Friday, September 12, 2008

An Australian Rock Music Institution - The Early Years

In the early 80s the Australian pub rock scene was arguably at its peak, having already produced some of the seminal pop-rock artists of that era. So it was no surprise when ‘one-off’ pub rock supergroup The Party Boys, extended their initial two week tour into a career spanning more than a decade.

When bass player Paul Christie (ex-Kevin Borich Express) departed from Mondo Rock in late 1982 he found himself at a bit of a loose end. He came up with the idea of inviting a few old mates in the music biz to join him in a covers band, with the view of performing a few shows over the summer holiday period. The original line-up was a virtual who’s who of the Oz rock scene, featuring Christie, Australian Crawl vocalist James Reyne (see previous post) who was wrapping up filming the mini-series ‘Return To Eden’, guitarist Kevin Borich, guitarist Harvey James (ex-Mississippi/Sherbet/Swanee) and drummer Buzz Bidstrup (ex-Angels). Suffice to say the ‘low key’ project attracted huge media and public attention, selling out every venue on their initial tour. Their fourth show was turned into a live album ‘Live At Several 21st’s’ (which cost a whopping $50 to record), partying all the way to #9 on the Australian album charts in March 1983, yielding the minor hit single ‘Bitch’ (OZ#100 - a cover of The Rolling Stones’ song), and featuring a James Reyne rendition of ‘The Beat Goes On’. From day one the ethos of The Party Boys ventured to be just a little bit cheeky, even rebellious, with their choice of material and on stage antics to accompany.

James Reyne returned to his Australian Crawl duties soon after, but rather than finish up the Party Boys, Christie decided to invite Australian vocal legend Richard Clapton into the fold. The Party Boys were on a winning formula with the material they were playing, appealing to the tastes of their audiences, and with decades of combined experience as live performers, they delivered the goods on every track, without exception. Clapton’s residence saw the release of their second live album in September ‘83 with ‘Greatest Hits (Of Other People)’ (OZ#25), featuring a rollicking rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’. Shortly after Harvey James was replaced by ex-Rose Tattoo guitarist Robin ‘The Beast’ Riley, whilst Clapton returned to his regular gig as an Oz-rock demi-God, replaced by yet another legendary vocalist Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan, who was fresh from a Skyhooks reunion tour.

The refurbished line-up released another live album in mid 1984 with ‘No Song Too Sacred’ (OZ#61), recorded at the St. George Sailing Club, with Strachan imposing his own high octave vocals on covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ and ‘The Immigrant Song’ and The Police hit ‘Walking On The Moon’. In 1985 Paul Christie introduced an international flavour to The Party Boys recipe, inviting former Eagles’ member and guitar idol Joe Walsh to the party. Christie recalls the invitation as saying “The Party Boys drink a lot and play in bars, and we think you should fit right it”. Walsh couldn’t say no to such an offer and joined Christie and Borich, alongside new recruits Richard Harvey (ex-Divinyls) on drums, and Dragon vocalist Marc Hunter (see previous post). It was almost three years into the life of The Party Boys, and a proposed short term fling had evolved into a flourishing rock and roll marriage, albeit an open marriage. The latest line-up packed venues across Australia on their ‘Great Bars of Australia’ tour, and recorded a fourth live album with ‘You Need Professional Help’ (OZ#95), released late in 1985. The album featured Joe Walsh singing the Eagles’ hit ‘Life In The Fast Lane’, and Marc Hunter belting out Springsteen’s ‘Cover Me’.

The logical next step in The Party Boys evolution was to include arguably the most raucous rock vocalist on the Australian music scene at that time. Rose Tattoo singer Angry Anderson came on board during 1986, along side former Status Quo bassist Alan Lancaster and guitarist John Brewster (ex-Angels). Christie shifted from bass to performing drums/percussion to accommodate Lancaster’s inclusion. Supporting the Choir Boys (see future post) on their ‘A Night Out With The Boys’ tour, strangely enough, this particular line-up of The Party Boys didn’t record a live album.

The next phase of The Party Boys journey was unquestionably their most successful in commercial terms. It coincided with the arrival of former Swanee front man John Swan (see recent post). Swan was widely regarded as one of the best rock and roll singers in the land, and with his inclusion The Party Boys undertook something unknown to them collectively to that point, recording a studio album.

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