Interview by Steve Kernohan
MILESAGO friend and contributor Steve Kernohan invited Mike Rudd and Bill Putt to be his special guests on his For What It’s Worth radio programme on Monday, October 30th, 2000. The show went out live on Melbourne’s Stereo 974 and in it, Steve spent two hours tracing the musical odyssey from Mike’s early days with Kiwi outfit Chants R&B, and Bill’s beginnings with The Lost Souls, through the heyday of Spectrum/Indelible Murtceps and Ariel, continuing right up to the present day, where Mike and Bill are still active with a fresh incarnation of Spectrum.
Throughout the show a number of interesting and rare recordings were aired, together with some classic album and singles tracks from most eras of these revered musicians’ careers. Here, courtesy of Steve and exclusive to MILESAGO, we are most chuffed to be able to present the full transcript of this fascinating and detailed chat between Steve, Mike and Bill, plus an appearance from some incorrigible sycophant ring-in… Particular delights, among many, are the cute bickering between MR & BP about Hammond organ nomenclature, and the hilarious anecdote about the one-off, one-song band The Camels. This is possibly one of the most in-depth, and most entertaining interviews MILESAGO has presented so far…We think you’ll enjoy this one!
Spectrum, back and better than ever, shown here performing in the beer garden of the Healesville Hotel, Healsville, Victoria, on the afternoon of 29 October, 2000 (the day before our interview took place).
Left to right: Peter ‘Robbo’ Robertson, Mike Rudd, Bill Putt.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Scars by Ariel opens the show
Steve Kernohan (SK): Hi and welcome to the program. This is Steve Kernohan with “For What It’s Worth” on Stereo 974, great to have you along, and I’ve got a couple of special guests tonight who performed on that particular track there, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Scars”. And a very pleasant day was had by quite a few people yesterday, up in Healesville in the garden of the Healesville Hotel. I went up there with part of my family and grooved along to Spectrum, and we have Mike Rudd and Bill Putt in here tonight. Hi Mike
Mike Rudd (MR): Evening!
Bill Putt (BP): Hey Steve, how’re ya doing?
SK: Great. Sounds pretty good, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Scars”, eh?
BP: Yeah, pretty punchy stuff
SK: Sure is. Okay. I don’t see any Rock ‘n’ Roll Scars… you both look pretty fresh, considering you’ve got, like, 35 years under your belt?
BP: They’re internal
SK: Maybe you can tell us all about some of that stuff later on
BP: They’re scary stories, I gotta tell ya
SK: Okay. Well we’ve got a lotta great music lined up here tonight. Guys, we’re not gonna fit 35 years of history in 2 hours of radio, even if we talked all the way through it, but we’re not gonna talk all the way through. We’ve got some selections from just about everything that you guys did, as Spectrum, Murtceps and Ariel. Exciting stuff, isn’t it?
MR: I’m excited
BP: I am too, because this’ll be like a…
MR: You are?!
BP: I am. I’m mildly excited Michael, because I haven’t heard any of this stuff since we did it, or since we heard it last which was almost around the same time
SK: Okay. And I’m pleased to say folks that Mike and Bill and their drummer?
MR & BP: Robbo!!
SK: Robbo – good drummer! Tell you what, if you wanna go and see someone who enjoys their work then go and check out Spectrum. Because Robbo really does get into it
BP: He was a fan of ours when we were up there doing it. He used to come along with his mates and watch us play, and buy our records and sit at home with his drum-kit, as I’m sure there’s plenty of kids sitting out there doing the same thing with whoever they’re into… and play along with every track we did. So when we came to play with him for the first time, he had all the accents – that was nice – but the main thing for us was that he had the feels right. And I thought, whoo, this is uncanny. And it turns out he’d been playing it forever!
MR: The good thing for us was, we thought, “gee, now we don’t have to rehearse!”
SK: Yeah, and as I said, there were a lotta folks [at the Healesville gig], and some of them older than me, I must say, and they were really digging the music. Was that part of your tribe, or were they the Healesville…
BP: Well I guess we don’t know. People keep on coming out of the woodwork, and they’re our age, and they just love us to pieces
MR: I think the people in Healesville and that, round the hills area, I think there was a definite, er, clique of people that were kind of into us that moved out of Melbourne, probably in the late 70s, and kinda stayed there, because whenever we come across people in the hills, they go “ we haven’t seen you for like, 25 years!” – that’s as long as they haven’t been into town!
BP: One Scottish fellow came up and said [adopts dodgy Scot accent] “oh yeah, I haven’t seen ya laddie since 1972 Sunbury ”
SK: He still had the accent?
BP: Yeah it was really strong and I thought, wow, okay…
SK: Beautiful, beautiful. And there was a guy there yesterday – we’ll get onto the music in a minute – but there was a guy there who was a little bit older than me, and I reckon he knew the words to every song you ever performed, including the Spectrum, and the Ariel
MR: It’s good to have people in the audience that know the words [laughs]. Every now and again I kinda get lost!
SK: Okay, look, I thought before we even get into the Spectrum material, let’s go back just a little bit to at least one of the bands that each of you played in prior to that line-up. We might just play part of these tracks…
MR/BP: [obviously enthusing over the album cover] Ooh, yeah, okay!
SK: It’s scary stuff isn’t it Bill?
BP: It is, yeah
Snippet of I’m Your Witchdoctor by Chants R&B plays
SK: A song I’m pleased to say is still in the repertoire, Mike
MR: Yeah, although you wouldn’t recognise it because, er, Glenn A Baker described that particular song – or that band – as being the fiercest garage band of all time
SK: Yes, he did
MR: And it does sound that way, and the band was called The Chants [pronounces the word to rhyme with “aunts”], or actually The Chants R&B, and that was my New Zealand band as you might figure from the name. Of course, here it would be “chants” [pronounces the word to rhyme with “pants”]. But yeah, we were fairly fearsome, and there is some stuff available on vinyl and on CD now from that band and it’s truly fearsome stuff!
SK: It sure is, and “I’m Your Witchdoctor” – John Mayall, did he write that?
MR: John Mayall with Eric Clapton performed that particular song, and it was a single for them; I think it must have been around about the time of the “Bluesbreakers” album. I don’t believe it did anything, but it now figures on a few compilation albums
SK: Alright… we could make a whole program just talking about that period of your life, but we’re gonna get onto a little bit of Bill before he joined you…
MR: Well we weren’t gonna talk forever on that
SK: Ha ha, here we go
Snippet of This Life Of Mine by The Lost Souls plays
SK: Does that activate the grey cells there Bill?
BP: Yeah, I remember. I wrote that actually on guitar. I had the chords and all that stuff and the singer wrote the words, and then when we got to record it, we actually won the 1966 Battle Of The Bands – I think it was ’66, maybe it was a bit later – and the prize was to go to Sydney and make a record. So we did, and a guy called Pat Aulton, who’s quite famous, was the producer. And we started playing the song, and he was horrified at the lyrics, so he re-wrote them. On the spot, in five seconds, there you go
SK: And did he take a writer’s credit?
BP: No, he didn’t
SK: Oh, amazing!
BP: But we never got paid any money. I don’t know where all our… our manager at the time I think creamed all the… we were just, you know, 18 years old and had girls screaming and we were playing guitars for a living and it was just the most exciting experience a young 18-year-old could have. And money – who cared about that? As long as you could pay the rent and stuff, y’know. It was years later that we discovered that there was an enormous amount of money that went sideways that we never got
SK: Is that right? From The Lost Souls, that band? Wowee! Okay, that was a song “This Life Of Mine”. Now, you’re on rhythm guitar there, is that right?
BP: Well, lead guitar actually. And there’s a solo which I’m very glad you faded before it came in!
SK: Ha ha. And Mike, you were on rhythm guitar with Chants?
