Bong-smoking skeleton rides motorbike

The magic and mystery of heavy metal is somewhat of a closed book to me. That the musicians are skilled is not in question, and their fans are models of admirable loyalty. But the merch? Not for me, that whole “black tee-shirt with a picture of a bong-smoking skeleton riding a motorbike across a desert which is also the body of a tanned Amazon warrior in a metal bikini” look.

Mens-Funny-T-Shirt-Darth-Vader-Heavy-Metal-Designer-T-Shirts-Short-Sleeve-Cotton-Tee-Shirts.jpg_640x640And a lot of metal lacks, to my ears, light and shade. Often enough it is just pitch-black, from screaming beginning to screaming end.

But I have met and chatted to pleasant and cultured people wearing the black tees, and they are not the perpetual adolescents the art-work might suggest. Their passion for and appreciation of the music is real. What is more, metal fans put their money where their pierced tongues are.

This record is a seriously obscure early release by a Melbourne, Australia, band Virgin Soldiers. It was put out by a label called Metal for Melbourne (their fourth, and last, release). It is also seriously metal: the two sides are labelled Metal A and Metal B. There are people who love it – enough that a Netherlands outfit put out a bootleg CD in 2008.

Someone in Japan bought it from me for A$50, plus postage. Looking at what the record is selling for now (A$130+) I let it go pretty cheaply, but that is fine. I am glad the record has gone to a home where it will be played and loved.

This is “Metal A”, track 1, a song which the same name as the band, “Virgin Soldiers”. (Which came first?) More than many metal tracks, there is light and shade. The band is tight, the production excellent. I won’t be buying the black tee with the skeleton anytime soon, but I can agree that for what it is, it is genuinely good.

Just listen.

  • Artist: Virgin Soldiers
  • Album: Watching The World
  • Track: Metal A, Track 1 “Virgin Soldiers”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Metal for Melbourne
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: M4MLP0004
  • Year: 1990

Pelted with bourbon bottles

To dare question the might and majesty of AC/DC in Australia is to risk being pelted to death with empty bourbon bottles.

They are an iconic, much-loved band, titans of popular music. They are Australia’s most successful international act, for decades. Not just success: AC/DC has street cred as well. They have a lane-way in Melbourne named after them. Bon Scott, lead singer in the band’s glory years, has a bronze statue in Fremantle. People come to see it, and all.  The hip and young as well as the plump, middle-aged and nostalgic love them.

BON

Notes TripAdvisor: “Great statue of Bon. Was surprised it was a bit small  … Not sure what Bon would make of the seagulls landing and pooping on his head though.

Now. I am happy for AC/DC that they followed their dreams and made a lot of money and in course of doing so thrilled millions of fans. I am sad for Bon Scott that he drank himself to death. I remember when they burst onto the scene with “Long Way to the Top” and a surfie’s panel-van-full of other hits. I quite liked them then. But I was eight years old then. I have moved on.

ex hits 75Not that they need me. Their early records are valuable collectors’ items. I have this track only because it appeared on Explosive Hits ’75, one of those compilations the record companies used to put out each summer. This LP makes for strange listening now: Al Martino, the Bay City Rollers, Frankie Valli … and AC/DC! This is their take on the blues-rock classic “Baby Please Don’t Go”. Me, I think they make a meal out of it. A Jim Beam bottle flies overhead, shattering on the wall behind me. But this is Planet Vinyl. Ignore me, and just listen!

  • Artist: AC/DC
  • Album: Explosive Hits ’75 (compilation of various artists)
  • Track: A6 “Baby Please Don’t Go”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl
  • Label: HMV
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: TVSS.19
  • Year: 1975

Groovin’ Around, Baby

In 1973, a group of Australian musicians got together and cut a single. They called themselves Wild Honey, and they could play. The arrangements are complex: shifts in tempo, complex harmonies. For 1973, this is high level production.0220 Label A

Who were they? That is a mystery. There have been lots of bands called Wild Honey, but this does not turn up in an ay of the usual source. The label, Cohns or maybe “Call for Cohns” is otherwise unknown. The catalogue number suggests vanishing smallness: “CAWH”. Almost certainly this stands for “Cohns, Armstrong (the studio where it was recorded), Wild Honey”. They don’t even bother with a “001”, as most tiny labels do, with the proud / defiant hint that is more is to come.

0220 Label BOne clue. Both tracks were produced by one Bruce Rowland, who also has a composing credit for the A side. It is not impossible that this is Bruce Rowland, the Australian musician who is best known as a successful composer of film scores. But that is just a guess. Another credit is Steve Groves: a guitarist of that name later played with the Australian folk-rock band The Bushwackers. Could be him.

If anyone out there knows more, please get in touch.

Meantime, I am posting both sides of the single, because they are so rare, and because I like them both. The record is pretty battered, but the music comes through.

Side A is “Groovin’ Around”, slightly spacy-folk-rock with a hint of Crosby Still and Nash about it. Over reaches just a tad, but a fine effort. Side B is less ambitious but more successful, a humorous rock song about an International Man of Mystery. In fact, Austin Powers would have loved this record.

A Side: Groovin’ Around

B Side: Talkin’ Turkey

  • Artist: Wild Honey
  • Title: Groovin’ Around / Talkin’ Turkey
  • Format: 7” 45 rpm
  • Label: Cohns CAWH
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1973