Other than Festival Records, no local company has had such a dramatic impact on Australian popular music as Michael Gudinski's Mushroom label. Although it struggled as a minor player for its first two years, it had a major effect on the direction of Australian music because of the many important acts it signed, and because of its intimate business connections with what became the leading east coast agency, Premier Artists.
Mushroom evolved from Premier's immediate ancestor, Consolidated Rock, which was formed by Michael Gudinski and Ray Evans in 1971.
The fledgling label's inaugural release in February 1973 was Madder Lake's Goodbye Lollipop. The inaugural album release, issued in April 1975, was typically ambitious -- a triple album compilation of live tracks from the previous January's Sunbury Festival. The first year of Musroom's output reflected the diverse rage bands Gudinski and Evans had signed -- Madder Lake, Friends, Bobby James Syndicate, Chain, Matt Taylor, Ray Brown's One Ton Gypsy, Ayers Rock, The Dingoes, Sid Rumpo, Buster Brown.
The label might well have folded had it not been for the signing of an up-and-coming Melbourne art-rock band called Skyhooks, who were championed by former Daddy Cool supremo Ross Wilson. Wilson signed them to his publishing company, convinced Gudinski to sign them to Mushroom and produced their debut album and single. Released in August 1974, it shot to the top of the charts around the country [extract from Midoztouch]
In addition to the releases on their standard label, Mushroom records also released a limited number of 'compilation' albums on their 'budget priced' anti-Rip Off label. One of these releases was called 'Great Aussie Rock' which is featured in this post. All artists on this great compilation were signed to Gudinski's record company and in many respects were his showcase bands. Bands such as Skyhooks, Madder Lake, Chain and The Aztecs were all huge at the time and help to make this a very collectible item indeed.
Here is a brief run down of the bands on this compilation and the albums from which the tracks were taken:.
Skyhooks - Living In The 70's
Living in the 70's was the debut album released by Melbourne band Skyhooks in October 1974 on the Mushroom Records label. Initially charting in Melbourne only in 1974, by early 1975 the rest of the nation began to catch on. It spent 16 weeks at the top of the Australian album charts from late February 1975, and became the highest-selling album by an Australian act in Australia up until that time, with sales of 240,000. In October 2010, it was listed at No. 9 in the book '100 Best Australian Albums'. The album was produced by former Daddy Cool lead singer Ross Wilson.
Two singles were lifted from the album: "Living in the 70's"/"You're a Broken Gin Bottle, Baby" and "Horror Movie"/"Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo)", the latter spending 2 weeks at the top of the Australian singles chart in 1975. Six tracks from the album were banned on commercial radio in Australia, including the featured track 'Smut' on this compilation However, in defiance of this, the ABC's new youth station in Sydney, 2JJ, played the track "You Just Like Me 'Cos I'm Good in Bed" as their first ever song when they began broadcasting in January 1975.
Ayers Rock - Big Red Rock
Ayers Rock's debut album 'Big Red Rock' was taped live before an invited audience at Armstrong's Studios in Melbourne, over two nights in September 1974. The live-in-the-studio approach worked extremely well for Ayers Rock, and the album clearly demonstrated why their awesome live 'chops' had made them such a popular concert attraction. But it also was something of a necessity for the cash-strapped label -- they took the same approach with and another early signing, Mackenzie Theory. The Ayers Rock LP reportedly cost Mushroom a mere $5000 to record.
Big Red Rock was an early critical and commercial success for Mushroom, showcasing the band's considerable prowess and the material was a good balance between the more commercial song-based material of McGuire and Brown and the more adventurous instrumentals. The LP features three songs by McGuire, including their memorable second single, the Latin-flavoured "Lady Montego", a song that dated back to McGuire's stint in Friends; an earlier, slower version appears (in a live recording) on the Garrison: The Final Blow LP.
Big Red Rock also features two excellent pieces by Loughnan including an awesome power-jam "Crazy Boys", two songs by Chris Brown, and a dazzling cover of Joe Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz", originally recorded by Weather Report (who were at that time virtually unknown in Australia).
..Madder Lake - Butterfly Farm
Recorded in October 1973 at TCS studios Richmond Melbourne . Produced by John French and Madder Lake.This album takes on a different musical direction with the inclusion of " Andy Cowen" on keyboards.