MR: Absolutely, yeah. There was a guy called Max Kelly, who I later found out was Matt Croke, and he was on borrowed time from the Australian Air Force at the time, he was an apprentice mechanic or something. And he took absence without leave, and the long arm of the law finally caught up with him, and they extracted him from our clutches and took him back to Holsworthy and stuffed him down a toilet for two weeks and then dishonourably discharged him. And that was the incentive for me to go: “maybe it’s time we got out of Christchurch”, ‘cos we’d been locked in the same place for a coupla years, actually achieving some note of notoriety nonetheless, but hardly venturing out of Christchurch apart from one foray to Wellington to actually record. And we went over to… we arrived in Melbourne. And, late 1966, we met up with Matt, as we now knew him, and promptly just disintegrated after about six months.
SK: Okay, yes, now I guess we oughta find some way of getting ourselves to Spectrum and the… oh, you’ve noticed something interesting on the CD we’re gonna play something from
MR: Yeah, just the date
BP: The 11th of the 11th
SK: Oh, the day that Gough [Whitlam, Australian Prime Minister at the time] got the bullet
BP: 1975, gee!
SK: Very historic date, yep
MR: That’s the date we had to turn in our BAS returns, that’s a truly significant date!
SK: Yeah? Well look, we won’t play anything from that just yet, but folks, tonight we have a live recording of Ariel at the Station Hotel in Prahran, one of my favourite gigs from that time, from 25 years ago Friday week! So we’re only ten days away or so from a very historic date. So when you hear all the news, talking about Gough getting the flick, just remember it was also the night Ariel played at the Station Hotel
BP: And I remember nothing about it
SK: Yeah, okay, you’ve done well on The Lost Souls so far! Okay, take me there: how did you guys meet up?
MR: Ah well, the band I was with at the time was The Party Machine, and I was playing bass for them and… but Ross had a better offer – Ross Wilson that is – and he got offered to be taken over to England to join a band, a supergroup no less, called Procession. And they’d left Melbourne and discovered to their horror that they didn’t actually have a writer in the band, so they thought they needed a writer, and they knew of Ross. Anyway, they took him over there and that meant there was no raison d’etre for the band at all because Ross wrote 99% of the material. And I thought, “Oh gee I’ll put a band together myself”. So, around my own material which I hadn’t written of course. And I thought of a drummer, and I thought the last really great drummer I’d seen was in a band called Gallery, and I think I’d seen them at a place called Opus, which was a Bill Joseph gig…
BP: Um, no, I will interject here. We both come across this all the time, we both go through the same experiences but we have totally different recollections of it
MR: Ormond Hall?
BP: You’re right now, it’s Ormond Hall in Ormond
SK: Which became the Reefer Cabaret?
BP: No no no, that’s the Ormond Hall in East St Kilda, this was Ormond Hall in Ormond, just near the Ormond Station – just a crappy little hall
MR: Not a very distinguished hall at all… and Gallery wasn’t a particularly distinguished band. Three singers, three gals?
BP: Three girl singers in real short dresses, me on guitar, a bass-player and Mark Kennedy on drums
MR: And when I saw Mark on the drums I thought “what an astonishing drummer this guy is!” And so I thought of getting in touch with him, which I did, and one day I was up in my little lofty flat in Hawthorn and [chuckling] both Bill and Mark arrived at the door and I think they’d been doing some gardening things [?!], but Bill, of course being enormously tall, and Mark actually being a tiny little fella – he must’ve been around 5’3” or 4” or something… there was an astonishing kinda disparity between the two. And so we played a coupla weeks with Mark, and I was thinking, gee… I was playing bass at that stage, and I thought, I really need a guitarist and so Mark conveyed that to Bill, and Bill arrived around one day and we promptly swapped instruments! I gave him my 6-string bass [chuckles] as a really useful instrument, and I started to play rhythm guitar again, and we had a keyboard player at that stage, but he dropped out and then we got another keyboard player which was Lee Neale, from a band called 1987…
SK: We won’t play a track from them, but we’ve got one here tonight
MR: Do you really? [delighted chuckle]
MR: Oh cool! He had a Farfisa organ which was… there weren’t many organs available in those days. There was kinda Voxes, Hammonds – which were totally inappropriate; you couldn’t actually get them at all – and Farfisas. And he had a Farfisa and it was truly a crappy instrument. But we started writing stuff and we eventually insinuated our way into doing a few gigs. And I hung around AMBO which was the new agency at the time, and one of the office boys was Mike Gudinski and he’d started to get a couple of gigs together, and he gave us a few gigs out of pity, I’m sure. ‘Cos we used to hang around looking absolutely pathetic, and he gave us this gig in DeGraves Street called The Punchbowl, which was an absolute Sharpie hangout! I don’t know whether you remember Sharpies everybody, but they were just the nemesis of anybody with hair, basically. And fortunately, our first gig there, we were adopted by the largest of the Sharpies, he said “you guys are really great” – after we’d grovelled on the ground: “don’t hit us!” And we were safe after that and we were able to play our stuff, which wasn’t very much. And that was the thing you see – I used to come in with a basic sorta idea and then the band used to have to expand on this idea wildly because we had nothing else, we had no repertoire at all. So this gig was reasonably regular and it allowed us to expand. And the good thing was that every now and again a real band would come, like a pop band. The Valentines I remember coming in. And they were deeply impressed with our commitment and our earnestness, and they used to convey our reputation around to their managers, and their managers used to know people in other places. So we’d get gigs by this means. And our reputation spread narrowly
SK: [laughs] Bon Scott was in The Valentines then?
MR: That’s right, yeah. He was actually pretty helpful to us
BP: He was a lovely fella
SK: Oh, I saw The Valentines at a gig down in Werribee where I spent most of my youth, at The Bus Stop. And they were reasonably progressive, considering “Nick Nack Paddy Whack” and some of the other stuff they did
MR: And the stuff they had to wear, it was just gruesome
SK: I know, but I’ve told the listeners this before; they performed the Chicago Transit Authority version of “I’m A Man” that night, and it was fabulous. And Bon was playing congas – and I thought “why are you wearing these outfits?” – ‘cos it was good music!
MR: Yes, it [the outfits] was rubbish, wasn’t it really?
BP: Well it went from there… what did Bon go into? Fraternity, which was a serious musical sorta thing
SK: Yes, absolutely
BP: Er, what Mike was saying about bringing along a little idea to the band and stuff; there’s a song on this called Fiddling Foo” – this is Spectrum Part One, the first ever album in 1970 or something. The first time we played it, a few times, it was about a 3 minute 25 second song…
SK: Is that right?
BP: About a year later when we recorded it, I think it’s about 15 minutes long, so that amplifies what Mike was saying
MR: We really relied – just coming back to Mark Kennedy – we really relied on him with us because he was such an outstanding player, and we used to have drum solos. Now, I’m not generally in favour of drum solos, but incorporated in the material it kinda worked okay. And I think he really supported us. And so it was a truly dramatic moment when he said he was out… although we were kinda ready for it because we were obviously drifting apart musically, and so then we got Ray Arnott in the band and that changed everything
SK: Yes, well why don’t we play a little edit from Fiddling Fool?
MR: Oh yeah, I haven’t heard this for years!
BP: The first couple of minutes is basically what we got, what you hear in the first two minutes is how it started, and it used to finish then, but you’re only gonna edit it out. But 15 minutes later, a year later… some nights it’d go longer!
SK: Well the little edit piece I’m about to play in fact is leading into Mike’s guitar solo
BP: There’s a guitar solo?
SK: Is there a guitar solo!
MR: Oooh, scary as, boy!
SK: Have a listen to this
Snippet from Fiddling Fool by Spectrum plays
SK: Yeah, there is a guitar solo and a very fine one too. I wanted to play that because I think you’re a very under-rated guitarist
MR: I think, with reason actually
SK: Not at all! The playing yesterday was pretty hot stuff
BP: Yeah I know, I agree with you, he is an under-rated guitar player. But I didn’t listen to the guitar on that track then – because I haven’t heard that for 20 years – but what caught my ear was Lee Neale’s organ playing. The chords and things – he was an extraordinary musician, y’know, and I hope still is. ‘Cos we haven’t seen him in 30 years, 29 years or something. But that’s what captured me then, and where you edited it out we were just about to go into this extended organ piece on the B3 – for the fanatics, a B3 Hammond organ with no Leslie
MR: Actually it wasn’t. It was the M without a Leslie
BP: Sorry, thank you Michael, it was the M3, without…
MR: It was an M-something, I don’t think it was an M3
BP: Was it an M4 then?
