Read David Nichols’ liner notes for Closed Circuits: Australian Alternative Electronic Music of the ’70s & ’80s


One of the more interesting compilations of recent months is Closed Circuits: Australian Alternative Electronic Music of the ’70s & ’80s released recently by Festival Records. Drawing together both well known and obscure tracks from Karen Marks, Ollie Olsen & John Murphy’s Whirlywirld, Distant Locust and Scattered Order alongside more well known Aussie acts like Models, the Reels and the Machinations – it is fantastic introduction to a little explored side of Australia in the early 80s.

Compiled lovingly by David Nichols, the compilation comes with copious liner notes which David has provided Cyclic Defrost for your reading pleasure along with a YouTube playlist to listen along to.

The landscape for ‘new music’ in Australia in the early 1980s was rich and varied. If only anyone could agree what actually constituted ‘new music’!

This collection brings together a wide range of recordings really only united by one thing: people using technology to produce something fresh. These were not necessarily artists wedded to the idea of the ‘new wave’ or even hoping to wipe out old rock music; but what these tracks do represent is forward-thinking, inventive, progress.

In those times you wore your technology on your sleeve, upfront and unashamed. That’s not to say there weren’t concerns raised by audiences about the use of tapes, drum machines and other kinds of ‘cheating’ replacing replicable or fluid skill; but there was also a fascination not only with what the machines could do but how they could fit with conventional songwriting even when they were still, clearly and audibly, machines.

Most (not all) of the people on this collection were in their early-to-mid 20s; their reference points growing up in the 70s might have been Bowie’s Berlin period albums, or Roxy Music – particularly the Eno years – or Brian Eno’s own solo material; perhaps groups like Suicide. Many tracks sound like their creators spent their formative years immersed in the fun experimental side of progressive rock (though few seem to remember that experience). Others were more into the shock element of the new wave/ post punk world – or the DIY nature of synthesisers and other new technology. It didn’t hurt that between the late 70s and early 80s the hardware got cheaper, fast – though five or six hundred dollars for a synthesizer was still a major investment.

Though the tracks in this collection are not sequenced chronologically, it is possible to trace a ‘normalising’ process, particularly for synthesisers (but also for a general change in style – less ‘organic’, more ‘angular’).

80s revival nights (starting with Duran Duran discos) started in Sydney in the early 90s. In that same decade, ‘80s retro’ (think of Regurgitator’s amazing Unit album) became an undeniable ‘thing’. People in 2017 are dazzled by the sound and stance of Australia’s 1980s electronic pop. But if anything makes the 80s stand out, it’s the aura of innovation that hangs on so much of the records from that era. This was, surely, the last time pop musicians really threw out the rule book and tried to make something ostentatiously new, without any reference to the past.

There is no shortage of great recordings from the 80s: there are things I found painful to leave off this compilation, and volume two (and three!) will be at least as strong. By all means, let this be a nostalgia trip – but also, think about the lesson that can be taken from a bunch of people who chose not to ignore history (they all knew what had gone before) and not to revile history (many of them loved their precedents) but to strike out with something completely and utterly untethered to history. Retro be gone!

David Nichols 2017

1. Metronomes – A Circuit Like Me (1980)

The Metronomes began in 1979, initially a studio-only collaboration between Andrew Picoleau
(once of XRayZ) and Al Webb (a musician and Juke journalist). Their fi rst single, ‘Saturday
Night’/’Sunday Morning’, featured Ash Wednesday, until recently a member of the Models and
before that, JAB, as a guest: by the time of the Metronomes’ second single, Wednesday had
become a full member. Webb wrote the words, and Webb and Wednesday the music for ‘A
Circuit Like Me’ which featured spoken vocal from one ‘Talking Judy’ (as distinct from ‘Singing
Judy’, who was a featured backing vocalist). Wednesday was (and is) a technical wizard, but
as Webb says, he also specializes in ‘obtuse ideas blended with an incredible sense of melody’.
Wednesday engaged the remarkable Zit Jackson, a (borrowed) CR-75 synched with a Dr Rhythm
DR-55, to provide ‘metallic beat’ on the single. Webb and Wednesday both feature on two other
great singles on this collection – by Jules Taylor and Karen Marks respectively.

