(Australian 1979–1994, 2014)
Paul Field (vocalist) recalls the story of the Cockroaches.........
Owning every Rolling Stones album was the source of some infamy at school. In the late 70's, the look was blond hair, surfie, you either came from the beaches or you didn't exist. Grey Levi's with pale blue sloppy-joe's was the look when going to a dance and so you would find packs of guys in exactly the same gear. The surfies loved bands like The Eagles and America. They would go to parties where the girls would sing "Sister Golden Hair'. My brothers and I went to a boarding school where ex-shearers cut our hair like we were in the army; we came from the western suburbs and only went to the beach for holidays I hated the Eagles and loved The Stones who by that stage were branded by the punks as old. We also loved Elvis, who was not only out of fashion but dead! So there we were, a young band playing music inspired by those who were at the lowest point of fashion. Yeah, The Cockroaches were on their way?
I first sung with the Year 10 band at Villa Maria Hall. Up until that point you would into a dance and either move quickly and
speak to one of the few girls there or be stuck for the rest of the
night with your mates forming rugby scrums in the middle of the dance
floor After a particularly awful version of a Status Quo song we took a
break. There we were and two girls came up and started talking, the girl
who spoke to me was named Charmeon, not Margaret, Mary or Catherine. Now this might not seem like much, but for a fifteen year old, the moment was like the burning bush. Although dreadful at maths, the equation was simple, same daggy guy plus band equals girls with interesting names talking to you.
For my brothers, John and Anthony and our drummer Tony (a surfie) there was also another advantage. Anyone who played a musical instrument was allowed out of the two-hour study session to rehearse in the music rooms. So in the minds of very young boys at a boarding school, apart from the love of music, being able to get out of study to play Stones songs and an opportunity to meet girls seemed like a pretty good thing to do. Being huge Stones fans, we used one of their old norm de plumes and called ourselves The Cockroaches. Our first gig was to raise money for the missions and the self made poster featured pictures of dead bodies strewn across a war scene with the caption: "We're dying to see The Cockroaches". I think we raised $5, as it was 10 cents admission, it was probably the last gig we knew where all the money went.
We played at school dances and then rang up pubs and offered to play free and if they liked us to book us from there. So at age sixteen, my brothers would jump the wall and we'd play up at the Heritage Hotel in Kings Cross, then the Southern Cross Hotel in Surrey Hills. The publican liked us because we pulled lots of young drinkers and he even gave me a job behind the bar on Sundays so that we'd play there. Tony Henry would take his drum kit on the Manly ferry and I would pick him up, John and Anthony would borrow amps from friends School gigs. We were underage and so was our audience. We hired our P.A. from Jeff Fatt who joined the band when he saw how well we were fed at functions.
We appeared on shows like 'Wonder World' and 'Hey Hey It's Saturday' without having a record contract. Meantime, we played lots and lots of gigs when Sydney had a room in every pub that would have a band. Our bookings were on a nod and a handshake, we once drove to Noosa Heads only to find that the gig had been cancelled. We charted with our independent singles but no record company approached us. We heard of bands getting record contracts for five albums and it sounded like they had made it. Of course all it meant was that if it sold, the record company had you, if it didn't sell then no one else could have you Anthony's Elvis fixation got the best of him and he joined the Army, he still can't really think of any other reason other than the uniform. He would pay guys to do his sentry duty at night so that he could play a gig. His training made him fairly reactive and an incident regarding noise levels and the defense of our amplifiers at Wiiloughby Town Hall resulted in a letter being sent to The Cockroaches banning us for life from playing there. I thought it was a bit rough since you only got about ten years for murder in those days.
Eventually, Charles Fisher saw us at Setinas in Sydney supporting the Uncanny X Men, he saw the crowd reaction and thought no matter how bad these guys are, if they get a reaction like that they could sell records. He told Martin Fabinyi, the head of Regular Records, "if you don't sign them I will, and so he did. Our album cover has us all in a "uniform" of sorts. We had just seen "Love Me Tender" and liked how Elvis rolled his shirt sleeves, so we did that. We wanted to wear black shoes and pants so that it has a sixties took like our favorite bands.
We didn't have a stylist for the album cover. Our shirts look similar on the first album cover because half of them were mine. John and Anthony didn't have any ironed shirts and so it was easier to use my spares. And so our "clean cut look" was born. We had no idea how the album would go, my brother John had played cricket for New South Wales Under 19's and was always ready to bail for the whites if things didn't pan out. We released an album in early 1987 and all those thousands upon thousands of people who had seen us play live must have snapped it up. It entered the Sydney charts at number two, above U2! When the record company rang with the news, Anthony's famous quote was "is that good"?
