Adjust your expectations. This is not a collection of Celibate Rifles-styled pyrotechnics -although some (notably, “Lockdown Shuffle” and the title track) could have worked for them.
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Kent Steedman has never been just about flamethrower rock. His work outside the Rifles has spanned the oblique, avant noise of Crent, the proto-boogie blues of Jim Moginie and the Family Dog, sonic adventurism with the Deniz Tek Group and live shows using Tibetan singing bowls.
I first caught the Celibate Rifles a few weeks after my 17th birthday in the upstairs room at the Paddo Green Hotel. They were loud, fast, made me grow long hair. I’d recently bought “But Jacques, the fish”, skipped the first few classes and went into the city; got back to school with that treasure. It was a passport to a different world.
There were a lot of Rifles gigs over the years. It’s remarkable now to think how damn LOUD they were in the ‘80s. Towering amps, double four-way PA, in an average pub or club. It was inspirational too. If they could do it...
Of course, the average teenage punter didn’t know how much time and effort had already been ploughed into that band. Thirty-one years after that first gig I put thistogether. Read it, it’s the key.
The private funeral has come and gone. There will be a public celebration of the life of one of the world's great characters in yoga teacher, sports commentator, writer, musician and waterman, Damien Lovelock, of the Celibate Rifles on Saturday, August 24 at Newport Surf Club in Sydney from 2pm.
Surfers wil conduct a paddle-out, followed by a gathering in the clubhouse of all who wish to pay their respects.
Damien Lovelock leads the Celibate Rifles. Shona Ross photo
It was a big week for rumours - and that’s not a reference to that awful Fleetwood Mac album being on high rotation.
Celibate Rifles were playing two successive nights in Sydney. A Friday at the near dormant ‘80s venue Carmens at Miranda in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, and a Saturday at one of their local stomping grounds, Narrabeen RSL.
It was about a fortnight before that the gossip started to fly.
Chasing Chocomel – The Celibate Rifles (self released)
Don’t let the fact that these are cassette dubs of live-to-air radio recordings deter you. A bit of compression never hurt anyone. This posthumous 22-track collection from Europe and Australia is prime-time Celibate Rifles from the “Roman Beach Party”/“Blind Ear”/”Heaven on a Stick” period, and it burns like a kerosene spill on a barbie.
As a fan of the Rifles from the get-go, I thought it was “Roman Beach Party” that showed they’d really come to grips with the studio. Foot-to-the-floor Rifles got the crowds shaking live, but sometimes the wry observations were buried under all that Sturm und Drang. You had to listen hard to appreciate what they were saying on the early records too. From here on in, you could hear Damo’s words - loud and clear.
I went to a Catholic boarding school, and that sort of team spirit thing and having the right attitude to what you do was drummed into you from day one. And I viewed any group enterprise the same way, life's too short for bickering and bullshit. If there's something you want to do, let's get to doing it. You can have fun on the way. but I used to watch most bands and it seemed that it was more a part of a look.
As soon as I met the Rifles I thought OK, there's something here. There's an energy and... there's something that sets them apart from a lot of the other bands. And that, nothing lasts forever. If you don't look after it it'll just dissipate and go. So yeah, I got into that.- Damien Lovelock in conversation with Earl O'Neill.
The magnitude of yesterday’s passing of Celibate Rifles frontman Damien Lovelock at the age of 65 is still sinking in. Lovelock died at his Sydney home after a protracted fight against cancer - a battle that was known to many but largely kept private out of respect for the man.
Damien Lovelock was one of the most articulate, witty and forthright figures to spring from the Australian underground music scene in the 1980s. His laconic drawl was a trademark element of the sound of the Rifles, perhaps Sydney’s ultimate anti-star complex band. As promoter and longtime Damo friend Tim Pittman remarked: "He was a unique human".
That sold-out Celibate Rifles-Filth show, being held on September 11 as part of the Sedition 2019 festival at Oxford Art Factory in Sydney, has been cancelled. Organisers issued an online statement this afternoon:
We regret to inform you that we have had to cancel the “Do You Feel Lucky, Punk - Celibate Rifles + Filth” event. After the death of Damien Lovelock, the lead vocalist for the Celibate Rifles, we endeavoured to find an alternative line up however we couldn’t make it work. We deeply apologise for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation of the event. If you have purchased tickets for this event and have not yet received an email from us, don’t hesitate to get in contact and we can refund you the cost of your ticket/s.
Meanwhile, the Rifles will celebrate their late much-loved frontman with a tribute gig at the Factory Theatre in Sydney in September. Guitarist Ken Steadman told the band's Facebook page:
On Sunday September 22nd at the Factory Theatre, we'll be performing "Damo the Musical". We will do our best to say farewell in honour of him in our own style. Likely to run from around 4pm till 8pm with the music he loved, grew up with and contributed to. A few covers, some Wigworld tracks and plenty of Celies with guest musicians and multi media tributes to Senor Lovelock. Tickets will be available in a few days.
As expected, the Celibate Rifles are marking the loss of their frontman Damien Lovelock with a suitable tribute. “Damo The Musical” will feature a star-studded cast at The Facroty Theatre on Sunday, September 22 from 4-8pm.
The Celibate Rifles are performing "But Jacques The Fish" and assorted Rifles hits with a range of guest vocalists – including former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra. Supergroup The Centrelink Surfers will play the music of Damien’s solo band Wigworld, plus some of the man’s jukebox faves.
There will be testimonials, visuals and more. Tickets are on sale now via Feel Presents.
Extract From the Fungus - Celibate Rifles (self released)
Consider it a last will and testament. Eleven songs, cobbled together from restored quarter-inch tape or cassettes, all but one track previously unreleased. It’s music written by other people, which isn’t a detraction ‘cos the Rifles always had the best covers. These are remnants of recording sessions from 1984 right up until a few years ago, but they’re much more than throwaways.
The Celibate Rifles have a special place in the hearts and minds of most who saw them. A bunch of suburban Sydney boys fronted by a worldly and older larrikin, they began more brazen than cool. Before long, they fitted in with the exploding Australian underground of the ‘80s and ‘90s better than many critics realised.
Vale Damien Lovelock, lead singer of the Celibate Rifles, raconteur and and sports commentator. The icon of The Australian underground music scene passed away this morning after a protracted health battle. A more fullsome tribute soon.