The second LP, 'Butterfly Farm', was released in April 1974; it sold very well (giving the band their second gold album) and went to #18 in the album charts. Mushroom lifted two Singles from it: the first was Butterfly Farm / Back Seat Song (April '74). Radio in Melbourne picked up one of the album tracks, "Booze Blues", and gave it a lot of airplay. Many fans thought it was the new single, so Mushroom rush-released it in May, but it was only a local hit in Melbourne and didn't chart nationally. The next single, It's All In Your Head / Slack Alice (November) was written specifically as with radio airplay in mind, but it didn't make the charts. A CD release of 'Butterfly Farm' is currently from Aztec Music.
Matt Taylor - Straight As a Die
His debut solo album, 'Straight as a Die', was released at the end of 1973. The single "I Remember When I Was Young"/"Krishna Loves You, Too," which had been recorded in an open paddock at Kingston Park Farm, hit the Top Ten in Melbourne. Note that his single "I Remember When I Was Young" didn't actually appear on the vinyl release in 1973 (even though a longer version of "Krishna Loves You, Too" did), but was included on the CD release in 1997.
The album reached number 15 on the national charts and Taylor toured the country, performing at Sunbury 1974; the live track "We'll Never Do the Same Again" appeared on the various artists album 'Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 2'.
Dingoes - Selftitled
The Dingoes are one of the greatest bands Australia has ever produced.
The Dingoes were only relatively successful when they released their self-titled debut album in June 1974, one of the first signings to Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Records label. The lead single ‘Way Out West’ made an impression as did the second single ‘Boy On The Run’ released to coincide with the release of the album, but they weren’t runaway hits – and yet, you will know both those songs, as all through the years that have passed since they’ve never been far away from radio playlists. That in itself is a not sign of greatness but certainly of longevity.
Greg Sneddon - Mind Stroll
Decent biographical information on Greg Sneddon is hard to come by; suffice to say that he's still performing today, thirty years after the release of what I presume was his debut album, 'Mind Stroll'. A keyboard player of some repute, Sneddon used a handful of other musicians on the album (not least a singer), playing multi-keys himself, although I'm afraid to say the end result's a little anodyne; the composition has its moments, but overall has far too much of a 'soft-rock' vibe about it. Full-on symph this is not. The two longer compositions, the title track and Madman are probably the best, but there's something lacking in this album; it doesn't even touch Aussie prog masters such as Sebastian Hardie or Aleph.
Ignore online references such as 'lots of Mellotron' with regard to this record; only two tracks I can hear, with polyphonic flutes on Winter and orchestrally-inclined strings on Take It Slow And Easy, which doth not a 'Tron album make.
Coloured Balls - First Supper Last
Australia's Coloured Balls are the sort of thing legends are made of. In their homeland, that's exactly how they're revered, though their impact in the states and other parts of the world has gone virtually unheard. Headed by guitar hero Lobby Loyde, Coloured Balls pioneered a raucous, abrasive and loose sound that at one point became the mantra of skinheads in their native country.
'First Supper Last' is a stonkingly rocking album that was actually recorded in 1972, making it their first album, but was not released until 1976 after the band split in 1974.
'First Supper Last' is the sound of a band finding its sound. Though it is essentially a blues workout on most of the material here, the sound is punishing and energetic. It's evident from the start how this band earned its reputation. The album is padded with numerous cover tunes, but the original material is what really demands your attention. Loyde's guitar work is abrasive, chaotic and teetering on the verge of destruction...everything a charged rock and roll album should be.
Buster Brown - Something To Say
Buster Brown was a short-lived, but highly influential Melbourne band from the early Seventies, who are remembered as the breeding ground for some of Australia ’s most famous musicians (AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd & Rose Tattoo vocalist Angry Anderson being the most notable).
Lack of industry infrastructure and media outlets plus sheer bad timing were factors - newly signed and fellow mushroom label-mates Skyhooks eclipsed Buster Brown just as they were gathering momentum. Angry Anderson on vocals and Phil Rudd on drums were the backbone of a rock outfit who were a force to be reckoned with on the live circuit.
Title track/theme song Buster Brown showcases the roots of Australian heavy blues-rock and Angry's penchant for writing lyrics that address growing up tough on the wrong side of an Australian suburb; Young Spunk and Apprentice do the same, echoing a time when panel vans had murals and kids from private schools would never dream of having tattoos. A CD release of 'Something To Say' is currently available from Aztec Music.
Chain - The (Very) Best Of
Chain were an Australian blues band formed in Melbourne as The Chain in late 1968 with a lineup including guitarist, vocalist Phil Manning; they are sometimes known as Matt Taylor's Chain after lead singer-songwriter and harmonica player, Matt Taylor. Their January 1971 single "Black and Blue", which became their only top twenty hit, was recorded by Chain line-up of Manning, Taylor, drummer Barry Harvey and bass guitarist Barry Sullivan. The related album, Toward the Blues followed in September and peaked in the top ten albums chart.
