Ayers Rock (band)
|Also known as||
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Genres||Jazz fusion, progressive rock|
|Labels||Mushroom, Festival, A&M, RCA, Red Rock|
|Associated acts||The Delltones, Jim Keays|
Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band which formed in 1973. Early members were Ray Burton on guitar and vocals, Duncan McGuire on bass guitar, and Mark Kennedy on drums who formed a trio Burton McGuire & Kennedy in June 1973. Guitarist Jimmy Doyle, and saxophonist Col Loughnan joined, and the group changed their name to Ayers Rock. The band's first two albums, Big Red Rock (1974) and Beyond (1976) both reached the top 50 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart, whilst their third album, Hot Spell (1980) failed to chart. The band released six singles, none of which broke into the singles charts. Ayers Rock were named 1975 "Musicians of the Year" in RAM magazine's "New Year's Honors List". They were a popular live act, touring Australia extensively. Ayers Rock toured the U.S. successfully, including supporting major international artists in front of crowds of up to 35,000. They were the first Australian band to do so, ahead of other more famous names. They disbanded in 1981. Rock music historians praised the group's musicianship and noted they had a dilemma between a commercial sound and a more artistically adventurous or serious approach.
- 1 Australian music scene
- 2 History - first era
- 3 Musical style and critical response - first era
- 4 History - second era
- 5 Afterwards
- 6 Members
- 7 Discography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Australian music scene
The Australian popular music scene in the early 1970s was composed mainly of artists in the pop (for example Zoot, Liv Maessen), blues rock (Chain), heavy rock (Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs) and boogie genres (Carson). Added to the mix were bands that combined mainstream rock songs with progressive rock material (Blackfeather, Madder Lake). Most pop/rock music patrons had never heard jazz fusion, and there were extremely few local bands playing fusion. When Ayers Rock introduced some jazz fusion material to their sets, it was a sound rarely explored by Australian bands.
Another aspect of the Aussie scene was a deep sense of frustration that so few Australian bands had been successful overseas. Many had ventured to the UK, tried their hardest, but ultimately failed (The Twilights, The Masters Apprentices, The Groop, Axiom, etc.). The Australian music press lamented this situation on a regular basis.
History - first era
Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band formed in Melbourne in August 1973. They were sometimes nick-named "The Rock" by the Australian press. In June that year, the original line-up of Ray Burton, Mark Kennedy, and Duncan McGuire had created an eponymous trio, Burton, McGuire & Kennedy. Burton, on guitar, had played with The Dave Bridge Quartet, The Delltones, and The Executives, and worked with Australian singer, Helen Reddy, in the United States, where together they co-wrote her international 1971 hit "I Am Woman". McGuire, on bass guitar, was also a recording engineer and producer, and had been in Australian groups since the late 1950s, including The Phantoms, The Epics, The Questions (which later became Doug Parkinson In Focus), and with King Harvest. Kennedy, on drums, had previously played in Spectrum, on sessions for King Harvest, and for Leo de Castro and Friends.
Burton, McGuire, and Kennedy were joined, in August 1973, by guitarist Jimmy Doyle, whose previous credits included The Delltones and Dig Richards, and who had worked as musical director for pianist Winifred Atwell on her Australian tours. Doyle was also a session player on Neil Sedaka's 1969 studio album, Workin' on a Groovy Thing, and the related Australian single, "Wheeling West Virginia", both of which were recorded in Sydney.
Doyle had worked with multi-instrumentalist, and arranger Col Loughnan sporadically for at least seven years, and rang to invite him to join the band. At the time, Loughnan was playing in London with Kala, and arrived in Melbourne during October 1973. With Ayers Rock he played saxophone, flute, and keyboards. Loughnan started his career as a vocalist (in the 1960s he was lead singer of The Crescents, and then The Delltones), and diversified into arranging, then playing tenor saxophone with The Daly-Wilson Big Band. At approximately the same time, they changed their name to Ayers Rock, the same as the large sandstone rock formation in the middle of Australia. In more recent times, the "Big Red Rock", as it is affectionately nicknamed, has reverted to its Aboriginal name of Uluru, and is a sacred place. By December Ayers Rock had signed to Mushroom Records and issued their first single, "Rock 'N Roll Fight (Going On)".
