Tag Archives: Mental As Anything

FLOWERS I Can’t Help Myself

FLOWERS I Can’t Help Myself

Flowers’ classic single I Can’t Help Myself is almost thirty years old. The band became Icehouse and Iva Davies is now famous around the world, but when they started out, they were shooting their film clips in Sydney suburban car parks and playing taverns.

Part of a continuing online exhibition about Australian New Wave.

 

The New Wave in 1980

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Can’t Help Myself was released in May 1980 by Flowers, reaching #10 on the Australian Singles Chart. Flowers were Iva Davies, Michael Hoste, John Lloyd and Keith Welsh. The single was produced by Iva Davies and Cameron Allan.

Iva’s parents, Neville and Dorothy Davies, speaking to Spellbound, remember Flowers

Spellbound: When did you first realise that he (Iva) was gaining notoriety in the Sydney area?

Mrs. Davies: When he asked us to come and watch the filming of his first film clip in that car park in Chatswood.

Mr. Davies: Can’t Help Myself.

Mrs. Davies: We saw makeup people floating around and doing things. It was just a very great experience.

Mr. Davies: So we didn’t see one of those, but probably the first time we ever saw Flowers in concert was after they’d already released their first record and they were supporting XTC at the Capital Theatre in Sydney. We were actually invited to go.

Mrs. Davies: He virtually was saying to us, “I have got my toe on the first rung of the ladder. You can come now.”

Mr. Davies: By that time the first album was out and they were quite well known and I think that particular concert line-up was the Divinyls and then Flowers and then XTC.

Flowers were part of the New Wave circuit around Australia from the late Seventies to early Eighties, playing small venues with other bands – like The Reels – who specialised in wildly original music, sleeve art work, film clips and styling.

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Flowers and New Wave

Flowers, Divinyls, The Numbers, INXS, The Reels, Sports, Mental as Anything and other bands crossing over from post-punk 1978 to the Eighties, were part of the New Wave.

Flowers won  the 1980 TV Week / Countdown Rock Awards Johnny O’Keefe New Talent Award, beating INXS before they had to change their name to prevent confusion with the Scottish group, The Flowers. They became Icehouse.

XTC, Flowers and The Numbers 1979

From the State Library of Queensland

“From the late 1970’s, until its controversial demolition in 1982, Brisbane’s Cloudland Ballroom became a regular venue for rock concerts. Some of the fledgling bands who played at Cloudland during this period went on to achieve chart success and establish longstanding careers in the music industry. One example is the concert of July 28, 1979 featuring three talented up-and-coming bands: XTC, Flowers, and The Numbers. State Library of Queensland is fortunate to hold several photographs taken during this concert.”

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Flowers (later known as Icehouse) performing at Cloudland, Brisbane 1979. (Keith Welsh on bass guitar and Iva Davies on leader guitar and vocals). 29127 Paul O’Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

Iva Davies on the Eighties

Speaking to The Australian, Davies summed up the era: “I know it’s very easy to look back through rose-tinted glasses and say that period was good, but it’s accurate to say it…The energy that came out of the punk movement in England transferred here. When we started we were doing Sex Pistols songs alongside T. Rex songs. It was quite a weird collection of stuff. That whole energy ran into the new synthesiser technology as well.”

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The Elvis Costello Songbook

With modern Australian acts like Cut Copy and Jet declaring what an influence Flowers was on them, the band (signed to Regular/Festival, above)  remains seminal. But how was the group created?

As a trained musician, Sydney-based Davies was approached to music publishing companies to write the sheet music for Elvis Costello, among others.

Speaking to Stuff, he remembers, “These music publishing companies discovered there was a young fella – me – who could read and write music and they started sending me reel-to-reel recordings of every song in the Australian charts and then lots of international music as well – we’re talking about the days when sheet music was quite in demand, people wanted to buy the music for their favourite song and go home and try to play it. I wrote entire song books for Little River Band, Dragon, Sherbet, Cold Chisel, and then Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads… My life was pulling apart songs and putting them down on paper which was very instructive.”

With Icehouse and in his own right, Davies has become known worldwide for his work, including his composition of the score for the Russell Crowe/Peter Weir film Master and Commander.

Flowers in Roadrunner

Roadrunner is one of the few global music publications from the New Wave era to be published online. Find more on Flowers in this issue – and in their cover issue.

Buy I Can’t Help Myself

You can find I Can’t Help Myself on Icehouse Essentials, available to buy now on iTunes.

Mental as Anything Art

Mental as Anything Art

 

Mental as Anything first played at The Unicorn Hotel on Oxford Street, Sydney and went on to become one of the country’s best-loved, most critically acclaimed bands.

