(who used to be called â€œBeathovenâ€) and who wistfully refer to themselves as â€œNo Hit Wonders from Down Underâ€:
Sometime in 1999, last century in fact, David Minchin , Charles Touber and Greg Cracknell started to spend more time together talking about their new mid-life lives- children, careers, football (not soccer mateâ€¦..this is Australia) and their ageing bodiesâ€¦.worn out from years of a lack of sex and drugs and rock n roll. The repackaging of all the old recordings, photos and articles, film-clips and fan letters ( which was to become their come-back double retrospective interactive award winning CD- titled â€œNo Hit Wonders from Down Underâ€) was originally designed by David as a way of preserving everything before it rotted away in his garageâ€¦..and to make a nice nostalgic present for the band members and close friends who had shared all or part of their comically tragic career as Australiaâ€™s last real self-made pop stars, whose history was littered with foolish decisions, mistakes, and unseen torpedoes of bad timing.
They had retreated to lead normal lives in Tasmania, which for all intents and purposes was â€“and still is- an island paradise, as far away from the world as you can get before you reach the uncivilized wilderness of Antarctica (and New Zealand). The Island is just big enough to resemble a Scandanavian style civilization, but the politicians were stupid enough to allow the first legalized casinos and wholesale wood-chipping and clear-felling of old growth forests. At one stage, the same insular and ignorant politicians had dreamt of turning it into a sort of Stalinist Industrial complex with factories run on cheap Hydro-electric power, until they realized that hardly anyone lived there and even fewer wanted to stay or move to Tasmaniaâ€¦..apart from the fact that the dams they were building were unnecessary and financially untenable. It was an island famous for nearly destroying the entire indigenous peoples, the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger)â€¦â€¦and seemingly hell bent on destroying whatever other unique flora, fauna and natural geographical beauty they had leftâ€¦.including the majestic Lake Pedder, which was flooded illegally by the same political leader that had introduced the casinos, wood-chipping and was, by the way, the grand wizzard of the Masonic Lodge.
About the same time this was all coming to a head in the mid 1970sâ€¦â€¦David, Greg and Charles were rapidly emerging as Beathovenâ€¦â€¦.a local Tasmanian pop phenomenon with their own brand of Popstardom reminiscent of Beatle or Rollermania. They had teenage girls camping outside their housesâ€¦..and were besieged in public by screaming hysterical girls who were too young to go to the legal casinos or to build dams and chop down the forests.
One could argue that Pop Music was hardly important by comparison, but as things have turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. The same uniqueness of the Tasmanian social landscape and world perspective that spawned one of the first Green Movement in the world has also given rise to a vibrant artistic community in Tasmaniaâ€¦.and finally made people start to realize the importance of cultural identity and difference; to rejoice in all its diverse manifestations from wine and craft to painters, novelists and musicians. When everyone else wanted to leaveâ€¦â€¦Beathoven/The Innocents came homeâ€¦.intent on doing things their own way and in their own time.
They had no need to seek fame or wealthâ€¦.true artists pursue their art for intrinsic reasonsâ€¦to live their art as an expression of their unique lives and perspectives.
In their own waysâ€¦..The Innocents spent the next twenty years developing their musical skills and directionsâ€¦..through teaching, tutoring, mentoring and developing more professional attitudes and business sense within a new music industryâ€¦â€¦The new Innocentsâ€¦..reformed in 1999â€¦â€¦.were wiser and also more whimsical about what they were trying to achieve.
In July 2000, they were invited to perform in Los Angeles at The International Pop Overthrow, a sort of Indie music festival for bands who played Powerpopâ€¦â€¦melodic infectious songs that make the backdrop to everyday lives and speak the most honest and simple truths about what we all feel and think. In the tradition of â€œFriday on My Mindâ€, â€œHappy Togetherâ€ or â€œWaterloo Sunsetâ€â€¦â€¦with one exception; none of the bands had ever really been more than a one hit wonder. There was Doug Feiger from the Knack (â€œMy Sharonaâ€), Nancy Sinatra (â€œThese Boots were made for walkingâ€), The Rubinoos (â€œI think weâ€™re alone Nowâ€), The Cowsills (â€œHairâ€) and the legendary, Emmit Rhodes of â€œAmerican Dreamâ€ fame ( the greatest unknown album ever recorded).
The Innocents ( with only a hand full of minor hits in Australia found that their songs such as â€œSooner or Laterâ€, were highly regarded and still remembered in the USA, as well as elsewhere in the world where Powerpop was ressurgent.) They only performed a handful of shows at The (legendary)Troubadour (where John Lennon was kicked out in 1974 for wearing a tampon on his head), Highland Grounds (with Wendie Colter- who didnâ€™t war a tampon on her head) and â€œliveâ€ on KLA radio for over an hour, where caller from several states phoned in to praise their unique fresh brand of Pop.. They also managed to record a few songs, including â€œ16s My Lucky Numberâ€ (written in 1979 when Kim Fowley visited Sydney and hailed Beathoven/The Innocents as the next big thing in Pop Music.)
They also recorded â€œOnly You Can Do Itâ€ with Wendie Colter on lead vocals (it appeared on her magnificent â€œPaydayâ€ CD, 2003). If you ever get a chance â€¦.buy this CD and listen to â€Lean into the Lightâ€¦..this is surely the greatest unknown masterpiece of female Pop.)
After their return to Australia, The Innocents continued to be amazed at the interest they had generated by their visit to the USA, and especially, the continued interest all around the world in their music. Fans in every country seemed to worship their Powerpop style. They still receive emails from fans as far away as Serbia, Portugal, Chile and Japan.
