Radio Birdman – pioneers of the high energy rock ‘n’ roll scene – return to Europe
As one of the pioneers of the high energy rock ‘n’ roll scene, Radio Birdman will return to Europe for the first time in 8 years for 20 shows this coming June and July. With three of the six personnel being original members, these shows will be a unique opportunity to catch this legendary Australian underground band whose flame has influenced a multitude of current contenders under the banner of ‘garage rock’.
Detroit born guitarist Deniz Tek, vocalist Rob Younger and drummer Ron Keeley started Radio Birdman mid 1974 in Sydney, Australia. They envisioned a band that would break rules and have no regard for the status quo of the parochial Australian rock business of the time. The band would play extremely hard and with maximum involvement from the members at all times. It was to be an art form created from passion, with no strict format or structure, which could go in any direction at any time. This would include forays into improvised visual as well as sonic realms. Loose, wild feedback drenched glory – no two performances were ever to be the same.
The musical establishment reacted predictably. There were many doors slammed shut, engagements cancelled after the first song, often with the threat of actual physical violence as club bouncers were let loose on the band itself. The band had to resort to putting on its own shows in small community halls and the like. Later, they found an upstairs room in a pub located in Sydney’s inner city suburb of Darlinghurst that allowed them to perform without restrictions. This was the Oxford Tavern. Later the band took over its management, renaming it the Oxford Funhouse, and made it available for other like minded groups who followed. Most notable of these were The Saints who were to make their first Sydney appearance there.
An exclusive scene developed, at its centre a mere couple of dozen friends and fans who had been there from the beginning. The Funhouse became the centre for the incipient crystallisation of the Sydney punk scene even though the founders were not really a punk band, more like a Detroit orientated high-energy rock band with a myriad of garage and New York influences not suggested by this generalised description.
Radio Birdman recorded an EP “Burned My Eye” and then an album “Radios Appear”, both low budget recordings made piecemeal at Trafalgar Studios on days when the studio had no paying clients. The band and the studio created their own label and the records were self distributed, at a low price, cutting out the middlemen.
When Sire Records president Seymour Stein was in Australia to sign The Saints, he saw a Radio Birdman show at the Funhouse and licensed “Radios Appear” for US and European release, signing the band to a recording contract as well. They then toured Europe and England, recording a second album, “Living Eyes”, at Rockfield Studios in Wales.
Radio Birdman was a volatile mix. The chemistry of the members: Rob Younger, Deniz Tek, Chris Masuak, Warwick Gilbert, Pip Hoyle and Ron Keeley, combined to form a whole that was much greater than the sum of the parts. In effect, a new force was created whose energy seemed to empower some of the members but corrode others. As hot as the band glowed, it was inevitable that it would relentlessly burn out its components. It is a wonder that they lasted as long they did, finally giving up in June of 1978 at the end of a long UK tour.
For years following the band’s demise a wave of influence was unleashed which has encompassed the earth. An entire sub-subculture, tied loosely to the surf movement, with tiny enclaves all over the world, has formed based on the cult of Radio Birdman. Seminally important in the development of music in Australia and their most dedicated fans are often musicians in other bands that are successful today.