Melbourne/Sydney, 1968-72

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Criston Barker (aka Christon Somerset) (vocals)
George Edwards (guitar)
Dennis Johns (drums)
Ian Ryan (bass)

Criston Barker (vocals)
Peter Gregory (guitar)
Ron Hood (guitar)
Gary Mason (bass)
Derek Pellicci (aka Derek Allen) (drums)
Gary Porterhouse (bass)

Criston Barker (vocals)
Kim Dawson (guitar)
Warwick Wilkes (Warwick Ford) (organ)
Tim Partridge (bass)
Gary "Boofhead" Porterhouse (bass)
Derek Pellicci (drums)

LEFT: the first two lineups of The Ash
Above - The Ash (Mk I) at the Thumpin' Tum
Below: The Ash (Mk II)
(Photos courtesy of Criston Barker)


This Melbourne-based hard rock band, which operated between 1969-72, was strongly influenced by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. There were three different lineups; the second (1971) included several members of noted Sydney band Lotus. The central member, and the only person common to all three lineups, was vocalist Criston Barker (also known as Criston Somerset) but the second lineup is also notable for the presence of drummer Derek Pellicci, who went on to play with Mississippi and LRB.

The Ash's debut single "Avignon" / "Sable", produced by John Farrar, is credited as one of the first locally-produced 45s to be released in a picture sleeve -- packaging which until then was usually only used for EPs. Vernon Joyson describes it as:

" ... a slow ballad in the early Bee Gees mould, whilst the riffy, although poorly recorded, flip side displayed a strong Anglophile influence, midways between Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin."

The group also made a promotional film-clip for "Avignon". Criston has archived a copy on YouTube, and it can be viewed by clicking HERE

It was the inaugural release for the newly established Havoc label, which was set up by Melbourne jazz saxophonist Frank "The Lion" Smith and agent-manager Rod De Courcy. Although the label lasted only four years (folding ca. 1975 after Smith died suddenly in 1974) Havoc was notable for concentrating on new releases by Melbourne-based rock bands of the period, and their LPs, which were pressed in New Zealand, were renowned for their superior quality compared to the local product.

There was a major lineup change after the single came out, and by the time they recorded their next single the group consisted of Criston (vocals), Ron Hood (guitar), Gary "Boofhead" Porterhouse (bass) and Derek Pellicci (drums); Peter Gregory (ex The Expression) filled in on guitar for a short time.

The second Ash single "Midnight Witch" -- written by Doug Ford of The Masters Apprentices -- was produced by Havoc house engineer Gil Matthews (The Aztecs). Ian MacFarlane in Freedom Train describes it as:

" ... hard hitting prog-psych, with a series of rich, staccato riffs and a throbbing bass line. The flip side is in similar mould if a little faster."

However Criston says the band was disappointed both with the production and a perceived lack of commitment from the label, so he and Derek moved to Sydney, hoping to make a new start. There they hooked up with Kim Dawson (guitar) and Warwick Wilkes (organ) both formerly of Lotus, plus noted bassist Tim Partridge, to become the the third and final lineup of The Ash. They performed regularly at Whisky A Go-Go, Chequers and numerous other Sydney venues until the group ended in 1972.

After The Ash ...

Criston, Tim and Derek were soon headhunted for a new band, teaming up with Leith Corbett (Heart'n'Soul, Dave Miller Set) on guitar, to form Arthur & The Argonaughts. After just two rehearsals, they were late entries into the Bonopart's Battle of the Sounds, and in front of a panel of judges which included John McDonald and Stuart Coupe they won the contest outright. They then returned to Melbourne where they became an immediate hit on the local circuit. Ian Ferguson replaced Tim on bass, and the group's brief career culminated in a performance at the Sunbury festival in January 1973. 

Leith Corbett then went to England, and Criston went back to Sydney, where he joined a band called Sunday Mourning before returning to Melbourne and forming Freeway, which consisted of Criston (bass). Steve Welch (guitar), Frank Chic (vocals), John Grant (keys), and Bill Lincoln (drums). They recorded one album Riding High.

In 1979. Criston joined Air Supply as bass guitarist and he was part of the lineup that recorded the hit album Lost In Love. In 1983 he formed Apollo Bay with Tony Slavich (ex Ariel) on keyboards. Criston has continued in the industry as a producer-engineer, recording several albums, producing numerous video clips and TV shows, writing editorial and composing music for documentaries; he has recently completed a new album of songs, to be released in 2008.

Ian Ryan went on to Chook and Buster Brown.

Derek Pellicci joined the expanded lineup of Mississippi around the same time as Beeb Birtles, when the group (previously called Alison Gros) added a rhythm section so that they could tour to promote their debut single and album. Derek stayed on when Mississippi evolved into Little River Band in early 1975.



Neither of The Ash's Singles have been commercially re-released (as yet), however Gil Matthews' Aztec Music label has re-released a number of Havoc recordings, so the Ash tracks might appear in future on a compilation. (2006).

"Avignon" / "Sable" (Havoc HS 7003) picture sleeve
Produced by John Farrar

"Midnight Witch" / "Warrant" (Havoc H 1002)
Produced by Gil Matthews

References / Links

Sincere thanks to Criston Barker for information photos and corrections.

Criston Barker - MySpace and YouTube pages
- includes original 1969 B&W film-clip for "Avignon"

Criston Barker official site (under construction)

Ian McFarlane
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)

Vernon Joyson
Dreams, Fantasies & Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)

Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara and Paul McHenry
Who's Who of Australian Rock (Five Mile Press, 2002)