Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feather - The Nest Of Feather (1977-1979)

(Australian 1976-80)
Rising from the ashes of seminal Australian blues rock band Blackfeather, Feather took its maiden flight in late 1976. Long time Blackfeather front man Neale Johns had departed unexpectedly for the U.K., leaving the other members of the band to ponder their future.By that time Blackfeather’s style had shifted to a more straight pop-rock focus, and the line-up had evolved to feature Ray Vanderby (keyboards), Lee Brossman (bass), Warwick Fraser (drums), and Warwick’s 14 year old brother Stuart on guitar. Vanderby left the nest shortly after Johns’ departure, so the rest of the band recruited ex-Fraternity singer John Swan and ex-Bullett guitarist Wayne Smith, taking on the new moniker Feather.
The band scored its first big break soon after with a support slot for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on an Australian tour. Feather then settled back to hone their new harder edged guitar driven sound on the mushrooming pub rock scene. CBS had retained an interest in the band, and in May 1977 Feather released their debut single ‘Girl Trouble’. The single received a solid amount of airplay but couldn’t land a spot on the national charts, despite having one of the strongest guitar hooks I’ve heard on an Australian rock track. Reputedly Feather had laid down enough tracks in the studio for an album, tentatively titled ‘Going Through Changes’, but sadly the album never saw the light of day (even though Chris Spencer's Who's Who's of Australian Rock lists it?). I was fortunate enough to come across a CD copy of the classic ‘Girl Trouble’ via its inclusion on a 90s CD compilations called ‘Do Yourself A Favour: Best Of The Countdown Years’.

Feather continued to play throughout 1977, and for a few weeks during July John Swan’s brother Jimmy Barnes, on sabbatical from Cold Chisel, shared the lead vocal duties. In November ‘77 Feather underwent a couple of key personnel changes, when bassist Lee Brossman and guitarist Wayne Smith left the group. Bassist Mark Mitchell and ex-Finch guitarist Chris Jones were brought into the flock. In
Stuart Fraser
April 1978 Feather were scheduled to tour as the support act for the Ted Mulry Gang on their three month nationwide ‘Disturbing The Peace’ tour, but the band was thrown into chaos when singer John Swan also flew the coup.

Ex-Class vocalist Gary Conlan stepped into the fray for the tour and for Feather’s two track contribution to the various artists album ‘Canned Rock’, a live gig performed at Parramatta Gaol. By 1980 Feather were performing under the moniker of Kid Colt, and by year’s end the Fraser Brothers, along with Mark Mitchell, had left to join singer Karen Smith in a new project called Smith, signalling the end of Feather’s flight.

Smith issued two rock singles ‘Nightlights’ ( April 1981) and ‘Lonely Man’ (June 1981), but neither made an impact, and within a year Smith had split. Drummer Warwick Fraser went on to play with a myriad of acts including The Screaming Tribesmen, Peter Wells Band and Died Pretty. Guitarist whiz-kid Stuart Fraser had no trouble landing a gig either, playing for a time with his brother Warwick in The Change, and playing with ex-Feather vocalist John Swan when Swan had taken on the name Swanee. Stuart Fraser was later a founding member of Australian pop-rock band Noiseworks, who
Lee Brosman and Warwick Fraser
enjoyed a hugely successful run from the mid 80s through early 90s. Fraser also found time to be a key member of John Farnham’s band. Meanwhile ex-Feather bass player Lee Brossman had kept busy forging out a career as a much sought after session player and touring bassist. He toured with the legendary Jackson Browne on Browne’s ‘Running On Empty’ Australian tour in the late 70s. Brossman also did session work with the likes of Renee Geyer, and worked in the States for several years. He is still active in the music business on a casual basis, in recent years playing with the popular Australian cover band The Amigos [extract from retrouniverse.blogspot]
The following is an article from JUKE magazine featuring the newly formed 'Feather.'

From Blackfeather To Feather
IF the members of Feather were the least bit superstitious they would be thinking twice about accompanying the Ted Mulry Gang on a national tour. After all. Rabbit and Taste fell apart after such a venture and Feather itself split down the centre after a short jaunt with TMG late last year.
But one of the qualities that has emerged through the various lineup changes of the band, dating back to the Blackfeather days, is the ability to persist. Each combination seems to have been blessed with a determination — however short-lived — to carry on the fluctuating tradition of rock and roll.
As it happens, the present three-month-old lineup of John Swan (vocals), Mark Mitchell (bass), Chris Jones (guitar), Stuart Fraser (guitar) and Warwick Fraser (drums) is not at all superstitious and plans to survive the forthcoming TMG tour if only to prove a point.