Guitarist Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) has become the most recognised artist in the band, although the Mentals have also been immortalised by Paul Worstead (1950) a graduate of East Sydney Technical College, where he studied alongside the Mentals . Both Mombassa and Worstead went on to design for Mambo as well as pursuing exhibitions in major Australian galleries. Mombassa’s Australiana is instantly recognisable, below, in a beachside pouch.

Reg Mombassa Beachside Pouch.

 The $1950 Vanilla Slice Poster

 

Vanilla Slice poster by Paul Worstead $1950 AUD (2017)
Vanilla Slice poster by Paul Worstead $1950 AUD (2017)

The vanilla slice poster advertising a gig by Mental as Anything at the Bexley North Hotel is one example and in 2017 the sale price was AUD$1950.

Band Portraits by Paul Worstead

 

There were two series of posters produced by Paul Worstead to promote Mental as Anything’s Get Wet and Creatures of Leisure albums in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This Australian homage to Andy Warhol is now in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

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Drinking Beer

Speaking in the landmark ABC-TV series Long Way To The Top, Peter O’Doherty said of Mental As Anything,

“They didn’t do anything. Hung around drinking beer at each other’s houses. That’s where the band got its impetus from, all that time listening to records thinking ‘we can do that’. I don’t know where the art came in. Art came in on the t-shirts and album colours later on.”

His brother Reg Mombassa, aka Chris O’Doherty, remembers his family childhood elsewhere, “I drew all the time on little square blocks of butcher’s paper which is a sort of a thin grey paper that my mother bought, with an HB pencil.”

Peter: “As kids he was always drawing dismembered soldiers. That was one of his popular themes.” The idea of themes is important in the work of both brothers and the bands they played in and wrote for. Peter wrote Berserk Warriors, but it is Reg who is in the clip here, part of his general Viking obsession, which later revealed itself in his work for Mambo. The BBC Mental As Anything file is here

Berserk Vikings

Peter was inspired by his childhood enthusiasm for Viking stories to write the satirical tribute to ABBA. ‘Berserk Warriors’, written by Peter and sung by Martin Plaza, was one of three singles to be released on Mental As Anything’s 1981 album, ‘Cats and Dogs’. Peter still performs the song with his brother, Reg Mombassa, in their band Dog Trumpet.

 

 

The Mentals in Australian Galleries

Beyond Vikings, Reg Mombassa’s nostalgic and patriotic landscapes and portraits, many inspired by his childhood in New Zealand, are characteristic of his work.

Mombassa’s archives can be found in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia and many more online. Patrick WhiteElton John and Ewan McGregor  all  purchased his work.

Australian Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White, became an early patron.

 Mombassa Art on YouTube

Reg Mombassa’s life, art and work is captured on a number of YouTube videos.  Here are three, below.

 

Australian Music Walking Tours

 

AUSTRALIAN MUSIC WALKING TOURS

Australian music maps, apps, podcasts and guided walks for fans of everyone from The Birthday Party to Archie Roach are in hefty supply these days. Australian music walking tours offer you Bon Scott or Nick Cave – take your pick.

Brisbane has her Walk of Fame and Go-Between Bridge – and Ed Kuepper will soon have a park, alongside The Saints’ forthcoming mural near their old Club 76 house/rehearsal space.

Melbourne, the Australian music capital, offers video, audio and printable guides to landmarks like AC/DC Lane and Rowland S. Howard Lane in St. Kilda.

SYDNEY – FROM COLD CHISEL TO  BOWIE

Sydney has hosted Bowie and started Chisel on their way.  The city is also on a global rock’n’roll map of early punk, thanks to The Oxford Bar, formerly The Oxford Hotel or Oxford Tavern at 134 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst.

This is where Radio Birdman turned an historic pub into the Oxford Funhouse. Bernard Zuel from The Sydney Morning Herald co-created this minimalist map of the city’s key landmarks. That’s Chris Bailey from The Saints standing over Paddington.

 

The Sydney Music Map by Bernard Zuel (Sydney Morning Herald).
The Sydney Music Map by Bernard Zuel (Sydney Morning Herald).

 

SYDNEY – DOWNLOAD FREE ROCK’N’ROLL AUDIO TOURS

SYDNEY WALK

 

Sydney offers wonderful audio guides from members of Mental As Anything, Radio Birdman and The Hoodoo Gurus – around Newtown and other historic music hubs.  This is a free download for visitors to Sydney and locals, too. Tour Festival Records. Meet John Kennedy (the king of King Street). See what Oxford Street was like when rock’n’roll ruled. Go from Surry Hills to Kings Cross, where Don Walker wrote Cold Chisel classics. From Waterfront Records to Phantom to Red Eye, Sydney was once a huge hub for Australian indie bands. Download and start walking to see why. Collector Vanessa Berry even has the old Waterfront bag on her blog.

