Ayers Rock (band)

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Ayers Rock
Also known as
  • Burton McGuire & Kennedy
  • The Rock (nickname)
Origin Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genres Jazz fusion, progressive rock
Years active 1973 (1973)–1981 (1981)
Labels Mushroom, Festival, A&M, RCA, Red Rock
Associated acts The Delltones, Leo de Castro and Friends, Jim Keays
Past members

Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band which formed in 1973, based in Melbourne. They established a reputation for excellent musicianship, innovative music, and the ability to re-interpret their music in live performance. Through almost constant live appearances, coverage in the print media, and word of mouth, Ayers Rock established a national profile in Australia, even though they received very little radio airplay.

Mark Kennedy (drums), Duncan McGuire (bass), and Ray Burton (guitar, vocals) were members of Leo de Castro and Friends, before they left, as a unit, to form the eponymous trio, Burton, McGuire & Kennedy. Adding another guitarist, Jimmy Doyle, they changed their name to Ayers Rock, and invited Doyle's colleague Col Loughnan (saxophones, flutes) to join. All the members traced their origins to rock or pop bands from Sydney, except for Kennedy, who was from Melbourne. They signed to independent label Mushroom Records in its early days. Burton decided to leave in March 1974, and was replaced by Chris Brown (guitar, vocals) who had played with Loughnan in London.

The band's first album, Big Red Rock, was released in November 1974, receiving positive reviews, and rising to No. 32 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart. The album contained mainstream rock songs, and three longer instrumental tracks which introduced progressive styles of music, including jazz fusion. Michael Gudinski promoted his Mushroom Records artists including Ayers Rock in L.A., resulting in the band signing with A&M Records, ahead of more favoured candidates. Ayers Rock were the first Mushroom Records artist to sign a recording contract with an international label. The U.S. release of Big Red Rock in February 1975, was followed by a U.S. tour later that year to promote the album, and record their second at The Record Plant, L.A. Ayers Rock played to massive crowds in the U.S., supporting major international artists, including Bachman–Turner Overdrive in front of an audience of 35,000 people. They were the first Australian band to successfully perform in very large stadiums in the U.S.

Ayers Rock were named 1975 "Musicians of the Year" in RAM magazine's "New Year's Honors List".[1] Kennedy left the band before the release of their second album, Beyond, in Australia, and North America. Blending very different genres of music into one cohesive album, Beyond received high praise from reviewers, but only reached No. 50 on the Australian album charts. The band toured in the U.S. to promote the album, however Loughnan stayed in America, and the band broke up in August 1976. Later, Doyle and Brown recruited new members for a new Ayers Rock, the most influential of whom were Andy Cowan (keyboards, vocals), and Hamish Stewart (drums). In 1980, the band released Hotspell on their own label, featuring songs in a soft rock style with sophisticated arrangements, and prominent keyboards, but no wind instruments. This album failed to make any headway with record buyers, and disappeared into obscurity, leading to a permanent disbandment in 1981.

Commercially, Ayers Rock were modestly successful in Australia, and North America, but their six singles failed to chart. In the most successful years from 1973 to 1976, Ayers Rock were often praised in the Australian print media: the music they wrote, the diversity of musical styles they incorporated, their use of the latest technology, and most of all the energy of their live performances. From the 1990s sources recognised the band's talent, but also thought their music could be over-indulgent, or took itself too seriously. Ayers Rock produced a number of achievements within the Australian rock scene, including their ground-breaking first two albums. Yet overall, they never really achieved their full potential.

Australian music scene[edit]

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.[2] When Ayers Rock introduced some jazz fusion material to their sets, it was a sound rarely explored by Australian bands.[3][4]

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,[5] The Masters Apprentices,[6] The Groop, Axiom, etc.). The Australian music press lamented this situation on a regular basis.

This period, also, saw the rapid expansion of pub rock venues in the southern, and eastern states.[7]

History (Mushroom Records years)[edit]


Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band formed in Melbourne in August 1973.[8] They were sometimes nicknamed "The Rock" by the Australian press. Ray Burton, Mark Kennedy, and Duncan McGuire were members of Leo de Castro and Friends, but decided to leave together, to create an eponymous trio, Burton, McGuire & Kennedy.[8] 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".[9][10] 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 King Harvest.[9] Kennedy,[note 1] on drums, had previously played in Spectrum, on sessions for King Harvest, and for Leo de Castro and Friends.[9]

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.

