Radio Birdman: Wikis

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Radio Birdman
Origin Sydney, Australia
Genres Punk rock, indie rock, garage rock, protopunk
Years active 1974–1978
1996–2008
Labels Sire Records (1976–1978)
Crying Sun Records (1996–present)
Website Official website
Members
Rob Younger
Deniz Tek
Chris Masuak
Jim Dickson
Phillip 'Pip' Hoyle
Russell Hopkinson
Former members
Warwick Gilbert
Ron Keeley

Radio Birdman was one of the first punk bands in Australia to wave the punk rock flag along with The Saints. Deniz Tek and Rob Younger formed the group in Sydney, Australia in 1974. The group influenced the work of many successful, mainstream bands, and is now considered to be one of the most crucial bands to Australia's musical growth, but their main legacy was their towering influence over Australian indie rock in the 1980s.[1]

Contents

History

Origins

Deniz Tek and Rob Younger formed Radio Birdman in mid-1974 in Sydney, having recently left their bands 'TV Jones' and 'The Rats' respectively. The pair sought to begin a band that would have no commercial interest and break the norm at the time, so they recruited classical keyboard player Phillip 'Pip' Hoyle, drummer Ron Keeley and bassist Carl Rorke . The band took their name from the mondegreen "Radio birdman up above" in the Stooges song "1970". After being rejected many times from various venues, Radio Birdman found a pub in Taylor Square, Sydney and eventually took over its management, naming it The Oxford Funhouse. Under their management, the Funhouse became a home to any and all groups with musical tastes similar to the band. Not long after the opening of this venue, Carl Rorke left the band and was replaced by long time friend of Rob Younger, Warwick Gilbert (also a former 'Rats' member). Also to temporarily leave the band would be Phillip Hoyle, and though his departure was short lived, this was how Radio Birdman came across guitarist Chris Masuak.

Soon, a culture of Radio Birdman was developing in the underground, people started to dress differently, followed the Birdman symbol and the Oxford Funhouse was their home. This was the beginnings of the Sydney punk scene.

Using the Funhouse as a base of operations, Radio Birdman recorded an EP, Burn My Eye. and their first album Radios Appear produced by John L Sayers and Charles Fisher at Trafalgar Studios in Annandale Trafalgar Studios financed the recordings. Radios Appear was critically acclaimed, getting 5 stars in the Australian Rolling Stone edition.. The album owed much of its style to Detroit bands of the late 1960s, such as The MC5 and The Stooges. Though the album was totally ignored by commercial radio, it was championed by Sydney station 2JJ (Double Jay). Sales of this album were initially limited because they were recording using a private label Trafalgar Records . . Shortly after initial release, Trafalgar Records leased the recordings to WEA who took on the album and gave it a wider release however sales remained limited due to a lack of commercial support. Promotion could have been also somewhat inhibited as some fans felt the recordings lacked the ferocity and immediacy of the live shows and did not represent their experience of the band.

The band remained underground, but began to travel far from Sydney to perform their shows, it was at this time that keyboard player Pip Hoyle returned to the band. When Sire Records president Seymour Stein came to Australia to sign up fellow punk band The Saints, he saw Radio Birdman play and immediately invited them to join his label. Under this new label, Radio Birdman released a new version of Radios Appear featuring a mixture of re-mixed, re-recorded and some new material. Comparisons between the two versions of the album are disputed with some feeling that the second version is a more accurate reflection of the band's sound. Most fans however own both versions and simply treat them as two separate and different recordings.

With the commercial release of this new album, the underground punk scene, that Radio Birdman was a part of, began to attract some groups with negative agendas; namely biker gang, Hells Angels. With this new, more violent and rowdy crowd, the Funhouse was at the point of overflowing. The band was blamed for violent incidents occurring at the Funhouse, so in mid-1977, they left Sydney and took a break from music, instead pursuing educational goals.

The band returned half a year later and performed their most famous show to date at Paddington Town Hall alongside The Saints. Two thousand people supposedly packed into the venue (in fact film of the event suggests a few hundred at most) and tracks recorded from the show would later be included on numerous other Radio Birdman recordings. After this show, the band began their European tour, but their overseas success was short lived as Sire Records began having financial difficulties and were forced to drop Radio Birdman from their label. On the other hand, Tek has apparently claimed that Stein offered to support the band if he and Hoyle would defer their medical studies for five years, but that they both refused (see Vivian Johnson's biography of the band).