 

Waterfront Records bag photograph: Vanessa Berry World
Waterfront Records bag photograph: Vanessa Berry World

 

MELBOURNE MUSIC WALKS AND MAPS

St. Kilda also offers visitors and fans of Australian music  a curated, guided tour – with rave reviews. You will need to book well ahead to secure a place, visiting landmarks like Rowland S. Howard Lane (below).  Explore local Sixties garage bands too. This is a five-star rated walk on Trip Advisor.  Find out more here. From the young Nick Cave (pictured, photographer unknown, from the website) to the still-young, Espy, this is a solid local walking tour.

 

Rowland S.Howard Lane poster, St. Kilda 2013. (Elle Russell).
Rowland S.Howard Lane poster, St. Kilda 2013. (Elle Russell).

 

THE MELBOURNE MUSIC WALK

This amazing free music walk is presented by the City of Melbourne and you can download a free PDF map (click on the heading link) and take it with you. The walk takes in AC/DC Lane and the pub and music venue Cherry Bar, halfway down the lane itself – along with thoroughly researched landmarks, past and present. AC/DC Lane graffiti is ever-changing. Like this (below). Cherry Bar is the watering hole for big-name musicians on tour in Melbourne. You never know who you’ll bump into at the bar.

 

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne.
AC/DC Lane, Melbourne.

 

FROM AC/DC TO SKYHOOKS AND ELVIS COSTELLO
The Melbourne Music Walk offers historical venues, rock routes, sticky carpets and music laneways. The walking time is 1.5 hours and covers a distance of 3.5 kilometres.

Melbourne has featured in many music clips over the years including: AC/DC It’s A Long Way To The Top (1975) Skyhooks This Is My City (1976) John Paul Young Yesterday’s Hero (1975) The Mixtures The Pushbike Song (1970) Elvis Costello I Wanna Be Loved (1984) The Meanies It’s A Long Way To The Top (1995) The Cat Empire Steal The Light (2013) Courtney Barnett Elevator Operator (2016). See the website for the map and the scoop on the city.

THE CHRISSY AMPHLETT WALK 2018

 

Amphlett Lane, Melbourne viewed by Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen (Instagram).
Amphlett Lane, Melbourne viewed by Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen (Instagram).

Pictured here are Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen at Amphlett Lane, the laneway off Little Bourke Street named in honour of the late, great, Chrissy Amphlett. The podcast, map and walking tour celebrating key places in her life in Melbourne will be available in 2018. (Instagram). Bookmark this website to stay updated.

TRIPLE J MELBOURNE WALKING TOUR PODCAST

This podcast starts at The Espy in St. Kilda as host Dom Alessio takes you on a music walking tour of Melbourne, meeting with locals Big Scary, The Smith Street Band, Saskwatch and more at key locations around the city. Another good free audio guide to Australian music.

MELBOURNE MUSIC CITY – VIDEO GUIDES
Bruce Milne is the best-known music historian in Melbourne and these free video guides take in some of the city’s most iconic locations, beginning with Archie Roach (below) and Gertrude Street. Don’t miss Bruce’s knowledgeable on-camera tours. All free.

The YouTube Channel is here.

The Models, Split Enz, Paul Kelly, Painters and Dockers, Lobby Lloyd and more are all part of Bruce’s unique, filmed snapshots.

ARCHIE

 

GERTRUDE STREET, MELBOURNE AND INDIGENOUS MUSIC

Gertrude Street, Fitzroy was an important hub for Indigenous musicians like Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach and The Workers’ Club, formerly the Rob Roy, still has bands today.

THE AC/DC HOUSE AT 6 LANSDOWNE ROAD, EAST ST KILDA
Bruce Milne continues this series of short YouTube clips with the 24-hour party house where half the bands in Melbourne would end up late at night. Was Whole Lotta Rosie also written here?

 

 

BRISBANE AND THE SAINTS – WALK THIS WAY

While Melbourne and Sydney are literally streets ahead with various music walk options – Brisbane is not far behind.  Ed Kuepper Park will link Oxley Road and Lawson Street, thanks to a petition campaign begun by Maurice Murphy.

The Go-Betweens’ John Willsteed successfully campaigned for The Saints’ rehearsal space/ house on the corner of Petrie Terrace and Milton Road to be honoured with a mural. This was also the home of Chris Bailey, Ivor Hay and Jeffrey Wegener who went on to drum for Laughing Clowns. The wall was daubed with the legend ‘Club 76’ by Kuepper.

 Everyone knows about The Brisbane Sound.  Let us know if you hear about a Brisbane Walk at @ammptv on Twitter. 

 

Just Keep Walking, Brisbane.
Just Keep Walking, Brisbane.

PERTH – AC/DC AND BON SCOTT  TOURS

Download guides to Perth and Fremantle, stamping ground of Bon Scott, free at this website. The Highway to Hell guide reveals where it all started. Don’t miss it. And – if you’re creating a new music walk of know of one we’ve missed, please let us know in Comments.

 

BON