And so they started to make a new CD of songs they had written for the IPO tour in 2000â€¦â€¦â€¦their first ever completed album or CD in an abortive career of over 25 years.
This is how â€œPop Factoryâ€ was madeâ€¦â€¦between several home studios with Pro-tools over a period of 2-3 years (from inception to completion) with the able assistance and participation of the youngest Innocents member, Bob Smithâ€¦.and later, Michael Carpenter, (on drums) who is sort of an Australian Emit Rhodes. Both these guys have careers as musicians/ songwriters/producers in their own right.
Thatâ€™s naturally lead to a promotion tour to market The Innocents in Europe and Japan, and as it turned out, David Bash (of the IPO) invited them to Liverpool in May 2006 to perform at The Cavernâ€¦â€¦â€¦how could anyone resist? That became a broader concept for The Innocentsâ€¦â€¦â€¦.and turned into a PR blitz of meetings, promotional, recording, appearances, and spontaneous gigs on Radio, TV, Festivals and clubs to make all the necessary contacts to help establish a foothold in those markets in Europe where Powerpop was still a major market slice.
The Innocents performed twice at The Cavern. â€¦once as a headline act for the Liverpool IPO on the Sat 27th May 2006. They also returned after the festival the following Thursday, where they performed again. This time they sang not only original material from their old and new repertoire, they also sang requestsâ€¦..mostly Beatle songs of course. They made friends from local Liverpudlians to visiting bikers from Glasgow; Brazil to Bostonian back-packers. They jammed with The Blue Meanies (one of the most authentic Beatle cover bands theyâ€™d ever seen or heard). Theyentertained old Beatle fans who had turned up by chance that night to see a band from Tasmania sing songs from their youthâ€¦..and they met young bands from all over the world, just starting out their careers as self made popstars; Locksley, The MayFlowersâ€¦..wonderful bands.
They also played a few divesâ€¦.like Lennons Bar (a bit further down Mathew Street from The Cavern) using amplifiers and a sound system unfit for the most amateurish school band in Tasmania. And then , in the same breath, they performed â€œliveâ€on Mersey-side BBC Radio with legendary Pop DJ and commentator, Spencer Leigh.(who helped break the Beatles in 1962/3).
The following day they recorded all day in London at Abbey Road Studio 2â€¦..where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs over their careerâ€¦..from Love me Do to Come Together. The Innocents had the whole of the Abbey Rd complex to themselvesâ€¦.it was a Bank Holiday. David snuck up to the rooftopâ€¦â€¦.Greg and Stu (our drummer and long term friend from Hobart) who filled in for Miachael Carpenter, went into Studio One, where All you Need is Love was recorded live to the first world TV- satelite link-up in 1967â€¦â€¦. Music Industry promoters and agents turned up everywhere to see them and meet theâ€ boys from Tasmaniaâ€.( boys who were old enough to be their fathers in most cases). Eight promotional tracks were recorded at Abbey Rd. for later use on promotional compilation CDs, or, possibly, for their next CD in 2007.
Then it was on to Germany and Japan. Their World Bird Flu Tour was in full swingâ€¦â€¦perhaps it should have been called the â€œDonâ€™t Mention the War Tourâ€ after all.
It was surreal flying in the same skies that 60 years earlier (almost to the day- June) had hosted the Battle of Britain , The Dam Busters and The Bombing of Dresden and Berlin. It was like flying from Hobart to Melbourne!
But Hamburg greeted the boys with open arms. The equipment, organization and promotion was far more professional and positive than anything The Innocents had seen so far. Wonderful momentsâ€¦..chatting to Cynthia Lennon, singing requests for Astridâ€¦..receiving a signed Reeperbahn etching from Klaus Voormanâ€¦..even discussing the state of world music over scrambled eggs with Mark Lewinson.
Hamburg is so much like Liverpool or Hobartâ€¦â€¦â€¦.large vibrant seaports with a raw underbelly but, at the same time, an earthy honesty and lack of pretence. The Innocents felt right at home.
They flew out to Tokyo the following week, not knowing what to expect. Wowâ€¦..what an amazing city. Although claustraphobic in many ways, Tokyo is so full of energy that you canâ€™t even feel the Earthquakesâ€¦â€¦we got rolled out of bed by a 6.2 in Kyoto!!!
Bob arrived to meet us, and Stu left to return to Hobartâ€¦..his job complete, his nerve endings shot (in a classic Reeperbahn sting)â€¦.. 340 Euro is a lot of money!!!!
Played a few gigs, in venues packed like sardines and smelling of Channel #5â€¦..or was it packed like Channel #5 and smelling of sardines?
Great audiencesâ€¦â€¦.you will, no doubt, eventually see the footage on the web-siteâ€¦..or on the documentary we filmed on tour to help promote Pop Factory in Australia. Martin â€œthe Superâ€ Duffy ( famous for his â€œOde to Boonieâ€ song, as well as his cultural contribution to The Gorge Festival in Launceston, Tasmania in the nineties) filmed everything The Innocents didâ€¦â€¦.in between Martins visits to the nearest swimming pools from Liverpool to Shinjuku.
Daiske, our Japanese record agent was a brilliant host. We managed to do several interviews for Japanese Pop magazines as well as lay the ground-work for a much more extensive tour of Japan in 2007.
To be continuedâ€¦.once the boys recover from their promo tourâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
Signing off for now,
Sir Roger Rogerson (Lt Governor of Tasmania)
And a big fan of The Innocents!