Monday, March 22, 2021

Skyhooks - Straights in a Gay Gay World (1976) with bonus tracks

 (Australian 1973-1980, 1983-84, 1990, 1994)

"Straight ln A Gay Gay World"
I'm just a straight in a gay, gay world
I'm carryin' the banner, tryin' to keep the flag unfurled
Well, I'm just a straight in a gay, gay place
I might look a little odd but I'm part of the human race

It was to be The Skyhook's most expensive album to date. The budget was $60,000- four times what it cost to make 'Ego Is Not A Dirty Word'. At the end of the American tour - as the guys were itching to return home - the band entered the $100 per hour Record Plant in Sausalito, California to make their third album. The studio was a long way from TCS in Bendigo Street, Richmond - both in distance and in style. The Record Plant had a Jacuzzi and a pinball machine. Also on hand was a speedboat, which could take you to trendy restaurants. If that was unavailable, there was a Rolls Royce with the number plates "GREED".

In the studio next to Skyhooks had been Fleetwood Mac. Red remembers the stories about various Mac members taking nitrous oxide. The band lived in a big cedar house, where the Eagles had written "Lyin' Eyes". The house had a spa. The guys were joined by their wives and girlfriends, who after a couple of weeks went for a trip to Mexico while the band was rehearsing.

Ross Wilson flew to America after he finished work on the Oz soundtrack. He was to produce the album. An American, Bill Halverson, was to engineer the record.

'Straight In A Gay Gay World' should have been Skyhooks' finest moment. Made in America at a state of the art studio with a big budget, it was a chance for the band to make the album which would break them worldwide. Instead they made a record that disappointed them and added to the pressure on the band. The major players have differing versions of events.

"It was hard to capture the sound we wanted. The studio in Melbourne had a much more live sound. The studio in Sausalito was a dead sounding space. "We weren't hearing the sound on tape we wanted and knew was there."

"It was unfortunate that we had to do it at the end of the tour because we were all really tired and really sick of living with each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sessions were very, very tense. We hadn't had a chance to really perform the music. Greg had been writing in his hotel rooms. He'd come up with quite a few interesting songs but because he was starting to withdraw a bit and he wasn't being so friendly, for us it became more of a job, rather than doing it for the love of it."

"We just wanted to go home. We'd been touring the states for five months. It was a contractual album".


"It was rushed. At the end of the tour, the idea of making a record was kind of nice, but they also wanted to make it home. So in that sense, it was more pressured. I guess that is the word. We wanted Ross Wilson to do it. However, I don't know if Ross was that crazy about doing it."

"There were obvious tensions with Ross Wilson. The biggest problem was that the studio was so pure, as far as sound and clarity goes. We had so many fucking tuning problems. It ended up stressing everyone out. You'd go to do something and the guitars would be out of tune."

"The first two albums were good, I reckon. Part of the reason they were good albums was all that material was conceived before the band was successful. When it came to a third album, we had a whole lot of associated pressures, like being in America (away from home). But it was a struggle because it was post-success material. All the motivation had gone. It had become a job.

Ross remembers the making of the Straight album as 'the start of a crappy period for him' for a few years. He got bogged down with running a record label, OZ, with Glenn Wheatley, and he had an unhappy time producing Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons. "That's when I decided I didn't want to be a full time record producer. There was constant disagreement, It was even tougher than the Skyhooks."
Wilson's post-Straight blues mirrored the Skyhooks."

"This ls My City"
This is my city
This is your city
This is our city now
This ls My City

THE HOOKS ARRIVED HOME from the U.S Tour on Wednesday, June 16, 1976.

The Melbourne Sun reported: "Skyhooks came home from the US to a screaming, hysterical welcome."
Shirley, Red, Freddy and Bob were met by more than 100 fans at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport. Greg flew in by himself a couple of hours earlier. Red had his coat torn off and his shirt ripped. When he was asked whether that was the sort of reception the band got overseas, he said: "Yeah, except it was us banging on the doors." He told a press conference that America was great because the band had learn't words like "cheeseburger", "far out" and "funky". As for his immediate plans: "To go home and have a nice cup of tea".

Shirley told the Sun's Pat Bowring that the U.S "brought us down to earth. We were over-confident at first. And we were brought down to our level fast. The workload was huge, the pressure great and the future uncertain . . . there wasn't much time for fun."

Shirley announced that the band's next trip overseas would most probably happen in October and would include Britain and Europe. But the Hooks never again made it overseas. In 1975, they conquered Sydney and Australia - going much further than any other Australian band had dreamed. In 1976, most of the band found that they didn't have the desire to go further.

"All in all, it (the US) was a fantastic experience. But it dawned on us that if we were going to continue, it would be basically 10 years of sitting on a bus doing that same sort of thing over and over again. All the bands were doing that. We played with lots of bands there who subsequently became big in America four or five years after we met them, bands like Styx and Journey. That was the career path, how long it would take. I don't think that interested Red. I remember having conversations with him and he'd be asking: 'Do you really want to do this?' I think he didn't want to do it. And maybe ir wasn't stimulating enough for everybody."

Michael Gudinski continued to hype the overseas angle. He said that he got a telex from Mercury saying that they were ecstatic about two tracks from Straight In A Gay Gay World, "Blue Jeans" and "Crazy Heart", as potential singles. But Mercury never did release any more Skyhooks singles. They did release the Straight album (with the track "Living In The 70's" replacing "The Girl Say's She's Bored), in 1976.
Gudinski and Strachan promote the Brats Are Back Tour

Creem Magazine reviewed the album in the U.S, saying that Skyhooks was different to 'bland-outs' like LRB, Sherbet, the Bee Gees, Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John. "But whether they'll break big here is a big ? I mean, can a group of self-confessed weirdos inhabiting a nebulous nether world between Alice Cooper, Steely Dan, The Stones and The Bonzo Dog Band really make it? Yeah, well, a little like that, but I am glad there are bands like these guys. It just makes living in the 70's a little more interesting." But with no promotion from Mercury, Living was dead on arrival in the U.S

Ross Wilson filled the Sun readers in on where the Hooks were at, in an interview at the end of June: "When a band has been together for two years and gone through the various trips - fame, fortune and all that - it reaches a point where it re-evaluates things. This is the point Skyhooks is at now. When Skyhooks started, it was more like a hobby thing to them. Now, it';s more like hard work."

Wilson also announced that he would not be producing any more Skyhooks albums. "It's a completely amicable decision. I just feel that after three albums, both the group and myself should move on to other things."

Bongo on ANZ Rooftop For This Is My City Clip

The band released its new single, a double A-Side, " This Is My City" / "Somewhere in Sydney", on July 12. It just made it into the National Top 20. This is despite a strong clip for "This Is My City", which had the band filmed from a helicopter as they were on top of the 16-storey ANZ Bank building in Collins Street in Melbourne.

On July 28, the band started its return Australian tour: 'The Brats Are Back'. The tour captured some of the old excitement. The band became the first major act to play in Alice Springs. Half the town turned out.

Straight In A Gay Gay World was released on August 21. Unlike its two predecessors, it did not top the charts, instead it peaked at No.7 nationally. There was irony in the title - a band that wore make-up and outrageous costumes saying it was straight. The cover - a lone black sheep on the front, a lamb chop dinner on the back cover - led to some talkback on Melbourne radio. Bob Starkie reported that the lamb had since died. Red Symons said "Everyone has their own interpretation of it, but I think it's how this band is all lambs to the slaughter!"

The album opened with their 1975 hit single "Million Dollar Riff", which had reached #2 on the national charts, only being kept out of the top spot by Abba's "Mama Mia"

The next track was all about Greg's American observations, "ls This America?". "lt's about hotel rooms, and blacks and whites, and New York Subways. I wrote that one in a hotel in a night, just like the good old days when the songs were coming thick and fast." The album also featured two songs about the sexual revolution, the title-track and "I'm Normal". "'I'm Normal" is about a guy who's dissatisfied with the sexual revolution, so he's going back to holding hands and making out like he used to when he was young. Degeneracy seems to be the norm . . . of course, some of the guys in the band are pretty degenerate."

The album also included a track that Greg had written before the first album, "Blue Jeans". He told Ram Magazine: "I wouldn't like to limit myself to the field of social comment all the time. "Blue Jeans" is more of what you'd call social comment. We used to do it when we first started. Ross Wilson has always tried to get it recorded, but we've never been real keen on the idea until we got stuck for a song on this album." Red said: "We knew when we recorded it that it'd be a pain in the arse. It's like with 'All My Friends Are Getting Married', where all these jewellery shops selling engagement rings were using it on radio ads. Lyrically, it makes a statement about how people try and look different, but in the end they look similar.". "Blue Jeans" became the band's first major hit in New Zealand, when it crashed into the Kiwi Top 10. It was Mushroom's first gold record in NZ.

Bongo grooms the Black Sheep for the Album Photo Shoot

Straight In A Gay Gay World closed with perhaps Greg's "nicest" song ever, "Crazy Heart". "lt's been described as a song of social impotence. It's about a guy who fantasise about a whole lot of different types of girls but can't quite get himself together to do anything about it. It's almost an extension of the sentiments on 'Love's Not Good Enough'.

Greg described Red's solitary contribution, "Mumbo Jumbo", "as the nonsense song to end all nonsense songs. It's his reaction to disco music - mindless lyrics and mindless music. It's the best song he's written, I think."

‘Freddie’ Strauks, ‘Shirley’ Strachan, Red Symons and
Bob ‘Bongo’ Starkie during an interview in 1976

The Straight album was launched at a lavish reception in Melbourne, broadcast live on 3XY, and during which the band was also presented with seven platinum records for Living and Ego (marking sales of more than 350,000, which grossed more than $2 million). Straight was a slow starter sales-wise, taking two months to finally go platinum. In local sales, the Hooks had been overtaken by their support act, Ol'55 whose 'Take It Greasy' had sold more than 100,000 copies. 

The writing was on the wall - things had to change if the Hooks were going to survive. [Extracts from 'Ego Is Not A Dirty Word - The Skyhooks Story' by Jeff Jenkins.Kelly & Withers 1994. p104 - 117]

This post consists of FLACs ripped from a remastered CD (released in 1994) and includes full album artwork for both Vinyl and CD media. When I originally bought the album on vinyl, I must admit I was a little disappointed, even though there were a couple of typical 'Hook' tracks (Million Dollar Riff and Blue Jeans). They seemed to have lost the magic that was evident in their first 2 albums. However, I have since grown to like this album over time and consider it to be an important piece of the Hook's discography.  
I have chosen to include a couple of bonus tracks, the non-album B-Side of Million Dollar Riff "Forging Ahead" and a rare live recording of 'This Is My City' - recorded in Perth during their Brats are Back Tour.  

01 Million Dollar Riff 3:50
02 Is This America? 4:30
03 Blue Jeans 2:30
04 Somewhere In Sydney 3:40
05 This Girl Says She's Bored 3:20
06 This Is My City 3:40
07 Straight In A Gay Gay World 4:30
08 I'm Normal 3:15
09 Mumbo Jumbo 3:20
10 Crazy Heart 5:00
11 Forging Ahead (B-Side Single)*     4:07
12 Somewhere In Sydney (Bonus Live Perth)     4:05

The Hooks were:
Shirley Strachan (Lead Vocals)
Red Symons (Guitar/Vocals)
Bob Starkie (Guitar)
Greg Macainsh (Bass/Vocals)
Freddy Strauks (Drums/Vocals)

New Link 20/04/2021


  1. Great Aussie band, thank you for this.

  2. I have to agree with you. When I got it I was also disappointed. It seemed kind of listless and disinterested overall, despite a few great moments. It lost the glammy colour of the previous two, but didn't really replace it with anything.

  3. Link is dead , any chance for a another upload, thank you.

    1. New Link created for your enjoyment

    2. thank you, appreciate it, all the best.