Archive for August, 2006

The Continuing Saga of “The Innocents”

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

The Continuing Saga of “The Innocents” (who used to be called “Beathoven”) and who wistfully refer to themselves as “No Hit Wonders from Down Under”:

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 mate…..this is Australia) and their ageing bodies….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 “No Hit Wonders from Down Under”) was originally designed by David as a way of preserving everything before it rotted away in his garage…..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 Australia’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 –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 Tasmania…..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)……and seemingly hell bent on destroying whatever other unique flora, fauna and natural geographical beauty they had left….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 1970s……David, Greg and Charles were rapidly emerging as Beathoven…….a local Tasmanian pop phenomenon with their own brand of Popstardom reminiscent of Beatle or Rollermania. They had teenage girls camping outside their houses…..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 Tasmania….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 leave……Beathoven/The Innocents came home….intent on doing things their own way and in their own time.
They had no need to seek fame or wealth….true artists pursue their art for intrinsic reasons…to live their art as an expression of their unique lives and perspectives.
In their own ways…..The Innocents spent the next twenty years developing their musical skills and directions…..through teaching, tutoring, mentoring and developing more professional attitudes and business sense within a new music industry……The new Innocents…..reformed in 1999…….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 Powerpop……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 “Friday on My Mind”, “Happy Together” or “Waterloo Sunset”……with one exception; none of the bands had ever really been more than a one hit wonder. There was Doug Feiger from the Knack (“My Sharona”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots were made for walking”), The Rubinoos (“I think we’re alone Now”), The Cowsills (“Hair”) and the legendary, Emmit Rhodes of “American Dream” 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 “Sooner or Later”, 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 didn’t war a tampon on her head) and “live” 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 “16s My Lucky Number” (written in 1979 when Kim Fowley visited Sydney and hailed Beathoven/The Innocents as the next big thing in Pop Music.)
They also recorded “Only You Can Do It” with Wendie Colter on lead vocals (it appeared on her magnificent “Payday” CD, 2003). If you ever get a chance ….buy this CD and listen to ”Lean into the Light…..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 2000………their first ever completed album or CD in an abortive career of over 25 years.
This is how “Pop Factory” was made……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 Smith….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.
That’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 Cavern………how could anyone resist? That became a broader concept for The Innocents……….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. …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 requests…..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 they’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 youth…..and they met young bands from all over the world, just starting out their careers as self made popstars; Locksley, The MayFlowers…..wonderful bands.
They also played a few dives….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 “live”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 2…..where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs over their career…..from Love me Do to Come Together. The Innocents had the whole of the Abbey Rd complex to themselves….it was a Bank Holiday. David snuck up to the rooftop…….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 1967……. Music Industry promoters and agents turned up everywhere to see them and meet the” boys from Tasmania”.( 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 swing……perhaps it should have been called the “Don’t Mention the War Tour” 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 moments…..chatting to Cynthia Lennon, singing requests for Astrid…..receiving a signed Reeperbahn etching from Klaus Voorman…..even discussing the state of world music over scrambled eggs with Mark Lewinson.
Hamburg is so much like Liverpool or Hobart……….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. Wow…..what an amazing city. Although claustraphobic in many ways, Tokyo is so full of energy that you can’t even feel the Earthquakes……we got rolled out of bed by a 6.2 in Kyoto!!!
Bob arrived to meet us, and Stu left to return to Hobart…..his job complete, his nerve endings shot (in a classic Reeperbahn sting)….. 340 Euro is a lot of money!!!!
Played a few gigs, in venues packed like sardines and smelling of Channel #5…..or was it packed like Channel #5 and smelling of sardines?
Great audiences…….you will, no doubt, eventually see the footage on the web-site…..or on the documentary we filmed on tour to help promote Pop Factory in Australia. Martin “the Super” Duffy ( famous for his “Ode to Boonie” song, as well as his cultural contribution to The Gorge Festival in Launceston, Tasmania in the nineties) filmed everything The Innocents did…….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 continued….once the boys recover from their promo tour………….
Signing off for now,
Sir Roger Rogerson (Lt Governor of Tasmania)
And a big fan of The Innocents!