The geographical feature Ayers Rock, after which the band is named.

In September that year, they changed their name to Ayers Rock,[9] 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.

Doyle had worked with multi-instrumentalist, and arranger Col Loughnan[note 2] sporadically for at least seven years, and rang to invite him to join the band.[2] At the time, Loughnan was playing in London with Kala, and arrived in Melbourne during October 1973.[11] 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),[8] and diversified into arranging, and then playing tenor saxophone with The Daly-Wilson Big Band.[2]

By December Ayers Rock had signed to Mushroom Records (one of the first bands to do so)[9] and issued their first single, "Rock 'N Roll Fight (Going On)", one of the first releases on that label.[8]

Sunbury and first album[edit]

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.[9] In March Burton returned to the US and was replaced on guitar and lead vocals by Chris Brown (ex-Python Lee Jackson) who left Kala to return to Australia, to join the band.[8] Loughnan and Brown had played together in London with Kala.[11]

During 1974 Ayers Rock recorded material intended for their debut album at Festival's 24 track studio in Sydney, but they were not satisfied with the sound, and believed that their playing had failed to capture the "live" essence of the music.[12] Eventually, the album Big Red Rock was recorded live-in-the-studio at Armstrong's Studios in Melbourne in September 1974. Kennedy, the band's drummer stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that "doing the album live was an experiment really and it seemed to work".[12]

In November 1974, they released the album, Big Red Rock, and a single, "Lady Montego",[8] which was a new version of a McGuire-penned track originally performed by Friends.[9][13] Also in that month, Loughnan was forced to stop performing live due to pain from a back condition, with the band playing on as a four-piece.[12] This, in turn, lead to major surgery, which explains why Loughnan is seen sitting down whilst playing in video footage from that period.

Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski visited America, in December, promoting his recording artists including Skyhooks, Daddy Cool, Madder Lake, Ayers Rock, and some others, to major recording labels in the U.S.[2] Only Ayers Rock were successful, leading to Gudinski signing them with A&M Records within days.[14] 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 (Big Red Rock) world-wide."[15] This was an unexpected outcome, given that many of the artists had been more successful in Australia than Ayers Rock. In particular, Skyhooks was Australia's most popular band, and their first album, Living in the 70's, sold a total of 226,000 units,[16] the highest-selling album by an Australian artist in Australia at that time. Not only was Living in the 70's spurned by A&M; it has never been released as an album outside Australia.[17] Ayers Rock were the first Mushroom Records artist to sign a recording contract with an international label.[14][18][19]

In January 1975 the group performed at the next Sunbury Pop Festival. Big Red Rock and the single "Lady Montego" were rushed into production for their U.S. release on 28 February 1975.[14] From July to September 1975, they promoted Big Red Rock by touring the U.S. which included playing to 35,000 people[20] at a stadium concert in Seattle supporting Bachman–Turner Overdrive on 27 July 1975.[21] They were also the supporting act for Status Quo, J.Geils Band,[21][22] Charlie Daniels,[23] Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Nils Lofgren.[24] 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".[8] In fact, they were years ahead of the Little River Band, AC/DC, and Air Supply.[8]

Second album[edit]

During September 1975, while in the US at the end of their tour, the group recorded their second album, Beyond at The Record Plant, L.A., which was one of the best recording studios in the world. The album was financed by a $60,000 advance from A&M Records, specified in their contract.[25]


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."[26]

As a result:

  • McGuire's friend, Australian bassist Les Young was drafted into the studio to play some of the remaining bass parts[26][27] (he was in L.A. at the time)
  • American Jeff Castleman played bass on "Catchanemu"[27]
  • Young played live with Ayers Rock in Australia for a short time (e.g.: the State Theatre, Sydney, 19 October 1975)[28]
  • McGuire returned, without any prior announcement, to a gig at the Dallas Brooks Hall, with the audience giving a warm round of applause to show they were right behind him.[29][30]

