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Radio Birdman's New Christ, Rob Younger hits London town

An article by Vince Lovegrove

Taken, with permission and thanks, from the e-column Lovegrove's Ear On London - 15th April, 1997 which is an overview of Australasian music that's happening in London.
The weekly column can be found at http://www.immedia.com.au/im_m/london/index.html

Many thanks to Craig Regan who sent the article.

In the basement of a sleazy wine bar in Oxford Street, Sydney, way back in 1974, Rob Younger and his band Radio Birdman turned the volume up full bore on their amplifiers, screamed out about revolution into the microphones, raised clenched fists in the air and, in the process, heralded in a brand new era for Australian rock'n'roll music.

Their no holds barred approach to terrifying, smashing cliches rock'n'roll music owed a lot to American punk bands such as Iggy Pop and The Stooges, and the infamous MC5, but in Australia, Radio Birdman were in a class of their own. They were wild on stage, performed ferocious, feral rock'n'roll music, smashing pre-conceived ideas of how rock music should be played, into the back blocks of Australian mediocrity. They paved the way for a slew of Oz rock bands, some of the more famous being Cold Chisel, early INXS, Midnight Oil, and the latest downunder international rockers, silverchair.

Predictably, though, the ground breaking Birdmen bitterly and acrimoniously imploded after just five years and only two albums, in 1979. Ironically, it was during a tour of Britain and Europe, following the recording of their album, "Living Eyes", that the resentment and mistrust between all six members degenerated into a personal and financial disaster.

Three key members, Deniz Tek, Chris Masuak and Rob Younger have nevertheless continued the Birdman rock'n'roll tradition during the ensuing years in various guises, Younger's mainly in the form of his intermittent band with the modest moniker, The New Christs.

Last week I spoke with Younger prior to his departure for a six-week European tour with his 13-year-old band, The New Christs. I was most curious about what has kept him going, without achieving mainstream success, for almost 20 years.

"I've just kept playing in bands, writing and producing. Most of what I've done during that time has been with the New Christs in various re-incarnations", he told me in his deep, slow, dry manner, a far cry from his stage persona.
"I'm doing the same stuff. If there's an essential spirituality in the essence of an artists' work then it's certainly in mine", he responded to my question about the spirit of his music, adding: "But it sounds a little grandiose to me.
"Especially with the sort of shit that I do, which is just rock'n'roll. The New Christs are just a rock'n'roll band, but I am glad there's a few people still interested.
"There's pockets of people all over Europe who are still into it, and without them I wouldn't be able to tour".
He's a born performer, is Younger, now in his early to mid 40s, but it's not performing that has paid the rent during the past couple decades. Since 1983, he has produced more than 31 singles for important Australian bands, such as Died Pretty, Hard-Ons, Lime Spiders, and The Huxton Creepers, all of whom have toured Europe during the late 80s and early 90s.
He's also produced 16 mini LP's and 25 albums for Oz acts like Celibate Rifles, The Happy Hate Me Nots, The Screaming Tribesmen and Toys Went Berserk, now re-incarnated in London under the name of Feast.

"Yeah, I haven't done anything exceptionally odd, just work in studios, written songs and produced bands. I've got a family to support, a little girl aged 18 months and a four-year-old boy, so I've even had to work a few day jobs at various times", he told me.
"The band doesn't have a big audience in Australia, so I'm champing at the bit to do this European tour.
"I think the lack of commitment on our part over the past few years hasn't helped our Australian following, so we've had a real slump. But a band's only as good as the songs that it writes, and we've got some good songs at the moment.
"We can rock, we know how to rock"
. Had Younger been a tenaciously ambitious pop star, with yearnings for fame and leanings towards the associated trappings, there's no doubt he would've hit big time overseas, especially in the UK. But, despite his obvious frustrations at having been left on the wayside by time and youth, Younger seems comfortable with his cult status, and comfortable living in Australia.

"The thing about playing music overseas", he tells me," is that there's more competition, it's harder, and musicians have more tenacity. "So when people make headway it means more to them. They latch on to that attention, the fame, the success, they take it in their stride.
"Australia is a far more comfortable place to play rock music.
"I think the style and attitude of bands in Australia is essentially the same, it's part of the national character. Bands don't exude the ambitious nature that the Yanks love, we just get out and play, work hard, rock hard, just have fun"
The New Christs were first formed in 1984 to support Iggy Pop and his tour of Australia. Younger relished forming the band and getting back on stage, an obvious point, perhaps, considering the band, with new members, is still on the road, having recorded more than a dozen singles and EP's and three albums, including their brand new release, "Lower Yourself".

The first line-up included various players from great Oz bands at the time, such as Hoodoo Gurus, Lime Spiders, and Celibate Rifles. Since then, Younger has attracted some great players to various permeations of The New Christs, and inevitably, they've been poached by other bands, all purporting to offer better opportunities. Of course, they were really offering better money. Probably one of the finest guitar players in Australia today, Charlie Owen, was first discovered by Younger and poached by former Cold Chisel leader and songwriter, Don Walker.

"I should've been taking commissions", Younger says. "I am very protective about my players, when you're playing with someone really good, they bring out the best in you. "With Charlie, I used to see Don Walker hanging around. I don't want to sound nasty, but I felt like telling him 'You've had your success, how about mine?'
Charlie joined Walker's band, Catfish, and later did an album with Walker and Tex Perkins.

And how about Rob Younger's success ? Will he ever get there? He deserves it, he's a seminal Australian rocker, and with the way things are in today's rock'n'roll world you just never know what's around the corner. God knows, Rob Younger's hung in there long enough. He's still screaming about revolution into the microphone, thank goodness he's still having fun.

If you want to catch a real live Australian rock'n'roll legend, check out Rob Younger and the New Christs at London's Garage on Saturday April 19.

You won't forget it in a hurry.

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