MR: Let’s just say it was a Hammond!
BP: It wasn’t used by everybody else, everybody else used B3s in those days, and this was… not one o’ them
MR: Funnily enough, later on we came to have our equipment hired for a particular show in Festival Hall. And one of the other users of this particular brand of Hammond – I won’t say brand – number of Hammond…
MR: Yes, model of Hammond… er, was Manfred Mann. He was particularly looking for this. So we had this Hammond without a Leslie, which I think was a bit disturbing for him, but we also had a PA and it was the only PA available. And this was [also] Deep Purple, who were even then supposed to be the loudest band on the planet. And they hired our PA which was like, max, 100 watt PA, with two crappy boxes on the side with plastic horns. It was unbelievable. I saw the show and we were blanching in our seats! Because they’d also hired a row, a phalanx, of Lennard boxes! And the moment that Deep Purple started, a whole lot of the fronts just fell out of the Lennard boxes, and I thought “oh no!!” And their singing was absolutely inaudible from that point onwards. But gee, we got our money [laughs]
SK: [obviously enjoying these anecdotes] Yes, well look, I wanted to play Mumbles I Wonder Why, but we’re not gonna have time
MR: [mumbles] I wonder why?
SK: We should’ve just played one album tonight and got you in every coupla weeks to er…
BP: We can come back every night of the week if you like
SK: Oh, that’d be marvellous
MR: Well between the two of us we can actually remember a few things
SK: Heh heh. Okay, but you did take us to the point where Ray Arnott joined the band
MR: Yes, I remember that [audibly grinning]
SK: And soon after, recorded a double album, which for Australia was a remarkable thing. How did you guys get this license to be so damn progressive on record?
BP: It was all word of mouth and fantasy really
MR: We were lucky, because we had a producer on our side, we had a free rein. Because EMI of course are based in Sydney, and I’ll Be Gone was recorded by Howard Gable, as a producer, as his first kind of Australian venture. He arrived in Australia with a track record as far as New Zealand was concerned but nothing as far as Australia was concerned. And we all sort of roamed into the same studio at the same time and we ended up with a Number One hit, so he virtually had a free license to do what he wanted with us and we were lucky, we got the [studio] time! Well, when I say we got the time, we were lucky also that most of our stuff was well road-tested and we were able to do a few little creations to supplement the tracks on the Milesago album, but most of that was our repertoire at the time
SK: Well, a wonderful recording it is. Look, I’ll just advise the listeners now: the Spectrum Part One album, where that edit of Fiddling Fool came from, was released in March ’71, and less than a year later you had the double album Milesago out in the stores. It may interest people too, to know that I’ll Be Gone is not on the Part One album, and I know why, I know Mike that you have some regrets that that is in fact the case
MR: I think the record company has more regrets
SK: Yes, but I personally think, with a lot of hindsight, there’s a high degree of credibility about it not being on the record
MR: Yeah, we thought so at the time. Y’know, it was an aesthetic decision, but there’s not many record companies that would put up with that kind of…
BP: You wouldn’t have the chance today. The marketing people would come in and say “this is what you’re recording, and this is what’s going on the album, go!”
SK: Yes, exactly right. And then you release five singles, with disco versions of the track and all sorts of other…
BP: Yeah, dance tracks and trance tracks and…
SK: Exactly right – you’re up with the modern stuff aren’t you Bill?
BP: Oh yeah, but only because I’m… stupid
MR: [chuckling] Yeah, I think that’s fair
SK: And we also shouldn’t leave that first album without me asking – because he has been a guest on the program – Roger Savage, who is not normally on this side of the microphone as we are tonight. And he wasn’t a man of many words; he of course had an amazing career in England with the Stones and Dusty Springfield and then with you guys and the Masters Apprentices – what was he like to work with?
BP: He was a very quiet, thorough, professional gentleman.
MR: And I never felt that he lost his sense of humour. He was always the warm, up-there friendly guy! He never lost his cool, he was just a… do you remember once he lost his cool? I can’t.
BP: No, he was just a very very easy man to work with
SK: Did you choose to have him to work with you on other things, like live recordings?
MR: Well we were… no, not really. It’s just the way it happened, I mean, the Melbourne recording scene was AAV, or Armstrong’s as it used to be known. And so that’s the way it worked. He was the best guy around, that was it
BP: And just recently he put two tracks off our Volcano album onto a film he was doing the music for…
MR: Which was very sweet of him, hmm…
BP: …which was a David Williamson play called “Brilliant Lies”
MR: Richard Franklin’s movie
SK: Okay, well look, I thought we might play – we won’t play the whole thing ‘cos we’ve got a call coming in from Canberra soon, but why don’t we play something from “Milesago” – “The Sideways Saga”…
SK: …a long piece. In fact, four pieces…
MR: Yes, it’s a suite really, yeah
SK: Yeah it is. And, again, you performed some of this, if not all of it, yesterday!
MR: Yes, we ran it before some of them but we’ve forgotten the rest of it!
BP: I have, so let’s hear a bit!
SK: Let’s hear a bit of it right now
Selection from Spectrum’s The Sideways Saga plays
SK: Well sacreligious it may be, but we are fading down on the track because we need to continue to move along, but I’m gonna play that whole album one night
BP: That’s another 12 minutes worth of solo there
SK: Yeah, and wah-wah organ
BP: Yeah, that little snap of Lee I just heard, I’m gonna have to listen to this album at some stage. I’d forgotten what a great player he was!
SK: Yes, yes. Now Spectrum were a band of course that were a big band, right? Four players but lots of equipment.
MR: Well for those days we had big equipment I guess
SK: Yes, and a lot of gigs in one night on occasions
BP: Oh, you’d do three – an afternoon, an early night and a late night – on Saturdays
SK: Alright, and was that part of the rationale for forming an offshoot?
MR: No, the real reason was that there was the advent of pub-rock, basically. We were playing in discos and the occasional concert. And discos, or discotheques as they were known in those days, were actually unlicensed venues. No grog at all. So when pubs opened their doors the whole scene virtually changed overnight. And we found that we were left out in the cold because our kind of music wasn’t appreciated by the pub-going punters. So we had to think real fast and we were either gonna demise rather ingloriously, or we were going to have to think of something different. And I believe our actual take on it was probably fairly unique for those days and probably still fairly unique now. We formed an alternative band which was our pub-rock band, which was The Indelible Murtceps, which of course, as people are starting to realise – duh – is Spectrum back to front
SK: I told my wife that yesterday and she said “do you think I’m an idiot?”
BP: Well you’d be surprised how many people come up after 30 years and when you happen to mention it they just go blank and white and green and go “you’re kidding”
MR: Yes, and it actually worked for us quite well. But one of the other things we did which was one of the better-kept secrets, was that we did a commercial for Bruce Smeaton for the Camel cigarettes thing and so was born the band The Camels! So we had one concert at Cathedral Hall which was The Camels supporting The Indelible Murtceps supporting Spectrum
SK: [incredulous] Is that right?
MR: And The Camels only had one song [chuckles]
BP: We just played it forever and it got faster and faster. I can even remember the lyrics, it was so sick. In fact an ad guy wrote the lyrics
MR: Yeah it was Bruce Smeaton
BP: Was it? Yeah, he wrote the lyrics and gave them to us and we went in the studio and bashed it out. So that night that we played at the TF Much Ballroom, supporting ourselves supporting ourselves, we dressed up in long flowing robes and head-dress, you know, Arabic gear, and played the song at its normal tempo, and played it again slightly faster. Played it again even slightly more, and so on and so on, until it was going flat out, and we couldn’t keep up with ourselves. And that was the end of The Camels
SK: No recording of that exists?
MR: No, no, no, there was a poster though
BP: It was on TV once!
MR: Yeah, it was an ad, yes
SK: Okay. Well I tell you what, the Murtceps theme song was We Are Indelible and again, that’s still in the repertoire – great to hear it yesterday. Something that you wouldn’t have heard in almost 25 years is when it was performed in the Station Hotel, have a listen to this folks
We Are Indelible performed live by Ariel plays
SK: What a blast!