"We want to prove the band is a staying band," Stuart says. "It's pretty hard to get a group of guys together and keep it that way. But we know it's going to work out."
Fairly normal words, those, especially for a group of guys with a fresh start in mind. It's an aim most would have. And if it does prove to be true, it will raise a few amazed eyebrows because Feather's forerunner, Blackfeather, has probably seen more members pass through its' ranks than any other rock band in the country.
The name, Blackfeather, was dropped a little more than a year ago, and replaced with Feather and new blood. For most of last year there was John, Stuart, Warwick; and Lee Brosman and Wayne Smith — the two who left after the TMG November tour, (John assures us Ted is not at all to blame and is totally bewildered as to why bands choose his Tours to break up on).

"Blackfeather really has nothing to do with us any more" says Warwick. "Although I suppose people will always think we are a continuation of that band."
"The line-up now," says John,"is a lot punchier — it has a different musical direction. The whole act on tour will be original. At the moment we are stripping down songs, thinking about harmonies and writing new material".
"The great thing about the band now is that, musically, we all have the same ideas — we haven't had a chance to do them on stage."
"Punk has become very trendy, so we've been doing a hit of that too. The audiences don't seem to mind — in fact, they are usually happy to come with you wherever you want to take them."
"It's important to keep lyrics to street level, so you're not tripping over the kids heads."
If Chris Jones has any second thoughts about leaving Finch to join Feather, he's not showing it. The prospects for Finch do, after all, look pretty hot. There's the single and the album doing very well and the signing with international label Portrait will probably lure the band overseas soon.
"I knew all that was happening," Chris says, "But it didn't change my mind about leaving. I had wanted to leave six months before, because the vibes in the band just weren't good, I jumped into the fire quickly when I joined Finch but I had watched Feather for ages and really liked the band.
"I never thought there would be a vacancy but when I knew there was, I auditioned straight away"
Chris Jones On TMG Tour
Feather, like Finch, records for CBS and the band has one single to its credit, the rocky number 'Girl Trouble', that inexplicably did not do particularly well on the charts.
"Basically, that song was a feeler for us," John explains, "It enabled the hand to get used to the studio and was great for TV exposure. We'll be doing the next one on a better footing.

"We were a little disappointed about air play for 'Girl Trouble' but most radio stations won't look at your first single — and we didn't really expect the band to be a one-hit wonder."
At the moment Feather is on a one-month mini tour that started in Adelaide and will finish in Tasmania where the guys will meet up with TMG to begin the three-month national tour on April 26.
"The mini tour is mainly a pub-circuit one," Stuart says. "That way we play to audiences all the time."
Adds John, "The tour might mean our musical direction will change, if only in that the rough edges will come off. We'll be doing about a gig a night on the main tour so it must improve and change things, By the time we get back from the TMG tour, we'll have the right material for an album. At the moment that's only in its Embryo Stages."

