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Louie, Louie (R Berry) – The Pink Finks 1965

An eleven- year-old Ross Wilson discovered rock and roll in its most original, primitive form, when his father took him to a Lee Gordon Big Show rock spectacular at Festival Hall (Melbourne) in 1958 which featured Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny O’Keefe and the Dee Jays and the Delltones, and less memorably Paul Anka, the future for young Ross had been revealed, and he pursued it with a passion.

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Wilson also immersed himself in the burgeoning jazz and folk scene in Melbourne where the Red Onion Jazz band, Frank Traynors Jazz Preachers, Judith Durham and Smacka Fitzgibbon, played at the clubs and coffee lounges of the city. He also heard the black man’s blues courtesy of the BBC/ABC TV ‘s The Five O’Clock Show and thereafter it was Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Lightnin’ Hopkins who inspired him.Below – Judith Durham, Red Onion Jazz Band, Frank Traynors Jazz Club.

A twelve- year-old Ross Hannaford and guitar sidekick Rick Dalton had formed the Fauves in 1962 and played surf music until they fell under the spell of the Beatles and started to look for a lead singer and front man, they found him in a 15 -year-old Ross Wilson. The Fauves debuted at the Downbeat Club in Melbourne’s CBD, by then they were changing their name to the Pink Thinks, but a misspelling on one of their concert posters ultimately conferred on them the name the Pink Finks, which they all agreed was much cooler.Below Pink Finks L-R – Ross Hannaford, Ross Wilson, Geoff Ratz, David Cameron, Richard Franklin

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Wilson and Hannaford were joined by drummer Richard Franklin, bassist Geoff Ratz, and David Cameron replaced Rick Dalton on guitar, the band went into the Crest Studio in Mont Albert (Melb) to record their cover of Richard Berry’s primitive slice of garage rock and roll, Louie Louie. Below- Richard Berry and The Pharoahs.

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Berry had written and recorded the song in 1957, based on an Afro-Cuban-influenced tune called El Loco Cha Cha, a simple verse-chorus format of a story about a Jamaican sailor returning home to see his lover. The somewhat slurred lyrics and turgid version of Richard Berry and the Pharaohs original recording of the song gave rise to concern that the lyrics were pornographic, and it was banned by a number of radio stations. But closer inspection revealed that while the lyrics were often unintelligible and innocuous, they were not profane or obscene, although bands were known to spice up live performances of the song with obscene, insider expressions. Berry recorded the song for Flip Records with the words Louie Louie being sung over a repeated bass line, apparently Louie was Berry’s local bartender, it was a modest hit and Berry sold his rights to the song to Flip Records for US$750. Below L-R – The Kingsmen, Ron Holden, Robin Roberts and the Wailers.

Covers by Ron Holden and the Playboys (’59), and Robin Roberts and the Wailers (’60), further enhanced the garage rock credibility of the song, and added the line “let’s give it to ‘em, RIGHT NOW!!”, but it would be the 1963 version by Portland, Oregon band The Kingsmen, led by Jack Ely that would take Louie Louie to national prominence. This recording would accidentally change the song in ways that would be immortalized over time, firstly Ely mistakenly instructed the band to play it with a 1-2-3,1-2-3 beat, instead of a 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 beat, and during the recording, Ely accidentally overshot his mark and began to sing before lead guitarist Mike Mitchell had completed his guitar break, realising his mistake Ely cut short his verse, and drummer Lynn Easton covered the pause with a drum fill, these errors have become the recognizable version of the song. The Kingsmen took their version of Louie Louie to #2 US, #26 UK, and #61 Aust, sold a million copies and created a defining moment in garage rock, eulogized by the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine, and variously described as “the essence of rock’s primal energy”, “ a completely unforgettable earworm, and “cosmically crude and deliciously moronic”.

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 The Finks had never heard the original record nor knew all the lyrics, so they ad-libbed their way through the session in two takes at the Planet Records studio (Melb), with no overdubs, they pressed 500 copies and issued them on their own Mojo label, local DJ Stan Rofe promoted the record, it rose to #16 on the Melbourne charts and climbed to #45 nationally, the young band were delighted.  

A more bluesy beat version with harmonica; drums and bass delivered the required driving turgid backbeat, and Ross Wilson’s vocals were angsty and raw.

But a failure to secure a follow up forced the band to dissolve in 1965, Franklin subsequently enjoyed a successful career in movies, Hannaford went back to school and Wilson became a public servant after securing a position with the Commonwealth Department of Supply. Below The Party Machine L-R – Peter Curtin, Ross Hannaford, Ross Wilson, Mike Rudd.

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Wilson and Hannaford continued to write songs together and soon recruited expat Kiwi guitarist Mike Rudd, drummer Peter Curtin, and Mike Edwards on sax and flute, they chose their name the Party Machine, after seeing media refences to Labor’s political factions and its overarching network of powerbrokers. The band was increasingly taking its musical cues from bluesman John Lee Hooker and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and together these influences enabled Wilson to harness the boogie blues and overlay it with a sense of bawdy humor and satire that was characteristic of much of the early doo wop and R&B songs that Wilson admired.

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The Party Machine were a great live band who did release the the Ross Wilson song Gentle Art in 1968 which did not chart, but their songbook, published by Go-Set magazine, which included such controversial titles as I Don’t Believe All Your Kids Should Be Virgins, Don’t It Make You Sick and Woman of the World (which provided the basic riff for Eagle Rock), were deemed to be “obscene and seditious” and seized and destroyed by the Victorian Vice Squad. This created fantastic exposure for the band but ultimately Mike Rudd headed off to form Spectrum, Ross Wilson to join Procession in London and Ross Hannaford to complete his art studies, but the two Rosses would ultimately reunite as members of the legendary Daddy Cool. (below)

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