Wednesday, January 30, 2013
A month ago, I was driving back from Geelong on a family beach trip, and I was playing the radio in the car as I cruised at an ever-so-sensible speed down the highway. I had the stereo on 3RRR and managed to suffer through about 10 minutes of lame techno (you win some, you lose some: my love for the station has not diminished) before I decided to make the switch to 3PBS. An old workmate - take yer pick - was on the air and spinning some faves. First up was Eddy Current Suppression Ring. I swore on my life a while ago that I'd never need hear that band for the next half-decade, not due to any dislike of the band - au contrair - but just due to simple over-exposure in years past, but their raw & shaky rock & roll had me pumping my fist in the air in no time. It sounded good. What came next was even better: The Eastern Dark's "Johnny & Dee Dee" track from 1985. There are no Youtube versions which will allow me to imbed the damn thing, so you'll just have to follow this link. Believe me, it's worth it. It remains one of the great Ramonesoid tracks of this or any other era: the opening acoustic set-up, which sounds almost like "Stairway To Heaven", is a ruse. When the drums kick in, the screamed "one-two-three-four!" (or is that Deutsche?), the bass, then the guitars, it doesn't stop for breath.
Anyway, that was a month ago. I still have Eastern Dark, and particularly this number, on my mind. It'll put a big grin on your face, or perhaps you have a pile of shit clogging up your ear canals. Your choice. The band made a big splash down here at the time: "Johnny & Dee Dee", and its flipside, "Julie Is A Junkie", were staples - very regular staples - on community radio at the time. Hearing this track, which was produced by Rob Younger and released on the Waterfront label, always has me thinking of Sydney in the mid '80s. Not that I have a great fondness for the place these days, but I was a regular visitor as a youngster, travelling up there most summers to visit relatives, and in 1986, my brother and I went into town to visit the "legendary" Waterfront Records, the store/label which, at least in our eyes, seemed to be somewhat of a focal point for all things good, primarily American hardcore and Australian underground rock & roll of the Detroit/HC-damaged variety. And so I bought some discs by the Dead Kennedys, MDC(!) and The Hard-Ons, and went on my way. I didn't actually buy any Eastern Dark, which possibly renders this little nostalgic tale completely pointless, but the band, whose career had just recently been cut short by the tragic death of its leader, James Darroch, in a car accident just that July, loomed a large shadow at the time. Radio flogged 'em, fanzines eulogised them and people pondered what could have been...
They'd only been in existence for 2 years. Darroch had spent time in the Celibate Rifles, and he was rounded out by the ace rhythm section of Geoff Milne and Bill Gibson (who later went onto Smelly Tongues, a Residents/Beefheart-style outfit who released a great 12" EP on Waterfront in the late '80s which sold zip. Check it out, it'll set you back a ha'penny). Australian underground rock & roll was hot back then, for audiences both here and overseas. You had the Sydney scene dominated by the likes of post-'Birdman/Citadel Records bands like Died Pretty, Lime Spiders, et al, outsiders like X, Thug, Lubricated Goat and feedtime, as well as skate-punkers The Hard-Ons and Massappeal, and Melbourne followed a different path of damage, exemplified by acts such as Venom P. Stinger, Slub and the Cosmic Psychos. And there was a lot more besides, between scenes and other cities (I never even mentioned Aberrant Records!), but that's too much to delve into right now. The country is going through a similar renaissance this very minute. There's a lot of good music being made right now, much of it finding a keen audience in the US, and without blowing too much hot air up anyone's anus, I would lay a fair amount of credit on Eddy Current's doorstep for being the Saints/Radio Birdman of their generation: the band who came along, conquered, lit some flames and fucked off, leaving a diaspora of groups in their wake. But I digress... I was talking about the Eastern Dark, wasn't I? They had other great songs, too, such as this one, or their unreal take on the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" (no clip. You might have to buy a record). The band was, for all intents and purposes, a punk rock band w/ pop melodies, a descroption you could get away w/ back in the day when people wouldn't think you were talking about NOFX. They weren't just Detroit-rock slobs, either: Bill Gibson was well hip to the current crop of US sensations, namedropping the likes of the Meat Puppets and Buttholes in a B-Side interview at the time and donning a Descendents t-shirt when he saw fit. Got me? They only ever released this 7" and a posthumous EP in late '86 by the name of Long Live The New Flesh, although there was plenty of great live material compiled on their Girls On The Beach (With Cars) complete discography 2LP set on Waterfront in '89 (since reissued, and apparently still in print, on the Half-A-Cow label). And that's it. One listen to the Eastern Dark and you'll realise toot sweet that they were, ever-so-briefly, one of this country's finest acts of the mid '80s, and their legacy, despite their slim recordings, is well deserved. Amen to that, brothers and sisters!