It may seem strange to begin a true story with a fabricated photograph but I had no choice.
I wanted to write about a series of recording I did with The Rebels, (Larry Morris’s band) in 1979: Viv McCarthy (bass and vocals), Denis ‘Nooky’ Stott (drums and vocals), Graham Gill (keyboards and vocals), and Kevin Furey (guitar and vocals).
So, I got in touch with the guys on Facebook (as you do) and asked them if they had a photo of the band at the time. Unfortunately, all they had was a dodgy shot they’d had taken with singer-songwriter Larry Killip up front. Undaunted, Kevin Furey got his mate Graham Gibson to photoshop an image of us with my head on Larry Killip’s shoulders. Hence the slightly in-bred, large-headed, look to our visages.
Now, to The Rebel Sessions.
In 1979, having recently chosen to walk away from the stage, I was in the process of seeking out a publishing contract so I could concentrate on just writing songs. I had a bagful of new songs and decided I’d like to rehearse and record with a band for a change. (Albeit that I had recorded with the core of Mike Harvey’s band Salty Dogg on my recent albums).
So I called Kevin Furey, who’d played guitar so well on my album Garden Fresh, to see if he’d be interested in being in the band. Kev wasn’t just interested, he said the band he was currently playing with would be perfect. Larry’s Rebels. He assured me that not only could they all play, they were brilliant singers as well. I was sold.
We met. I liked them. There was good humour in the room and I sensed they were genuinely interested in the project. I warbled and strummed for a bit and they were all the keener. They liked the songs.
Our rehearsals took place at the Inner Circle hotel in Avondale on Sunday mornings. The air was filled with stale beer and fresh new songs. Much fun was had. They guys worked professionally and enthusiastically on their instruments and vocal harmonies. I loved hearing my songs being fleshed out in this way. I still recall the thrill of wailing away up front with the guys kicking up a storm around me. I was part of band and it felt good.
With that level of enthusiasm and talent helping me it wasn’t long before we were ready to take it to the studio.
For various reasons we chose Glyn Tucker’s Mandrill Studios, where we worked with the quiet genius, Dave Hurley. (Kevin insists he was never again able to get the sound out his guitar that Dave managed to get in these sessions.)
Essentially, we recorded the songs like a live band. Nooky counted us in and away we’d go. Some overdubs were done of course. Sometimes my vocal. Sometimes the BVs. And Kevin’s multi-tracked guitar parts. As well, on a couple of songs, Mike Harvey popped in to add piano.
But on the whole these recordings were as close to ‘live’ as anything I’d ever done.
When we were finished I crossed the ditch and hawked the tape around publishers in Sydney in search of a contract. Turned out that all the publishers were interested. So it was not a case of who would choose me but who I would choose.
In the end I chose Essex Music because I felt strongly that their MD, Bruce Powell, would really champion my songs. Which he did until he left the company to join another and I found myself stuck with a company that did not know my songs at all. Or care. (Every songwriter has a version of this story to tell).
So for over 40 years the songs from what I call the Rebel Sessions lay forgotten in the metaphorical basement of Essex in NYC and whoever came to represent their interests in Australia.
One day when I was back in New Zealand at Stebbings remastering tracks for what was to be my retrospective AFTER THE DAM BROKE, Kiwi music champion, Grant Gillanders, popped in to say hello and handed me a chrome-tape cassette he’d been given by Nooky Stott. It was a tape of the lost recording session!! It was my lucky day. I had it digitised it straight away.
Sadly, the quality of the songs on the tape is not good enough for me to release them in any form. However, they are well worth hearing so I’ve included a few here in this blog. Eventually, I hope to put up a page on my website so you can download them.
Now let’s finish on a silly note.
At the time of these rebel sessions punk music ruled. Well, in fact punk or new wave (call it what you will) was in a strange battle with disco. So you had these two completely different styles of music going after two completely different types of audience.
Singer-songwriters all around the world ducked for cover as the new generation of reviewers and record A&R people branded them irrelevant and basically dismissed them and their work.
As I say, I’d exited stage left from showbiz so, thankfully, the world was spared from seeing me in a white sequinned jumpsuit and platforms, or with a pierced nose, bad tattoos, mohawk cut and Doc Martins. But, just for fun, while we were in the studio and in the mood, I asked the guys if we could thrash through a version of my song Mickey Mouse House that had been on my first album Floating.
They said YES! And away we went. Live madness ensued.
As always. thanks for listening.