Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Recipe For Success

1983 was a bumper year for up and coming Australian bands to break through on the national scene.  The likes of Real Life, Allniters, The Expression, Machinations, Pseudo Echo (see previous posts), and Hoodoo Gurus all took that giant step toward Australia wide recognition, and another young band from Melbourne also added their own level of freshness to an ever burgeoning Australian music scene.  I recall watching an episode of Countdown in late ‘83 that featured videos from two new bands, Pseudo Echo (who hadn’t even been signed to a recording contract) with the vibrant track ‘Listening’, and Kids In The Kitchen with the atmospheric song ‘Change In Mood’, the latter having just made its national chart debut.  Both bands would soon be knocking on the door of the national top ten, and for a time at least, would tussle for the title of most popular young band on the Australian music-scape.

Australian bands of that era weren’t shy about challenging some of the established international acts in terms of style and sound.  During 1983, the ‘new romantics’ movement out of Britain was dominating Australian charts - the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox (see previous posts), ABC (see previous posts), and Japan had taken elements of the new wave/post punk scene and added a flamboyant, fashion driven aesthetic to it.

During late ‘82 into early ‘83, a young quintet of musicians took the synth-pop core of the new wave scene, and married it to a funk based rhythm, to create an infectious synergy of sound for live audiences on the Melbourne club scene.  Over a period of eight months Kids in the Kitchen forged a following among fans, and built a repertoire of original material.  During this period the band’s larder line-up featured the

charismatic vocalist Scott Carne, Greg Woodhead (keyboards), Greg Dorman (guitar), Craig Harnath (bass), and Bruce Curnow (drums).  Scout’s from Mushroom’s White Label recognised the bands potential and in mid ‘83 secured the lads signatures to a recording contract.

Recording sessions with famed producer Ricky Fataar followed over the next couple of months, and by September of ‘83, the first aural dish was served up in the form of the single ‘Change In Mood’.  The single immediately whet the appetite of the record buying public which consumed it in sufficient numbers to push Kids in the Kitchen into the national charts during October ‘83 (incidentally a full month ahead of cross town rivals Pseudo Echo).  Over the summer holiday period Kids in the Kitchen and Pseudo Echo battled it out for the hearts, minds, and ears of the Australian music buying public.  ‘Change In Mood’ reached boiling point at #10 early in ‘84 (#2 in Melbourne), though Pseudo Echo’s ‘Listening’ (#4) won that particular chart skirmish.

Kids in the Kitchen had also undertaken a hectic touring schedule, opening pop-up restaurants….I mean playing gigs nationally, initially in support of Models (see previous posts), and soon as headliners in their own right.  Internally though the band were unsettled ingredients wise, with new members Alistair Coia (keyboards), and Claude Carranza (guitar) being added to the mix.  As ‘Change In Mood’ was sliding out of the charts, Kids in the Kitchen released their second single, the funk infused ‘Bitter Desire’.  I recall being

completely hooked on the song’s funky guitar riff and fat big brass sound, and playing my copy of the single incessantly.  ‘Bitter Desire’ proved to be desirable to record buyers, reaching #17 nationally (#9 Melbourne) in mid ‘84.

All seemed to go quiet in the kitchen for the most part of a year, as the band worked on completing their debut album.  By mid ‘85 Kids in the Kitchen were open once more for patrons, with the silky smooth lead out single ‘Something That You Said’ (OZ#19) being overheard in the top 20.  Soon after their debut album ‘Shine’ was unveiled, with the title track released in accompaniment.  Whilst ‘Shine’ (#40) the single offered a mildly tarnished chart performance, the source album shone brilliantly, in part due to the fact that Kids in the Kitchen devotees had built an appetite for over eighteen months in waiting for it to be served.  ‘Shine’ the album contained the previous hit singles, and thus had sufficient allure to push sales to #9 nationally, resulting in platinum status (over 70,000 dishes…units sold) over a period of 43 weeks in the charts.

As Kids in the Kitchen took to the touring circuit, there were too more singles lifted from the ‘Shine’ album menu.  The anthemic tinged ‘Current Stand’ roused spirits sufficiently to stand proud at #12 nationally, whilst the single ‘My Life’ (OZ#74) represented little more than an after dinner mint.

The band then entered a hiatus for roughly six months, before defrosting around June of ‘86 with the stand alone single ‘Out Of Control’ (OZ#33), which reminded diners that Kids in the Kitchen still existed.  More lineup changes ensued, most notably in the drummers chair, with Bruce Curnow being fired, and replacement

Sterling Silver in turn leaving the band after just one gig (to join Cyndi Lauper’s band).  The revolving drummer door eventually stopped on Jason Stonehouse.  The band was then able to set about in earnest the recording of their sophomore album during the first half of ‘87.  With no fewer than four producers having their fingers in the pie, the resultant dance oriented album ’Terrain’ (OZ#39) offered a few highlights but was overall an erratic affair - a case perhaps of ‘too many cooks…’.

The lead out single ‘Say It’ spoke loudly enough to be heard at #31 nationally, and whilst I purchased a copy of the second single, ‘Revolution Love’ (OZ#44), the days of Kids in the Kitchen serving up top 20 fare had come and gone.  Ex-Go 101 drummer Simon Kershaw (no relation to Nik) joined the band in late ‘87, but after touring into early ‘88, the writing was on the restaurant wall, and Kids in the Kitchen closed for business soon after.

Lead vocalist Scott Carne joined rockabilly band Priscilla’s Nightmare, who released a single and self-titled EP during 1989.  By 1990, Carne had embarked on a solo project resulting in the dance-pop single ‘All I Want To Do’ (OZ#63) and ‘Freedom’ (OZ#84), and toured as an opening act for new jack soul outfit Soul II Soul.  Bass player Craig Harnath moved in to production work with the likes of Chocolate Starfish and

Kylie Minogue.  I also recall he produced the comic cover songs featured on the D-Generation’s Late Show during the mid 90s.

Kids in the Kitchen may not have scaled the heights of cross town rivals Pseudo Echo (who scored a U.S.#6 hit in 1987 with ‘Funky Town’), but the trajectories of the two bands were remarkably similar overall in terms of the number  of Australian chart hits, and the period during which both bands were active.

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