MR: Yeah, that’s a 3-guitar attack!
SK: It sure is. But it wasn’t Spectrum or Murtceps, it was Ariel, one of the incarnations of the fabulous band Ariel. And a 3-guitar attack at the Station Hotel right here in Melbourne’s Prahran. One of the better gigs from an audience’s point of view because people like me could get very close to the band, and just watch the fingers on the fretboard and so forth
MR: The band couldn’t get away from the people, that’s for sure
SK: Well I’m wondering, was that a good gig for you guys?
MR: It was okay
BP: Mostly, yeah
SK: Well, what were the good gigs?
BP: Well TF Much was a great gig. Sebastian’s was a great gig in the early days, and Bertie’s… there were a few town hall gigs like Kew Town Hall. That was usually a good one for us. And some of the uni’s. Monash was our uni. I was talking to a guy yesterday up in the mountains at Healesville, and he was a Monash Uni guy. And I happened to mention how it was all clique-y in those days. We could never do wrong at Monash but if we went to La Trobe we’d die. Yet The Dingoes who couldn’t do anything right at Monash, would go to La Trobe and kill it. So each university had decided who were their bands and who wasn’t [laughs]
MR: That’s right
SK: Okay, well why don’t we go right back a little bit, to the first incarnation of Ariel, with Tim Gaze in the band, and you two guys obviously, and?
BP: Nigel Macara
MR: Nigel Macara who was in that band we just listened to, and John Mills on keyboards
SK: Alright, if I’ve got it lined up – and I haven’t – we will go to Jamaican Farewell, which you and Tim both get songwriter credits for…
MR: That’s right, yes
SK: …on the Strange Fantastic Dream album, Mike, but I seem to have seen it written just recently with just your name?
MR: That wouldn’t be right. It was a fusion, that song. We didn’t actually consciously write it together, we had two bits that we kinda gelled together. And it sort of worked, as a piece. It was probably the most commercial thing that band did
SK: I remember seeing you perform it on a couple of occasions, and I can’t remember where ‘cos my memory’s not all that good either for that period. But an incredibly sharp guitar sound Tim was getting at the time! And you guys have performed that since with other outfits, and the impression I have is that you’re not wanting to replicate it, you have wanted to change it for some reason
MR: Well, we have a nylon-string version now, which I find is much more appropriate – it suits me better now, and I think it’s suits the lyric better now than the way we did it [then] which was really frenetic. That’s not to take anything away from Tim, because he’s gone through an incredible period in his life in the last 20 years… and we were fortunate enough to play with him again last year and he was just fantastic! Looking forward to playing with him again
SK: He’s in Sydney now, isn’t he?
BP: Yeah, he’s been there most of the time
MR: He’s a Sydney boy basically
SK: Well there is a website called MILESAGO which I’m pretty sure Mike’d know about…
SK: Bill, have you seen it?
BP: No, I only know about it ‘cos Michael told me
SK: Okay, it’s run by Duncan Kimball and Paul Culnane, and a fabulous job they’ve done in just 12 short months, and I think of course, credit to you guys too, for them to want to name it “Milesago”. I don’t think they’ve slipped you any money though, have they?
MR: [magnanimously] No, why would they?
SK: And as a little sideline to that, they have a chat room, as they call them, and it’s called “Rock & Roll Scars”, so again, I think you’re owed a little something
BP: We better get these guys! [laughs]
MR: Doubly cheeky, but we appreciate it
SK: And one of the infrequent, but sometime contributors to “Rock & Roll Scars” is Tim Gaze, they’ve got him signed up
MR: Oh yeah? He deserves to get everything he gets, Tim. And I guess I say that with – not so much affection – but he, as I say, he’s been through a very chequered life and come out the other side and…
BP: Yeah, come out a winner now!
MR: Yes he has. And he was always a fantastic guitarist. Whenever I get a glimpse of the Strange Fantastic Dream album, and what he was doing there, I just think “wow!” There’s no other guitarist I can think of who could have done the job he did. But there was also a lot of stuff going on between him and John Mills. They were equally flashy on their instruments and it was just terrific
BP: Tim does say that that’s, in his world, the high point of his career, the “Strange Fantastic Dream” album
SK: Excellent. Let’s go to Jamaican Farewell.
Jamaican Farewell by Ariel plays, followed, uncannily, by a strange funeral directors’ commercial, the significance of which will become evident…
SK: Welcome back to “For What It’s Worth”. Steve Kernohan, Mike Rudd and Bill Putt here, playing some great music. Unfortunately, that came from my copy of the album which has been thoroughly played, it’s almost transparent, you can almost see through the thing, but still sounding pretty damn good. A song about suicide, Bill – I didn’t know that
BP: Well yeah, I didn’t know it either, until Michael mentioned it one day at rehearsal as we were playing the song. But it’s a suicide note, and I thought the funeral parlour ad after it was most fitting
SK: [laughs] Yeah!
BP: Sorta ties it all up together so we can move on now
SK: Alright, well let’s move on, and we have, if all goes well here, Paul Culnane on the phone from Canberra. Hi Paul
Paul Culnane (PC): G’day Steve, how are you?
SK: I’m extremely well, very nice to have you along
PC: Yeah, lovely of you to invite me
SK: Mike and Bill are here
PC: Hello Mike, hello Bill
MR: Hello Paul
BP: Hello Mike, I mean, er, Paul, how’re ya doing?
SK: There’s only one Mike here [laughs]
MR: [To Bill] I thought you were saying hello to me, I thought “that’s unusual”
SK: Hey Paul, we’ve just played, prior to “Jamaican Farewell”, a piece of your wonderful recording from the Station Hotel. We played “We Are Indelible”
PC: Oh, how’d it go?
SK: It went the same as the last time we played it at home earlier. It’s fabulous! A fabulous recording Paul. You and your equipment on the 11th of November 1975 – the day that Gough [Whitlam, Australian Prime Minister at the time] got the flick
PC: That’s it!
SK: And you were in Melbourne, and brash little you went up to the guys in the band and said “can I plug into your soundboard?” or something like that. Tell us the story
PC: Well, they were pretty nice to me actually, as they had been in earlier days with Spectrum. I used to rock up to gigs with my tape deck, y’know? And on this occasion I thought, well okay, they’re offering me… er, who was the roadie at that time?
MR: I suspect it was Jim Murray, but I’m guessing here
PC: Okay, so around that time, okay. Whoever it was, was pretty cool, and I had some really crappy mics and proposed to set them up, y’know, tape them to the wall at the back of the Station Hotel room, to capture a sort of ambient mix because I thought the bass mightn’t come through enough. [Ariel’s live sound engineer, as well as giving a lead from the mixing desk, graciously provided 2 of the band’s professional microphones, in lieu of the “crappy” ones PC brought along, and supplied boom stands, to facilitate the “ambient” stereo recording]
MR: Well that was a wise move. And actually it sounds really snappy! I’m really impressed. I mean, I’m a fan of ambient sound anyway, but it really does sound good!
PC: Oh good, I’m glad you like it that way! Yeah, y’know it’s not perfect, but…
MR: Yeah, we don’t expect perfection
BP: It’s Rock & Roll mate, it’s Rock & Roll
MR: It’s a record of a band that was too rarely recorded. I mean, that three-guitar attack, and I’d forgotten about all the harmonies, whoa, how good is that?!
PC: Exactly, yeah, what a combination, between you and Glyn, with the other guys offering support
MR: That’s right, yeah
PC: Yeah, so this might sound impertinent, but had you forgotten how “cooking” that line-up was?
BP: Oh, absolutely!
MR: Yeah, look I had very much Paul. I actually discovered a tape that I have at home of a recording that must have been done, probably at Double-Jay as I think it might have been, and it was of the “Mutant Suite”; of which I think you have a version on this recording…
PC: Oh, a couple of cuts…
MR: Yes, well I think this one’s a bit more comprehensive. It probably has 5 or 6 tunes, sorta jammed together. And, yes, I had forgotten how cooking that band was, and I kinda regret that it was so under-recorded because, gee, it still sounds pretty snappy to me!
