I Want, Need, Love You: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults - Various Artists (Playback Records)
A vinyl fanatic you may be, but owning most of these 26 tracks in their original format would set you back almost as much as a down-payment on a modest piece of real estate in the over-heated Sydney property market. So put aside your collector scum aspirations and focus on the merits of this formidable collection of ‘60s gems on CD instead.
Australia’s garage and beat history is under-appreciated - despite the best efforts of labels like Raven and others of dubious legal standing - so new imprint Playback is a welcome market entrant. “I Want, Need, Love You” focuses on the output of The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs, spanning the period 1965-68, with about half the tracks new to CD. As many as possible have been sourced from the original masters.
Of those acts mentioned above, I’d guess Toni McCann might be the best-known as her shoulda-been-a-hit “No” has been widely re-issued, but The Black Diamonds would also be familiar to many not only for their appearance on the “Ugly Things” compilations (our Down Under version of “Nuggets”) but because ”See The Way” was a staple in Screaming Tribesmen sets.
Of course, The Black Diamonds are the best thing to have come out of Lithgow other than sprinter Marjorie Jackson (look her up) and the Enfield .22 rifle. Their snarling, raw songs still crackle with unbridled energy almost 50 years later. No self-respecting Australian garage band in the ‘80s didn’t at least have a familiarity with their output (ask The Unheard from Wollongong who did a killer version of “I Want, Need, Love You”) or want to emulate them. Their two singles are here along with a couple of oddities in a cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and a Beatle-esque “The Lonely Hearts Christmas Party”.
Toni McCann was an expat-Pom who broke the mould for female singers in Australia in the early ‘60s. Long hair and skirts were one thing, but her vocal had an edge and surliness that either made it a certainty that she was never to break-through to the charts. As Lou once said: “Those were different times”. As I once said: “There’s no accounting for bad taste.” Her five featured tracks are all worth owning.
Sydney band The Pogs might now be a footnote in the history of Aussie music but this outfit was the starting place for 15-year-old vocalist-guitarist Rory O’Donoghue, who went on to fame as Aunty Jack’s comedic sidekick Kid Eager. Their output is varied, in awe of The Easybeats and sometimes a little trippy. You can certainly hear why O’Donoghue’s accomplished vocal talents took him on to musical theatre. Preserved here is their jingle for the 1967 referendum to give Aboriginals the vote.
The 5 were a Brisbane band that was as much a product of the Beatles’ all-consuming assault on the Aussie charts as anyone else aroiudn back then. Their output was mostly rough-edged beat pop, pure and simple. Their total recorded output of six tracks holds up really well without inducing any jaw-dropping.
The common thread is that although the artists were on a handful of different labels, they were all distributed by Festival, the then-premier independent label of the time. Producers were uber-meisters of what went down in Australian studios back then and this collection is as much a tribute to the guiding hands of Pat Aulton, Peter Best and Nat Kipner as anything else. Even if having a guiding hand sometimes meant little else but having someone around with the key to the studio who could push the record button.
The package sounds fantastic and is rounded off by a chunky, 28-page booklet. Essential, really, if you have a modicum of interest in what was a vibrant scene.