Take a trip back to 1980 with Room 101

room 101 single cvrConcrete Box b/w Crazy For You – Room 101 (Lost in Pyrmont Records)

If somebody invents a time machine you could do a lot worse than dial it up to 1980 and land yourself in an inner-city pub in Sydney like The Heritage Hotel in Kings Cross, The Sussex Hotel in Chinatown or The Vulcan in Ultimo.

Inhale the fumes of a delicious cocktail of nicotine and Tooheys, piss in a toilet that needs urgent repairs, and pay $1.20 for a alcoholic beverage whilst being squashed beyond human endurance in a room that wasn’t designed for live music but was hastily converted into one when the late 1970s and early 1980s pub rock boom occurred.

Room 101 was one of the bands that thrived in this long-gone environment.

Formed from the wreckage of The Professors, Miss B Haven (with Phil Sommerville who went onto The Hitmen and Brett Eldorado who went onto Coup De Ville), Subversion and The Assassins, Room 101 blended a sound that to my ears echoes Radio Birdman and the early Hitmen with a splash of ‘60s garage punk.

The B-side “Crazy For You” has a nice, early Masters Apprentices-style intro before lead-footing it into a Darlinghurst back alley. A sound not a million miles away from what The Exploding White Mice excelled at in their early days

The A side “Concrete Box” is more of the same. It reminds me of Radio Birdman’s live version of “Kick Out The Jams”. The singer, Tom Price, has a cool vibe with plenty of desperate attitude in his vocals.

Through the wonders of modern sound technology these two songs were mastered from a cassette of the only remaining dub as the original tapes were lost when a band member took them to the USA and misplaced them (that band member did manage to meet Roky Erickson so the journey wasn’t all band). The tracks could have easily slotted onto the “Do The Pop” compilations...and that, my friends, is a recommendation. – Steve Lorkin

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Room 101 was a torture chamber in George Orwell’s “1984” where prisoners were subjected to their own worst fear to make them bend to the will of the State. That sounds like being forced to listen to commercial radio for a day – which is one thing I’m guessing the members of late ‘70s Sydney band Room 101 would never have inflicted on themselves.   

Steeped in the sturm und drang of the exploding inner-Sydney music scene kicked off by Radio Birdman, they existed on its fringes long enough to merit a live review in the pages of the esteemed RAM magazine and record this at suburban Accent Studios.

Bruce Tindale, one of the band’s two guitarists who was also a devout Birdman follower and chronicler of the scene via camera, exhumed the tapes of a 1980 recording session.  Accent’s resident engineer Ross McGregor was blind but had a great ear and he captured their nascent sound

“Concrete Box” is as tough as old leather, a doom-tinged pean to urban alienation that bristles thanks to Tom Price’s imperious vocal and a single-minded engine room. Tindale and Tom Easton’s guitar solos punch through the mix as discrete upper cuts rather than measured punctuation.

“Crazy For You” opens with a Tek-esque introductory chord and some ragged Visitors backing vocals on the back of a loping Arthur Easton bassline. Derivative but thoroughly enjoyable. Room 101 would have easily gone the distance on a bill with any of their influences. – The Barman

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Tags: sydney, hitmen, visitors, radio birdman, room 101, bruce tindale, arthur easton, concrete box, crazy for you, lost in pyrmont records

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