Sunbury and first album
In January 1974 Ayers Rock performed at the Sunbury Pop Festival – their Burton-penned track, "Morning Magic", appeared on Mushroom Records live album, Highlights of Sunbury '74. In March Burton returned to the US and was replaced on guitar and vocals by Chris Brown (ex-Python Lee Jackson) who left Kala to return to Australia, and join the band. Loughnan and Brown had played together in London with Kala. During that year Ayers Rock issued their debut album, Big Red Rock, which was recorded live-in-the-studio at Armstrong's Studios in Melbourne. Vernon Joynson found the album was "an excellent example of jazz rock fusion Australian style. The musicianship is of high quality although it tends to become a little over-indulgent in places". It includes "radio friendly" material and three tracks "filled with fine virtuoso guitar and saxophone". He felt that despite being "quite a popular live act their recordings were hampered by a dilemma over whether to opt for a more serious pursuit of expanding the horizons or for a commercial sound".
In November they released a single, "Lady Montego", which was a new version of a McGuire-penned track originally performed by Friends. In January 1975 Tony Catterall of The Canberra Times praised the title track, Big Red Rock, in which Loughnan "[evokes] the power surrounding the area [of Uluru] in a burst of truly inspired musicianship". Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski spruiked the band to US labels and had them signed with A&M Records. At the time, Gudinski told Tony Wilson of The Sun (Melbourne) that "Jerry Moss, the president of A&M Records USA, flipped when he heard it, so A&M will release it world-wide."
In January 1975 the group performed at the next Sunbury Pop Festival. From July to September 1975, they promoted Big Red Rock by touring the U.S. which included playing to 35,000 people at a stadium concert supporting Bachman–Turner Overdrive. They were also the supporting act for Status Quo, J.Geils Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Nils Lofgren. Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane stated that "Ayers Rock was the first Australian band to play to massive crowds on the USA touring circuit". In fact, they were years ahead of the Little River Band, AC/DC, and Air Supply.
At that time, McGuire started feeling very unwell. At the reception for the band on arrival back in Sydney, he explained:
"The pressure of the tour was just too much. We were on the road all the time and I guess I wasn't as strong as the rest of the band. When we got into the studio I had the shakes. I mean I was playing the right notes, but not in the right places."
As a result:
- McGuire's friend, Australian bassist Les Young was drafted into the studio to play some of the remaining bass parts (he was in L.A. at the time)
- American Jeff Castleman played bass on "Catchanemu"
- Young played live with Ayers Rock in Australia for a short time (e.g.: the State Theatre, Sydney, 19 October 1975)
- McGuire returned, without any prior announcement, to a gig at the Dallas Brooks Hall, with the audience showing they were right behind him.
Kennedy departure and Beyond release
In February 1976, before the release of Beyond, Kennedy left to join Marcia Hines ' backing band (Hines and Kennedy were romantically, and professionally involved) and was temporarily replaced by Doug Gallacher. Ayers Rock were named 1975 "Musicians of the Year" in RAM magazine's "New Year's Honors List". In April 1976 Beyond was issued in Australia, and America. A unique feature of the U.S. album cover is that the "rock" in the distance appears to change into the head of an aboriginal man when the cover is rotated to the right (illustrated). The album spawned two singles, "Little Kings" (October 1975) and "Song for Darwin" (May 1976) – but neither were successful on the charts. In May, Gallacher was replaced by Russell Dunlop (ex-Aesop's Fables, Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA, Mother Earth, Johnny Rocco Band). In 1976 from May to July they toured the US again, however they "only achieved limited success overseas". After that tour Dunlop, Loughnan, and McGuire all left, and on 25 August 1976, Mushroom Records announced that Ayers Rock had broken up following Loughnan's decision to stay in America to study. Remaining members Brown and Doyle placed the project in a year long hiatus.
