THE LITTLE BANDS

The Little Bands scene was a sub-scene that occurred as a parallel to the more formalised Melbourne Punk band scene. The first Little Band formed in 1979 after friends of the Primitive Calculators put together a temporary group to support The Boys Next Door at a venue called Hearts in Carlton. At the time members of the Calculators were living in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy next door to fellow synth renegades WhirlyWirld. Both groups latched onto the idea of forming temporary, side-project bands that would play no more than two gigs, for no more 15 minutes and share each other’s equipment — i.e. Little Bands.

The most common manifestation was in the Little Band itself. A spontaneous and usually short lived but vibrant and fresh agglomeration of people, ideas and borrowed instruments would result in quick, intense and sharply focused performances of some material based on a new idea. In many cases, once expressed, these ideas would often be superseded by the next time the same people surfaced. It was a constantly turbulent melting pot of people, band names and sounds.

Soon a raft of Little Bands had started up and began to convene at both the Calculators’ and Whirlywirld’s twin terraces to use their equipment and rehearsal space. These resources were shared among the north of the river extended family and the spaces were in permanent use 24 hours a day as people rolled up to try things out. Over time other small collectives setup their own spaces, but the core group of people in and associated with these two bands were the nucleus of the Little Bands.

Made up of a circle of artists, art enthusiasts, spontaneous musicians, poets, performance artists and filmmakers, mostly of whom were dole recipients with a lot of spare time on their hands, Little Bands proliferated amid of haze of booze, weed and speed. In a milieu where ideas were considered more important than musical prowess, the bands often sounded quite terrible; these kids were sloppy, clangy and discordant. By turns, they could sound equally fantastic: a mixture of epileptic drum machine rhythms, stabbing synth lines and creepy/witty lyrics making for oddly compelling results.

"The little bands thing was just a bunch of like-minded people playing in an endless array of line-ups sort of apart from the Clifton Hill mob of David Chesworth and Philip Brophy. It was in some ways very anti of what they were doing. Philip Brophy was very against emotion in music, while the little bands thing was meant to be wild and chaotic and punk added into doing sort of art, experimental stuff, and not just electronic. A lot of the original participants were actually artists who applied the Dada sort of approach of their painting. It was the attitude and idealism of punk, but applied to a post-punk art type thing." (John Murphy - Whirlywirld)

"We just told everybody we know, why don’t you get a band together? It’s really easy; you can knock up a band in five minutes, and then throw it out the window. The idea just seemed to take off." (Stuart Grant - Primitive Calculators)

The Little Bands performed regularly, with monthly Little Band nights at the Champion Hotel, Fitzroy, and occasional migrations to North Melbourne and St KildaIn 1979 a local record shop owner, Max Robenstone of Climax Records in Gertrude st Fitzroy, paid for the recording of the 'Little Bands' EP, featuring The Take, Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys, Morpions and Too Fat to Fit Through the Door, as well as a Primitive Calculators single.

Little Bands member and radio announcer Alan Bamford also recorded many of the Little Bands gigs on a TEAC ¼ track reel to reel tape recorder using a Shure 58 mic on a stand positioned in the air next to the mixing desk. These tapes were then broadcast immediately after gigs on his 12am – 2am Friday night slot on 3RRRFM. 

"John Murphy had a radio show on 3RRR which I helped out with. When he got tired of doing it I took over and created a more permanent show. The period I did it intensely was 1980. I didn’t have much money and so I would go into the 3RRR news room and act like I was doing something journalistic for them, bulk erase half a dozen spools of tape and walk out, and that’s what I used for the show. I Never told them about it, I mean they were for bulk erase but I didn’t own them and I didn’t have permission to use them." (Alan Bamford)

The Little Bands were most often mixed by The Boys Next Door mixer, Groper (real name Steven Colgan). Groper had his own sound system and he was completely cool with the prospect of 12 to 15 bands a night, all playing different instrument setups for 10 minutes, and managed to sort acceptable sound with no sound check with great ease. These recordings owe an immense debt to his skill.

