(Australian 1974-1978, 1996-2008)
Radio Birdman was formed in Sydney, Australia in 1974. They were one of the pioneering Aussie punk bands and by far the most influential band on the future of the Sydney punk scene. They chose their name after misunderstanding a line from the Stooges song "1970". The line actually goes "Radio burnin' up above" but Iggy was never known for his annunciation so the confusion is forgivable.
The popular view of history says that that punk started in New York and then spread to England. However the history of Radio Birdman tells a much different tale. Really punk started in Detroit and then spread to Australia.
Radio Birdman was formed by an unlikely pair: vocalist Rob Younger, a native Australian, and Guitarist Deniz Tek, an American who had just moved to Sydney to attend medical school. Tek had come from Ann Harbor, Michigan. Ann Harbor was a little college town about an hour outside of Detroit but in the late sixties and early seventies it became a key music hub in the American Midwest. It was a regular stop for world famous touring acts and virtuoso Jazz greats but most importantly it was home to the first wave of proto-punk bands like the Stooges and the MC5.
The sound of Radio Birdman was too fast, heavy, violent, and psychotic to play any of the established Sydney Clubs. As forerunners of the D.I.Y. punk ethic the band took over the a small pub, renamed it The Oxford Funhouse in tribute to their favorite band, and made that pub into the center of Sydney's exploding Punk scene.
Like many artists who were ahead of their time Radio Birdman never got the recognition they deserved. They never got very famous outside of Australia. They toured the rest of the world but nobody really took notice. They almost got a record released in America through Sire records but the deal fell through at the last moment and Radio Birdman was left to virtual obscurity. They broke up in 1978 before most of the world had even heard the term "punk".
This recording was made in November of 1976 one month after the release of their debut E.P. 'Burn My Eye'. It was only a few months after the release of the Ramones first record and it was a year before The Damned or the Sex Pistols released anything in England.
This bootleg is true rarity. It was recorded live Sydney's legendary Double Jay Studio for an A.M. broadcast. Double Jay was a Sydney Radio station that played an integral role in the formation of the Australian music scene because they focused on Aussie bands and they were willing to play songs that other stations had banned for references to sex and drugs.
The sound quality is a little muddy but so is every recording of a cutting edge punk band from the mid seventies. This recording sounds better than any bootlegs you will ever get of the Stooges or MC5. This recording represents a diamond in the rough and a it is essential listening for anyone interested in the roots of independently produced Rock & Roll music [extract from A history of underground recording].
RAM #26, Feb 27, 1976
(by Anthony O'Grady)
Radio Birdman's drummer is sitting on a steel framed chair listening to a just competent group pound out hard rock as best as they can. He stares flinty eyed but otherwise expressionless as the drummer beats his skins spasmodically and the bass player fumbles through an approximation of a Bad Company riff.
But suddenly he gets hold of his chair and pounds it on the floor. His face twists and he skittles the chair 20 feet along the dance hall floor. The spectator whose leg finally stops the chair takes a few steps across the room, sees the way the drummer's face is working and drops back.
"Sometimes -when you see what sort of shit is going down, you can let it go by. But there are times when you should read strongly to bad music . . . times when a statement should be made." — Ron Keeley, Radio Birdman drummer.
DenizTek, Radio Birdman's guitar player, comes from Detroit, America. He is small, dark, incredibly intense and sometimes it appears he near enough idolizes Iggy Pop (Iggy Stooge as he used to be called). Iggy Pop/Stooge is one helluva singer from Detroit who started off about the same time as Alice Cooper but was always twice as outrageous, twice as menacing and powerful.
Deniz, he owns a solid body, Epiphone guitar he bought from Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5 (the archetypal Detroit rock group whose records are now valued collector s items). And on the Rolling Stones last tour of Australia he spent an evening with Keith Richards, picking up some advanced guitar flash and selling Keith a rare National Town & Country guitar (made in 1948 and one of the first solid body electric guitars).