Musical style and critical response - first era
The musical style of Ayers Rock has often been called jazz/rock, but this is a simplification. In a 2011 radio documentary presented by David and Jordie Kilby on 666 ABC Canberra, Loughnan was discussing other Mushroom Records artists as being in the pop/rock styles, whereas Ayers Rock was known to play some jazz, and then he noted that "we were a bit of both". Paul Gardiner expressed his view in a concert review (October 1975) published in Rolling Stone:
"The band ... have cut their teeth on pure rock and roll and have, (as of) Ayers Rock, moved on to what amounts to a rock-jazz fusion. The inversion of the term is becoming important; unlike the bands to which they are compared in America, which have all lived and breathed jazz in its purer, more traditional forms, ... (the) Rock is made up of rock musicians."
Critics often referred to the Australian character of the music. Tony Catterall of The Canberra Times declared that the group "has absorbed its influences so well that they're almost unrecognisable in the final product. And into this synthesis the band has infused some things peculiarly Australian".
The response from critics to Ayers Rock's second album was immediate, and very positive. Sean Hanrahan in the Sunday Press stated: "Beyond to me stands as something of a crowning achievement for a band that has already been described as the high-water mark in Australian rock." The Sun agreed, calling it "one of the best records from an Australian band." The band were keen to emphasise that the music was "essentially Australian" even though it was recorded in L.A.
The first track "Moondah (Beyond)" begins with clapsticks, log drum, electronic guitar sounds imitating the didgeridoo, and other sounds imitating indigenous (aboriginal) singing. This combination of electronic effects, and rhythms creates sounds very similar to indigenous Australian music, which later segues into a different section, featuring a clean European style. The track then returns to the original theme.
The overall effect becomes a fusion of indigenous Australian music, rock, and improvisational jazz by European Australians, ahead in time of indigenous rock artists such as Yothu Yindi, and No Fixed Address who created their own fusions of indigenous, and rock music.
History - second era
Brown and Doyle reconvened the band with Bermuda-born Keith Caisey on percussion, Joe Tattersall on drums (Healing Force, Barry Leef Band) and John Young on bass guitar (De Castro). By 1978 the line-up of Brown, Caisey, and Doyle were joined by Andy Cowan on keyboards and vocals (Madder Lake), Steve Hogg on bass guitar (Bakery), and Hamish Stewart on drums.
In March 1980 Ayers Rock issued another single, "On the Avenue" followed in May by a third LP, Hotspell, on Red Rock Records, distributed by RCA Records. It was recorded at The Music Farm, Byron Bay, and engineered by former member, McGuire.
According to The Canberra Times ' Luis Feliu's review of the album and a July 1980 gig, Ayers Rock were "once Australia's hottest progressive rock" group, at their peak. However not all audience members at the Sydney performance in 1980 agreed with the band's direction; Feliu reported that
"the capacity audience showed hearty approval ... probably old allegiance, and only a few comments of dissatisfaction, like 'boring', were heard, then that was at the bar up the back".
In July 1981 the group released a final single, "Lies", but disbanded that year. According to McFarlane, the members "were seen as 'musician's musicians'. The band issued a series of technically proficient recordings, but in the long run any quest for commercial acceptance was marred by the seriousness of the music".[disputed ]
In late 1974 Ayers Rock members Brown, McGuire, Kennedy, and Loughnan performed on several tracks on Jim Keays' debut solo album, The Boy from the Stars. At the January 1975 Sunbury Pop Festival, Keays performed most of the album's tracks live with the three Ayers Rock members joining the ensemble to record "Nothing Much Left" and "Urantia". Upon return to the US, Burton was a session player for Billy Joel, Dave Mason and Jimmy Webb; he wrote "Best Friend" for the feature film Airport 1975 (1974). In 1976 Burton formed the Ray Burton Band with Rex Bullen, Terry Gascoine, Steve Hogg and Tim Piper. From 1977 to 1980 McGuire was a bass guitarist for The Southern Star Band alongside Doug Parkinson on vocals, Tommy Emmanuel on guitar and Kennedy on drums. In 1978 Burton issued a solo album, Dreamers and Nightflyers, which spawned the singles, "Too Hard to Handle" and "Paddington Green". After touring with Crossfire in 1979, he returned to the US to work as a songwriter.