Chain had various line-ups until July 1974, they separated for several years then reformed in 1982 for a one-off concert and more permanently from 1983–1986. Further line-up changes occurred with some forms called Matt Taylor's Chain, from 1998 Chain members are Harvey, Manning, Taylor and Dirk Du Bois on bass guitar. Both Manning and Taylor have also had separate solo careers.
In 1973, Mighty Mouse would evolve into yet another Chain -- by now the 15th permutation of the band!. Signing to Mushroom, this line-up issued two singles, the medium-tempo "I Thought You Weren't My Friend" (August) and the gruff shuffle-blues "I'm Gonna Miss You Babe" (November). Neither was particularly successful, but the reconstituted group did impress on the touring circuit, appearing in March at yet another large outdoor gathering, the Down Under Rock Festival in Melbourne (again, all the usual suspects were on a bill that featured – surprise – headliners The Aztecs). During May, Chain toured the country as support to the Muddy Waters Band and soon after teamed with that band's James "Peewee" Madison (guitar, vocals) and George "Mojo" Beauford (vocals, harmonica) for recordings that would form part of Chain's next LP, Two Of A Kind.
Sadly, the single "I'm Gonna Miss You Babe" was never released on a studio album, although it did appear on later compilations 'The History Of Chain (1974)' and 'The (Very) Best Of Chain (1978)'
Sid Rumpo - First Offence
Sid Rumpo was a fairly polished pub-rock band which formed in Perth in 1971 and unfortunately disappeared into the mists of time in 1974. 'First Offence' - Sid Rumpo's one and only LP as it turned out - features the twin guitar riffing of Elliot and Rob Searls on some very catchy boogie and blues-rock songs.
All the songs pump along with the assistance of some tasty electric piano chops from Ken Wallace over the tight grooves laid down by Noel Herridge on drums and Owen Hughes on bass.
But for me, it's Rob Searls' bluesy vocals that stamp 'First Offence' with it's appealing, distinctive 70's, Aussie Rock sound.
"The Riddle"/"Jump Down, Step Aside" was their only single with the A-Side only appearing on their album.
Phil Manning - I Wish There Was A Way
One of Australia's best known guitarists, Phil has a single handedly turned more Australians onto the Blues than any other performer.
Chain guitarist and sometimes vocalist "I Wish There Was A Way" was Phil Manning's first solo album. In this case, Phil has pulled out his acoustic guitar and presented a set of predominantly well-structured soulful ballads - in most parts far removed from the sometimes meandering blues of Chain. Phil is one of the great Aussie guitarists and his playing on this sets a pretty high standard. The superb title track opens the album and fairly well sets the scene for what is to come. Renee Geyer also features on vocals. [extract from Midoztouch]
Aztecs - Sunbury 73
Thorpie and the Aztecs' Mk V legendary performance at the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1972 spawned the Top 5 hit album Aztecs Live! At Sunbury. The album peaked at #3 on the national chart during September, sold over 80000 copies and remains a milestone in the annals of Australian heavy rock. The crunching 'Mamma' also appeared on the Various Artists live album Sunbury, issued by EMI. Just after Sunbury, alongside La De Das and Friends, The Aztecs were responsible for drawing one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Australia at Melbourne's Myer Music Bowl (estimated at over 200000 people).
Thorpie was back in Australia in time to headline at Sunbury 1973. The live track, 'Going Back Home', appeared on Mushroom's triple album set 'The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973' (April 1973). The version included here is an edited rendition of the 13min original, with the track fading out after 6 mins.
The rip included here was taken from CD at 320kps and includes full album artwork for both LP and CD (thanks to Woodynet for the CD artwork). I have also included scans of the LP labels which depict Mushroom's infamous anti-rip off label.
This is certainly one of my favourite compilation records and a prize possession amongst by Aussie record collection.
01 - Smut (Skyhooks)
02 - Lady Montego (Ayers Rock)
03 - Booze Blues (Madder Lake)
04 - Well Never Do The Same Again (Matt Taylor)
05 - Way Out West (Dingoes)
06 - Winter (Greg Sneddon)
07 - Johnny B Goode (Coloured Balls)
08 - Something To Say (Buster Brown)
09 - I'm Gonna Miss You Babe (Chain)
10 - The Riddle (Sid Rumpo)
11 - Love Is The Mender (Phil Manning)
12 - Going Back Home - Live (Aztecs)
Great Aussie Rock Link (108Mb) New Link 01/10/2013