Breakup

Without a label, the band struggled to progress musically. In 1978, as one last sendoff, they recorded their second album Living Eyes at Rockfield Studio in Wales, which had a posthumous release in 1981, long after the band's 1978 break-up. Radio Birdman played one last show at Oxford University, after which the band split up. The underground punk scene of Sydney was shocked by this, as the band had only been together for 4 years, but many felt that they had made their mark well enough on Australian musical history.

1978–1996

All six members went on to other bands. Younger's New Christs was more oriented towards hard-edged, blues-based rock and roll. Tek and Keeley with keyboardist Pip Hoyle formed The Visitors, and guitarist Chris Masuak and bass guitarist Warwick Gilbert's The Hitmen continued the Radio Birdman sound. Tek, Younger and Gilbert played in a one-shot touring band called New Race, with Dennis Thompson of the MC5 and Ron Asheton of the Stooges. They made no studio recordings, but released one official "live" album, "The First and The Last", and there are two more "bootleg" live albums. A non-musical LP, "Soldiers of Rock 'n' Roll", was released in 1982. This strange album, described by the record company as "an audio documentary of Radio Birdman", was released after Deniz had quit music to be a jet pilot, and was assembled by the people at Trafalgar Records, like a soundtrack for a documentary movie which was never made.

Reunion

In a huge surprise for fans, all six members of Radio Birdman reunited for the Big Day Out tour in 1996 and again in 1997. Since then Radio Birdman have continued to perform sporadically. In 2002 Warwick Gilbert was replaced by Jim Dickson who had previously played with the New Christs, Louis Tillett, The Passengers, The Barracudas and Deniz Tek. Drummer Ron Keely left the band in 2004 after the band's performance at The Azkena Festival in Spain, and was temporarily replaced by Nik Reith, formerly of the Celibate Rifles, Tumbleweed, the New Christs and the Deniz Tek Group. He was replaced after six shows by You Am I drummer Russell Hopkinson.

The year 2006 has seen much activity by Radio Birdman, spearheaded by the completion of a new album entitled Zeno Beach, released in Australia on June 24, 2006 via the band's own Crying Sun Records, and in the US via Yep Roc Records on August 22. Named for the closing track, a surf-rock tune written by Hoyle, Zeno Beach was recorded in Sydney in December 2005, produced by guitarist Deniz Tek and engineer Greg Wales. Carl Rorke, one time Radio Birdman bassist, died the year of the new albums scheduled release, and it was completed in his memory.

Following a February tour of Australian capital cities, dates in support of Zeno Beach for Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US have been announced, commencing 27 July 2006 in Sydney, and ending on 7 October, in Spain. Many Australian dates feature LA soul/punk band The Bellrays and Melbourne band The Specimens as support act. In March 2006, Radio Birdman hosted an Australian rock history exhibition in Sydney, featuring many artworks inspired by Radio Birdman. Many of the bands memorabilia, including guitars, were auctioned on the opening night.

In July 2007 the band were inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame (in an interview, vocalist Rob Younger indicated the band had previously declined an invitation to join the Hall of Fame). [1]

The induction saw all original members plus current members attend the ceremony, except for Pip Hoyle, whose son had died around this time.

Daniel Johns of Silverchair gave the induction speech, which was followed by the band playing a short but energetic set which saw the audience giving them a standing ovation. The three guitarists (Tek, Masuak and Dickson) also participated in what appeared to be an uncharacteristically rehearsed stage move, each holding up their guitars and saluting the drums as the song New Race ascended into auditory chaos. On a side note, Murray Shepherd (ex- The Screaming Tribesmen and current The Hitmen drummer), sat in on drums for this occasion, as then-drummer Russell Hopkinson was touring with You Am I.

In September 2007 the band featured in the Clash of the Titans tour alongside The Stems and Hoodoo Gurus, which launched in Sydney at the Enmore Theatre and included dates in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Disintegration

Although there was no official announcement by management, the band called it a day in May 2008 with the resignation of Rob Younger to continue work with the latest line-up of the New Christs.

