Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beathoven's Innocent Approach To Power Pop

During the 70s and early 80s I was living in Tasmania. Forming in the same State in 1975 were power pop outfit Beathoven (cool name huh). In terms of where Australian pop music was at the time, Beathoven were really cutting edge, taking a mixture of 60s power pop and giving it a contemporary makeover. The mainland of Australia was dominated by the likes of Aus giants Sherbet and Skyhooks, but across the Bass Strait Beathoven were the king pins of the pop scene in their hometown of Hobart (MEO245 were also on the rise). The lineup comprised David Minchin (vocals/guitar), Charles Touber (guitar/vocals), Greg Cracknell (bass/vocals) and Brent Jeffrey (drums). Gathering a loyal fan base by relentless gigging, Beathoven released one single in 1977 titled ‘Do You Remember The Time?’. Sensing that they were suffering the ‘backwater syndrome’ common to artists in Tasmania, the group relocated to Melbourne to try their luck in the big smoke.

The band soon gained a strong following along the East Coast and after signing to EMI they released a second single in 1978 with ‘Shy Girl’. The song failed to break them on the charts but they were regularly mentioned in dispatches in the same breath as the likes of the Sports and Australian Crawl as the next big thing. After recording some further demos with producer Kim Fowley (The Wailers, Mothers Of Invention), Beathoven had to adopt a new name due to a contractual dispute with EMI (who in the interim had unceremoniously dumped them) and so in 1980 they became The Innocents (also the name of a Californian pop trio of the early 60s). Signing with RCA they hooked up with former Ol’55 member Jim Manzie (see earlier post) who applied his considerable production skills to help the band produce the pop classic ‘Sooner Or Later’ in 1980. The song didn’t do amazing things on the charts, officially peaking at #58 during a 15 weeks stay inside the top 100, but it was worthy of a top 10 spot (and is credited as a top 10 hit in some references but sales wise it wasn’t). The song was kind of Bay City Rollers like in its sound but I mean good Bay City Rollers - I’m talking ‘Rock & Roll Love Letter’ quality, and had more than hint of ‘Beatle-esque’ harmonies.

A follow up single ‘Come Tonight’ missed the mark and soon after both Minchin and Cracknell left the band. A new bass player, Bob Smith (ex Affections), was recruited but the revised lineup didn’t last long and The Innocents called it a day in late 1981. The Raven Records label released a compile of some Beathoven/Innocents singles, demos and previously unreleased material on a 1984 album titled ‘Here We Come!’.

After a much extended sabbatical The Innocents (now Minchin, Touber, Cracknell and Smith - who is now an Anglican minister) resumed operation to tour the U.S. in the early 00’s, taking their place alongside the likes of The Knack to play their Aussie brand power-pop to retro-junkies who until then would never have heard them. A limited edition 2CD set ‘The No Hit Wonders From Down Under’ was released in 2002 to satisfy the craving of their new live audience fan-base. The Innocents had broken internationally in a way they never managed to do at their first attempt. Regular shows across Europe and even Japan led to an album of new material being recorded in 2006 with the CD ‘Pop Factory’. Their latest project was a 2007 collaboration with none other than singer Tony Sheridan, recording with him in the same studio in which Sheridan had recorded with The Beatles almost 50 years before.

For years I was desperate to come across a CD copy of ‘Sooner Or Later’ by the Innocents, and on my quest would often come across a song by the same name by 60s/70s outfit Grass Roots. Their song is actually pretty good too and was a big hit in the U.S. (#9) in 1971. Though it’s not a patch on the Innocents classic hit, which I finally snagged on CD via a compilation release in 2007.
Check out the Innocents performing 'Sooner Or Later' on Countdown in 1980. You might recognise Rocky Burnette, who introduces the band. You can read more about Rocky Burnette in a later post on Retro Universe.


argenis '65 said...

This guys are awesome, their music is addictive and the voices are just great. First time I heard Shy Girl I was impressed, the sound, the melody, the vocal harmonies... just great stuff. Love their music

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

I agree argenis '65. The Innocents were (are) a rare gem on the Australian music scene. Thanks for your comment :)