The most obscure hit songs in Australian history: Part six

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The most obscure hit songs in Australian history: Part six

Words by John Phillips

Here are three more excellent Australian rock/pop songs from hard-working bands and artists of the 70s and early 80s.

One is by Australia’s first true supergroup, one is from a Perth-based favourite, and the other was a hit debut single for a popular Melbourne synth-pop band. They get very little airplay on commercial radio these days but definitely deserve a rehearing.

My Baby’s Gone – Axiom (1970)

Highest Chart Position – 8 (Kent Music Report)

Axiom was a rock/country band formed in Melbourne in May 1969 which produced three Top Ten singles in its 22-month lifespan. Widely regarded as Australia’s first real “supergroup’’, the band was blessed with talented and experienced musicians from a who’s-who of top Australian bands: lead singer Glenn Shorrock was from Adelaide’s The Twilights; singer and pianist Brian Cadd and bassist Don Mudie were from Melbourne band The Groop; guitarist and singer Chris Stockley was from pop/rock/soul band Cam-Pact; and drummer Doug Lavery was from Perth’s The Valentines.

Axiom was strongly influenced by The Band’s iconic 1968 album Music From Big Pink, and its brilliant blending of country, folk, rock, blues and R&B. Their first two singles, Arkansas Grass (December 1969) and A Little Ray of Sunshine (April 1970) were penned by Brian Cadd and Don Mudie, and were major Top 10 hits. Following this early success, Axiom left for London in April 1970 (with Don Lebler replacing Lavery on drums) where they signed a three-year recording deal with Warner Reprise.

My Baby’s Gone, the band’s fourth single, was recorded in Los Angeles in September 1970 as part of the album If Only… It is jaunty, rollicking pop/rock, beautifully arranged and led by Cadd’s driving piano and Shorrock’s distinctive lead vocals. The single reached No. 8 in February 1971, and was in the charts for 22 weeks. The film clip for the song was one of the first by an Australian band to be filmed in colour.

After returning to England in February 1971, the band broke up a month later. The hugely talented Brian Cadd went on to a successful solo career which included the masterful single Ginger Man. Glen Shorrock found international fame as the lead singer of the Little River Band, while Chris Stockley joined a number of successful bands over the years, including Wizard and The Dingoes. Don Mudie wrote and recorded with Brian Cadd on their return to Australia before joining Ceduna.

In Your Car – The Dugites (1980)

Highest Chart Position – 34

The Dugites were a synth-pop/funk/soul band from Perth, who formed in 1978 with Lynda Nutter on lead vocals and percussion, Peter Crosbie on keyboards, Gunther Berghoffer on guitar, Phillip Bailey on bass (later replaced by Paul Noonan from Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs), and Clarence Bailey on drums. After self-producing their first single Hit Single and touring as Dave Warner’s backing band in 1979, The Dugites signed with Sydney label Deluxe. Their eponymous first album, produced by Graham Parker and the Rumor’s British-born keyboard player Bob Andrews, was released in August 1980 and went Gold (sales of 35,000 copies), with a national peak of 22 and Top Ten status in the band’s home town of Perth.

In Your Car, released in May 1980, was the first single from the upcoming album and reached a peak of 34 in July. It is a catchy, bopping pop song with an amused, Blondie-like tone, which is brilliantly captured in the cheery official film clip. Here, Lynda Nutter is having a great time being pushed around at the wheel of a miniature car, while undergoing numerous costume changes and wearing an oversized pair of driving goggles. It’s all very silly but if you need cheering up, this is the clip for you!

The Dugites had moderate success with two other singles, Waiting (June 1981) and Cut The Talking (November 1983), which reached 40 and 47 respectively, but despite the quality of the material a major Top Ten hit eluded them. They continued touring while undergoing a number of lineup changes in the early 1980s (including ex-Sports guitarist Andrew Pendlebury for Berghoffer), but eventually broke up in late 1984.    

Change In Mood – Kids in the Kitchen (1983)

Highest Chart Position – 10

Melbourne pop/funk band Kids in the Kitchen formed in 1983 and quickly developed such a strong following that they were signed to Mushroom’s White Label only eight months later. With a synth-pop sound reminiscent of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, and a youthful and appealing stage presence, Kids in the Kitchen were quickly into their stride, appearing regularly on the ABC’s Sunday evening institution Countdown, sometimes as hosts, and landing a Top 10 hit with their first single.

The band’s initial lineup was Scott Carne on lead vocals, Greg Dorman (guitar), Greg Woodhead (keyboards), Craig Harnath (bass), and Bruce Curnow (drums). Change In Mood, produced by Ricky Fataar, was their first single. It was released in October 1983 and spent 22 weeks in the charts, peaking at No. 10, and was nominated for Best Debut Single at the 1983 Countdown Music Awards. Interestingly, it came second to Pat Wilson’s Bop Girl – also produced by Ricky Fataar alongside Ross Wilson! Their second single Bitter Desire peaked at No. 17 in May 1984.

Change In Mood begins on a catchy synth melody over tight but restrained drums and bass and tasteful guitar counterpoints. As the tempo builds and builds, the song is propelled on a soundscape of clacking guitar riffs, waves of synth, drum and bass flurries, and dramatic flanged power chords. Scott Carne’s lead vocals are a highlight in a song that is highly danceable.

The band toured extensively, initially as a support act to The Models amongst others, and then in their own right. Their debut album Shine was released in June 1985 and peaked at No. 6 on the album charts, while yielding two successful singles, Something That You Said (No. 19 in June 1985) and Current Stand (No. 12 in October 1985). Their last national hit was Say It, from the album Terrain, which peaked at No. 20 in October 1987.

From 1984 Kids in the Kitchen experienced numerous lineup changes, including the ousting of drummer Bruce Curnow in late 1986. The band split up in 1988 but has since reformed and continue to perform and record today.

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Next time:  Madder Lake; The Master’s Apprentices; The Zoot