sydney trade union club - The I-94 Bar
Has this debut album really been three decades in arriving? The details of how and why are more than a little shrouded in mystery but what counts more is that it’s here and it delivers.
Young Docteurs materialised in Canberra in 1978 with a potent brew of punk-psych that has always been hard to categorise. They made the move to Sydney in the early ‘80s and became part of the rich tapestry of life that was Surry Hills and the Sydney Trade Union Club scene. Despite some heavyweight backing (Jeremy Oxley, Nic Dalton and Steve Kilbey were fans), they never emerged to major prominence nationally and have flashed off and on like a lighthouse in the thickening fog ever since.
When drawn to writing about Tactics, their new album and their forthcoming Australian tour, I had a youthful flashback to being a 17-year-old and moving down to Sydney from the bush. Armed with smudgy-ink copies of RAM magazine, I was aware of so many bands that I knew mostly in name only: Midnight Oil, Hitmen, The Saints…and some weird shit (at least in my mind) like The Tactics, Thought Criminals and Dead Travel Fast. I was like a sponge and I wanted to see every one of them.
I had a hunger for a tapestry of sounds and new, sharp sonic edges - stuff that was so far from the bland radio fodder like Cold Chisel and Dragon. I left a live music scene centred on a dilapidated pub by a river that often flooded…a place with peeling paint and populated by old tradies with battered faces, professional alcoholics and underage kids. We watched the odd cover band and the place was home to weekend rock-stars playing poorly -delivered Chuck Berry riffs. The alternative was the local blue light disco that usually ended in a bloodbath by the end of the night.
So, I moved. I headed to Sydney.
Ashley Thomson photo
Jim Atkins, singer in The Kelpies, The Bedhogs and other '80s Sydney punk bands, has passed away in a Darwin hospice after a long battle defying cancer. He was aged 56.
Friends posted news on Facebook a few days ago that Jim (aka Jim Bedhog aka James Gelding) was extremely unwell. News of his passing landed today and sparked a string of online tributes.
Celibate Rifles singer Damien Lovelock once said to me that the Sydney music scene between 1978 and 1985 was as strong as anywhere in world, at any time.
When a city’s musically on fire, it becomes the rock capital of the world…especially for the people that live there. It could been New York City in the mid-’70s, London in 1966 or San Francisco in the late ’60s. Sydney was right up there with them.
I remember I was out seeing bands every night of week. It could be every Wednesday with the Triffids’ residency at the Strawberry Hills Hotel, upstairs at the Trade Union Club for the Laughing Clowns, or some punk band down at French’s Tavern. You could finish with Paris Green at 3am in Kings Cross.
There were so many gigs that stood out: the Birthday Party, Scientists and X at the University of NSW Roundhouse, the amazing New Year’s Eve gig with the Celibate Rifles at the Trade Union…and The Gun Club at the Southern Cross, later re-named the Strawberry Hills Hotel.
The Strawberry Hills Hotel in Surry Hills was OUR pub. We were still aged in our late teens and we virtually lived there. There was cheap (or feree) beer and amazing music every night of week. I actually lived in a cheap shared house, a few blocks down the road.
One night in 1983, the publican told me to turn up on Monday. He said that “a Yankee band, The Gun Club, are playing.”