Anyway, Deniz is dedicated to ... hmmm, change that to obsessed with ... attaining that uncomprising, savagely magnificent noise that just poured out of Iggy s guitar player Ron Asheton. He gets it what's more. I mean, he lives it. It's not just a matter of getting the notes right. His guitar playing is concentrated energy and it can rivet you to the spot.
Deniz is a 5th year medical student. I mean, he can start developing his bedside manner now, he's that close to being a doctor.
You don't get to 5th year in Med School without putting in some hard grind and you can't play the sort of guitar Deniz plays without total dedication,
"The analogy is a bit like what happens at school — the person who really works hard to get a result is always the most unpopular, and the one who gets ostracised. And that happens with the band. We're not popular with a lot of promoters because were totally positive about what we play. We won't compromise the strength of our music and we won't weaken ourselves by asking promoters or agents what they think would be popular and go away and learn that.
"Once an agent came and saw us and said 'Yeah, you're a good band ... why don't you play a few Pilot songs .. why don't you learn that "January" song, that's really popular ...' " — DenizTek.
January? Jeeeeeez-us, Sweet harmonies and melodic lead riffs are not what Radio Birdman is about at all. They don't play soft-rock or jazz-rock or folk-rock or country-rock or electronic-rock or symphonic-rock or neo-classical rock, not even blues-rock. They play nothing else except rock-rock and every-time I've ever seen them they've never played it at anything under 100% effort.And yet, as Deniz says. Radio Birdman has not had an easy run in its bid for work. They have what's called a reputation as being A Difficult Band."The only difficulties that arise are when somebody tries to change us around.The- music we play is between us and an audience: The funny thing is we've never had any trouble with audiences . . . only with promoters or people who think we should be fit in with their ideas of what a conventional rock band should be." — Ron Keeley.
Rob Younger is Radio Birdman's singer. He has Sampson length straight blond hair and in your lounge he's not likely to do anything much except smile politely and make light, quick conversation. On stage his eyes glaze over and his mouth gobbles furiously and the sounds that come out are almost frightening in their intensity.
He usually wears a loin and leg covering of multi-coloured patches under which might or might not be the remnants of a pair of jeans. His chest and torso are well muscled enough but they're a milky shade of pale. And he wears elbow length gloves, either green or bright mauve.
So when he's on stage what you are confronted with is a half naked specter writhing and stamping with tremors that originate from the groin — growling words and emitting bass note screams like some albino tiger at bay — every syllable a doomsday news announcement. And then he comes off stage and makes well modulated, easy talk.
"We're a bit hampered in our contacts with people like agents who 'll book the band and with recording companies who'll put us in a studio- I used to try and do a bit but something about me seemed to freak them out.
Rob, currently unemployed except for Radio Birdman used to be an advertising copywriter-Warwick Gilbert is Radio Birdman's bass player. He's fast. He used to play lead guitar and the speed hasn't left his fingers. He just stands there and spurts it out on stage. Off stage he's quieter than anyone else in the band. Warwick is a freelance artist.
Pip Hoyle used to be R.B. s piano player. He's now left to write classical music and concentrate on his studies. He is also a 5th year medical student, same class as Deniz Tek.
Replacing Pip is guitarist Chris Masuak who actually replaced Pip in Radio Birdman once before. But when Chris had to move to Canada for a year Pip came back.
Radio Birdman's home base is a small upstairs grot hole in the Oxford Tavern in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Outside the pub, on the corner of Bourke and Oxford Streets, there's a 24-hr S.P. betting collection centre. A year or so ago, this section of Oxford Street was junkie infested and you'd always be stumbling over emaciated legs sprawled on the footpath. Just down the road is Darlinghurst Road, a pick-up patrol area for male prostitutes. The night-time streets swarm with trendies, students, fully fledged toughs and young delinquents on the street life learning course.
There are a lot of hardworking Greek families in the area, a few streets of well done up terrace houses, but mostly there's static electricity in the air and aggressive, sometimes near violent vibes.
The upstairs room at the Oxford Tavern has produced some good bands, Tully developed their music there and then, in the late 60's, exploded throughout Australia producing the best flash of the Oz psychedelic experience.
