In our hearts and minds there’s a time we return to when we feel a bit low, or happy too. In my mind I return to the times when all I listened to was Australian Crawl as well as a bit of Dragon and a fair bit of Cold Chisel. I think I have recounted the singing of Cold Chisel songs with my friend Ross, who looked like Richard Gere when I looked like Better Midler in the Tas Uni ref in between lectures. Good times, as my boy would say.
I loved Aussie Crawl from the moment they appeared on Countdown with the divine James Reyne singing Beautiful People with both wrists in plaster. Their songs were infectious and smart and the boys were uniformly handsome. I was never quite sure if James or Brad Robinson (much missed) was my favourite. I find it hard to believe how young they were as I watch Youtube clips from then.
They had a string of top albums, The Boys Light Up (1980), Sirocco (1981), Sons of Beaches (1982), with endless top 20 singles. It wasn’t until 1983 that they cracked no 1 with Reckless from the Semantics EP. Phalanx (1984) and The Final Wave(1986) their two live albums. Between a Rock and a Hard Place (1985) was their last, very expensive studio album and it didn’t do the business with the public. Their time in the sun was over, especially with the death of Guy McDonough and the departure of his brother Bill. The band wobbled, and with the out of band ventures of James and his various acting roles the band performed their final concert on February 1, 1986 at the Perth Entertainment Centre.
Some interesting facts to remind us why they are an important Australian band: in seven years they sold over a million records in Oz; five albums in the top 5 album charts; a cumulative total of 11 weeks at no 1 on the album charts makes them the equal fourth best Oz band behind, Skyhooks, The Seekers and Midnight Oil. The Crawl sold well and were very well loved! It’s a shame they never made it big OS – perhaps they were too Australian, too locked into our culture of beaches and cars; and the cynical slant on the world. But their songs of love and lost, especially Downhearted and Reckless should have found universal appeal. Perhaps there was too much of the larrikin in them?
James Reyne went on to have a moderately successful solo career and can be found doing unplugged gigs on Youtube, still sounding the business. I still love Slave and The Fall of Rome – his nasal twang is unmistakable. He’s made over a dozen solo albums and tours still. You must hook into his 1992 duet with James Blundell, Way out West, the remake of the Dingoes classic. It makes you proud to be Aussie. It’s so upbeat: utterly brilliant. It was no 2 on the charts.
Brad Robinson ent onto manage other bands, including The Chantoozies, worked in television producing documentaries, as well as managing tennis player Mark Phillipoussis (Scud) before dying of lymphoma in 1996. Simon Binks played in other bands but was sadly injured in a car accident that left him slightly brain damaged. 1n 1996 the band was inducted into the Australian Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
When I’m writing about Australia, especially sitting here refining my PhD novel Ophelia I listen to Crawl and James on iTunes and plug into a few Youtube clips and it takes me home, the place, the smell; the feelings of being young and hopeful. A scene in my novel where my heroine gets back up on stage on the Darwin Casino lawns is drawn from a concert given by James Reyne in 1992 under the stars on a balmy tropical evening. Another concert I remember like it was yesterday was a Crawl concert held at Tas Uni in 1981/82. I stood a foot from the stage, from James, completing entranced by him, knowing every word from every song, oblivious to the hundreds of others in the room. I had every album.
It was the 80’s – they sang of love, of drugs and betrayal, of loss and beaches and Errol Flynn. They were catchy clever tunes that implanted themselves in your brain and James’s smile and sneer struck my young heart and the crush remains. I note on Youtube that he’s aged remarkably well and as snarky as ever in his patter. I leave you with this quote about why their final concert as Crawl was held in Perth.
“We really enjoy Perth, and have a lot of friends there, so it was a conscious decision to play our final show there. Besides, everybody expected us to play the last show back in Melbourne, so stuff ’em.” James Reyne (Clips courtesy Youtube)