It probably took the record company by surprise as they had only released it on vinyl and tape, but after the chart response they decided to put it on CD as well. We did even more gigs all around the country, we did television. After watching Countdown as kids we got to host it, we made more film clips, had more chart success and started the cycle of touring where no band had gone before! We did weeks of interviews, making things up to entertain ourselves. A girl named Halfpenny from The Melbourne Age asked me what we wanted to do and I told her that we wanted to make an album that people would play at parties over summer, it was all down hill from there. Despite chart action and TV appearances we still didn't look like a band, we dressed more like our audience and it presented a problem. We sold out most club venues but would be stopped at the door to ask who we were, we would have to turn to those in the queue and get them to vouch for us! We played more gigs than anyone gaining acknowledgement by Sydney Telegraph as "the hardest working band in Australia" We knew that, our partners knew that.
Six guys in a Tarago traveling more miles than the early explorers to get to an RSL in a country town where the guy on the door would say "Cockroaches, hey, better get the Baygon!" and crack up laughing at his witticism. If we had a dollar for every gag like that we'd be living like Julio Iglesias. We learned touring skills, how to pick out the only decent cafe in a country town. Towns where you were asked what meat you want with your salad sandwich, where the last band they had was "Redgum" in 1983; where stabbings happened only the night before in the disco you were playing: where we haven't had bands in this pub before but we were told you'd pull a crowd". The gigs could be absolutely brilliant or dreadful, we'd be the tightest band in the world or a shambles; gigs down the snow were positively insane. Where else but the Piggery at Byron Bay could Anthony lay on stage kissing a girl for a whole song; where the Canadian Womens' Water Polo Team joined the lads for an instructional game in the pool!; where the New Years Eve gig at Lennox Head ended up "Land of a thousand Dances" in the surf. They were big outdoor festivals, with lots of bands, ten thousand plus and they even had somewhere for us to change! For a time we even thought we lived in Queensland, the surf and sun seemed to go with the music. Most bands take drugs for recreation, we played cricket in car parks and tip football with the roadies. Most bands had car crashes after pill induced binges, we just fell off stage from bad eyesight.
Most bands have parents who worry about the road, our Dad retired early and traveled with us for the tour, drinking more grog than our Irish roadies, We did cruises on the South Pacific, played Island resorts and millionaires parties as well as the dirtiest dives that any town pub could offer. We got to meet and perform with some of the Monkees. the reformed Easybeats who were great, and lots of Aussie bands as well. The rest we can't remember, if anyone was to remember us then it would be in a pub. Like some frat rock band that worked with what they had and shouted "we came, we saw, we enjoyed and them someone found out!" [Bio written by Paul Field, taken from Linear notes from "Hey Let's Go - The Best of The Cockroaches", 1999]
Postscript: The Cockroaches released a total of four albums 'The Cockroaches', 'Fingertips', 'Positive' and an independent release 'St Patricks Day 10am'. They had eight charting singles, made over fifteen video clips and played thousands of shows. Bernadette Marie Field was Paul's second child and died from SIDS aged 18 months whilst they were touring Queensland. Nothing was the same after that, it crushed Paul and left the whole band wounded. They pulled off the road and struggled, and eventually did other things. Anthony went back to Uni and started a children's entertainment group called The Wiggles, he took Jeff ...... and of course, that's another story.
NOTE: I've just added the
12inch Single, "You and Me" / "So Wild" / "Can't Sit Down" (1988) to
this post - get it now while it's still hot (see separate link).
Don't pre-judge this album, just because of it's association with the kiddy group The Wiggles - these guys really rocked before they turned to the more lucrative business of Children's Entertainment.
01 - She's The One
02 - It's Alright
03 - Some Kind Of Girl
04 - I'll Come Running Back
05 - Double Shot
06 - Wait Up
07 - Is It Any Wonder
08 - Heaven
09 - She Goes On And On
10 - Pour Out My Heart
11 - Poison Girl
12 - Another Night Alone
13 - Hey What Now (Bonus Single - Extended Mix) *
14 - Hey What Now (Bonus Single - LP Version) *
15 - Hey What Now (Bonus Single - 99 Dub Mix) *
16 - Marie (Bonus Single) *
* taken from 12" Single 'Hey What Now' (1988)
The Cockroaches were:
Paul Field - Vocals
Anthony Field - Vocals, Guitar
John Field - Vocals, Guitar
Phil Robinson - Bass
Jeff Fatt - Keyboards
Tony Henry - Drums
The Cockroaches LP (128Mb) New Link 17/12/2016
The Coachroaches 12inch Single (24Mb) New Link 15/10/2017