ll get a bad name all over town, babbyyyyyy/… “I’ll take where the good times are/Show you how to live like a lady, babbyyyyy” The song title is never mentioned and was a throwaway line from one of the production team at the recording session, the finale resembled a Townshend-inspired guitar feedback frenzy; Lloyd had written a unique, dynamic song unlike anything else produced locally, and the band had delivered it with impact, it charted #44 in August of ’67.

The Wild Cherrie and Lobby Lloyd declared their intentions with this, their debut hit.

The follow up four months later was That’s Life, a similarly impactful serve of hard rock psychedelia from the pen of Lobby Lloyd, whose opening fuzz-tone guitar riffs commanded attention, quickly followed by the pounding Barber/Eddey rhythm section, and spacey organ from Gilbert, moving in behind Robinson who hit top gear vocally soon after. Lloyd’s Jeff Beck-style phased guitar solo was memorable, and the record was also notable for namechecking “Melbourne” for the first time in such a song “Melbourne is a big, big city/So it looks like I have to stay.”

Another serve of pounding, fist-pumping psychedelia.

This charted at #22 for the band’s biggest hit but they would soon disband, despite releasing several songs – I Gotta Stop Lying and I Don’t Care-which were critically praised but did not chart. Danny Robinson would replace Mal McGee in the blue-eyed soul trio the Virgil Brothers in 1969, and also provide uncredited lead vocals for the session group Fourth House, and take Cat Steven’s Wild World into the charts in 1970. Lobby Lloyd would variously become a member of the Aztecs, Rose Tattoo, and the proto-punk Colored Balls before carving out a career in music production, and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006.

The Wild Cherries’ music occupied a similar niche to that carved out by their legendary peers The Missing Links and The Purple Hearts, and one which was only later inhabited by groups like Detroit’s legendary MC5 and The Stooges. Theirs was a place where only a few dedicated followers travelled at the time, although the passing of the years has since accorded the band its due and their records are now acknowledged the world over as some of the finest of Sixties rock, and influential in the music of Kurt Cobain, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, and Henry Rollins.  Lobby Lloyd (2007) and Keith Barber (2005) have sadly passed away. Below Lobby Lloyd aka John Baslington Lyde.

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