Kennedy departure and Beyond release[edit]

In February 1976, before the release of Beyond, Kennedy left to join Marcia Hines‍ '​ backing band (Hines and Kennedy were romantically, and professionally involved)[9] and was temporarily replaced by Doug Gallacher.[8] Ayers Rock were named 1975 "Musicians of the Year" in RAM magazine's "New Year's Honors List".[1] In April 1976 Beyond was issued in Australia, and America. The album spawned two singles, "Little Kings" (October 1975) and "Song for Darwin" (May 1976)—but neither were successful on the charts.[8] In May, Gallacher was replaced by Russell Dunlop (ex-Aesop's Fables, Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA, Mother Earth, Johnny Rocco Band).[8] In 1976 from May to July they toured the US again, however they "only achieved limited success overseas".[8] After that tour Dunlop, Loughnan, and McGuire 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.[31] Remaining members Brown and Doyle placed the project in a year-long hiatus.[8]

Musical style and critical response (Mushroom Records years)[edit]

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".[2] 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."[28]

Australian newspapers quoted a Cashbox review verbatim praising their music, ending with: "it was something different and something beautiful."[32][note 3]

Critics often referred to the Australian character of the music.[11][33][34] 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".[35]

Radio airplay[edit]

In order to understand the treatment of Ayers Rock by radio stations one needs to appreciate the unusual situation that was Australian radio in the mid-1970s. Unlike the U.S., which enjoyed a huge and vibrant FM radio scene, Australia had only ABC FM, and a couple of community FM stations,[note 4] and most of them played classical music. Commercial AM radio stations dominated the airwaves when it came to rock music in Australia.[36]

Kennedy (the band's drummer) asserted in a Juke interview that "without AM radio support you can't sell too well in this country". In the same interview he stated "radio airplay has never happened for us here—except 2JJ and the occasional Album Shows".[3] ABC youth oriented AM radio station, 2JJ, was confined to broadcasting in Sydney in the 1970s, and even there reception was very poor in some areas.[36][37] In America the attitude to the band's music was very different. Journalist Greg Kelton expressed the view that Beyond had "been played by about 50 radio stations in the (U.S.). 'It is being played on two (stations) in Australia' said Jimmy Doyle".[38]

Ayers Rock established their reputation through live performance, exposure in the print media, and word of mouth; promotion from radio stations in Australia was minimal.

Live performance[edit]

Ayers Rock were a rock band which, as time went on, started to play "rock-jazz fusion" (see above) in their sets, along with the rock songs, and increased the "jazz" aspect of the music during the life of the band. In a review of a concert on 19 October 1975, Paul Gardiner in Rolling Stone claimed "Big Red Rock was still tied quite closely to existing American styles". He goes on to say that, at the State Theatre, "evidence" of jazz-rock "came through loud and clear".[28] This was the first major concert by the band after returning from their recording sessions (and tour) in the U.S. The evidence that Ayers Rock were fundamentally a rock band is their ear-splitting volume. In a smoke-filled bar at Martinis, in Carlton, Juke conducted a vox pop of audience members, one of whom grumbled "I don't mind a bit of volume with my improvisation but this is so goddamn heavy".[3] Juke describes that gig as "packed to the rafters".[3]

In a Rolling Stone interview with Margaret MacIntyre, Kennedy explains: "Ayers Rock was getting a live response that, to speak for myself, I hadn't seen happen with a crowd ... for a long time".[12] In the same interview, Doyle intimates the key to their success saying: "this band is going somewhere ... it's not the same thing every night, unlike many bands, the arrangements change".[12] Reviewers were enthusiastic in their summations of the band's performances. Paul Gardiner wrote: "the impression they now generate on stage is one of total energy ... energy which sets them apart".[28] Juke went one better, claiming that Ayers Rock were: "a band that could reward its audiences with (the) sheer exhilaration of seeing real master musicians ... taking their audiences to virgin territory that other explorers had only dreamed about".[3]

Eloe Fanouche of RAM Magazine focussed on another aspect, explaining that:

"Unlike many groups they were able to capture the ethereal quality of their recorded sound on stage ... On being asked how live gigs compared to studio work, they all declared that the straight atmosphere of the studio was too clinical".[11]

Big Red Rock[edit]

20 second music sample from vocal section.

