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Rockin' Australian Style
by Andy Skirka

I guess most folks reading a story based on Australia would expect me to open with the essentially Aussie, G'Day mate. The hell with that, I want you Cats and Kittens to know just what we have to offer down under, and hopefully lure you to our neck of the woods some time.

I don't want to give anyone a geography lesson here, so lets just say we live on one big old island, plenty of sunshine, loads of room to move, and the pubs can stay open for twenty-four hours a day in the major cities. If this sounds good, we have a shitload of great Rockabilly sounds eminating from down here. Pop that beer, take a load off those pedal pushers and read on folks, we're just warming up.

I'll concentrate on Sydney today, Australia's largest city, my home town, and a damn fine place to start in the quest for Australian Rockabilly. You can see a band with Rockabilly influences on just about any night of the week, however a good Rockin' night goes down best with a good Rockin' crowd, and to be honest this probably only happens on the weekend at the moment, unless there is something special brewing. Following are some of Sydney's best Rockabilly bands : Wes Pudsey and the Sonic Aces ( Four piece outfit, plenty of original numbers. These guys have just released a four track EP, "My baby looks like Betty Page" available through Bopaway Records.) Other great sounds come from The Satellite Five, Johnny Gretsch's Wasted Ones, The Missing Link, The White Liners, Brigette Handley and Red Hot 'n Blue, Rock Cat Rock, The Comets, Dixie Rumble, Eight Ball Baby, Me Me Me .

The music venues are mostly within fifteen minutes of the centre of Sydney, and are easy to reach. Cover charges are pretty much a regular thing over here, but they aren't often any more than five bucks. As with any Rockabilly show, booze is a fine companion, and a good size glass of amber fluid costs , on average, AUD$3.00 at a pub.

There's always plenty of room to park your Hot Rod / Custom / Motorcycle, and we have a healthy representation from each. Australian roads are pretty sound, straight, and have lots of interesting stuff to see on the sides of them. Unless you're motorvatin' along some country road it's unlikely you'll collect a kangaroo, but man, if you do, say goodbye to that custom paint job.

These crazy critters move along at about thirty km/hr, and if you're heading the other way at 120 km/hr , so long. I wasn't too good at physics in school, but if you get down to some of that velocity bullshit, these two objects meeting at speed makes for some awful mess.

It doesn't get real cold in most parts of Australia, and unless you park right near the beach, your jalopy isn't likely to rust. As a result we have some great old cars cruising the streets. We drive on the right hand side of the road, and the steering gear is on the right which makes importing American autos a little expensive, but you can pick up a decent piece of metal for well under AUD$5,000. The car pictured here is a 1960 Holden FB Sedan, Australian designed and produced. You can pick up a running, road worthy model in decent condition for around AUD$2,500.

February of this year saw two of Europe's hottest Rockabilly outfits tour Australia. One of our local DJs, Harv Hornblower and myself had seen Restless, in my opinion still one of the best Rockabilly sounds around, and The Space Cadets in Europe, and thought it would be real wild to see these guys rock it up in our neighbourhood. We hadn't done this sort of thing before, and had no idea how much work would be involved. After the last beer had been knocked back, I figure we had sent at least 250 faxes, 4000 flyers, spent countless hours organising, and half that again nursing hangovers. Was it worth it, you had better believe it.

It's been real difficult seeing overseas acts in Australia traditionally, mainly because they don't figure there is a market over here for them. We had over fifteen hundred in total attend the six shows we staged in Sydney and Melbourne, which for a first attempt was fantastic. The guys from Restless and The Space Cadets were great, I'm sure they didn't know what to expect from an Australian Tour, but it definately won't take much to bring them back again. We had some crazy shows, played on national television ( at six in the morning after the previous gig had finished at 3 am the same day) and proved to the guys Australia s willing and able to support International acts. If any band has a hankerin' to make the trip down under, just drop me a line and we can hopefully get something happening.

Australia has a pretty good Rocking history, and in the fifties saw Bill Haley, Eddie and Gene, Jerry Lee and others tour. Did Australia produce any Internationally recognised acts? The following is part of an interview I did telephone style with Mike Zini (AKA Mouse from The Space Cadets and Red Hot 'n Blue) before the Astrobilly Tour '98 kicked off.

Andy: "You heard of any Australian Rockin' music Mouse?"

Mouse: "The greatest song ever was Australian, the fantastic Shake Baby Shake by Johnny O'Keefe. Wow, what a blaster of a boppin' muther ******!!! The Chessmen were also a good rockin' band, they did a great version of Wild Little Willie, the famous song from Ronnie Hawkins. The Aussies have cut some fine Rock'n'Roll, nothin' to be ashamed of, nothin' at all."

We have a regular club happening here called The Kingpin, run by Rockin' Marc Rondeau. Marc has been spinning discs in Sydney for longer than I've been able to grow sideburns, and together with Skinny Tim Forrest puts out a monthly fanzine under the same name. If any Cats want to subscribe, E-mail myself or Skinny Tim and we'll send you out a copy.

Now hopefully I've convinced you folks Rockabilly is alive and kickin' on in Sydney, Australia. You want more , well Melbourne, Brisbane , Adelaide and Perth are all a happenin' thang also and will be coming at you real soon.

In closing, I know I'm speaking from most Rockin' folks here in my part of the world when I say that we would love to see some more Cats and Kittens from overseas gracing our shores in the future. I've done some travelling myself and know that accommodation and actually finding where the music is at are the most troublesome hurdles in finding Rockabilly in any foreign land. If anyone wants information on Australia, please drop me a line on andys@one.net.au and I'm sure I can help some.

Skinny Tim Forrest has a website overflowing with all things Rockin' in Australia , and he is the best person to contact for Australian Rockabilly recordings.

I know I said this first story would be on Sydney, but I just cain't help but mention my favourite Melbourne Rockabilly outfit, Hanks Jalopy Demons. Collectively this band has been playing Rockabilly for over sixty years, and man, can they rip it up. The boys have just cut some fine tracks, all original in preparation for a promotional album due for European and American distribution. We're planning to tour overseas around Easter of next year, so if anyone is interested in hearing what The Jalopy Demons have to offer, please let me know, and I'll shoot a promotional pack over to you. Check out the guys at http://www.ozemail.com.au./~hjdemons/

Anyways, that's the first offering, I'm aiming for it not to be the last, so please let me know if anything in particular is of interest.

Rockin' on,

Andy Skirka




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