The under-recorded three-guitar Ariel line-up, in a seldom-seen EMI-Harvest promotional photo from 1975.
Left to right: Harvey James, Nigel Macara, Bill Putt, Mike Rudd, Glyn Mason
PC: Oh yeah, and that was a lovely evening. A very congenial, relaxed evening audience-wise
SK: They were probably all stunned from the news from Canberra earlier in the day
PC: Yeah well that’s true Steve!
SK: I was in Queensland at the time Paul, that bastion of democracy up there, and I was in Brisbane working for the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury. And the department head came back mid-afternoon and said “I don’t believe it, Gough Whitlam has been sacked!” And we almost tore the place apart
PC: It’s one of those “where were you – what do you remember?” things…
MR: Yes, well we didn’t remember, we’d been at the Station Hotel, Paul! [laughs]
BP: I saw the date on the CD thing tonight, just about an hour ago… and went “wow, something happened on that day!”
SK: I’ve done a mock cover of the photo that Mike electronically sent to you
PC: Oh yeah!
SK: Yeah, okay. Paul, you do have other recordings of Spectrum, and I think you’ve even got a recording of Daddy Cool, is that right? We’re not gonna give out your address, so you’re not gonna be pestered by anyone
PC: Well just tell me when to shut up, Steve!
SK: [chuckles] Give us a bit of a rundown on some of the stuff you might have
PC: This is a nice story. At the Aquarius Festival in Canberra in, I think it was 1971, just when I was leaving school; and I lived two blocks away. And the first night – I was young, I didn’t know much about these new burgeoning bands from Melbourne – I’d only heard about them and read about them in “Go-Set” and stuff like that. And I had a little 3-inch reel-to-reel, took it down on the Friday night I guess it was, and er… these pips are distracting me…
SK: You eating an orange?
PC: [laughing] No, sucking a lemon! Sorry buddy… um, yeah anyway, recorded Daddy Cool on the first night and of course they were very new and they blew me away. And the story there is – the kind of result, if you like – was that I dubbed that onto a tape for Ross Wilson. And about four years later he’d moved house and he was cleaning things out, and he sent me this letter saying “oh look, I’ve discovered this tape of the very very early Daddy Cool!” A lovely letter, that I’ve still got and treasure. And together with that, two copies of the very rare “Garden Party” EP by Sons Of The Vegetal Mother which has Mike on it of course, on guitar. One copy I sold for an inflated price – kept the other one… and the cat jumped on the record-player
BP: That’ll teach ya – for selling the first one!
PC: It’s tragic isn’t it?
BP: It is
MR: It was a cat, that’s typical. Get a dog, they wouldn’t do that!
PC: Y’know, I dunno if you guys are into football, but for that split-second moment, I renamed my cat “Sherrin” [definitive football manufacturer]
BP: I can understand that
SK: Oh, because you kicked it and it flew many metres?
PC: Indeed [laughs]. [Note: readers, please be assured that no animals were actually harmed during the making of this program… at least, not to our knowledge!]
SK: Okay, I’ve got the picture. Hey, the other thing about that Station Hotel recording here which we’ll get back to in just a moment, that makes it more interesting again; is that there are several songs on it from the “Jellabad Mutant” sessions which Mike and Bill can tell us about a little later
PC: Oh yeah, I look forward to hearing what they’ve got to say about that project
SK: Yeah. But I think there are three or four recordings here, done live at the Station Hotel, and you’ve chosen one that we might play an edit from. We’re playing lots of edits tonight Paul, because some of this material is very very long. So we’ll play a few minutes of your selection
PC: You made up some edits in pre-production, did you Steve?
SK: I did, and some of it’s by the seat of my pants
PC: Oh cool, well that’s the way to go!
SK: Yes! Alright, so what is the one you would like us to play here?
PC: Is this… well, I think Mike can correct me if I am wrong: did you write all the stuff for this project Mike?
MR: Yes I did, yes
PC: Oh, okay, so with this one, is it called “Medicine Man”, or has it another title?
MR: No, “Medicine Man”… they were all perfunctory titles, because it was supposed to be a rock opera. So it was just various phases of the opera so the songs had no particular name. And this was the most frequently-used phrase as I recall, so “Medicine Man” it was
PC: Oh well this thing rocks like….
BP: Well, there’s a line in it, “medicine man”…
MR: There is, yeah, that’s what I meant by “oft-repeated”, yes…
PC: Thanks Bill!
BP: Yeah, I wasn’t listening to you [Mike], I just tune out and listen to Steve and Paul!
SK: Alright Paul, well look thanks very much for calling in
PC: Oh yeah, thanks for letting me participate
SK: Yeah, and fantastic job you’ve done in (a) recording this thing and (b) doing a little bit of clean-up job on it as well
BP: Yeah, thanks for that Paul, you’ve done a dazzling job!
MR: It’s good that you’re still around Paul!
BP: Yeah, stay alive man
PC: Listen: more e-mails on the way, but your copies of this disc are on the way guys, and we’ll be in touch
BP: Thank you very much. Appreciate that a lot, thank you!
PC: Look, I hate to be a ratbag and commercialise things there Steve, but can I plug the website?
SK: I think you ought to, seeing as you’ve ripped it off these guys here
PC: Yes, it’s called “Milesago”, which is the original title of the second Spectrum [album], and the first album released in Australia that was the first-ever double rock LP – it’s called “Milesago”! Now, the website, if you’re into Australian rock music and pop culture from, whooah, 1964 to 1975-ish? Log onto the web and do this: http://milesago.gq.nu -- there’s none of that “www”. And have a lotta fun and leave a message in the guestbook! And thanks for having me Steve, nice talking with you Mike and nice talking with you Bill. Take care guys, bye!
MR & BP: Thanks Paul!
SK: Good onya Paul, talk soon, bye
PC: Don’t hang up
BP: We wanna play in Canberra man, get us up there!
SK: You wanna listen to this, right?
PC: Yes please
SK: Alright, good onya. And we’ve faded down Paul there, he’s having a good time in Canberra. He’s a lucky man, isn’t he, hey? Wouldn’t you like to live in Canberra?
MR: [hesitant] errr…
SK: No? Yeah….
BP: I love visiting Canberra. I really love visiting Canberra. It’s a great place to visit I must say! Wonderful, wonderful people! [is that a note of sarcasm I can hear? – Ed.]
SK: Okay, so let’s play some of this track now Mike, but before we do, let’s give us a little piece on why this project was aborted
MR: Oh, okay
BP: I could tell you in one sentence: nobody understood it!!
MR: Yes, well [clears throat authoritatively] when Ariel part one (that’s the Tim Gaze, John Mills, Nigel Macara, Bill & I) aborted, I went away and sulked for a while. But while sulking I wrote this piece, because Rock Operas were the go – “Tommy” had happened and everybody was writing Rock Operas like you wouldn’t believe! And this was one, and so then I got together with Bill and said, oh, let’s rehearse this and we worked out all our parts. And then we thought we better get a drummer in, and I’d seen this drummer with The Dingoes, John Lee, and I thought “let’s get him”. And we can rehearse with him, which we did, and rehearsed for awhile. And then John suggested, why don’t we get Harvey James, a friend of his, to play guitar? And so we rehearsed with him as well, and before you know it we had an entity. But it was all based virtually around this material, so, if nothing else, this “Mutant” thing. And I had great hopes for it and so we demo’d some stuff with EMI in Sydney, and then a trip to England was mooted… to do some more recording. But it was actually based – this mooting – was based on the first band! And in fact EMI, or Harvest (England) as it was, were expecting the first band to lob! And they were quite surprised, if not a bit chagrined, to find us lobbing and by that stage it was common knowledge to us that the project had been shelved. They weren’t interested in having their studios cluttered up with rock operas. They had quite enough of that, thank you! And so we were booked to go into the studio and we had nothing to play! So we had to sorta do a quick sorta revision of some of the old material, and hence “Rock & Roll Scars”, with I guess, we had two or three new numbers on it
SK: Yes, and which is a great album, I think
MR: Well, it’s a pushy, funky album. I like the “A-to-Z” review of it which said that we were being terribly earnest. And I thought that that’s what it sounded like!
