Friday, 8 June 2018
Death By The Gun/Didn't Tell The Man/Dark Surprise/If I Wanted To
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 challenge the commercial mainstream and be completely uncompromising. They recruited classical keyboard player Philip "Pip" Hoyle, drummer Ron Keeley and bassist Carl Rorke. The band took their name from a misheard lyric from the Stooges' song "1970" (the actual lyric is "radio burnin'").
After being rejected many times from various venues, and having resorted to putting on its own concerts in rented garages and tiny community halls, by mid 1975 Radio Birdman found an upstairs room at the Oxford Tavern in Taylor Square, Sydney. They eventually took over its management, renaming it The Funhouse. Under their management the Funhouse became a home to other outsider groups. Prior to the opening of this venue, Carl Rorke had left the band and was replaced by longtime friend of Rob Younger, Warwick Gilbert (also a former Rats member). Also to leave the band would be Philip Hoyle, and though his departure was short-lived. Guitarist Chris Masuak, initially hired to replace Hoyle.
Soon, a small but growing subculture grew around Radio Birdman. This coincided with the beginnings of the Sydney punk scene.
After unsuccessfully trying several studios, Radio Birdman found a supportive recording milieu with the help of Rock Australia Magazine editor, Anthony O'Grady. They 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, under the management of Michael McMartin, signed the band and 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, as well as influences ranging from the Doors to the Velvet Underground and instrumental surf music. The title of the album comes from a Blue Öyster Cult song "Dominance and Submission" from their 1974 Secret Treaties album, influences from which can also be seen in Birdman's creative output. Though Radios Appear was totally ignored by commercial radio, it was championed by Sydney station 2JJ (Double Jay). Released on the newly created, purpose-built independent label Trafalgar Records, the album was made available through mail-order and was self distributed by band members and friends to a few sympathetic record stores, never achieving widespread sales or commercial success. Several years after initial release, and following the breakup of the band, Trafalgar Records licensed the recordings to WEA who took on the album and gave it a wider release. However, sales remained limited. Despite critical acclaim, some fans felt the recordings lacked the ferocity and immediacy of the live shows and did not represent their own intense experience of the band.
When Sire Records president Seymour Stein came to Australia to sign Brisbane punk band the Saints, he saw Radio Birdman and immediately invited them to join his label. Under Sire, licensed by Trafalgar, 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.
The underground scene at the Funhouse, now incorporating the nascent punk movement, began to attract some groups with negative agendas, including the Sydney chapter of the Hells Angels. With this new, more violent, and rowdy crowd, and over capacity every night, the Funhouse was at the point of exploding. The band was blamed for violent incidents occurring at the Funhouse, and were concerned that a disaster was in the making. Following a concert at Paddington Town Hall with the Saints and the Hot Spurs, in April 1977, attended by a few hundred people, they left the Sydney scene altogether, playing sporadically in other cities and working on new material.