Saturday, February 26, 2011

Skyhooks - Guilty Until Proven Insane (1978) + Bonus Tracks

(Australian 1973-1980, 1983-1984, 1990)
In February 1977, Red Symons left the band and was replaced on guitar by Bob Spencer (Finch later called Contraband). With Symons' departure the band dropped the glam rock look and used a more straight forward hard rock approach.
Shirley Strachan introduced Red's replacement at a gig during a surfing contest at Phillip Island on March 27, 1977: "He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he's into the ecology and he's a shit-hot little @unt"
The new guitarist was Bob Spencer. Greg had contacted Spencer on February 21 - the day before Red's departure was announced. Rumoured to replace Red had been ACDC's Malcolm Young, Sherbet's Clive Shakespeare, and Phil Manning, who had fronted his own band. But Greg settled on Spencer, a 19-year-old vegetarian, who he had spotted in the Sydney hard rock band Finch - they supported the Hooks in Wyong in 1976.

Greg told Juke that "Spencer is almost as energetic as Shirl". Spencer said of Greg: "He's a nifty human being ... I had a jam with the band and it was great. H.A.P.P.Y! My mind was made up." Spencer's first Skyhook bio called him "a real spunkrat, astonishingly talented, an overbubbling extrovert with a 25-inch bum".
Spencer recalls: "Before we saw them, Finch didn't like the Skyhooks. They dress up too much, blah, blah, blah'. But then I saw them under Harbour Bridge and I was converted. I knew all the records, my girlfriend had them." Spencer had been the guitarist in Finch since he was 15. Out front was Owen Orford (now a successful booking agent), and bass player Mark Evans joined after he left ACDC.
The band released the album Thunderbird in 1976. "We made the dreaded mistake of moving to Melbourne and living together," Spencer recalls. "We were living with a couple of wives and kids, and we became very disenchanted. Living separately in Sydney had been much better, Greg contacted me and said: 'Well, what do you think, do you want to join the Skyhooks?' I went to Sydney with Greg and spoke to my Parents about it." They were happy about him joining but one mate of Spencer's criticised his decision to join the Hooks - non other than the legendary ACDC frontman Bon Scott!

Guilty Until Proven Insane was released on March 13, 1978 (the first 5000 copies appeared on red vinyl - and I have one !)
Symons:- "By that stage, I no longer listened to the record to have an opinion. I looked at the 3XY chart. I was no longer perceiving success on my own terms."
At first, Red was worried. The album rose to No. 6 on the national charts. In Melbourne, it got to No. 2, but it couldn't dislodge "Saturday Night Fever" from top spot. But then it dropped back. The set did not contain another "Women In Uniform". Only one more single was released off the album — "Megalomania" (which was backed by "BBBBBBB Boogie" — Freddy Strauks' Skyhooks songwriting debut). It failed to chart.
"It's a weird album this one," Greg said of 'Guilty Until Proven Insane' in Rolling Stone. Ads proclaimed that it contained "Australia's new national anthem" — "Why Dontcha All Get *ucked". The album was to have been called either "Bill And Pam Go To The Supermarket" or "Bill And Pam Go To The Races". But Gudinski freaked when he heard the options. The band thanked "Bill And Pam" on the album's credits.
Macainsh:- "They were just imaginary characters. Bill and Pam were characters that appeared in a song we demoed around this time, 'The Great Australian Male'. Gudinski said no to the title straight away. In many ways, it was put up to annoy him."
A Juke cover story on April 1,1978 was headed: "A Sense of Humor Is Very Important In Rock And Roll — Greg Macainsh On The New Hooks LP". Calling Guilty Until Proven Insane a "comeback album", Al Webb wrote that the "Skyhooks camp is aglow with confidence . . . Macainsh is uncharacteristically enthused".

Greg spoke about the tracks. "Women In Uniform", he said, was "a fetish song. I have known a few women in uniform. It's part real life experience, part fantasy." The track had been inspired by a security guard Greg had seen in Atlanta, Georgia. "She wore a mini-skirt, she had a beehive hairdo. She was swaggering around this plaza. She had a Colt .45, baton, handcuffs, walkie-talkie, the whole trip ... an incredible symbol of, you know, sexuality and power. I thought it was great! I just watched her wiggle her arse around the plaza for a while and kept it in the back of my mind." Back in Australia, Greg saw a photo in a fashion mag of "chicks in khaki leaning against tanks". Remembering that one of the Hooks crew had once gotten off with a policewoman, Greg had his song.
"Hotel Hell" (which featured Wilbur Wilde on sax) was vaguely based on Melbourne's larger suburban pubs like the Matthew Flinders in Chadstone, and the Manhattan in Ringwood. It was not overly positive about the punter's pub-going pursuit: "Hotel/Hotel hell/bad place to visit and a rotten place to dwell/ Hotel/Hotel hell/ain't nothing like, there ain't no parallel".
Of Freddy's songwriting debut, Greg said: "Freddy writes a lot of pornographic songs. He's got quite a few songs, usually either pornographic or very philosophical — not a great deal in between which is sort of like Fred, I guess."

