In the 1890's, the citizens of Melbourne were exposed to a strange and exciting phenomenon — a young sportsman by the name of Alick Wickham, originally from the Solomon Islands. Wickham was as a high-diver of some renown, indeed he held the local record by diving 200 feet into the Yarra, but it was really his swimming that turned heads. He had developed a new method that propelled him through the water at tremendous speed. Eventually, it became the preferred national style. I am talking, of course, about the Australian Crawl.
At the beginning of 1978, five young Melbourne musicians with more than a passing interest in aquatic sports formed a band called Australian Crawl. Their sound was sheer magic, an unexpected blend of social observation, a sweaty backbeat, hot guitar licks and a firm sense of Australian tradition. They had a distinctively Melbourne twang that recalled the sounds of many of that city's great bands — Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep and the Sports — whilst also stating a youthful, sexy confidence that was all their own. Within eighteen months of their first gig they were the most popular band in the country.
I vividly remember Australian Crawl's historic debut on Countdown with "Beautiful People" in August 1979. I'd like to say that singer James Reyne blew me away with his classic good looks and already distinctive singing, but what really grabbed my attention was that both his arms were in plaster. He had broken both wrists the week before.
Over the next seven years, Australian Crawl broke plenty of records — and plenty of hearts — as well. Their first album 'The Boys Light Up', enjoyed an instantaneous popularity comparable only to Skyhooks' spectacular debut. The album remained high in the Australian charts for an unbroken 104 weeks, and when Countdown viewers were asked to name their favourite band and male vocalist for 1980, Australian Crawl and James Reyne won hands down.
After adding a sixth member — singer, guitarist and songwriter Guy McDonough brother of drummer Bill McDonough — Australian Crawl went into the studio to produce a new album that would prove them no one-hit wonders. The album was called 'Sirocco', after Errol Flynn's yacht, and it went straight to Number One. Again the nation's rock fans named Australian Crawl their favourite band. Again the album sold quadruple platinum.
If the band's first two albums were slick, dollar-generating pop classics they were also an increasingly inaccurate reflection of the Crawl's hard-driving live sound. They presented one facet of the band brilliantly, but not the whole picture. And so the decision was made to enlist the services of expatriate Australian producer, Mike Chapman to record a back-to-basics rock and roll album in Hawaii. Titled 'Sons Of Beaches', it was an authentic, unpolished LP which gave the band a stamp of credibility.
"Success came to this band in an incredibly short time" said James Reyne at the time of the album's release. "We've had to learn and develop as we've gone along, and of course we're still learning. This album might take a few listens but it's the most accurate reflection yet of what Australian Crawl is capable of."
Although Sons of Beaches made a beeline for Number One it was not until the following year — 1983 — that the band had their first chart-topping single. The song was "Reckless", a sparse and chilling ballad that may be remembered as Australian Crawl's finest moment. Taken from their only original release for the year — a four track EP called 'Semantics' — the song proved yet again that there was more to Australian Crawl than first met the eye. They had demonstrably reached a new maturity, and with it gained a new respect.
'Semantics' showed that Australian Crawl had the capacity to take note of changing values in the pop market, to accommodate new ideas. In an ideal world, it should have ushered in a new era for the group; it should have been the catalyst for new growth and international recognition. As it was, it merely stalled the inevitable. Band members who had always asserted the individuality now began breaking out in different directions. James Reyne took time out to star in a big budget television-series. Return to Eden. Drummer Bill McDonough left, to be replaced by John Watson. And then, tragically, Guy McDonough died after a long illness, Australian Crawl was shattered.
For what seemed like an entire year the band remained inactive, suspended in a void. And then, in 1985, Aussie Crawl bounced back one last time with their most polished most electric record to date. Produced by Englishman Adam Kidron and with excellent international players augmenting the band unit, 'Between A Rock and A Hard Place' sounded like a new beginning for Australian Crawl. It proved, if anyone ever doubted it, that this was still a group with a wealth of talent on offer.
If circumstances had been different, it might not have been their swansong and they would still be reminding us of their presence in their own brash, inimitable way.
Over seven great years Australian Crawl sold well over a million records in Australia. Many more attended gigs and larger concerts. That's a lot of happy people who won't be forgetting in a hurry [Linear Notes: by Ed St. John Sydney, 1986]
On December 10, 1985 the axe fell on the band. Announcing the split, a spokesperson for the band said there were no musical differences, only a unanimous desire by band members to go their separate ways and concentrate on things other than the band.
As a way of saying thank you to their fans, the band chose to sign off with a small number of local concerts in January, 1986, calling their final tour 'The Final Wave'. These recordings were captured on the 27th January by the AAV Mobile Recording Unit and remixed at the Fastforward Studios, Melbourne.
The quality of the recordings is exceptional and the track listing is a fantastic anthology of their most popular songs. Also included is their trademark 'live' track "Louie Louie" which had been on their set list since their very early days.
This post includes a CD rip taken at 320kps which I found on the net some time ago (source unknown) and full album artwork taken from my vinyl pressing. Although some tracks are a little too 'up tempo' compared to their studio equivalents (ie. Errol, Things Don't Seem), I still like this album and recommend it as a great live anthology. Another classic Aussie Album !
01 - Beautiful People
02 - Unpublished Critics
03 - Lakeside
04 - Love Beats Me Up
05 - White Limbo
06 - Two Can Play
07 - Errol
08 - Downhearted
09 - Daughters of The Northern Coast
10 - Boys Light Up
11 - Indisposed
12 - Things Don't Seem
13 - Reckless
14 - (The Last) Louie Louie
James Reyne — (Vocals)
Brad Robinson — (Keyboard)
Simon Binks — (Guitar, Vocals)
John Watson — (Drums)
Harry Brus— (Bass, Vocals)
Mark Greig - (Guitar, Vocals)
Australian Crawl Link (131Mb) Link Fixed 20/07/2016