Monday, 14 December 2015
Exodus/Sabre Dance/Tonight/Town Without Pity
The Playboys were one of a small group of Australian bands to get international exposure during the mid-'60s, after distinguishing themselves in their homeland. They recorded an album and a brace of singles -- including one in England -- but their most wide-ranging musical contribution may have been providing the personnel who became the pop-psychedelic band Procession in the late 1960s. The Playboys were originally organized in Melbourne, Australia in 1962 as an instrumental outfit, with a membership that included Graham Trottman on drums and Phil Blackmore on the organ. They were soon making a name for themselves in the city and far beyond, and were good enough to support Gerry & the Pacemakers and Brian Poole & the Tremeloes on a tour of Australia in 1964. They were signed to the Sunshine label later that year, and recorded a whole LP, in addition to releasing five singles between January 1965 and May 1966. Their other major function was as the "house band" to singers such as Marcie Jones and Billy Adams, who were also signed to Sunshine. But their big break came when they were selected as the permanent backing back for Normie Rowe, a Johnny Kidd-style soul belter who was one of the hottest singers in Australia in the mid-'60s. And it was Rowe who brought them to England on a British tour in the late fall of 1966.
By that time, their lineup included Rod Stone on lead guitar and Brian Peacock on bass, and they soon lost Blackmore, who quit the tour owing to homesickness, and was replaced by Trevor Griffin, a keyboard-player whose earlier group affiliations included a stint with the John Bull Breed. Soon after this, Rod Stone decided to return to Australia, and was succeeded by guitarist/singer Mick Rogers. It was this version of The Playboys that attracted the attention of Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed them to his newly spawned Immediate Records label, where they cut an appropriately psychedelic-tinged single of "Black Sheep R.I.P.," an eerie little pop-psych adaptation of the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" in early 1967. The latter release was credited to the "Australian Playboys" (to prevent confusion with Gary Lewis' outfit). The record never charted but the group continued to get lots of gigs and good notices in England and points beyond, including a Canadian tour. The group broke up late in 1967, and Rogers eventually landed with Manfred Mann's Earth Band, whilst the others formed the psychedelic pop-rock group Procession, who recorded an album that has found a cult audience around the world, and lasted into the start of the 1970s.