steve lucas - The I-94 Bar
X in full flight in Sydney. Murray Bennett photo
Forty years of X and there’s a national tour to celebrate. Who would have thought? Certainly none of the original members, of which Steve Lucas is the only one remaining alive.
Lucas and bassist Ian Rilen were, of course, the only constant members of X. Almost. Even Ian was went briefly MIA from one line-up. The pair’s tumultuous relationship has been documented in many places and they were the heart and soul of the band.
Make sure you read until the end. Let’s talk vinyl first:
The A side of this is where the voice (and guitar, for the most part) of X goes back to the ‘60s to show off his sentimental side. Steve Lucas pulled together a capable combo in Levi Franco (drums), Ryan MaCay (bass) and Herbie Mayhem (piano) to play his songs a couple of years ago, so strap yourself in.
“Ever So Lovely” is an ode to Mrs Lucas (hi Joey!), set to raunchy guitars and set off by Steve’s warm but chipped-at-the-edges vocal. Shades of A.R.M., his fabulous Oz Rock project of 20 years ago, here but not as excessive and fixed in the now.
Before there was punk rock there was Ian Rilen. Then there was X.
X weren't punks in the sense of the term that the skinheads understood but they were primal, punk rock and roll in one combustible package.
Sydney had never seen a band like X whose wrecking ball power centred on Rilen's bass-played-as-a-lead-instrument, the massive backbeat of fellow veteran Steve Cafeiro, the slashing guitar of Ian Krahe and the shredding vocals of Steve Lucas, the latter two rookies.
Living a quiet life wasn't part of the X creed. Krahe's submission to a heroin overdose left the already outlawed X even more out on a limb, but they grimly continued as a trio and proceeded to record their debut album with legendary guitarist Lobby Loyde producing.
"X-Aspirations" became an instant classic, setting a benchmark for a whole legion of new, uncompromising and minimalist bands.
These words (and those that follow) were written for the liner notes for the 2009 re-issue of X’s debut album “X-Aspirations” but were inadvertently shelved. We’re reviving them to coincide with the 40th anniversary tour by the X line-up that lives on after the passing of all original members except guitarist-vocalist Steve Lucas. Lucas has crowd-sourced a Best of and Rarities collection ("X-Citations") on vinyl, copies of which will be available at the gigs. Read on.
Steve Lucas at the Newtown Social Club. Murray Bennett photo
X is a Sydney band.
I can’t think any other outfit that personified the street-level, brutal and at times minimalistic music of Sin City Sydney of the late ‘70s like X. Theirs' was a world of squats with a city awash with Terrence Clark's cheap smack, the odour of brown bags of dirty money and nightly beatings at Darlo police station.
It was a world of corrupt pollies and police in the post-Askin Sydney. X captured that harsh, nihilistic inner-city world. One that has long since been gentrified.
Onetime X howler Steve Lucas returns to the record store racks with a couple of seven-inch singles, this first one under his own name. If you’re hoping for “Hate City” you’re fresh outta luck.
“Living & Loving In The USA” is a double-headed ode to marital bliss that could have been called “Where We Went On Our Honeymoon”. It's the (true) story of two people eloping. Clean guitar, sweet backing vox from Mrs Lucas (aka the very rocking Joey Bedlam from Dollsquad) and all done without a hint of fuzz or distortion. It’s rocking mid-tempo pop with bongos, a hint of Tex-Mex and a great and heartfelt vocal from Mr Lucas.
The Melbourne music scene is world-renowned for being a bubbling volcano of rock 'n' roll fire and creativity that throws up rare diamonds and musical gems. The Leaps and Bounds Music Festival honours its stars each year with its Living Legends series.
Beginning in 2014, the Living Legends feted that year were rock gods Spencer Jones, Kim Salmon and Charlie Owen. This year the honour is bestowed on another trio who are fully legendary in the eyes of their peers and music lovers.
The Strawberry Teardrop takes off where Steve Lucas’ fab Pubert Brown Fridge Occurrence from the early ‘00s left off. It’s a pared-down studio line-up - a trio with Lucas handling vocals, bass and guitar, helped out by drummer Levin Franco and percussionist Herbie Mayhem - but the single’s ’60s garage-psych origins are patently obvious.
A side “Love On The Run” couples a knowing Lucas vocal to a basic rocker that plods a little and takes a while to get out of second gear. Perhaps this one could have done with some extra trimmings. B side lead-off “Corporate Girl” switches the mood to fuzz guitar snarl with chunky chording and a straight-up backbeat pushing Lucas’ ready-for-the-weekend vocal to the front. More than a little bit of alright.
Mainstream media’s full of stories about the re-birth of vinyl, but anyone with half a clue knows the format never died. What’s glossed over in all the breathless reportage about black platters is the Art of the Seven-Inch Single. Consider the facts…
Back in rock and roll’s heady days of the ‘60s - long before FM radio and the LP format took hold - singles were the deatyh or glory, one-shot-at-the-prize for many bands. The A side of a 45 was a distillation of a band’s essence. The B side was for experimenting.
Melbourne musician Steve Lucas is a big fan of the 45 and acutely aware of the place in music that the format holds.
Some of Australia’s most beloved musicians are being brought together by one of Australian punk rock’s seminal figures for a one-off concert to raise funds in the fight against child abuse.
X frontman Steve Lucas is organising The Child Wise Benefit Concert on Tuesday, May 12 at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne. It's his second year and he's pulled together an impressive bill.
It includes ‘60s psych legend-turned-bluesman Russell Morris, Beasts of Bourbon and Cruel Sea frontman and solo artist Tex Perkins, ex-Queen of Pop Debra Anne Byrne, blues singer-harpist Chris Wilson, bassist Jerome Smith (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Rufus Thomas, Divinyls) and MC Brian Nankervis (Rockwizz.)
Whatever your view about recent and current line-ups of the band (and there are naysayers of the Rilen-less version), X in their prime were The Real Deal. On a good night, no other act in Australia could match them for raw intensity with an underlying musicality.
There was something dangerous about X and it wasn’t just the lunatics that followed them, leaving a trail of smashed glasses, broken furniture and self-inflicted flesh wounds behind them.
That’s why the 40-year anniversary package of “X-Citations Vol 1” is so welcome. Picking up on the earliest days of X - the four-piece with Steve Lucas on vocals and Ian Krahe on guitar - and pushing through to the end of original drummer Steve Cafeiro’s tenure, this vinyl collection of 14 songs serves as a perfect reminder - or an introduction for the unaware - to their unique music.