Jeff Sullivan and Julie Mostyn. Steve Teece photo
The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using. It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.
Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.
“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.
“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”
Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.
More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.
Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs.
Another one has passed. Hot on the heels of Norton Records co-founder Billy Miller comes news of the loss of Los Angeles writer, scenster and proto-punk singer Don Waller.
A founding member of the semi-legendary "Back Door Man" fanzine and indie record label, Waller had written extensively for Mojo, USA Today, Billboard, Variety, Radio & Records, L.A. Weekly, L.A. CityBeat and the Los Angeles Times.
The second-generation LA native was the author of best-selling "The Motown Story" (Scribner's, 1985). Waller also wrote more than 40 sets of liner notesand was a consultant to TV co ntent providers.
Long before that, Waller was a member of proto-punk outfit the Imperial Dogs -- who wrote and recorded the original version of "This Ain't The Summer Of Love", later re-recorded by Blue Oyster Cult. The band recently unearthed an hour-long video performance, "The Imperial Dogs: Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974)", released in 2009 and available from theimperialdogs.com
Don is survivied by his partner Natalie Nichols. To honour Don Waller's passing, we've unearthed this September 2009, interview by leading Australian documenter of the pre-and-punk scenes, former Dog Meat Records owner David Laing.
Leadfinger in full flight at Bulli's Heritage Hotel with Carrie Phillis assiting on backing vocals.
They've been around for a decade but I've gotten into Leadfinger a bit late in the piece. I had heard word that they were one of the best bands in Sydney, and I knew their leader, Stewart Cunningham, from previous outfits like Proton Energy Pills and Asteroid B612, with whom I’d shared stages. So we went all the way back to 1989.
The penny finally dropped at the Tim Hemensley Memorial at the Tote in Melbourne about three years ago. Bombarded by the hard Geelong-Melbourne garage rock sound, it was Leadfinger (along with HITS) who were the highlights for me.
Leadfinger played upstairs. I watched a band that was thoughtful, with a great collection of songs and a broad variety of influences. The guitars chimed and lashed out, there were great vocal hooks, and the tunes were memorable. I decided that I liked them a lot.