We started playing in the little bands scene and our name was just plucked out of the air. There were about 14 of us and we were totally tuneless, but there was a rule that if you could play an instrument you couldn’t play in the band.   Although supposedly anyone could play, there was a hierarchy in the little bands, and basically we were down the bottom, but we had enthusiasm." (Roland & Crusader - The Delicatessens)

"... We played our first public appearance, it was all part of the first little band’s night at the Champion Hotel. We had nothing rehearsed and we had to go on second. There were ten bands in all. We had ten to fifteen minutes.  We started with ‘I Suffer For My Art” . Terry got the rhythm wrong, Paul forgot the lyrics and none of us could hear ourselves, so basically we made a racket." (Jim Buck - The Band of Hope and Glory)

LIST OF LITTLE BANDS:                       

 
  • $2.50
  • 66 Johnstons
  • Alan Bamford Musical Experience
  • Albert Hammond Megastar
  • Bags of Personality
  • Band of Hope and Glory
  • BeisselBoyceBoswell
  • Child Molester + 4
  • Clang
  • Considered Town Planning
  • Delicatessens
  • Hey There
  • Invisible Music
  • Jim Buck Solo
  • Jimmy Haemorrhoid and the Piles
  • Junk Logic
  • Kim and Mark
  • Kim Beissel
  • Land of Hope and Glory
  • Lest We Forget
  • Morpions
  • Ralf Horrors
  • Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys
  • Sample Only
  • Seaside Resort
  • Shop Soiled
  • Somersaulting Consciences
  • Stand by Your Guns
  • Tarax Show
  • The Band of Hope and Glory
  • The Beaumaris Tennis Club Quartet
  • The Devils
  • The Eastwood Family
  • The Egg
  • The Franging Stuttgarters
  • The Go Set
  • The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
  • The Klu
  • The Irreplacables
  • The Ivan Durrants
  • The J P Sartre Band
  • The Leapfrogs
  • The Lunatic Fringe
  • The Nookies
  • The Oroton Bags
  • The Pastel Bats (The Pink Bats)
  • The Persons Borthers
  • The Potato Cooperative
  • The Quits
  • The Saxophone Caper
  • The Soporifics
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • The Swinging Hoy Family
  • The Take
  • Thrush and the Cunts
  • Too Fat to Fit Through the Door
  • Use No Hooks

     The Champion Hotel 1979 - Courtesy of Timothy Hughes

 

     Top: Alan Bamford & John Murphy 1979 - courtesy of Alan Bamford
     Bottom: Groper 1979 - Courtesy SKMWT

 

'Little Bands' EP inserts 1979

 

 

The concept reached its zenith in late 1979, and come 1980 The Primitive Calculators (except for Dave Light) split up and left for Europe, and Whirlywirld relocated to London. However there was a second wave of Little Bands who kept the flame burning including The Oroton Bags, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Gave Up Music To Become Crazy Mixed Up Zombies, and Use No Hooks, who had a warehouse space in Langridge St Abbotsford. These three groups of utterly different musicians drove the Little Bands during 1980 with the phenomena being well supported by Dolores San Miguel who booked bands for venues such as The Ballroom and the 475 Club. There were one off gigs as well  -  notoriously at the Collingwood Town Hall plus innumerable house parties.

By late 1980 the energy was dissipating and the social fabric of the extended Little Bands family was crumbling due to dislocation, poverty, heroin, alcohol and particularly amphetamine use.  By 1981 there were no more Little Bands nights, instead The Incredibly Strange Creatures set up a warehouse performance venue called the Killayoni Club, with Lawton Ellery and his home made sound system, 'Dresden Sound', and presented some truly psychedelic nights of film, sound and performance in the year that followed. Use No Hooks strutted their stuff as a serious funk band and gigged regularly in 1982 – 1983 before death and other disasters rented them asunder. Many of the Little Bands members went on to have productive careers in various fields of creative and artistic expression.

   Paradise Lounge poster 1980 with lots of Little Bands gigs

 

    Killayoni Club 1981 - Courtesy of Kate Buck

 

 
View The North Fitzroy Beat HERE

The one off 'North Fitzroy Beat' created in 1980
by Alan Bamford focused purely on the Little Bands sub-scene

 

A SELECTION OF LITTLE BAND LINE-UPS: 

To listen to Little Bands Tracks click HERE

ALAN BAMFORD MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Alan Bamford, John Murphy, Ollie Olsenas well as Virginia Kane, Mick Earls and Arne Hanna. 