SK: Okay, well let’s play this track that Paul has selected – he’s written on the back here: “Medicine Man” / “Use Your Imagination”… that’s about right, for a title?
MR: Er, well, yes it is… it’s “Medicine Man” segued into another song. It could be called “Use Your Imagination” but I actually call it “The Letter Song”
SK: Alright, “The Letter Song”. This is live at the Station Hotel, 25 years ago!
“Jellabad Mutant Suite” by Ariel plays in full
[Off air, Mike explained to Paul Culnane (with considerable glee) that the titles of this sequence actually are, alarmingly enough: “Neo-Existentialist Greens / Medicine Man / The Letter Song / Use Your Imagination”]
MR: Hooraaay!!! Clap clap, bravo!!!
BP: I haven’t heard that in 25 years and that was one hell of a band!
SK: You’ve just picked yourself up off the floor, literally, Bill
MR: He was floored
BP: I was, I had to lie down then
SK: Look, we played the whole thing there folks – at least, that’s where Paul put another track mark in there – and this disc goes on to, er, this disc goes on… it’s almost like a song title!
MR: This disc goes on forever
SK: Yeah, it’s a 78 minute CD and he’s had to in fact leave a track off as well, so it was a typical one & and half hour Ariel gig! So, that’s a really cookin’ band you boys had workin’ there
MR: Yeah, it was
SK: Okay, “Rock & Roll Scars”, that was the album that you ended up recording in Abbey Road, made famous by The Hollies, and, er, The Beatles as well. What was it like working at Abbey Road with Geoff Emerick?
MR: Well, we actually didn’t work with there with Geoff. We worked with something-or-other Clark, I’ve forgotten his name [Tony Clark: Ed]. Anyway, he was a terrific engineer. We actually mixed with Geoff Emerick at Air Studios, that was a bit later. But regrettably, because we had put ourselves, or were put under so much pressure, it wasn’t that enjoyable an experience. We had a limited time to record, and then we pushed ourselves to the limits and that wasn’t totally an enjoyable experience. In addition to which, the band was kind of wobbling a bit, when we got there… not just because of the recording thing but because of the live gigs and the situation we found ourselves in, in London. So, it wasn’t entirely a pleasant experience. But reflecting on it, when you tell people you recorded at Abbey Road, and the same studio that The Beatles recorded in, they go “wow, that’s fabulous!” And, I s’pose it was, but we weren’t enjoying ourselves that much
SK: Okay, and you were doing The Marquee?
MR: Yeah, the Marquee we did reasonably regularly, and that was okay for us. That was almost like an Australian gig –particularly as it was filled with expatriates, y’know? So that was a lovely gig to do. But we did the Speakeasy at least once and that was absolutely horrible
BP: Terrible, tiny, crappy little place, y’know?
MR: Yes, it was a restaurant, with a sort of glass partition, and I don’t know how Hendrix played there, because we were under constant pressure to turn down all the time! And it was just horrible, it really was. I can’t remember a nice thing about that particular place
SK: Was it meant to be a “cool” place?
BP: It was meant to be a cool place, but most of the cool people just arrived there trashed and just got further trashed, and paid no attention to who was playing, or went into the glass room to get away from the volume
MR: We played the Greyhound which was almost a regular pub gig, and that was nice. But it wasn’t until we went back the second time, with Glyn, that we actually started to enjoy ourselves a bit, playing live. And we got as far north as Scotland, and did Glasgow and Edinburgh and universities. And we played a few “other” gigs and that was kinda nice, the second time around
SK: Mmm, okay. Well, a very different album, “Rock & Roll Scars”, from “A Strange Fantastic Dream” – vastly different, almost like different bands – it’s almost like there are no members common to both bands, they are so different. But an album that I very much enjoy, and it does sound fantastic on the CD [not yet commercially released on compact disc]. Why don’t we play “Launching Place”, a Spectrum song that you guys recorded back in, I dunno, ’71?
MR: Well that was the b-side of “I’ll Be Gone”, and that was the reason that we originally got into the studio in the first place, to record “Launching Place” – parts one and two. And I haven’t heard part one since we recorded it, because it was an instrumental, and it is actually there in the EMI vaults, but I haven’t heard it since then. So I’m looking forward to hearing that one again. But anyway, “Launching Place Part Two”, that’s one of the songs we revived for the “Rock & Roll Scars” album
SK: Okay, here we go
Launching Place Part Two (Ariel version) plays
SK: Very very punchy stuff again, and I don’t think that’s in the repertoire at the moment is it?
MR: Yes, it is
SK: It is? I didn’t hear it at Healesville yesterday, but I had to leave before your last bracket… Bill: a comment about your bass playing, because I was a would-be bass player for a little while, right? And always had a bit of affection for the bass. In fact, if there’s a good bass player in the band, I generally like the band! Now, you spend a lot of your time playing very very low notes; you’re not a man to go soaring up the fretboard, are you?
BP: No. Well at the moment in particular, we’re playing three-piece as a rule, so you’re right, I just keep down the bottom end. I’m not a fancy, up-there, top end player. That’s sorta like solo-land. Play what the music needs, requires, y’know? If we did something that required me to go berserk up the top end I’d probably do that, but to us, or to me, the most important thing in a band with the song you hear is the vocals, unless it’s an instrumental. So I always like to listen to the vocals first and then put in my parts, so I can make sure I’m not getting in the way of the most important factor
SK: Well maybe a comment around a couple of players… I’ll just throw a name at you and maybe your first couple of thoughts? Um, Duncan McGuire, the late Duncan McGuire?
BP: Duncan, he was an extraordinary player. Him and I had nothing in common, musically speaking, playing wise. Lovely man, gentle man, great player… yeah, what can you say?
SK: Okay, Paul McCartney?
BP: Well, you know… what can you say again, y’know? Actually, Paul was a most unusual player. In fact, what surprised me the most when The Beatles came out, most of the other bass players I know didn’t like his playing! Or Bill Wyman. ‘Cos it wasn’t funky or something. But it pleased me to hear when I saw the documentary on The Beatles that they put the bass on last. That made sense to me as to how he played that way. How do you put that down with the drums and piano, or the drums and rhythm guitar – I wonder if he would’ve played the same thing? But putting it on last, he had the best of all worlds laying right there before him. But he’s got a very unusual approach
SK: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of Beatle outtakes and quite often it appears as though McCartney would almost vocalise the bass-line [mimics bass “bom-bom-bom”], and it seems as if he would work out a lot of his notes from the vocals, and then obviously try to find the note on the bass guitar
BP: Probably did, yeah, you’d have to ask him, but he probably did
SK: Yeah, okay. Well that was “Rock & Roll Scars”… the third studio album that Ariel put out was “Goodnight Fiona”, and that line-up was, guys?
MR: Gee, that was Tony Slavich, I think, at that stage
BP: Yes it was
MR: And Nigel Macara, er…
MR: Glyn Mason, yes, and Bill and myself
SK: One of my favourite songs of yours, I’ve got lined up here, “I Can Do Anything”; and in fact I played it close to New Year’s Eve last year and told the listeners that it might become a bit of a new year resolution – it’s almost the power of positive thinking, isn’t it – for me, as a listener
MR: Yeah, that was an unusual song for us to do. Again, that was another song that I wrote down the coast. That’s where I wrote the Mutant thing was down there, and that song came out of that area too, so…
SK: Okay, let’s have a listen…
I Can Do Anything by Ariel plays, followed immediately by Ariel’s Keep On Dancing (With Me)
SK: “Keep On Dancing With Me” – Ariel. Punchy stuff again, very punchy outfit. Which line-up was that?
BP: That was John Lee on drums and Harvey James on guitar, and Michael and myself. Very tough, punchy band!
SK: Yeah, Harvey went onto Sherbet, okay?