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Critics reviewing Big Red Rock, the band's first album, referred to side 1 as the "song" side, and side 2 as the "jazz" side.[33] This approximation provides a useful framework for understanding the music. "Lady Montego", "Talkin' 'Bout You", "Goin' Home", and "Nostalgic Blues" were named as rock songs,[3][39] the first three written by McGuire, and "Nostalgic Blues" written by Brown. According to Juke "the single lifted to push the album, "Lady Montego" ... received three weeks airplay and was then dumped."[3] Yet, this small exposure made it Ayers Rock's most successful single in Australia, or least unsuccessful. Also, Juke criticized their songs as "lyrically banal", but said their "sheer talent" with their instruments, and electronic devices got them through.[3]

Also from the first side was Loughnan's "Crazy Boys" which brought out the larrikin in the band. ("Larrikin" is an Australian term meaning "a mischievous, and rowdy young person".) At various points in the track, voices of working class, uncultured men are heard talking at a hamburger shop in a variety of Aussie, and ethnic accents. (Listen to the sound sample for more information.) The effect was deliberately humourous, poking fun at Australians in general, regardless of their background. One voice says "Hey, listen mate, give me one 'Gudinskiburger', please, hold the bacon, please".[9] The band's manager was named Gudinski, and he preferred to abstain from pork products. There is evidence that Mr. Gudinski went along with the joke because he released Big Red Rock, and their next album on his label. Other voices discuss "Dr. Hopontopovis, the Greek gynaecologist".[9] Later in the track, they record for posterity the Australian slang of the period with "Who yer sayin’ that to, yer drongo?" ("Drongo" is a slang term meaning "idiot".)

Spoken word from Big Red Rock
Introduction featuring the "Crazy Boys" live in the studio at the beginning of the song of the same name from the album Big Red Rock.

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Even though "Crazy Boys" is a song, in that it includes singing, it contains only two lines of lyrics, however most of the track is instrumental. Written by Loughnan, it was described by Juke as "free form jazz",[3] and features solos by Doyle, Brown, and Loughnan. The sounds from the guitars, electric saxophone, and vocals are heavily electronically processed. When asked about Ayers Rock's use of electronics by Eloe Fanouche, Loughnan replied that "you've got to be able to use them well in order to sound good. We use them to colour the sounds as much as possible".[11]

The centrepiece of the album is the title track "Big Red Rock". Also written by Loughnan, the 8½ minute instrumental was described by Juke as "expertly capturing the stark loneliness and cosmic tranquility one gets standing before their namesake rock".[3] The atmosphere that the band wished to create was outlined by Loughnan with: "we wanted to get that spacey sort of feeling—like desert ... and we wanted to get the sound of the didgeridoo—which we did electronically"[11] Doyle imitated the sound of the didgeridoo by playing his guitar through a wah-wah pedal. Tony Catterall of The Canberra Times praised the title track "Big Red Rock", which

"suggests the huge expanse of the outback, then takes you ... to the Aboriginal secrets ... [and evokes] the power surrounding the area [of Uluru] in a burst of truly inspired musicianship".[35]

Music from Big Red Rock
A soundscape from early in the track evoking the eerie spirituality of the aboriginal sacred place now known as Uluru.

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Gil Wahlquist of The Sydney Morning Herald cited "Big Red Rock" as being "heavily accented towards jazz".[33] It is a work involving changing moods, with quiet moments which are "eerie, euphonic, and evocative".[40] Aboriginal clapsticks, and sounds imitating the didgeridoo allude to the indigenous character of Uluru, and the surrounding areas. Another section is double tempo jazz fusion with solos for the guitarists, and saxophonist, complemented by the rhythm section driving the music to the crescendo. This section concludes with a rapid rallentando, or slowing of tempo, to another gentle phase; changes in tempo, and volume are heard throughout the track.[41] This puts "Big Red Rock" at the opposite end of the musical spectrum to disco, often featuring one tempo and one volume, which was rising to become the dominant musical genre.