2. The Reels – Shout and Deliver (1981)

The Reels worked extensively in the late 1970s (a recording of an earlier incarnation, the
Brucelanders, from a JJ live-to-air in 1978 demonstrates them as pugnaciously adept, slightly
jazz-rock, but still working towards the remarkable pop group they would soon become)
and were committed to their art, whatever the rest of the world – in the form of boneheaded
audiences, even stupider record companies, messy management and the tabloid press – cared
to throw at them. ‘Shout and Deliver’ was clearly like nothing anyone had done before, or was
doing elsewhere at the time. The sessions which produced it, for the Quasimodo’s Dream album,
used synthesisers, drums and vocals almost exclusively; its brilliance is perhaps the result of
the sadly short-lived creative partnership of Dave Mason and new arrival Karen Ansell, with a
supportive, and immensely talented, cast. By the time Quasimodo’s Dream was released, the
band began to fragment, but the pressure that created diamonds like this was possibly worth it.

3. Whirlywirld – Window to the World (1979)

Both incarnations of Ollie Olsen and John Murphy’s Whirlywirld were comprised of musicians
who went on to extraordinary things. The band on ‘Window to the World’ in 1979 featured
Andrew Duffi eld (it was only three years until the Models’ ‘On’ and thence ‘Barbados’), Simon
Smith and guitarist Dean Richards, later of Equal Local and Hot Half Hour and writer of the
unreleased (unrecorded?) follow-up single to Jules’ ‘Rock Rock Daddy’. Two years, fourteen
shows and two EPs later Olsen told Clinton Walker that he felt Whirlywirld had no redeeming
value: ‘it’s clinical, a Dr. Kildare-like operation that was a total failure – besides creating a nice
disco sound which I always wanted to do.’ Yet just as much of Whirlywirld and its successor
Hugo Klang seem to predict 90s rave, Olsen, Murphy and other players from this period and
place would return to some of the same ground in the Dogs in Space fi lm and then Max Q, in
the mid-80s.

4. The Limp – Outer Space Moth (1980)

With all due respect to The Limp, the band was always in the shadows – almost an offshoot – of
Pel Mel, Newcastle’s greatest alt-pop export of the early 1980s, sharing four core members
with the initial line-up of that band. It also had three McGees: Judy, Jane and Tim. ‘Outer Space
Moth’, one of indie electropop’s great ‘lost’ recordings produced in an edition of between 100
and 200 copies (recollections differ), was an off-the-cuff recording put together in the Newcastle
Teachers College recording studio in 1980. The intention was to produce a record to be given
away at an art exhibition. Tim McGee recalls ‘a most enjoyable day in a music room full of
instruments and recording gear’. Phil Turnbull recalls The Limp playing great shows with Wild
West, covering bands like Mars (are there any bands like Mars?); clearly the group channelled
excess creative energy leading to moments of brilliance. For better and worse, the members’
interests were often elsewhere.

5. Karen Marks – Cold Café (1981)

Karen Marks was a writer for pop magazines such as Scream and Sweet in the mid-70s, then
assembled Models with JAB’s Ash Wednesday, Johnny Crash and Mr. Pierre, becoming their
manager for the fi rst year of their existence. Marks and Wednesday quit in August 1979 and
released two of the best electropop singles of 1980: Wednesday’s ‘Love By Numbers’ (Marks
sings the chorus) and Marks’ ‘Cold Café’ (which Wednesday co-wrote, produced and plays
on). Marks followed the example of both Flowers and Jo Jo Zep by recording a Paul Kelly cover,
though ‘You Bring These Things’ was only issued on a sampler produced by Astor, her label.
Marks was philosophical about the possibility that ‘Cold Café’ might not be a hit: ‘Maybe it’s too
good to take off’. A follow-up single, ‘Problem page’, was not released; her record label was
probably preoccupied with meeting demand for the biggest hit of 1980, ‘Shaddup You Face’, and
its other Karen – Karen Knowles.

