When giants strode the earth: Gun Club at the Strawberry Hills in 1983
Celibate Rifles singer Damien Lovelock once said to me that the Sydney music scene between 1978 and 1985 was as strong as anywhere in world, at any time.
When a city’s musically on fire, it becomes the rock capital of the world…especially for the people that live there. It could been New York City in the mid-’70s, London in 1966 or San Francisco in the late ’60s. Sydney was right up there with them.
I remember I was out seeing bands every night of week. It could be every Wednesday with the Triffids’ residency at the Strawberry Hills Hotel, upstairs at the Trade Union Club for the Laughing Clowns, or some punk band down at French’s Tavern. You could finish with Paris Green at 3am in Kings Cross.
There were so many gigs that stood out: the Birthday Party, Scientists and X at the University of NSW Roundhouse, the amazing New Year’s Eve gig with the Celibate Rifles at the Trade Union…and The Gun Club at the Southern Cross, later re-named the Strawberry Hills Hotel.
The Strawberry Hills Hotel in Surry Hills was OUR pub. We were still aged in our late teens and we virtually lived there. There was cheap (or feree) beer and amazing music every night of week. I actually lived in a cheap shared house, a few blocks down the road.
One night in 1983, the publican told me to turn up on Monday. He said that “a Yankee band, The Gun Club, are playing.”
Live photos by Edwin Garland
The Gun Club were an exciting proposition. They were on the edge; they took punk rock to a new level - like The Cramps, our own Scientists and later, the Beasts of Bourbon. They all had the fire and fury of the greatest punk bands. but they were darker, looking back at Delta blues and roots music.
Their debut album, “Fire of Love” was a masterpiece, as was the follow up. “Miami” and the EP “Death Party”. I had “Fire of Love” and it was one my favourite records at the time.
The story was that the band had experienced yet another sudden change in line-up. Jeffery Lee Pierce was offered a tour of Australia, but when he arrived landed at LA Airport his drummer and guitar player quit and refused to get on the plane. So Jeffery and his bass player, Patricia Morrison decided they would wing it.
They had to pick a band and pulled in locals in guitarist Spencer P Jones (pictured right) and drummer Billy Pommer Jr, both of the Johnnys. Jeffrey waited for former Gun Club member, Kid Congo Powers, to fly over from the USA to rejoin the ranks. And they were The Gun Club for us.
The Strawberry Hills gig defined rock ’n’ roll for me, it was loud, frantic and urgent. It was a show full of passion and commitment. We were all crammed into a space designed for 100 people. There were maybe twice of many of us squeezed in that tiny room. At one point I was pushed over and landed in Billy’s drum kit…as the band played on.
This was the final show of the tour - an impromptu affair organsied to raise some money to get the US band memebrs home.
It was a hot and sweaty room and many beers flowed. I still can remember the band pumping out “Fire Spirt” and “She’s Like Heroin To Me” with Jeffery Lee Pierce hollering away, with beer in hand. The guitars wailed with an intense heated-up feeling - as if the valves were to be blown. The rhythm section was relentless: It all had so much more balls than the record…. and it was a night I will never forget.
The media release promoting the tour, courtesy of Stuart Coupe.