Mark Mitchell, the other new Feather recruit,is justifiably excited about the prospect of a national tour. The touring and playing scene is fairly new to him.
Like his big-time brother, Tony (Sherbet), Mark's preference lies with bass,and no,Tony didn't teach himself to play. "I taught myself Mark says,"It was the usual case of putting a record on and trying to follow it."
Mark has found that having Tony Mitchell for a brother has its advantages and disadvantages: "I've got the name behind me, so it has helped in that way — otherwise I would probably still be regarded as just another bass player."
"The only problem," says Mark, who is a dead ringer for Tony (except his hair is a lighter brown), "is that you are instantly recognised at gigs. That's something Mark finds discomforting, being unused to the mobbing of enthusiastic fans."
The current version of Feather is a fairly young one. Stuart's at the tail end of 16, Chris, Mark and Warwick claim to be in the vicinity of 19 and John is a few years older again. Consequently, the band attracts a young crowd but whether that will be to the detriment of the band's musical credibility remains to be seen.
Warwick Fraser at Chequers
"We know we draw a young-girl crowd," says Stuart. "But we'd rather have a bunch of screaming girls than a quiet group of people at the Lifesaver who are out of it anyway."
For such a basically young band, Feather doesn't have any startling, idealistic dreams. They're sensibly realistic guys who are aware of the ropes.
"I take the whole deal a lot more seriously than I used to," says John. "Rock and roll used to be an excuse for going out and getting drunk . . I don't swagger out of pubs anymore. The band is a way of life that has to be treated well.
"There comes a time when you have to pull yourself together and look at what you are doing. You have to realise you have an obligation to the people you are working with."
It's an attitude that seems to be reflected in Feather's hard-core rock music, although only the next few months will tell whether it has all been worth the time and the trouble.
"Our music isn't really all that different from anyone else's," John admits, "But there are a lot of bands that get into that Bad Company trap — the one-chord scene that doesn't have enough aggression — they don't think enough about dynamics. "If you want it to work, you have to do it with a bit of yourself thrown in."
— Sasanne Moore (JUKE, May 6, 1978)
This post consists of a compilation I put together of tracks recorded by Feather's over their 4 year life span, with tracks ripped from vinyl (One Single, Canned Rock, The Long Live Evolution Concert) and others sourced from the web. All tracks are in mp3 format (320kps).  Full album artwork and band photos are included, along with a scan of the JUKE newspaper article transcribed above.
Feather were are great Aussie rock band that never 'flew' to the top, yet they were an integral stepping stone for the musical careers of both Swanee and Stuart Fraser. This was also my first attempt at putting together some CD artwork to go with a post, a little amateurish I know but it does the job I guess.
Track listing
01 - Girl Trouble (A-Side Single)
02 - Sweet Melinda (B-Side Single)
03 - Here With Me (Live at Parramatta Gaol 1979)
04 - Bad Blood (Live at Parramatta Gaol 1979)
05 - Girl Trouble (ABC)
06 - The Open Road (ABC)
07 - Rock N Roll Medley (ABC)
08 - Sleeping Around (Live)
09 - Light As A Feather (Live)
10 - Free And Easy (Live)
11 - Hot Street (Live)
12 - Out Of Time With Life (Live)
13 - Girl Trouble (Countdown)
14 - Light As A Feather (Countdown)
15 - Free And Easy (JJ Long Live the Evolution Concert)

Tracks 1,2:       45-Single (released 1977 by CBS, BA222307)
Tracks 3,4:       Canned Rock (released by Alberts, APLP-042)
Tracks 5-7:       The Real Thing (Broadcasted by the ABC, 1977)
Tracks 8-12:     Band recordings (Sourced from Feather's Myspace page)
Tracks 13-14:    Sourced from YouTube
Track  15:         Long Live The Evolution - The Best Of Double J Rock, 1977

Feather members were:
John Swan, Gary Conlan (vocals)
Wayne Smith, Stuart Fraser, Chris Jones (guitar)
Lee Brossman, Mark Mitchell (bass)
Warwick Fraser (drums)
Feather Link (104Mb)


  1. Hi Guy great post didn't realise there was so much of their stuff out there looking forward to a listen.

  2. How awesome is that Feather stuff...I knew I liked Blackfeather, but that stuff is just as good and in some parts better...favourite track would probably be Open Road

    top stuff indeed

  3. More enlightenment...Thanks again!
    Blackfeather did some great stuff but I always wanted to hear more harder-rocking tracks from them, maybe this will be just the ticket!

  4. Awesome find! I've always been a Noiseworks fan & have taken a few pro shots of them during their reunion tours. Stuart Fraser's guitar style is one of the main reasons I like that band, and it's great to stumble across something from his past.
    Thanks again for your post!

    1. Hi Stephen
      Glad I could be of some assistance. Speaking of promo shots, did you do much photography for any other Aussie bands and if so, do you still have any copies?
      I would love to get my hands on some digital copies for future (or current) posts, giving full credit to you of course.
      Hope ya enjoy the Feather collection.

  5. Congratulations, excellent web page. I saw Black Feather with Neale Johns on Shelly Beach near Manly in 1977. It was the best outdoor concert I've ever heard. Followed the band from there when they became Feather. Even had a chat with Swanee sometime in the 90's in the Manly Boathouse nightclub about his time in Feather. Glad to see other people loved this excellent Aussie Rock band.

  6. Thanks for dropping by Mick and I'm glad this post brought back some great memories for ya. Having mentioned Swanee, I think I might post some of his stuff in the near future, so stay tuned.

    1. Looking forward to some Swanee memories. I do have a recording of Black Feather around 1977 singing "Keep on Trying." Stuart is playing lead guitar, Neale Johns on vocals. Not sure if you'd like to add it to your collection above?

  7. Great post. I played in my first band Freefall with Mark Mitchell. He was a great guy and it was wonderful to see him move into a touring band. Rick.

  8. Interesting a Rainbow fan I'm interested in the support slot Feather did in November 1976. Any idea of the dates?, as Buffalo also supported Rainbow at this time. Thanks!