                                    ABME 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford

HOY FAMILY SWINGERS: David Hoy, Marie Hoy, Tom Hoy, Jules Taylor and Stuart Grant.

                                    Hoy Family Swingers 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
RONNIE & THE RHYTHM BOYS included: Jules Taylor, Denise Rosenberg and Stuart Grant.

                                   Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
SAMPLE ONLY included: Mick Earls, Arnie Hanna and Steve Bourke. 

                   Sample Only 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford

 THE BEAUMAURIS TENNIS CLUB QUARTET included: Rowland Polio Penguin, Joanne Murtagh and Debra Goldsmith

                          The Beaumauris Tennis Club Quartet 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams
THE DELICATESSENS included: Rowland Polio Penguin, Rania Stephan, Teresa, Peter Particle, Syndal, Mim, Debbie Goldsmith, Bryan, Crusader Rabbit, Alison Zimbab, Joanne, Perry Perriwinkle and Doctor Peter plus up to three others for various gigs.

                        The Delicatessens 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams
THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED UP ZOMBIES included: Jim Buck, Kate Buck, Terry Shannon, Paul Doogood and Wendy Gauwitz.

                     TISCWSLABMUZ 1980 - Courtesy of Kate Buck

THE PASTEL BATS included: Peter Orr, Craig Neish, Simon Grounds, Tim Costigan, Peter Kenney and Kerry Frost.

 
                              The Pastel Bats 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams
THE PERSONS BROTHERS included: Stuart Grant, Jim Addison and ?

                               The Persons Brothers 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
THE TAKE included: Marissa Stirpe, Frank Lovice, Jules Taylor and Tom Hoy

                        The Take 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
THRUSH AND THE CUNTS included: Denise Rosenberg, Jules Taylor, Marion and Marissa Stirpe

                       Thrush and the Cunts 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
TOO FAT TO FIT THROUGH THE DOOR included: Marie Hoy, Marcus Bergener, Michael Buckley, Ollie Olsen, Tom Hoy, Dave Light and Stuart Grant

                     Too Fat to Fit Through the Door 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford

 

REFERENCES:
  • Main Image - The North Fitzroy Beat 1980 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
  • Background Image - Little Bands poster 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
  • Champion Hotel, Fitzroy 1979 - Courtesy of Timothy Hughes
  • Alan Bamford & John Murphy 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
  • Groper 1979, mixing at the Ballroom - Courtesy SKMWT
  • Little Bands EP insert - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
  • The Paradise Lounge flier 1980 - Courtesy of Dolores San Miguel
  • Killayoni Club 1981 - Courtesy of Kate Buck
  • ABME 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford 
  • Hoy Family Swingers 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford  
  • Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford 
  • Sample Only 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford  
  • The Beaumauris Tennis Club Quartet 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams
  • The Delicatessens 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams 
  • The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies 1980 - Courtesy of Kate Buck
  • The Pastel Bats 1980 - Courtesy of Angela Adams
  • The Persons Brothers 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford   
  • The Take 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford   
  • Thrush and the Cunts 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford  
  • Too Fat to Fit Through the Door 1979 - Courtesy of Alan Bamford
  • PDF - Little Bands gig list 1980 - Compiled Jim Buck
  • Alan Bamford - The Little Bands Archive written by Alan Bamford
  • http://www.vice.com/read/big-and-ugly-109-v15n5http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_band_scene http://wallabybeat.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/little-bands-7-emi-custom-prs-2675-1980.html
  • https://soundcloud.com/melbourne-littlebands
  • http://www.thekuepperfiles.com/print/clinton_walker_stranded.pdf
QUOTES:
  • John Murphy (Whirlywirld) - Courtesy 'Excerpts of Stranded' by Clinton Walker, p.68
  • Stuart Grant (Primitive Calculators) - Courtesy 'Excerpts of Stranded' by Clinton Walker, p.68
  • Roland & Crusader - The Delicatessens - Personal interview
  • Jim Buck - Courtesy of Jim Buck 
  • Alan Bamford - Personal interview

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