6. And An A – Af_ rmation (1982)

The Triffi ds’ David McComb strongly believed that And An A – a band which existed for almost a
decade and released only two singles – should have put out a double album every six months.
The group’s core members were David Kelsall, Tony Roncevich and Brett Gillespie and the
band began in 1981 after Kelsall advertised via radio station 6NR for musicians to help him
make something ‘challenging and interesting’. Drummer Ashley Zimpel found bass player Nigel
Harford at a party: Harford played in both And An A and German Humour for two years. German
Humour’s Adrian Wood remembers And An A ‘doing interesting things with power tools like
angle grinders… They became more electronic later.’ The fi rst of the band’s two 12” singles
(both date from years following Harford’s and Zimpel’s departure) was recorded at Sky guitarist
Kevin Peek’s studio Track in October 1985; it had a ‘log cabin, Kentucky’ feel, but also a Fairlight,
which they used to good effect.

7. Anne Cessna and Essendon Airport – Talking to Cleopatra (1980)

‘As far as I can remember,’ says Anne Sanger, ‘we were sitting around one night when Robert
and David were tossing around the idea of recording a single with a vocalist. But who should
that be? I said I’d do it. I was partly being facetious. I wasn’t at all sure I could sing. Neither were
they.’ ‘Robert’ and ‘David’ were Robert Goodge and David Chesworth, who had already issued
an EP as Essendon Airport, Sonic Investigations of the Trivial. Now, they were interested in trying
a more song based approach. Though Essendon Airport would soon add extra members to
become a bona fi de funk band, playing pubs and recording the Palimpsest album, for this single
they were Goodge (guitar and drums) and Chesworth (keyboards); Chesworth also engineered,
mixed, released and promoted the single. Goodge recalls ‘Talking to Cleopatra’ as having been
created to accommodate Sanger’s vocal style and ‘to make it very pop.’ It’s still buoyant and
fresh today.

8. German Humour – Young Man’s Old Girlfriend (1984)

Perth’s German Humour debuted in 1982, a three-piece featuring Nigel Harford, Peter Bates and
Adrian Wood. Harford and Bates’ prior band, Stray Tapes, had been thwarted, in their opinion, by
fi ckle drummers: instead, German Humour started out with a Roland TR606 and then ‘splurged
on a Linn Drum’. ‘The music was blatantly dance music’, Harford told Dave Gerard two years
after the group’s demise. ‘I always tried to boost the ‘danceability’ of the songs,’ Wood says
now, ‘because I loved the dancefl oor myself. I liked the fact that it was not a traditional rock
band format. Sometimes I had a hard time accepting some of the ideas Peter had because he
broke some ‘rules’ that I had grown up with in… classical music… Fortunately Peter was super
confi dent about his ideas, and wouldn’t let a bit of boring old music theory get in the way when
he thought something sounded good.’ German Humour’s Linn Drum was credited as ‘Fourth

9. Models – On (Original 7” Mix) (1982)

Arguably the best of the Models’ many great singles, but possibly also the least celebrated and
hardest to fi nd (the song appears on the band’s greatest hits collection, but in a very different
form) ‘On’ was recorded in turmoil between the Local and/or General and Pleasure of Your
Company albums. Only six months before the release of ‘On’ in August 1982 Kelly had attempted
to merge Models with the Reels to become The Act, a move thwarted by management and
record companies. Andrew Duffi eld is present for ‘On’, but had left temporarily when the single
was released in August 1982, and briefl y replaced by Gus Till; new drummer Barton Price was
installed; Mark Ferrie had left the group in disillusionment and James Freud had seen his chance
to join his old friend in his favourite band. ‘On’, produced by Lobby Loyde – one of the early
80s’ great producers – returns cataclysmically to Freud’s and Kelly’s intense, punky, power-pop
and punk roots.