Strauks "The pornographic songs were only comedy songs, they were never meant to be pure porn. I thought that all these people were writing love songs, but they only allude to doing it, they never actually talk about doing it. So I wrote a couple of dirty ditties and everyone who listens to them has a laugh. One day I might release them, but the time has to be right.
"BBBBBBBBBBBBBBoogie started life as "The Businessman Boogie", but Eddie Leonetti persuaded me to rewrite the lyric in the studio. To make it interesting, I made it "BBBBBBBBBBBBB (13 Bs) Boogie"."
Both Ram and Juke continued to support the band. Anthony O'Grady wrote: "The idea is to present the band roaring and raging. And they are a Powerhouse. In the Hooks overall scheme of things, 'Guilty Until Proven Insane' is an affirmation of their status as a rock band who can deliver the goods in forthright fashion".
Al Webb concluded: "Ain't no doubt about it, this is a very strong album from what's become a very solid band . . . the musical quality is all there and the lyrics are still well ahead of most Australian writers, so theoretically this should be a successful album for the Hooks. Whether the public can adapt to the band's move towards riffy American rock is another question."
Ross Wilson remembers Greg invited him to his house in Hampton to listen to the record.
"I thought 'Women In Uniform' was great, so I was really looking forward to it," Wilson recalls. "But the rest of the album for me just didn't measure up. My opinion was the songs just weren't there. I remember feeling quite disappointed because I still wished them well."
.Skyhooks at Nambassa 3 Day Music Festival (1978) - Photo thanks to Jeff O'Donnell
Lyrically the album showed Greg was tiring of his Mr Serious image. On "Twisted Innocence", he revealed his unhappiness with being a deep thinker: "Taxi driver with the science degree/He says he's got it rough. But he can daydream while driving around/I wish him half the luck". (This might even have been a cryptic reference to Red Symons. Red has a science degree, and he also had a taxi licence, but he never drove a taxi). The lyrics lacked his local references (Leonetti decided against releasing songs such as "Daughters Of Brighton" and "Sitting In A Bar In Adelaide"). Greg defended "Why Dontcha All Get *ucked": "I don't think it's sensational for the sake of being sensational. To me, it's a pretty definitive statement, a very commonly used expression. It's like that scene in Network: 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!' There's something of that in it."
The song did attract attention. Shirley and Fred appeared on the Mike Walsh Show, where they were treated with contempt by guest host Brian Bury. He called Fred "Greg" and then asked how they wrote their songs. Freddy freaked Bury out by writing the song's title on a piece of paper and asking him to read it out. During the same month, Melbourne public radio station RRR was threatened with losing its licence after one of its DJs played the unedited version on air. The DJ was none other than Red Symons. On ya Red! [taken from Ego Is Not A Dirty Word: The Skyhooks Story by Jeff Jenkins p125, 130-131]
Album Review
Guilty Until Proven Insane opens with one of the finest rock tracks you’re likely to hear and possibly the only track on the album familiar to people who are not aware of the band: "Women In Uniform". Familiar as a D’Anno-era Iron Maiden single, the track was written by, and was a huge hit for Skyhooks from this album and features a great vocal from Graeme “Shirley” Strachan with the rest of the band providing one of their heaviest backing tracks. Women In Uniform has all the ingredients of a great rock track as will be apparent from the video clip below and the funky intro which is returned to mid-way through makes for a more multi-dimensional track than other versions!
"Life In The Modern World" is a slow burner of a bluesy rock track with a good use of the twin guitars of Spencer and Starkie and some well-crafted observational lyrics. The latter half of the track also features a good guitar solo not in the shredding vain but more akin to mid-70s Thin Lizzy style which continues over a repeat of the opening verse at the close.
"Trouble With The Computer" opens with a frantic computer ‘conversation’ through which fades-in drums and then into the main riff which is again of strong blues-rock origin. As the title suggests, the track identifies troublesome issues in various scenarios with computers which, considering the year of release, was very contemporary thinking and somewhat prophetic as the same problems are still experienced today: “the computer’s lost its logic and has started to erase” – for a pre-Windows generation that’s some foresight!
Moving into a heavier style, "Bbbbbbbbbbbbboogie", as the name suggests, is a hard-rocking boogie shuffle with a hint of Rose Tattoo who, I’m certain, would have been influenced by their countrymen. Graeme Strachan really spits out the lyrics here with some venom and there’s plenty of guitar breaks throughout making for a very solid track and demonstrating the musical skill of the band members to good effect.
Suddenly, the heavy blues-rock fades and "Twisted Innocence" opens which is a funky almost new-wave track and, as with the majority of the Skyhooks’ tracks, examines the troubles of urban 70s Australian society with in this instance through the eyes of the young and their largely inability to perceive the problems around them. Twisted innocence referring to the blinkered enthusiasm of youth blinding the young to social ills.
"Hotel Hell" moves back to more traditional hard rock territory for a mid-paced track telling the tale of trying to find a good night out but only coming across ‘Hotel Hell’: “if you think the beer is rotten, you should see the clientele”! The track also features a sax solo in the mid-section (C/- Wilder Wilde - photo above) where the track drops to bass and cymbals over which Strachan further describes the scene at the bar and paints a picture that is so well described you can almost be there.

