“I grew up in the western suburbs, so going to St Kilda was always like going to some kind of exotic location,” says The Models’ bass player Mark Ferrie. As a child Ferrie would visit St Kilda with his father and one of his father’s friends, “who were colourful, bohemian types”. By his late teenage years Ferrie had settled in Carlton.
When Ferrie joined Models in 1979, he moved across the Yarra and ensconced himself in St Kilda’s eclectic community. “My memory of that time is of some old eastern European guy sitting out the back of a flat, scratching away on a violin,” Ferrie laughs.
Models originally formed in 1978 from the ashes of Teenage Radio Stars, a scrappy punk band fronted by Sean Kelly and the late James Freud. Ferrie was playing in The Leisure Masters with Johnny Crash, The Models’ original drummer and legendary Melbourne musician and comedian Peter Lillie. Ferrie had also done some recording with Crash and Ash Wednesday. Crash and Wednesday told Ferrie about a new band they were playing in that was going to take over the world.
That band was Models. After playing a few gigs at the Crystal Ballroom in St Kilda, Kelly, Crash and Wednesday approach Ferrie to join on bass to improve Models’ live sound. “I slipped in like a hand in glove,” he says.
Not long after Models were invited by Alberts Music to record some demos, with the potential to sign a record deal with the powerhouse Australian label. Alberts’ in-house producers, Harry Vanda and the late George Young, weren’t there for the recording of the demos, “but they were kind of supervising – they were going to appraisal the results.” Alberts decided to offer a contract; the terms, however, weren’t attractive. “It was pretty old school, percentages and stuff,” Ferrie says.
It was another famous Australian producer, Tony Cohen, who oversaw Models’ debut album, Alphabravocharliedeltaechofoxtrotgolf, in 1980. Cohen was working at Richmond Recorders, and was fast making his name as a brilliant, and occasionally unpredictable, recording engineer. Unlike many other recording engineers and producers of the day, Cohen preferred to help a band realise its desired sound.
“In those times when you went into the studio, usually it was a fairly confrontational situation. You’d go as a live band with this energy, and you’d record with these guys who did ads during the day, and they’d just tell you what you couldn’t do.” Ferrie says. “Tony was different. He’d come through the system, but he was up for anything. He’d let you do your thing, and he’d find his way of moulding what you’d recorded into something that sounded good. You never did pre-production with Tony. He accepted what you played and looked for a way to put that together in the way that worked.”
Ferrie left Models in 1982, to be replaced by Kelly’s former bandmate James Freud. In the period between his punk rock schooling in Teenage Radio Stars and joining Models, Freud had scaled the heights of pop success with his ‘Modern Girl’ single in 1979, and plummeted back to reality after a recording session with Gary Numan in England went to custard. Freud passed away in 2010.
Ferrie, who’d just had his first child at the time, was struggling to balance his domestic life with the pressures of touring. “The band basically re-formed without me,” he says. Ferrie went on to form Sacred Cowboys with Garry Gray and Terry Doolan, before reuniting with his former Models colleagues in 2010.
Models will soon play the Heart of St Kilda concert to help raise funds for the Sacred Heart Mission. For this lineup of Models, Ferrie will join Sean Kelly, keyboard player Andrew Duffield and drummer Barton Price. St Kilda has changed a lot since Models first graced the stage of the Seaview Ballroom almost 40 years ago, but, Ferrie says Models can still conjure up their bent post-punk pop of yore. “It’s great when we play now, because it still has that sound we had when we first started playing,” Ferrie says. “People here it now, and they’re transported back to those happy times.”