10. Voigt/465 – Imprint (1979)

Voigt/465 formed in Sydney in the late 1970s, recording a single and an album. Phil Turnbull
remembers fi rst becoming acquainted with the idea of synthesisers in rock through seeing Roxy
Music in 1975, ‘with Eddie Jobson doing all the VCS3 stuff.’ He also ‘loved Eno in Roxy Music…
but Pere Ubu were as important as Roxy Music to us’. Like the Machinations, the group’s fi rst
recordings were done through the ministrations of the ‘enormously supportive’ Graeme Bartlett
at ABC studios in Darlinghurst. Turnbull regards ‘Imprint’ as the band’s ‘most fully realised
recorded song, Rob (Pobestek) does a fantastic solo over it, one of the best things he ever
played.’ Other tracks, he recalls, did not translate nearly so well to vinyl. ‘Rob mainly brought
“Imprint” to the group,’ says Turnbull, one of two keyboard-vocalists (alsongside Rae Macron
Cru) in Voight/465, ‘then it’s mainly Rae’s lyrics… Lyrics meant a lot to us personally but we
could never explain them to people.’

11. Ya Ya Choral – Waiting Time (1982)

For two EPs, Ya Ya Choral were Patrick Gibson, Fiona Graham and Michael Tee all on keyboards
and vocals. ‘Waiting Time’ appears on Such a Dutchman, which the group’s press release
claimed ‘transcends any pretensions of elitist fashion’, while the band’s second record was
What’s a Quaver. In between the group experimented briefl y with the name Zeee Toons, during
which time they incorporated two ex-members of the Reels, Polly Newham and John Bliss,
then reverted to the old name (then lost those same new members after recording the second
EP. ‘In the early stages,’ Phil Turnbull writes of Ya Ya Choral, ‘they were backed by a “choir”
of friends who tried their hardest but never sounded more than clamorous.’ The choir – or at
least an approximation of it – was heard on another track featured on Such a Dutchman, ‘God’s
Buzzsaw’. Gibson left, and later releases were harder rocking, a very different proposition from
synth-pop like ‘Waiting Time’.

12. Distant Locust – I Feel Love (1991)

Licensed courtesy of Steven Moore, Matthew Bright & Brian Purcell
Sydney’s Distant Locust – a three piece featuring Brian Purcell, Matthew Bright and Steven
Moore – were initially part of the cohort of noise (grunge?) scene centred on the Evening (also
known as the ‘Evil’) Star hotel in Surry Hills. Purcell and Bright had been in a band called Sleeping
Psychics; Bright wanted to ‘do an electronic rock band as heavy rock as any guitar band’.
They were always committed to producing as powerful a sound as possible from ‘old analogue
synths’: ‘We try to create a big wall of sound’ bass player Moore told Ned McDonald of Inpress
magazine in 1992. The band’s cover of ‘I Feel Love’ (praised by Colin Ink in Drum Media for
‘faithfully’ turning ‘a disco classic into a tortured mass dirge’) was a live favourite; it was not
released until the early 90s, when they included it on their one album – Chemical Wedding Feast
– recorded for Italian label Contempo during the year they lived in Amsterdam.

13. Jules – Rock Rock Daddy (1983)

Jules Taylor’s fi rst job was in the New Zealand record industry (her personal taste at that time
was for ‘free form jazz and abstract heavy metal’); on moving to Melbourne she worked at Climax
Records in Fitzroy. ‘You just had to stand for a day at Climax and you met everybody’, she recalls.
When the shop moved to new premises in Gertrude Street in the late 1970s, rehearsal rooms
became available at the rear of the premises, and both the shop, and Jules herself, became part
of the Little Bands scene alongside various Primitive Calculators and many others. Taylor sang in
both Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys and Thrush and the Cunts, who reunited for Dogs in Space,
on which Taylor also worked in a range of capacities. Between these she was volunteers coordinator
at 3RRR-fm – during which time she recorded her one solo single (so far), ‘Rock Rock
Daddy’, co-written with and produced by Al Webb of the Metronomes.