But right now it's Radio Birdman who are filling the place with a mixture of students, punks, bikies and a smattering of trendies on the prowl for Something Real.
And they all find satisfaction with Radio Birdman. Not much beer is drunk which is tough bananas for the pub owners, but a lot of dancing is done — a lot of body movement and flash gyrations. Punters either dance or lean back on a steel frame chair and watch in amazement the torrent of energy and hear the maelstrom of beautiful, gut-clutching noise that is manifesting itself on stage - original songs like the dare-ya-not-to-dance crashing beats of "Do The Pop" (dedicated to Iggy Pop, of course); or the sinuous, clenching slow rises and falls of "Snake" (about a girl Deniz used to know who kept reptiles in bed. He's led an interesting life, this Deniz. And there's more of it happening every day).
More originals. Like "Smith and Wesson", or "Man with The Golden Helmet". Or their arrangements of hard rock underground classics like "Kick Out The Jams (Motherfucker)" or "Sister Ann" or "Search And Destroy" or "TV Eye". Or raunched up, heavied up recreations of classic lightweight stuff like "Walk Don't Run" and "Californian Sun".
The last night they were playing there (the band is currently doing four weeks of rehearsals with Chris Masuak, and getting new material together) there wasn't a person silting for the last bracket. It was standing, jostling, jumping on chair pandemonium It was like everyone in the whole room was mainlining on electricity. And down below no doubt, the business of street life was going as per usual -— SP bets were being laid and the occasional junkie was shuffling blank eyed towards a score; upstairs, sweaty nirvana was in reach of everyone.
"This is a real bad day. Radio Birdman has achieved respectability" —- Pip Hoyle at ceremony after R. B. had carried off the RAM/Levis Sydney Punk Band Thriller.
The future? Well it depends . Radio Birdman has recently won over a few powerful friends. Hush manager Peter Rix would like to help them as much as he can and Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski likes their demo tapes.
It's very interesting right now. A whole lot of new options are opening up. New people are coming to see the band and we get feedback — either how impressed or how shocked they've been. We want our music to be heard on radio and on record players, and we want to play big concerts. We think our music is the best in Australia. And the process of getting it to people who haven't heard it previously is an interesting game." — Rob Younger.
I was lucky enough to see Radio Birdman play at La Trobe University in 1977 while completing my first year Science Degree. Although I have vague memories of the event I do remember that Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons had played the same venue only one week earlier and the contrast between their music was like cheese and chalk. The one thing they did have in common was an audience that liked to smoke the 'wacky weed' and drink bucket loads of grog. Thus my poor memory of the event I'm afraid!
This bootleg was sourced from 'soundaboard.blogspot.com' with thanks and consists of mp3's (320kps) files and limited artwork. Although there is a spelling mistake on the cover (Sydney), the recording itself is excellent. I have also included scans of the RAM article as transcribed above.
Because this recording predates the release of their debut album 'Radio's Appear', their signature track "Aloha Steve & Danno" was not included in this bootleg. To compensate for this, I have chosen to include a live recording of this 'must have' song, sourced from the 'Ritualism' bootleg. Thanks must also go to Bob at stripedsunlight.blogspot for the collage of live photos of Radio Birdman on stage. (see above)
01 - Route 66
02 - Murder City Nights
03 - Don't Look Back
04 - Anglo Girl Desire
05 - Man With Golden Helmet
06 - Love Kills
07 - TV Eye
08 - Surf City
09 - Hand Of Law
10 - New Race
11 - Transmaniacon M.C
12 - Burn My Eye
13 - Descent Into The Maelstrom
14 - Time Won't Let Me
15 - I 94
16 - Do The Pop
17 - Descent Into The Maelstrom *
18 - Death By The Gun *
19 - Snake *
20 - Aloha Steve & Danno +
(Recorded November 23, 1976 except * March, 1976 and + 1996)
Rob Younger (Vocals)
Deniz Tek (Guitar)
Warwick Gilbert (Bass)
Chris Masuak (Guitar)
Ron Keeley (Drums)
Pip Hoyle (Keyboards)
Radio Birdman Link (178Mb) New Link 31/05/2015