BP: Yeah, but I must add that he… when we spoke a few times, he mentioned it, right, and he thought “Rock & Roll Scars” was his best recorded work in his career. And hearing the Sherbet stuff, I have to agree! No offense Daryl and the boys…
MR: It was a showcase for his playing, so…
SK: His work on “Rock & Roll Scars” is interesting. For long periods I can’t hear him at all, and then it’s almost like one of you has said “come in and do one of your blinding guitar solos”. And sure enough, he fires one off, and then he disappears again!
MR: Well, he’s responsible for a lot of the rhythm track as well, you see. He beefed up the rhythm track which I would normally handle by myself. He was beefing that up as well, so it made it even punchier
SK: Okay, well we’re gonna move on now in the few remaining minutes we have, to the more recent material. But just a bit of an after-word on Ariel: you ended up agreeing, presumably, to fold the band and put the name in a box somewhere?
MR: See, you mentioned “Goodnight Fiona”, and to me that album marks a decline in the band. We were starting to struggle a little bit then. So it was natural that that band kinda folded. Just sort of lack of incentive and energy. And then it kinda got worse, you know, we went on to do the 80s thing, Mike Rudd & the Heaters, and it’s funny I can say that anymore really! I mean, Mike Rudd, that’s me!
BP: Calm down, you’re okay, you’ll be alright!
MR: People would come up and say “you used to be Mike Rudd” [laughs]. And I kind of identify with that. Uh, but yeah, we were struggling in the 80s even more, to cope with that dichotomy between what we wanted to do and what we perceived the audience wanted. And it got to the stage where we were more concerned with what people wanted, than what we wanted to do. And we weren’t enjoying it anymore. And so that’s when we just pulled the plug on the whole thing and took ten years off
SK: Yes… Glyn Mason; a couple of the songs he wrote for “Goodnight Fiona”, I thought were quite strange, like Indians in one of them, and another one about wanting to give the rock & roll life away. And I thought “what is this?” But you’ve obviously written stuff like that too, but for some reason it didn’t strike me the way his material did
MR: Yes, I’ve never actually written about Red Indians, but that was part of the thing. We started to lose our focus a bit and it was suggested that me being the only writer was a bit of a problem for the band. We had to sort of spread the load a bit, and that’s the way it happened, and it wasn’t that I resented it at all, it’s just it was there and it just happened
BP: We ended up with too many chiefs in the songwriting department, and it ended up having about four or five different directions it could’ve gone off in
MR: Yeah, but Glyn did write a really great song which… now, I haven’t spoken to Billy Thorpe much at all, ever. But I saw him about a year ago at the launch of the “Under The Covers” book release, and he was there. And he came up to me and confided in me that “It’s Only Love”, which Glyn wrote, was his favourite Australian single. And he plays it to everybody that he possibly can! And I was quite proud of that single from the point of view that my voice was virtually undetectable in the background, but it was sorta my first production effort. And I was really pleased with it! But it did nothing, y’know? It just died in the ring!
BP: I think it got released – some American guy got hold of it and took it over to America and then took off… what we ended up with was Glyn’s lead vocal I think, and my bass and the drums
MR: I never heard that
BP: Everything else just taken off and re-done. And then I heard Glyn had a version of it, and it’s just typically American – really middy and toppy, and overdone to the max, really
SK: Okay, we can’t let the evening finish without asking you Bill: according to Chris Spencer’s “Who’s Who Of Australian Rock & Roll”, you spent some time at least, five minutes I presume, with Air Supply!
BP: Yeah I did actually. They asked me, I was in America at the time and bumped into them over there, as you do. And they said “when we go home to Australia, d’you wanna play bass?” And I went “aaa-oooo-errr-alright”
SK: And how much does it pay?
BP: Yeah. And I’d never actually played for money before, and I haven’t since
SK: There’s nothing wrong with it I’m sure, it’s a job
BP: There’s nothing wrong with that, if you can handle that. But I play for fun and enjoyment and what it means
MR: Remember that Bill! Remember, “I played for fun”
BP: Do you think I’d put up with this lifestyle if I didn’t? If I was earning money I’d probably be…
MR: What lifestyle???
BP: Exactly, thank you. Anyway, so I knew it was only a three-month thing and it turned out to be a few weeks less than that, so I actually had a good time. They were lovely guys…
SK: Were they earning squillions then?
BP: No, they were doin’ it real bad, and in fact at one point the little guy, Russell, asked when we finished this tour, if he could sing harmonies in the band that Michael and I ended up having after that Air Supply thing. He was that desperate for money. And we said “no, you’re too short, go away”. So they went back to America and made billions, y’know?
SK: Yeah, that was the problem with Mark Kennedy, taking us back to the start of the program – five foot three
BP: It’s the short guys, y’know
MR: Being a drummer, that’s okay
SK: Well is he standing up or sitting down, y’know, you can’t tell really. Now, one of the other line-ups, I’ve gotta ask this because someone has told me to; is it Why, or W.H.Y.?
MR: W.H.Y., yes
SK: This chap was saying that he thinks it was Queensland, watching a television program, and there was some connection… did that band release any material?
MR: No, we actually appeared on “Hey Hey It’s Saturday”, in the morning, doing a song called…
BP: “Woman Of Steel”
MR: No, no, we didn’t do that. We in fact did the evening show with Darryl. We in fact did “Woman Of Steel” there, where we tried to synch up video with our drum machine, I don’t know why we tried this! It was something we had enough difficulty doing live, let alone live on television! So we did that, but we also did a “Hey Hey It’s Saturday” when it was in the morning, and the song was to do with… his name’s just slipped away from me…
BP: Percy Grainger
MR: Percy Grainger, that’s right! [sings goonishly] “Oh Percy Grainger, there was nobody stranger”… and we did that. It was a riot, it was pretty silly
BP: So someone actually saw this?
SK: Yeah, was “Hey Hey” up in Queensland back then? I dunno…
BP: On the Saturday morning? I just remembered something… I’ve forgotten to wave to our manager, I said I’d wave to her. Michael’s not allowed to speak or wave or do anything, it’s just me tonight. So I’m waving to you Jen!
SK: Okay, I’ve got a few videos at home, and one of them actually has Spectrum, performing “But That’s Alright”! It mighta been “Happening ‘71” or something like that? Is there much material of you guys…
MR: Well look, it’s one of the areas that has been neglected I feel, and the only guy I know who is really following it up is a guy called Paul Murphy, who’s really researched this pretty well, and is trying to recover all the video and filmic evidence of early 70s bands. He has a particular penchant for Chain, but he also has us in his sights and has recovered quite a bit of stuff… there are a number of “GTK” appearances, but I’m sure there’s stuff that’s floating around there from shows like that. There’s one we did, in Adelaide, and I think it was live to air, or close to it, ‘cos Lee had something rather crude scrawled on the side of his piano, I can remember it, but I daren’t say it on radio! But the cameraman was blissfully unaware as he slid down the side of Lee’s Hohner. And the next band borrowed the Hohner, and the camera came down, and there was this incredibly rude sign, carved onto the side of Lee’s Hohner! See, the moments like this, these are treasured moments in Australian television
SK: Yes, absolutely, there’s not enough of it either. But there you go, let’s go to a track now from your most recent CD, guys, this is Spectrum and “Spill”. The opening song on the album, the first song you played in the bracket, I believe, yesterday
MR & BP: [mutual enthusiastic mumbling in assent]
Baby Please Don’t Go by Spectrum plays
SK: Spectrum and “Baby Please Don’t Go”, and a really nice album guys! Some great material here, some of the old blues classics – “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Sitting On Top Of The World”, “Crossroads”, “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” and “Louie Louie”, which is not a blues track. But what a great selection! Why did you play… ‘cos your previous album which we haven’t played a track from tonight, “Living On A Volcano”, they’re so different!