One of Ayers Rock's live set was "Boogie Woogie Waltz" written by Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, and originally recorded for the album Sweetnighter.[42] The band produced their interpretation, becoming the only track on the first album to feature jazz fusion from start to finish.

Big Red Rock received positive reviews in the U.S., and Australia. The Triad Guide, a free program guide published by Chicago radio station 106FM, described the album as "clean with a lot of energy".[43] In an interview with Juke, Doyle claimed that Billboard magazine gave the album a good review, and the interviewer agreed.[3] Australian reviewers concluded that the album was "an extremely good record, well worth owning",[40] "a classic record in Australian rock",[44] and "an inspiring success".[33]


The album cover of the U.S. release of Beyond showing an outback scene (upright view), and the head of an Australian aboriginal man when the album cover is rotated 90° to the right. Cover design by Ian McCausland.

The response from critics to Ayers Rock's second album, Beyond, was immediate, and very positive. Sean Hanrahan in The Sunday Press (Melbourne) 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."[34] The band were keen to emphasise that the music was "essentially Australian" even though it was recorded in L.A.[25]

A unique feature of the U.S. album cover for Beyond is that the "rock" in the distance appears to change into the head of an Aboriginal man (with his eyes closed) when the cover is rotated to the right (illustrated). Creator of the cover, Ian McCausland[27] was Art Director at Mushroom Records, and was known for designing The Rolling Stones : Australian tour 1973 poster.[45] The U.S. album cover can be compared to a central principal of Aboriginal spirituality, which is the deep connection between the land and the Aboriginal peoples.[46] An ATSIC publication stated the Aboriginal position: "we don't own the land, the land owns us. The land is my mother, my mother is the land. Land is the starting point to where it all began."[47] The Australian government webpage, The Dreaming explains that: "Once the ancestor spirits had created the world, they changed into trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or other objects. These are sacred places of Aboriginal culture."[46]

Illustrates the change from an Australian indigenous sound in one section to a "European" sound in the next.

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Like the band's first album, the vastness of the rural, and outback landscapes were reflected in the artwork, and music. The names of the band, "Ayers Rock", and the album, "Beyond", were "titles to suggest space, time and distance" according to a review by Forester in The Age, and some tracks had an "indigenous appeal".[48] The title of the first track "Moondah" translates to "Beyond" in English,[49] and reflects the hope that the indigenous people could move beyond the challenges they were experiencing at that time. This was expressed in an April 1976 article in the TV Times where the track's writer Loughnan explained that:

"The aborigines have had a raw deal in the past. The song expresses the hope that they get better treatment in the future".[49]

"Moondah (beyond)" begins with clapsticks,[50] log drum, electronic guitar sounds imitating the didgeridoo,[11] 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. For more information listen to the music sample.

Manuscript of the violin part used for the recording of "Angel in Disguise" from the album Beyond. (Click on the image to see the enlarged version.)

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.

Beyond featured a 23 piece string section,[25] arranged and conducted by Loughnan, [27] on the tracks "Place to Go", "Song for Darwin" and "Angel in Disguise". Loughnan wrote a tune for his wife some years before, which he expanded to become the instrumental "Angel in Disguise".[2]

History (Red Rock Records years)[edit]

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 Stuart on drums.[8]

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.[51] Luis Feliu in The Canberra Times referred to the "new-sounding" Ayers Rock and their "laid-back" style.[52] There had been a major change in the personnel writing the music; Loughnan was long gone, and Brown was contributing less instead of more than previously. Cowan was the most active, writing five songs, and Stuart co-wrote two with Doyle.[9] Doyle, who hadn't written anything on the previous albums, also wrote "On the Road", which had been played in the bands's live sets since 1978. Jillian Burt of Juke magazine described "On the Road" as "reminiscent of the cool, calm, collectedness that typifies Steely Dan".[53] Hotspell featured songs in a soft rock style with sophisticated arrangements, and prominent keyboards, but no wind instruments.[54]

