by Declan Melia of British India:
My formative memory of the Hoodoo Gurus occurred about a decade ago. British India was just starting to get some traction and we were playing a festival in rural NSW. We opened and the Gurus closed. After melting some faces with a string of familiar openers, Dave Faulkner announced that they were going to play a song they “hadn’t played in a while” and launched into “Turkey Dinner”, the b-side from “Death Defying”. A few bars in, the band looked at each other puzzled, the song floundered to a stop and Dave spoke to the band through the mic: “Hang on, I think it was slower than that, kind of sexier.” They tried again and nailed it.
There was no malice in the directive, the band all knew something was up, and if they were going to play it, they were going to play it right. Not for the sake of the audience, for the sake of the song.
It floors me that, four decades in, the band were still dynamic enough to dip into the obscure corners of their back catalogue if the mood should take them. This wasn’t a nostalgia act; the band weren’t on stage for any other reason than they loved the music. You could see it on their faces, and you could hear it in the songs.
And what songs! Take the first two cuts from the debut (which sounds like a greatest hits package when you play it today). “Let’s All Turn On” is a mission statement, a pop-art spasm of rock ‘n’ roll clichés falling over each other in excitement. It sounds like walking in on the greatest house party of all time. But this gives way to “I Want You Back”, and we’re in totally different territory. It’s catchy as hell, sure, but the melody is jerky and yearning. It’s a breakup song, but the lyrics only tell us half the story, the details artfully selected. Faulkner’s vocal is a masterclass in restraint and release, the drama when he jumps the octave in the bridge is operatic. It’s world-class songwriting, on par with the best of The Cure or R.E.M..
The first record set the scene, but they didn’t let up. Exploring their back catalogue, the quality is almost overwhelming. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their wealth of singles deservedly clogged the airways when I was young. They’re the ultimate, “hang on, this is them as well?” band.
As their songs suggest, the Gurus weren’t part of a scene. Dorkier than INXS and janglier than pub rock, a bit paisley underground but with actual radio hits. The sheer joy of guitar pop permeates everything they touch. They remind us that rock‘n’roll should never be played without relish, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stupid. Life isn’t tragic, it’s bittersweet.
Did you know? Singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Faulkner is originally from Perth W.A. but off course Hoodoo Gurus are always remember as a band from over east! Also all the HG albums are on Bandcamp now too, linking here. Have included the whole Stoneage Romeos album at the very top of the post because that’s the name of the debut album the British India bloke is talking about but isn’t named above plus also dug up that B-side song too! It’s also British India’s I Can Make You Love Me video clip:
Sorry again to anyone/everyone, I’ve passed on some very important historic Aussie acts which are #40 Slim Dusty but here’s A Pub With No Beer:
#39 Johnny O’Keefe with The Wild One (Real Wild Child):
#38 Yothu Yindi has Treaty:
and finishing today with #37 Hunters & Collectors’ Dog: