"Living In The 70's thru 2001" Skyhooks Appreciation Society
Official Mushroom Records Press Release
Guitar: RED SYMONS
Guitar: BOB STARKIE
Vocals: SHIRLEY STRACHAN
Bass: GREG MACAINISH
Drums: FRED STRAUKS
Date and place of birth uncertain, although it could have been England. Has participated in much, playing the last few years in various Carlton groups, notably Scumbags ... played bass guitar in the band backing a Pram Factory Rock Theatrical (starring Graham Blundell as The Shadow) in early '73. Acting currently in a local film in production, although it takes back seat to Skyhooks. Has always been part theatre as well as musical ... Writes his own peculiar songs the band is currently playing one about the slippery aisles of a Blue Movie Palace. Sings lead vocal in that, harmony for most of the repertoire.
Redmond is the make up wizard of Skyhooks, spurning standard Max Factor Pancake No. 3 and the Alice Cooper look for outright painting of the face canvas and 3 D color symbolics. Vulpine features carpeted, he springs into any available foreground space to solo, rather than hanging inconspicuously in the back behind his amp.
As a guitarist he is powerful but spare, caring more about what he's saying than the speed of it. Very articulate, and keeps a dried up dead fox in his back yard. A front man. Watch!
Played with The Cavaliers in the sixties, later with the Mary Jane Reunion, mixing hunger and aggression Top 40 and Blues (among other things) into his background. Plays a white guitar called Black Ange, and lots of very solid rhythm, thank you, as well as sharing solos with Red. Late last year replaced Peter Ingliss to take pride of place in the current Skyhooks line up. Tall, dark, bops around a lot on stage where he is positioned on the audience's shadow, left of drummer, Fred Strauks. Dresses up fine and seems comparatively quiet compared to his present company, who sometimes yell all at once and sometimes say nought. Starkie describes his earliest influences as Beatles and Stones, but says that he has no vices. Is part of the practical backing to the theory that "basically Skyhooks is guitar band...."
Latest addition to the line up, being summoned from a life of idyllic scrounging, surfing and sunning for the last eighteen months on Phillip Island. Earlier on was lead singer for Frame, wherein he played with Macainsh and Strauks. A blonde and happy soul, a Jester, a user of tools and props.
Strachan has a most remarkable voice; strong, melodic and pitched often in very high registers. It's a rock voice but very show biz! Pitch perfect, always very expressive ... lends itself well to the comedy coming through many Skyhooks lyrics. Shirley (WHERE did he get that name?) sounds like no other singer in this country.
He wears a plaster cast on his left arm (watch they don't get the rest) sometimes as a stage prop., and is going for his Pilot's Flying License pretty soon. Now Strachan is a member, it's impossible to imagine Skyhooks without him.
Writer of a goodly majority of the band's songs, a highly creative weirdo and a man "all caught up in this music", plays bass like a fast game of basketball, sings harmonies, is inwardly very confident of success and rightly so. Before getting Skyhooks together, played with Reuben Tice and Frame, born cnr. of Russell and Latrobe Streets, Melbourne.
Describes the group's reason for being as (very basically) "to satisfy ego, hunger and aggression" (whereas Red puts it as "One: mustification. Two: demystification"). Is tall, blonde, and practically unrecognizable under a curtain of heavy disguise once he hits the stage. Liable to wear an Afghani shag coat down to his knees with fake diamonds threaded through his earlobes and liberal lashing of oceanic eye shadow. Like Red, will take advantage of any available space to put a point across, atop an amp, whatever space being something a good performer never ignores.
Speaking of choreography, Macainsh comments that a lot goes on, so far none of it planned. His favourite object is cited as a blank gramophone record ...which could be interpreted in terms of what he intends to cover it with....
Strauks, with Greg Macainsh, was the second founding member of Skyhooks. His association with the bass guitarist goes back (through Frame) ten years. A kick it around style drummer, versatile to fit into all the different shadings of the music he plays.
Could have been born in regions he describes as "Southern European", others describe as "Latvia or Lithuania or somewhere", is apt to wear peerlessly ailored gorgeous three piece suits offstage and Romany style pirate costumes on ... obviously enjoys playing Greg's music and feels certain bodily restrictions in drumming with this band, Is apt to spring up between numbers to stretch his legs.
Favourite food is a "Rollmop", some kind of Southern European delicacy which he describes as "delicious, appetizing portion of herring, rolled lovingly around a pickle and steeped in exotic sauces . . . " His musical influences were similarly Southern Europeantthe wants to bring the melody back into Rock 'n Roll "Just as a diversion". He sings harmony too.
SKYHOOKS HITTING THE PUBLIC EYE
"Skyhooks" says, Redmond Symons, "are the sputom thrown from the death throes of a decadent culture." They are also the horniest Iooking and most remarkable band to thus hit the public eye in years.
The prototype, rebel genes of Skyhooks came together around a year ago when Eltharn part time experimentals Frame broke up, loosing composer/ bassist Greg Macainsh and drummer Fred Strauks. Ignoring the standard rounds of Melbourne's pubs, clubs and school dances, Macainsh and Strauks (old cronies, having played together even before '67 at rehearsals in Billy Sneddon's garage) transported the budding Skyhooks to Mt. Bulla, where they found their first lead singer in a kitchen and soon became the ski resort's hottest band. Tops of '72.
Back in Melbourne, they played the Research daces in the Eltham afternoon sunshine, B Division at Pentridge, and other variegated gigs _including one at Melbourne University, on the same bill as Mighty Kong, who were then just revving into action (July 1972).
Ross Wilson pricked up his ears at their set ... and mentioned he was hot for the songs Skyhooks played, from the pen of Greg Macainsh (whose music is now published through Wilson's Doodah Music).
In November last year Skyhooks joined the Australian Entertainment Exchange, the forerunner agency to Mushroom, by that time having mutated to the current line up, excepting vocals. Their singer then was Steve Hill (running the Melbourne Arts Co Op), replaced last month by Shirley Strachan, a male boy fresh from eighteen months surfing on Phillip Island _but still recognizable as ex lead vocalist for Frame. Now with Starkie and Symons on guitars and Strachan up front, Skyhooks becomes the medium for the massage _a massage performed by their music on a stiffbacked audience. The aim is not to soothe, but to invigorate, activate, instigate.
SO WHAT MAKES THESE SONGS SO HOT?
You may be asking yourself this question if you haven't seen Skyhooks in action. Accordingly, we endeavour to explain. First of all, and overall, they sound good. The band's preference is for a shall we say virile, energetic presentation with a well-arranged electric backing. Instrumentally, the music holds a lot of subtle light and shade, but its centreforce is solid rock, with single and double solos from the two guitars of Symons and Starkie lifting its intensity like lightning on a red sky. Macainsh (on bass) and Strauks (on drums), having played together something like a decade, have developed considerable "oomph" as a rhythm section. This keeps the sound alive and kicking.
On top of all this, the vocals with the lyrics. Greg Macainsh writes the lion's share of Skyhooks repertoire, with one or two from Red Symons for good measure. For both, lyrics are all important. Neither are interested in the My Baby Left Me syndrome. To laugh is not the worst thing you can do when you listen to a lyricline, to think may not be such a pain either. The Skyhooks music is producing these reactions, and more. "Australian Notes" in. Rolling Stone called their lyrics sexist ("You Just Like Me Cause I'm Good In Bed"), and some don't like the sometimescaustic comments on Melbourne's classic suburbs and their particular syndromes ("Balwyn Callin"', "Carlton: Incorporating the Lygon Street Limbo", "Toorak Cowboy") but whatever your reaction, you can't ignore the words, especially coming from the man with the Golden Throat Shirley Strachan.
Says Macainsh, "I don't feel my lyrics are sexist. All my songs are more or less true ... that's the reason I use the Australian place names. Lotsa' local content. Some people don't like that, but they're just gonna have to get used to it.
Macainish has the unusual ability (in Oz-Rock circles, that is) to both read and write music. Some more of his titles are "Whatever Happened To The Revolution", All My Friends Are Getting Married", Motorcycle Bitch, "Smartarse Songwriters."
AND PRODUCED BY HIS HIGHNESS, ROSS WILSON:
After signing Greg Macainsh to his Doodah Music Publishing Company, Ross Wilson's interest in Skyhooks showed no signs of wilting _ in fact, if anything, it became more rabid. When the band agreed to sign a recording contract for Mushroom, he sidled up and offered his services as producer ... and Wilson is not known for bandying his services around to just anyone. He was with the boys when they spent a recent weekend at T.C.S., laying down very original under their belts for perusal and selection of tracks for the premium Skyhooks album. Mr. Cool is currently considering recording one or two Skyhooks songs on his own album, a solo LP, he's been cooking up for some time. No doubt the decision will largely depend on what goes on the band's own album, and whether Ross is prepared to do a cover version if his particular favourites are includes in the track list. One thing for sure, it sure would be interesting to be treated to two versions of "You Just Like Me Cause I'm Good In Bed" or "Smartarse Songwriters" . . .
In recording final takes for the album, most numbers will require editing down from the extended stage versions, and quite a bit of musical detail added in production. However, we hope nothing will have to be censored.
THE MAKEUP OF YOUR NIGHTMARES, THE LOVE OIL OF YOUR DREAMS:
Skyhooks have always been theatrically orientated, and most likely always pretty sexually orientated too, although that aspect probably stepped up quite a bit as the current line up became more secure, and better at letting off steam. To see them live on stage these days is to witness quite an exhibition. Each member of the band is totally free to daub and dress himself, to program his body just as he pleases for each show and none were missing when the imagination was handed out some may have queued up twice.
The fare varies from bandanas to knee boots, satin to white capes, Oriental to High Society, red corduroy to tiger paint. Skyhooks are the first Anti podeans to really get stuck deep into the possibilities of make up.
Their whole style of getting it across reeks of an obscure sexuality ... never blatant, always there. Speaking of sexual attraction, Greg Macainsh says, "Shirley's certainly got it. Mostly a hetero little girl appeal. The girls get weird over Red too. Some came up to the stage the other night; he'd got this black and white shirt on, with his face striped up to match. They said he'd give them nightmares. Myself, I usually get called a poofter.
I guess we cut into the whole range of sexuality. Tread a fine line between straight and gay (despite being all basically hetero offstage).
"But if you're gonna get up there at all, you might as well put a little flash into it. There's always gonna be that basic separation between band and audience. So, if you're gonna perform, then perform!
Since Sunbury '74, the band have been working non stop, and the reactions they draw from various audiences are sometimes quite amusing. Skyhooks strong holds are Phillip Island (where they once outdrew the Aztecs), St. Albans (?) and the schools and universities, notably Melbourne and Latrobe.
"Usually, a new audience will just stand there and watch, looking sort of stunned. But it's not a negative reaction, because they'll come up afterwards and congratulate us. By the second or third time we play somewhere, they're usually ready to fully accept us, give us the standard good reception," says Macainsh.
"You can't judge by audience reaction so much these days. If they don't go mad, clapping, it doesn't necessarily mean you haven't left an impact. Oh sure, we get encores and so on, but that's not necessarily what we're aiming for" and he grins.
Copyright © 2001 Pohogonot Farms. The information contained in this web site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Pohogonot Farms Inc. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by Pohogonot Farms.