Music samples from Hotspell

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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,[52] 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".[52]

Hotspell was a commercial failure, and has never been released on CD. In July 1981 the group released a final single, "Lies", but disbanded that year.[9]


In late 1974 Ayers Rock members Brown, McGuire, Kennedy, and Loughnan[55] performed on several tracks on Jim Keays' debut solo album, The Boy from the Stars.[56][57] 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".[56][57] Upon return to the US, Burton was a session player for Billy Joel and Jimmy Webb; he wrote "Best Friend" for the feature film Airport 1975 (1974).[58] In 1976 Burton formed the Ray Burton Band with Rex Bullen, Terry Gascoine, Steve Hogg and Tim Piper.[59] 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.[59][60] 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.[58][59]

In 1983 Cowan joined a short-lived reformation of Blackfeather by Neale Johns.[61] The album No Worries by Georgie Fame (1988) featured three Ayers Rock alumni: Loughnan, Doyle, and Dunlop.[62] McGuire died in July 1989 from a brain tumour.[8] In the late 1980s, Hogg formed The Rhythm Snakes with Clayton Black on drums, Howie Smallman on harmonica and Bob Thorne on guitar.[63] 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.[63] Hogg died on 20 July 1990, and the album, Various Fools & Vices, appeared in 1992.[63] In 1993 Kennedy drummed for The Blazing Salads, with Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Rex Goh and Kirk Lorange.[59] In 1998 Hamish Stuart supplied drums for Chris Abrahams and Melanie Oxley's album, Jerusalem Bay.[64] Doyle died on 5 May 2006.[9] 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.[65] 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 1978.[66] In 2007 he released a solo album, Ellen St.[66]

Critical response (1990s to present)[edit]

Commentators, in recent decades, have re-evaluated Ayers Rock taking into account changes in public taste in music, and they have attempted to give possible reasons why the band were only a modest commercial success. Most notably, the enthusiastic adulation often found in the Australian print media in the mid-70s (especially Juke) was absent.

Vernon Joynson found the album, Big Red Rock, 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".[67] He felt that despite being "quite a popular live act (Ayers Rock's) recordings were hampered by a dilemma over whether to opt for a more serious pursuit of expanding the horizons or for a commercial sound".[67]

According to Australian rock music historian 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".[8]

In a radio documentary broadcast in December 2011, Jordie Kilby expressed the view that Big Red Rock was "a great record; quite an influential (album) ... now one that's held in quite high regard".[2] Duncan Kimball at milesago.com came to the conclusion that "the group's relatively short lifespan and small catalogue meant that they never really got the chance to reach their full potential."[9]


  • 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)
  • Doug Gallacher – drums (1976)
  • Russell Dunlop – drums (1976)
  • Joe Tattersall – drums (1977)
  • Keith Caisey – percussion (1977-1981)
  • John Young – bass guitar (1977-1978)
  • Andy Cowan – keyboards (1978-1981)
  • Steve Hogg – bass guitar (1978-1981; died 1990)
  • Hamish Stuart – drums (1978-1981)




  • "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)


  1. ^ Kennedy was the only one of the original members who was brought up in Melbourne
  2. ^ Sources very often misspell the name "Loughnan"
  3. ^ Complete Cashbox quote "People knew they were witnessing more than just another rock and roll band. Those vocals were classic for the genre and you just knew there was more than a dash of jazz in their influences. They could boogie with the best of them but it was boogie with substance and dimension. It was something different and something beautiful."
  4. ^ 2MBS, 4ZZZ, 3MBS