14. Bring Philip – Fire Truck (1983)

With what founder Ilmar Caruso calls their ‘meaningless anti-name’ and their rejection of
conventional rock instrumentation and styles, Sydney’s Bring Philip were committed to newness
every step of the way. Caruso says he saw music ‘more as a painter than a musician’. Dino
Martino had ‘heard that there was a guy who lived in a shack in Kings Cross who was looking
for a keyboard player so I wandered around knocking on doors until Ilmar answered.’ The Reels
were a strong infl uence on Caruso, not only through their use of synthesisers but also their
embrace of polyrhythms. Caruso and Martino were soon joined by drummer Eddie Ducquemin
and keyboard player Simon Hunt – better known now as Pauline Pantsdown – who contacted
them after hearing them on 2SER-fm. They saw themselves as ‘post-industrial modernists’.
After the Endoscopy EP and a single the band moved to Berlin, lost their drummer, gained a bass
player and a drum machine and recorded two unreleased albums.

15. Stinky Fire Engine – Fantastic/Ice Cream City (1989)

The brainchild of Shepparton-born, St Kilda-dwelling Wayne Davidson – at certain times a 3RRR
announcer, fanzine editor, television programmer and owner of the Toytown record label (which
specialised mainly in cassettes), Stinky Fire Engine was originally created as an umbrella ‘band’
to create found sound audio for a fanzine Davidson was producing… but never did. Instead, he
wrote and recorded songs on 4-track cassette blending the drum machines and synthesizer
technology of the 80s with a lo-fi indie lounge-pop sensibility. Live, the band was Davidson with
Dianne Currier and Kate Dermody: their shows would often have a theatrical bent with themes
like ‘spies’ or ‘holidays’. The group released two cassette albums (one of them reworked for US
release) and two vinyl singles in the 90s; ‘Ice Cream City’ is from the earliest work produced and
shows how even in the late 80s, electronic indie pop could subvert itself and go ‘retro’, if only in
the friendliest, most whimsical and strange way.

16. W.H.Y. – Sensible Shoes (1983)

From Chants R n B, to Party Machine, to Spectrum, to Ariel, and the Heaters, Mike Rudd had
been consistently in touch with live crowds and also managed the odd hit single too – producing
the JAB tracks for Lethal Weapons was probably not one of his most treasured moments, but
it did stand him in good stead for dabbling in synth pop. ‘W.H.Y. was at the point where we
went, “Oh to hell with it, we’ll do something completely different!” he says. Signing to Klaus
Schulze’s IC records Rudd, Bill Putt, John Moon and drum machine Weird Harold travelled
to West Germany to record the single ‘Woman of Steel’ and album Present Tense which was
released only in Germany and Sweden, to muted interest. Rudd largely remembers the band’s
live and studio experiences as an extended series of equipment breakdowns; today it is clear that
it was a far more interesting proposition than anyone gave it credit for in.

17. Machinations – Average Inadequacy (1980)

The original Machinations was a three-piece of Tim Doyle, Tony Starr, Fred Loneragan (originally
known as Fred Lonegan, then Lonergan, though he acquired another ‘a’ by the time of their fi rst
LP) and a drum machine. Inspired by English bands like the Monochrome Set and the Gang of
4 the group, from Sydney’s north shore, were taken into the ABC studios by Graeme Bartlett
to record for JJ’s New Music. They added bassist Nick (Nero) Swan and recorded ‘Average
Inadequacy’, its b-side and all the tracks on their follow-up EP at Trafalgar Studios with Lobby
Loyde producing. ‘Average Inadequacy’ was later rerecorded (at Rhinoceros) and reissued on
Mushroom’s White Label; Lene Lovich expressed an interest in covering it for British release
but the group denied her the honour hoping to crack that market themselves. By the late 80s
the Machinations were a hit dance pop band with a ‘real’ drummer, focusing on Loneragan’s
charismatic performance capacity. They reformed in 2012.

