Monday, August 25, 2008

Bad Habits Lead To A Hit Record

Billy Field seemed to come from left field when he burst onto the Australian charts in May 1981 with his jazz-pop single ‘Bad Habits’. But Mr. Field had developed some very good musical habits more than a decade earlier as a member of Sydney band King Fox.

King Fox was formed whilst Field (and the rest of the group’s members) were still in high school. Field handled the vocals, whilst Paul Radcliffe (guitar/flute), Peter Muller (organ), David King (bass) and Andrew Evans (drums) rounded out the group. It’s true to say that the lads had an advantage, monetarily at least, over many other embryonic groups of the late 60s. Hailing from the affluent suburb of Vaucluse they were furnished with the very best instruments and equipment by their parents. But their parents couldn’t supply the talent (well not directly) and to King Fox’s credit they released a strong debut single on the Du Monde label. ‘Unforgotten Dreams’ was released in late 1969 and reached #7 in Sydney, charting for 17 weeks in total and reaching #27 on the Australian charts. The song was a promising example of contemporary late 60s psychedelic rock with hints of progressive rock ambitions.

The quintet released one more single ‘Tymepiece’, which flirted with the lower reaches of the Sydney charts, and had started work on an album. But the parental funding finished when all five members failed their end of years high school exams, and so too did King Fox MkI. All but Field revived the band in 1972 (presumably sans parental support) in 1972, but the single ‘I Think You’re Fine’ flopped, as did King Fox MkII soon after.

Billy Field meanwhile had left the big city for a stint working on the land for most of the 70s. The lure of the big city and the big music scene saw him return to Sydney and establish the Paradise Studios recording facility in 1979. Reliant on only himself to fund his passion for music, Field set about recording an album of his own. 1981’s ‘Bad Habits’ showcased Field’s passion for jazz and pop. His husky vocals proved the perfect foil for the slick horn sections and crisp production. The title track seemed ridiculously out of place so far as what might be prescribed as a winning formula for a hit pop song, but fortunately music doesn’t always follow the prescribed formula. ‘Bad Habits’ debuted on the Australian single’s chart in May 1981 and ascended to #4 by mid year, sitting comfortably inside the top 10 alongside the likes of Men At Work and Kim Wilde. Meanwhile the album ‘Bad Habits’ proved to be more than a curiosity, rocketing to #1 in Australia and lauding it over the competition for two weeks mid year, and spending 37 weeks inside the charts. The album also featured the tongue in cheek number ‘If I Was A Millionaire’, which of course Field was.

Looking more like a future CEO of Microsoft than a pop star, critics may have been tempted to pour cold water on Field as a serious player in the mainstream pop market, but the strength of his second single established this former rich kid as a quality singer/songwriter. The ballad ‘You Weren’t In Love With Me’ took the Australian charts by storm in August 1981. By early November it had knocked another ballad ‘Endless Love’ (Lionel Richie & Diana Ross) off the top spot of the charts, spending one week at the summit before none other than the Rolling Stones (‘Start Me Up’) supplanted it. ‘You Weren’t In Love With Me’ was released in the U.K. market in mid ‘82 reaching #67.

Field not only appeared on pop shows like Countdown but also on Australia’s ‘60 Minutes’ boosting his profile to superstar levels, briefly at least. He re-entered his Paradise Studios to record the sophomore album ‘Try Biology’ (OZ#21) which was released in late 1982. The lead out single ‘True Love’ reached a respectable #17 on the national charts, but the follow up title track single missed the charts altogether in early ‘83. It appeared that the Australian pop scene’s love affair with Billy Field was over.

Field continued to manage Paradise Studios and maintained his involvement in both R&B and jazz music scenes. He released three more straight jazz style albums in addition to flirting some more with pop/rock, including ‘Say Yes’ (1989) which featured the string section from Sydney’s Symphony Orchestra, ‘Rock & Roll Memories’ (1989) and ‘Western Light’ (1993). Billy Field continued to perform regularly throughout the 90s with his jazz group the Bad Habits Band. Aside from his production duties Field is also a music arranger of repute on the Australian jazz music scene, and is also a driving force behind the educational jazz big band project Kinderjazz, aiming to raise the profile of jazz music for children. It’s worth noting that the song ‘Bad Habits’ has been covered a number of times, more recently by ex-Van Halen front man David Lee Roth in 2002.


straedearts said...
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straedearts said...

Anyone know where to get this album or discography in MP3 format? I had it on cassette and its long gone squuuiiieely!!

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Not sure about MP3 format - but if you live in Australia there are a couple of CD collections available. One is titled 'Best Of - You Weren't In Love With Me'. There's also a double disc package available on import from Japan, combining the albums 'Bad Habits' and 'Try Biology'. Try a site called - not sure if they take o/s orders.

straedearts said...

xCheers for the heads up on that...
Currently I am without an address on tour in Asia so it's a bit hard to get it sent for a while yet.

Thanks again though. I have a few songs in my head I have been waiting to hear out of speakers day?!