Gig Review - Roadrunner Mag - March, 1978
 Slow bass and guitar harmonics open "Point In The Distance" with a spoken word intro accompanied by some high wailing backing vocals and then the track kicks-in with a funky guitar and heavily echoed vocals with Strachan singing more smoothly than on the rockier tracks. As with "Twisted Innocence" the sound is somewhere around early 10CC and early Thin Lizzy but, whilst not one of the stronger tracks on the album, certainly shows another side to Skyhooks and a side that they exploit to a high standard here. The undistorted guitar solo is also a highlight.
A calypso intro to "Meglomania" continues the shift in direction begun by "Point In the Distance" and the overall sound is rather ’sweet’ but if you tune-in to the lyrical content, it’s far from it! Quite cleverly, one of the hardest hitting tracks lyrically is backed by the mellowest, poppiest musical backing tracks – as with previous tracks, however, the guitar solo adds some balls with a new riff taking over in the mid-section to boot!
Closing the album is the ‘classic’ Skyhooks anthem Why Don’tcha All Get *ucked? Originally released on their debut album, in censored form, here it is in all its glory. It features a series of lyrical ‘vignettes’ about various disaffected characters where Strachan paints the picture of their reasoning for their eventual nihilistic attitude and cry of "Why Don’tcha All Get *ucked?" “there’s one thing that you got to do and I suggest you do it today, stand up in your office, school or street and this is what you’ve got to say . . . Why Don’tcha All Get *ucked?”. Pre-dating Rage Against the Machine’s “*uck you I won’t do what you tell me” battle-cry by some 10 years, it’s a sentiment I’m sure we can all relate to from time to time today as much as back in the 70s!
All-in-all this is an awesome album from a great band who should have gone on to globally great things . . . but sadly it was not to be. To compound matters, the album is really hard to come-by on CD but is definitely worth purchasing should you find a copy [ review by Andy Doherty-2009 ]
This album has always been a favourite of mine as I believe that Skyhooks had finally grown up and were producing songs that were suitable for a broader audience. My red vinyl copy of the LP is another prized possession in my record collection, but I play my CD copy to maintain the condition of the vinyl.
Rip was taken from a long deleted CD release of the album (320kps) and I have provided both CD and LP cover scans along with select photos of the Skyhooks band mkII. I have also included as bonus tracks, the two songs that were rejected by Leonetti for this album, "Daughters of Brighton" and "Sitting In A Bar In Adelaide" (taken from 'Demos and Dialogue' thanks to Bluecent at Midoztouch).
Finally, thanks to Mushroom Records, Peter Green and the Skyhooks Fanclub and Jeff O'Donnell for the various photos displayed in this post.
Hint: I suggest you listen to this album using headphones, to avoid any conflict with your neighbours, who might take the last track the wrong way!
Track Listing
01 - Woman in Uniform
02 - Life in the Modern World
03 - Trouble With the Computer

04 - BBBBBboogie
05 - Twisted Innocence
06 - Hotel Hell

07 - Point in the Distance
08 - Meglomania
09 - Why Dontcha All Get Fucked

10 - Daughters Of Brighton (Bonus Track)
11 - Sitting In A Bar In Adelaide (Bonus Track)

 Band Members:
Graeme “Shirley” Strachan – Vocals

Bob Spencer – Guitar

Bob “Bongo” Starkie – Guitar

Greg Macainsh – Bass

Imants “Freddy” Strauks – Drums


Skyhooks Link (96Mb)


  1. Sooo 5000 copies huh, you have one and I have one, I wonder who has the other 4998. Great LP mate thanks. :)

  2. Well ive got 2thats never been played