18. Informatics – Great XI (1984)

Michael Trudgeon, Valek Sadovchikoff, Steve Adam and Ramesh Ayyar formed Informatics in
1980 (Philip McKellar joined three years later). Between 1981 and 1985 Informatics released
material recorded to four-track tape recorder ‘and any electronic gear they could get their hands
on’. They incorporated video, fi lm and other visual elements into live shows; video was ‘pirated
from television ads, manipulated and then collaged to create new narratives that reinforced the
music’. Bruce Milne, Andrew Maine and Michael Trudgeon were jointly responsible for Fast
Forward cassette magazine with Trudgeon responsible for much of its eye-catching packaging
and layout (he designed the cover of this compilation). Their debut EP Dezinformatzia was
recorded in 1981, but unreleased until two years later; ‘The Great XI’ was one of the best
tracks on the intriguing Signal to Noise Set, collecting Melbourne experimental synth pop. Ash
Wednesday played a key role in the compilation of the album. Informatics are, at time of writing,
still playing amazing music.

19. Asphixiation – L’Acrostique D’Amour (1980)

Melbourne’s fi rst real punk band was postpunk before that was even possible. They were [TSK
TSK TSK] originally Alan Gaunt, Leigh Parkhill, Ralph Traviato and Philip Brophy – also instigators
of Melbourne’s 1978 Punk Gunk festival. [TSK TSK TSK] released fi ve singles and an album (‘we
all loved pop, Bowie , glam, kraut rock’ remembers Traviato). The group added Jayne Stevenson,
Maria Kozic, David Chesworth and one ‘Chris’, temporarily naming themselves Asphixiation for
an exhibition at the George Paton Gallery. ‘L’Acrostique D’Amour’ was ‘Disco Music for AM
Airplay’. Of course, in the late 70s/early 80s disco was anathema to followers of the newwave;
distaste for disco was often wrapped in racism (it was ‘wog music’). Ralph Traviato, who
played saxophone and wrote Asphixiation’s lyrics, recalls: ‘Speaking as a wog myself I can say
the groove was irresistible… We did it also as a provocation, you know, what could be more
offensive than a punk going disco but I suppose that made it more punk in a way.’

20. The Dugites – Waiting (1981)

Richard Rezille, reviewing a Dugites show in Juke in August 1981 enthused: ‘By any standard,
“Waiting” is a simply stunning song… their use of synthesiser dynamics and mood evocation
makes it easily one of the best singles to come out this year.’ Like all the band’s recorded songs,
‘Waiting’ was written by keyboard player Peter Crosbie. Crosbie owned one of the fi rst Fairlights;
‘Waiting’ was the result of his experiments with this new (Australian) technology and it saw the
Dugites progress way ahead of many of their peers. ‘Waiting’ bears some formal similarity to
Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’, but was recorded before that song was released. The single – and both The
Dugites’ albums for the Deluxe label – were produced by Bob Andrews, keyboard player fi rstly
in Brinsley Schwarz and then Graham Parker and the Rumour (and, at the time ‘Waiting’ hit the
top 20 in Australia, the producer behind another top 10 hit – Jona Lewie’s eternally popular
Christmas hit ‘Stop the Cavalry’).