MR: Yeah, the “Living On A Volcano” album was our album that brought us back into the fold, so to speak. ‘Cos we’d spent ten years off, and although we’d been off as far as public performance was concerned, we’d been at my place doing a lot of recording and demo-ing and so forth, and we had like, hundreds of songs, but we sorta cut it down to a manageable length and then ran it past Mike Brady, and he sponsored that album, which was very nice of him to do that. And, er, then, we were still having a problem, like, we’d put a band together, but we’ve always had a problem slotting our band anywhere. And we did the Port Fairy Folk Festival, sorta by dent of our being around for so long – we got that card…
BP: As a duo
MR: Yes, that’s right. And we thought, “gee, festivals – that’s the way to go!” And now, the problem with festivals is that they want you to be something. You have to be in some kind of area. So, let’s try the blues area. Now, what can we do, we better send a sample of the blues that we’re gonna do. So we went to Ross Ryan, an old buddy of ours who was getting his sort of virtual studio together, and we said “we wanna do a few tracks”, so we did a few and then Ross said “why don’t you do a few more?” It just kept on growing and we ended up with this album
SK: Well if people wanna hear more of that sorta stuff live, plus the versions of some of the other material we’ve played tonight, you can catch Spectrum, well, in Melbourne town at this stage – I’m not sure whether you’ve got plans to go interstate – but the next public gathering of Spectrum fans is in North Melbourne at the Town Hall Hotel, Friday November 10th
MR: Which is gonna be a novelty for us, ‘cos we actually haven’t played there yet, but I played there one night as part of an invitation duo. And it’s a lovely little pub, and the guy seemed to be keen, so we’ll give it a lash and see how that goes. Now if you wanna get onto our email, which is the best way to go really, ‘cos we can really keep you up to date with what’s happening , you should get in touch – have you got your pens ready? – email@example.com . Now that’s about as regular as you can get, I’ll repeat that [which he does]. Now, if you can’t do that and you wanna do the snail mail thing, get in touch with Bill and/or myself at PO Box 1181, Camberwell, 3124 [mimics commercial announcer’s tones]
SK: Okay, good. Guys, very generous of you to come out tonight. You’re both looking like you have suffered some rock & roll scars over these two hours
MR: We’re fading fast!
BP: Had a big weekend [laughs]
SK: Very kind of you to share your memories with us
BP: It’s a pleasure
MR: As you say, we could go on for weeks doing this, and we wouldn’t remember what we did the previous week
SK: Well, maybe we can do something again somewhere down the track. I have the time, I have the inclination, but I guess that’s up to you, maybe we’ll talk about that…
BP: Next time we’ll bring our guitars and play a couple of toons
SK: Ah, that’d be good! Hey Mike, you give harmonica lessons – I bet no-one’s ever asked you “how do you play ‘I’ll Be Gone’?”
MR: Ah, you bet no-one’s ever asked me that? You’d be wrong, you’d be losin’ yer bet there!
SK: Are you teaching beginner, intermediate or advanced?
MR: Beginners. That’s about as much as I can cope with. No, seriously, I have such a definitive style as far as harmonica playing goes. I prefer to take them to the point that they can make their own choices where to go next
SK: Okay, well time has just about caught up with us here, so we’ll wrap this up now. Gonna play another track. We haven’t played “I’ll Be Gone” – for obvious reasons we’re gonna play it as we go out. We’re gonna play a version that only 100-150 people at the Station Hotel on November 11th 1975 have heard before, apart from you two chaps here
MR: They wouldn’t remember, ‘cos we didn’t remember!
SK: Paul Culnane, thank you very much. Ian Cumming, without your support tonight we couldn’t have got through with all this excellent material that we’ve been playing tonight
MR: Thanks Ian
BP: Thank you very much
SK: Bill, thank you very much for coming along. Mike, thank you very much
MR: My pleasure
SK: And we’ll catch you in a coupla weeks here, folks, on “For What It’s Worth”. And we’ve got Keith Glass and Mick Hamilton in two weeks’ time!
MR: Ahhh, that’ll be grreeeaaaat! Glasso and Hammo!!! Mick and Keith!!!
SK: [laughing] Thanks very much guys, bye
BP/MR: Thank you, bye
I’ll Be Gone – live version by Ariel – closes the program
Bonus tracks!! (more from before)…
Recently your hosts, Dunks and Paul, have been fairly regularly in touch with Mike Rudd via email and along the line Mike has offered some extra interesting bits of info, not necessarily covered in Steve’s interview, that we’d like to share with you here. We begin with Mike’s response to Dunks’ query about CD reissues of some of the back catalogue…
MR: We are, as you surmise, trying to release Ariel’s “Dream” and “R&R Scars” albums on our own label and have got as far as securing alleged masters from EMI. This took a mere two and a half years. And then we got cute. We thought it would be nice to add some bonus tracks – some of the singles never made it to album format – and things started going off the rails. In slow motion of course. Tapes seem to have evaporated and we were looking at the prospect of trying to find good copies of the singles to master off – and then David Baxter, who had been alternately obstructive and helpful, decided to leave EMI. So it’s next year. Maybe…
In a later conversation, Mike revealed that Ross Wilson was considering compiling the extremely rare Party Machine and Sons Of The Vegetal Mother material (both of which feature MR, of course), for CD release. A tasty prospect, to be sure!
PC: I wanna talk about how you arrived at your plectrum-less guitar technique and how you get your tones and stuff, which has always fascinated me. Can you gimme a para or two?
MR: After I finished with the Party Machine and tearfully forsook bass-playing, I looked at the prospect of resuming guitar. I decided that the possibility was that I might have to cover a little more than just rhythm (which was my specialty with the Chants) and I was daunted. “Why not just be different and avoid invidious comparisons with far more accomplished guitarists?” I thought. So I dropped the pick… My first guitar was an L series Strat’ which I strung with medium gauge strings (akin to fencing wire in tension and feel) and this largely dictated the tone. Then, as now, I favoured the neck pick-up and still managed to sound pretty peaky. I used Strauss solid state amps
PC: Who is your current drummer, “Robbo”, and what is his “pedigree”?
MR: Peter “Robbo” Robertson was recommended by Ross Ryan and Broc O’Connor of GI Studios. We had half a rehearsal about three years ago and quickly realised he was born to work with us – ie, he knew the stuff and was an extremely congenial fellow
PC: In the liner notes to “Ariel Aloha”, allusion is made to a video record of the “Island Fantasia” event [Ariel’s farewell performance]. Does such footage exist in yours or somebody else’s archives?
MR: Yep. There’s a long story that I won’t go into here, but some of that footage was shown on the doco night [a history of Spectrum on film, held in November 2000]
PC: My 12” single of W.H.Y.’s “Woman Of Steel” mentions: “from the forthcoming album ‘Present Tense’”. Did this album ever get released, and if so, where-do’ya-geddit?
MR: You don’t – it was released in Germany and perhaps other bits of Europe against our express wishes. Thankfully it was never released here – it was a fairly tragic album in many respects. However I’m hopeful that one day we might recover the multi-track and remix a couple of the tracks, one of which is a hit (in my mind anyway)…
And in closing, Mike offers this:
MR: I’d be more than happy to cooperate with the supplying of extra info as, I’m sure, would Bill. We need prodding though. We tend to fall asleep in the middle of….
We are indelibly indebted and extremely grateful to Steve Kernohan for his gracious permission to transcribe his interview for MILESAGO. Congratulations on a super interview Steve, and many thanks for sharing it.
Thanks in abundance go, of course, to Mike Rudd and Bill Putt – not only for being so cool and frank and expansive during this particular conversation, but for their interest, enthusiasm, support for and input to MILESAGO in so many other ways. Particular thanks to Mike for furnishing the great photos from his archive that illustrate this piece.
Transcribed for MILESAGO by Paul Culnane. Copyright © 2001 Steve Kernohan/MILESAGO.
All rights reserved. Copying or distribution without permission prohibited.
· The official Spectrum website (under construction – opening mid-2001)
· Go directly to the new, improved Spectrum/Murtceps page on MILESAGO; and not to be outdone…
· Here’s a hotlink to our updated Ariel page
· You can e-mail Mike &/or Bill at: firstname.lastname@example.org and their delightful manager Jenny (especially for future bookings) at email@example.com
· Steve Kernohan’s website for his fabulous radio programme “For What It’s Worth” on Melbourne’s Stereo 974-FM: http://fwiw.gq.nu (c’mon, update it ya slacker!)
· Back to the front page of MILESAGO for another adventure!
“It’s a strange fantastic dream, and only you know what I mean”…