In 1983 Cowan joined a short-lived reformation of Blackfeather by Neale Johns. The album No Worries by Georgie Fame (1988) featured three Ayers Rock alumni: Loughnan, Doyle, and Dunlop. McGuire died in July 1989 from a brain tumour. In the late 1980s, Hogg formed The Rhythm Snakes with Clayton Black on drums, Howie Smallman on harmonica and Bob Thorne on guitar. In 1989, Hogg assembled a studio band to record an album of his own material with Thorne, Mark Alderman on harmonica, Ian Ironside on drums, Bob Patient on piano and Bernie Payne on saxophone. Hogg died on 20 July 1990, and the album, Various Fools & Vices, appeared in 1992. In 1993 Kennedy drummed for The Blazing Salads, with Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Rex Goh and Kirk Lorange. In 1998 Hamish Stuart supplied drums for Chris Abrahams and Melanie Oxley's album, Jerusalem Bay. Doyle died on 5 May 2006 from liver cancer. On Sunday, 28 May 2006, the "Jim Doyle Tribute Concert" was held at The Basement in Sydney. Musicians performing included Renee Geyer, Billy Field, bandmate Loughnan, and Barry Leef, with the proceeds for the benefit of Doyle's family. Loughnan is a lecturer in saxophone (jazz) at the University of Sydney's Conservatorium of Music and has been a member of the Jazz Faculty since 1979. In 2007 he released a solo album, Ellen St.
Australian TV channel ABC screened a documentary program on 16 November 2014 entitled Countdown: Do Yourself a Favour in which footage of Ayers Rock performing the instrumental "Big Red Rock" live is shown simultaneously with Brian Mannix (Uncanny X-Men) expounding:
"Rock 'n' roll needed a good old kick in the balls, and it got it from Countdown. Before Countdown, bands were pretty lazy in a lot of respects; they'd wear jeans and a T-shirt, maybe, and play a nine minute guitar solo, have a beer, then just look bored shitless."
After that, the documentary explains why the pop music program Countdown succeeded in promoting Australian pop and rock bands, and establishing a place for itself, over 13 years, in Australian music history. Writer, producer, and director, Jeremy Boylen used Ayers Rock as the prime example of what the documentary claimed was wrong with Australian pop and rock music before the advent of Countdown.
- Duncan McGuire - bass guitar (1973-1976; died 1989)
- Mark Kennedy - drums (1973-1976)
- Ray Burton - guitar, vocals (1973-1974)
- Jimmy Doyle - guitar, vocals (1973-1981; died 2006)
- Col Loughnan - saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, vocals (1973-1976)
- Chris Brown - guitar, vocals (1974-1981)
- Les Young - bass guitar (1975)
- Andy Cowan - keyboards (1978-1981)
- Keith Caisey - percussion (1977-1981)
- John Young - bass guitar (1977-1978)
- Steve Hogg - bass guitar (1978-1981; died 1990)
- Russell Dunlop - drums (1976)
- Doug Gallacher - drums (1976)
- Joe Tattersall - drums (1977)
- Hamish Stuart - drums (1978-1981)
- Big Red Rock (Mushroom Records, 1974) AUS No. 32
- Beyond (Mushroom, 1976) AUS No. 50
- Hot Spell (Red Rock/RCA Records, 1980)
- "Rock N Roll Fight" (December 1973)
- "Lady Montego" (November 1974)
- "Little Kings" (1975)
- "Song for Darwin" (1976)
- "On the Avenue" (1979)
- "Lies"/ Feel The Heat" (1981)
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2012. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
- Spencer, Chris; Zbig Nowara, Paul McHenry with notes by Ed Nimmervoll (2002) . The Who's Who of Australian Rock. Noble Park, Vic: Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-891-1.  Note: [on-line] version of The Who's Who of Australian Rock was established at White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd in 2007 and was expanded from the 2002 edition. As from, September 2010 the [on-line] version shows an 'Internal Service Error' and was no longer available.
- "New Year's Honors List". RAM (Rock Australia Magazine). c. January 1976.