21. Shower Scene from Psycho – Cara-Lyn (1984)

Many Australians would have fi rst heard the delights of the Strangeloves’ hit ‘Cara-Lyn’ as
performed by Perth’s own Johnny Young in mid-1966; a little over a decade later The Reels were
performing this infectiously cheesy song in their live shows. It was perfect fodder for Shower
Scene from Psycho, a band ‘designed’ in the early 80s by Simon Grounds, Jack Feedback and
Tim Costigan to demolish pop into its component parts ‘combining real garish ugly noises with
very sweet sounds’. The group had its origins in the Pastel Bats, one of the Little Bands of the late
1970s. Part of the Little Bands ideal was that bands should not last more than a few shows; the
Pastel Bats achieved their stated dream – to garner a support slot at the Crystal Ballroom – and
then felt they had no more to add. 3RRR announcer Gavan Purdy’s Elvis records offered Shower
Scene a platform for their particular vision, releasing a single and EP.

22. Scribble – Silly Girl (1984)

By the time ‘Silly Girl’ was released in 1983, synthesisers had taken their place as a core element
of modern pop. Bassist/keyboard player Johanna Piggott, who for all intents and purposes was
Scribble, has always demonstrated an exceptional pop sensibility. This was true even in the very
earliest days of XL Capris, in which she was known as ‘Aligator Bagg’, through to the 24 carat
classics she has written or co-composed, such as Dragon’s ‘Rain’ and John Farnham’s ‘Age of
Reason’. Piggott scripted fi lms and television series (Sweet and Sour, still well-loved amongst
a certain cohort, was in large part the result of her efforts, and very loosely based on her XL
Capris experiences) as well as writing and performing music. Scribble produced three albums
and numerous singles in the 1980s, but – disappointingly, considering the excellence of much
of the material – was not in itself a major success. The world would catch on: ‘Age of Reason’
was five years away.

23. Scattered Order – A Few Little Shocks (1984)

Scattered Order (the name initially stood for any of its members’ studio engineering work as
well as a ‘band’) emerged as a mainstay of the M2 label, achieving a release a year, its ethos
of collaboration and stabs in the dark maintaining the label’s legacy long after. In 1983, the
label was in its death throes, Mark Mordue heralded Scattered Order in Clinton Walker’s The
Next Thing for being ‘still alive and kicking (weeping, screaming, bleeding, punching), gigging
erratically, recording when they can, coming together whenever the need and ability emerge.’ It
always seems unfair to confl ate a group with their label. Scattered Order have continued to weep,
scream and bleed more than thirty years beyond M2, and while many of the label’s luminaries
were members, they were much more than M2’s version of the Bootleg Family Band, as this
track attests. Good-humoured, user-friendly and unpretentious, they continue, as Mitch Jones
says, to have ‘no such style as a style’.

24. Primitive Calculators – Pumping Ugly Muscle (1987 Sydney Disco
Mix) (1987)

‘For me,’ Stuart Grant says, ‘the Primitive Calculators was about changing the world… Not
entertainment… The audiences were unable to come with us… I genuinely saw it like that. I was
pretty dumb.’ When Ollie Olsen re-created Melbourne’s music world of 1978-80 for Richard
Lowenstein’s masterpiece Dogs in Space, he naturally called on the Primitive Calculators to
reform for it. Grant rerecorded one of their greatest songs, ‘Pumping Ugly Muscle’, which had
featured in the fi lm. ‘I wanted to do a contemporary sounding dance version… Prince Style… I
thought I could exploit the release of Dogs in Space…I got a lawyer who wrote a better contract
than the fi lm originally offered so I could put out my own version…’ The new version of the song
featured Grant, keyboard player Phil Nichols (once a member of the little band Use No Hooks),
and Andrew Bell, who had been guitarist, and often songwriter, in Stiletto with Jane Clifton in
the late 1970s.

Closed Circuits: Australian Alternative Electronic Music of the ’70s & ’80s is out now on Festival Records.


About Author

Seb Chan founded Cyclic Defrost Magazine in 1998 with Dale Harrison. He handed over the reins at the end of 2010 but still contributes the occasional article and review.

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