Musical style

Lyrics

The band's lyrics reference US-born guitarist/main songwriter Deniz Tek's home state of Michigan, with lyrics from tracks such as "Murder City Nights" referring to Woodward Avenue in Detroit: "Cruising down Woodward gotta find me some action/Looking for a lover with a power reaction."

Many of their other songs, such as "Hand Of Law" & "Descent Into The Maelstrom" deal in apocalyptic images of war and violence, but these are more than balanced by the lighter pop culture references of tunes such as "Aloha Steve & Danno", an ode to the TV show Hawaii 5-0. "Man With Golden Helmet" (which Tek wrote in high school) is one of their most cryptic efforts: "Man with golden helmet/drinks water from the faucet... plays with tiny children/on his way home from work... he's the top man/in the language department." The Man with Golden Helmet painting by Rembrandt hung above a tap and sink outside the modern languages staffroom of Sydney Boys High School in the 1970s when some members were believed to have attended.

In one song, "I-94", Eskimo pies are a prominent subject of the chorus, possibly due to their relation with Klondike bars or to guitarist [[Chris 'Klondike' Masuak]]'s Canadian origins.

Genre

Radio Birdman's music does not fit specifically with the punk rock genre, nor do the band like this label (as they saw it as degrading to their intelligence)—though their independence and originality has put them in this position. A fitting genre would be alternative punk, or as the band themselves called it, 'Sub-Pop', deeply ironic that 27 years later, the band would release a record on "Sub-Pop" Records. Fans of the band often classed the music as "proto-punk" or the Detroit sound, similar to bands such as MC5 and The Stooges.

Graphics

The Radio Birdman Logo.

With professional graphic artist Warwick Gilbert as part of the band, Radio Birdman had a unique and artistic feel to their albums and posters. The band wanted to be unlike any other band in the modern way of presenting their image. Such examples as the cover of the bands third release, 'Living Eyes' show the style of design Radio Birdman often employed.

The band symbol, however, was not created by Gilbert. Lead guitarist and songwriter, Deniz Tek, created the logo after much time trying to think of a symbol for himself. He created it by accident while scribbling on some paper when he was with one of his early bands, T.V. Jones; later bringing the logo with him when he formed Radio Birdman.

The symbol was held by some as something to follow, many fans getting the symbol tattoo'd on their bodies, while others saw it as something extreme- the call sign of a forming cult. Tek has denied this: "Just because we wore a uniform and had a symbol - it's automatically Nazi." One example given by Tek was a crazed woman who tore down one of the band's banners at a concert, screaming about the Jewish people. A clip on Youtube.com http://youtube.com/watch?v=6dL7f72CfFs looks, comically, into the issue of the band's perceived "fascism".

Discography

Studio albums

Title Release
Burn My Eye EP Trafalgar Records 1976
Radios Appear LP Trafalgar Records 1977
Living Eyes LP 1981
Alone in the Endzone 45' 1981
Zeno Beach CD 2006

Live albums

Title Release
More Fun! (EP) 1988
Ready to Burn 1996
Ritualism 1996
Radios On! Ritualism - The Reunion 1996 LP (bootleg) 1997
Murder City Nights CD (bootleg) 1976
Surfin' at 2JJJ EP (bootleg) 1976

Compilations

Title Release
Eureka Birdman EP (bootleg) 1977
Rock'n'Roll War 1976-1978 LP (bootleg) 1978
Soldiers of Rock'n'Roll: An Audio Documentary of Radio Birdman CD 1982
Under the Ashes CD/LP 1988
Live in Sydney, 1976 - Double Jay Studio CD (bootleg) 1990
The EPs (CD) 1992
Rock'n'Roll War 1976-1978 LP (bootleg) 1998
The Essential Radio Birdman CD 2001
Living Eyes/More Fun CD 2005

Singles

Title Release
"New Race/TV Eye" 1977
"Aloha Steve and Danno/Anglo Girl Desire" 1978
"What Gives?/Anglo Girl Desire" 1978
"Alone in the Endzone/Breaks My Heart" 1981
"Hungry Cannibals/Rock Bottom" 2006

References

External links


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