RADIO BIRDMAN at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (July 6), 10 pm. $23.50 advance. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Here's a stunner for you. Last week, the Australian recording Industry Association (ARIA) announced that Radio Birdman would be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held at Melbourne's Regent Theatre on July 18.
What's shocking is not that the association deemed the proto-punk attack unit, led by soulful shouter Rob Younger and the guitar-slashing tandem of Deniz Tek and Chris "Klondike" Masuak, worthy of the honour but, rather, that these hugely influential gods of Oz rock aren't already enshrined in the Hall of Fame alongside the Easybeats, Master's Apprentices and AC/DC.
Since the classic Radio Birdman lineup split in 78 (then reunited in 96), there has been ample time for ARIA to consider the oversight, but according to frontman Younger, the key factor was more a Groucho Marx thing of not wanting to join any club that would have them as a member.
"I declined a similar offer four years ago," says Younger from a stop in Houston. "I don't know how to deal with something like that. It's nice that people think of our band in a way that makes them want to confer this accolade upon us - it's a compliment of course - but I'm just not really into awards. The whole idea just doesn't thrill me that much.
"But I'm going along with it this time and I'll accept the honour graciously, because if there's something I really can't stand it's people who go to awards ceremonies and then act as though they're above it all and spout off about how awards mean nothing to them."
Younger's obvious uneasiness about the whole affair is understandable. From the time they formed back in 1974, Radio Birdman have always had a difficult relationship with the music business establishment, who wanted nothing to do with the long-haired punks.
But Birdman's overwhelming onslaught, inspired by the Detroit rock action of the MC5 and Stooges, quickly found favour in Sydney, where they amassed a cult-like following of costume-wearing hooligans who liked to get loaded and break stuff. Younger and crew were banned from so many clubs, they had no choice but to open a venue of their own, which became the Oxford Funhouse.
When they couldn't find any labels interested in releasing their music, the ever-resourceful Birdman went ahead and recorded their ripping four-song Burn My Eye EP themselves and released it independently in 1976, inadvertently launching the Aussie DIY recording boom of the punk era.
"There were a few people who helped us out along the way, but in general we were thrown out of clubs by owners who didn't like the look of us or how we sounded. We had numerous confrontations with booking agents and label reps who made us feel like pariahs. Not that it bothered me - I quite relished it. If we were upsetting those people, it meant we were probably on the right track. I'd much rather be known as a shit-disturber than a glad-hander."
Radio Birdman's recent Zeno Beach (Yep Roc) album doesn't live up to the high standards set by the original line-up's late-70s classics. But even though they haven't come up with anything new to match the yeah-hupping power of New Race or the thrashing glory Murder City Nights, it's still nowhere near as embarrassing as, say, The Weirdness by the Stooges as reunion recordings go.
On the upside, Radio Birdman realize why people are coming to see them on this tour and aren't making the Hoodoo Gurus' mistake of trying too hard to hammer home their latest work.
"Only about a third of the show will be songs from the new album," assures Younger, "which is fine with me because I don't have any problem performing the older songs. They don't seem dated to me at all. I mean, there are some that I'm over, but I've got some capacity as a singer to refresh songs by approaching them in new ways.
"I don't think I could perform them the same way each night even if I wanted to. You have to go with what you get from the audience."
Under Birdman?s wing
Although Radio Birdman's initial run was short, the powerful sound of their late-70s recordings has inspired bands around the globe for decades since. If you've heard and liked the sound of any of the 15 artists on this list, you'll also enjoy Radio Birdman's music.
Mudhoney ? The Nomads ? Bored! ? The Lazy Cowgirls ? Hellacopters ? The Bell Rays ?Nitwitz ? U.I.C. ?American Ruse ? New Bomb Turks ? Candy Snatchers ? The Gimmies Flaming Sideburns ? Gluecifer ? The Onyas