- Joynson, Vernon (1999). "'Ayers Rock' Entry". Dreams, fantasies, and nightmares from far away lands: Canadian, Australasian, and Latin American rock and pop, 1963-75. Borderline Productions. ISBN 978-1-899855-10-0. Archived from the original on 4 June 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
- Kimball, Duncan; Burton, Ray; Loughnan, Col (2006). "Ayers Rock". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Kilby, David; Kilby, Jordie (8 December 2011). "Rare Collections". Jazz-Rock in Australia. 666 ABC Canberra. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Borschmann, Gregg (30 June 1975). "Goodbye and hullo". The Age (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- Kimball, Duncan (2006). "The Twilights" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Master's Apprentices'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Kimball, Duncan (2006). "Australasian popular music of the 1960s and 1970s -- an overview" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Note: section headed: "The Third Wave", 1970-75. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- McFarlane, 'Ayers Rock' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- "'I Am Woman' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2012. Note: Helen Reddy is given as H Wald – her then-married name.
- Fanouche, Eloe (c. May 1975). "Ayers Rock - big red aura moving overseas". Unknown publication
- "'Lady Montego' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Catterall, Tony (6 January 1975). "Rock Music: Surprisingly Good Australian Rock". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 11. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
- Wilson, Tony (1 May 1975). "How Mushroom started to grow ...". The Sun News-Pictorial. (Melbourne). p. 4.
- "Ayers Rock off to U.S. again". Unknown publication. 7 November 1975.
- Unknown Author. "Crowds high on Ayers Rock". Unknown publication.
- Unknown author. "Ayers Rock back on road after U.S success" Unknown Publication. c. October 1975
- The Village Voice (Advertisement) (New York) 1 September 1975. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
- "It's sad, but true, says Duncan". Unknown publication. c. October 1975.
- beyond (LP album notes). Ayers Rock. A&M Records. April 1976. ASIN B00412FIUK.
- Gardiner, Paul (20 November 1975). "Performance". Rolling Stone. p. 53. Note: Review of concert performed on 19 October 1975.
- "Tight and good". Unknown publication. c. November 1975
- "Ayers Rock splits up". The Age (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. 26 August 1976. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Gardiner, Paul (20 November 1975). "Performance". Rolling Stone. p. 53. Note: Review of concert performed on 19 October 1975.
- Wahlquist, Gil (19 January 1975). "Big Red Rock". The Sun-Herald (Sydney). Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Hanrahan, Sean (1976). "It's beyond belief ...". The Sunday Press (Melbourne).
- Unknown title. The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne) Unknown date.
- Thomas, Helen (23 March 1976). "The (60) grand dream to reach the top". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 21 December 2014.
- "Sleeve of the week". The Herald (Melbourne). 25 March 1976.
- Hotspell (LP album notes). Ayers Rock. Red Rock Records. May 1980.
- Feliu, Luis (7 July 1980). "Best of both Armatradings". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 11. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- The Boy from the Stars CD discogs.com entry. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- The Boy from the Stars (Media notes). Jim Keays. EMI Records. 1974. EMA. 308.
- McFarlane, 'Jim Keays' entry. Archived from the original on 30 September 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- McFarlane, 'Ray Burton' entry. Archived from the original on 28 June 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Entries at Australian Rock Database:
- Rex Bullen: Holmgren, Magnus. "Rex Bullen". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Tommy Emmanuel: Holmgren, Magnus; Carruthers, Melody. "Tommy Emmanuel". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Brian Cadd: Holmgren, Magnus. "Brian Cadd". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- "Doug Parkinson". Australian Jazz Agency. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- McFarlane, 'Blackfeather' entry. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- No worries (LP album notes). Georgie Fame. Four Leaf Clover Records. 1988. ASIN B0083L40WC.
- McFarlane, 'Bakery' entry. Archived from the original on 20 April 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- McFarlane, 'Chris Abrahams' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "The Basement" advertisement. Drum Media. (Sydney) May 2006
- "Col Loughnan". Sydney Conservatorium of Music. University of Sydney. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Boylen, Jeremy (producer) (16 November 2014). "Countdown: Do Yourself a Favour". Season 1. Episode 1. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
- Ryan (bulion), Gary (23 August 2012). "Albums Pre 1989 Part 2 – Ayers Rock". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- "Who's Who of Australian Rock / Compiled by Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2012.