  1. ^ a b "New Year's Honors List". RAM (Rock Australia Magazine). c. January 1976.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kilby, David; Kilby, Jordie (8 December 2011). "Rare Collections". Jazz-Rock in Australia. 666 ABC Canberra. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Export Big Red Rock". Juke (Melbourne). Thomas W. Williams. 4 June 1975. p. 21.
  4. ^ Borschmann, Gregg (30 June 1975). "Goodbye and hullo". The Age (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  5. ^ Kimball, Duncan (2006). "The Twilights" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p McFarlane, 'Ayers Rock' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Kimball, Duncan; Burton, Ray; Loughnan, Col (2006). "Ayers Rock". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "'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.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Fanouche, Eloe (14 June 1975). "Ayers Rock - big red aura moving overseas". RAM Magazine. Soundtracks Publishing (Sydney). p. 15.
  12. ^ a b c d e MacIntyre, Margaret (3 July 1975)."No Stone Unturned: The Ayers Rock Dossier" Rolling Stone p. 41.
  13. ^ "'Lady Montego' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c Meldrum, Ian (January 1975). "'Big Red Rock' Shock" Listener In-TV Herald & Weekly Times (Melbourne).
  15. ^ Wilson, Tony (1 May 1975). "How Mushroom started to grow ...". The Sun News-Pictorial. (Melbourne). p. 4.
  16. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Skyhooks'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Living in the 70's releases. Allmusic.com Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  18. ^ Warner, Dave (1998). 25 years of Mushroom Records. Harper Collins Publishers (Sydney). ISBN 0 7322 6432 4.
  19. ^ Baker, Glenn A (30 January 1982). "Bursting into world mainstream captures mogul's imagination". Billboard: M–9, M–12. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  20. ^ Shipway, Gary "Ayers Rock off to U.S. again". The News (Adelaide) News Ltd.
  21. ^ a b "Jazz 'n' Jive" (16 July 1975). Juke (Melbourne). p. 2.
  22. ^ "Crowds high on Ayers Rock". The Sun (Sydney).
  23. ^ Allen, Dave (28 November 1981). "Uncommon occurrence" The Mercury (Hobart).
  24. ^ The Village Voice (Advertisement) (New York) 1 September 1975. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  25. ^ a b c Thomas, Helen (23 March 1976). "The (60) grand dream to reach the top". The Age (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  26. ^ a b Bowring, Pat (18 October 1975). "It's sad, but true, says Duncan". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne). The Herald and Weekly Times. p. 6.
  27. ^ a b c d Beyond (LP album notes). Ayers Rock. A&M Records. April 1976. ASIN B00412FIUK. 
  28. ^ a b c d Gardiner, Paul (20 November 1975). "Performance". Rolling Stone. p. 53. Note: Review of concert performed on 19 October 1975.
  29. ^ "Welcome back Ayers Rock". Juke (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. 5 November 1975 p. 5.
  30. ^ Bowring, Pat (22 October 1975). "Tight and good". The Sun News-Pictorial. The Herald and Weekly Times (Melbourne). p. 6.
  31. ^ "Ayers Rock splits up". The Age (Melbourne). David Syme & Co. 26 August 1976. p 2. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  32. ^ Catterall, Tony (20 October 1975). "Not the Allmans' best, but it'll do" The Canberra Times. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  33. ^ a b c d Wahlquist, Gil (19 January 1975). "Big Red Rock". The Sun-Herald (Sydney). John Fairfax & Sons. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  34. ^ a b Hanrahan, Sean (1976). "It's beyond belief ...". The Sunday Press (Melbourne).
  35. ^ a b 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. 
  36. ^ a b Kimball, Duncan (2006). "Double Jay: The First Year" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  37. ^ Ricquish, David. "Radio Power Plays 1975-81" Radio Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  38. ^ Kelton, Greg. "Chip of the Old Rock". The Advertiser (Adelaide).
  39. ^ Clark, Lucky (July 1975) "Long Player". Playboy (Chicago).
  40. ^ a b Suave, Leroy (aka Brian Wakefield). "HiFi Rock Record Review". Soundblast magazine. p. 80.
  41. ^ Loughnan, Col. Ayers Rock. "Big Red Rock". Big Red Rock. Mushroom Records. 1974. (LP)
  42. ^ "Sweetnighter" entry. allmusic.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  43. ^ Kislaitis, Ed (May 1975). Triad Guide (Chicago)
  44. ^ "Stars Dig Ayers Rock: Stevie spreads gospel". Sunday Press Magazine (Melbourne) c. September 1975.
  45. ^ The Rolling Stones : Australian tour 1973 / design/illustration: Ian McCausland (Catalogue). National Library of Australia (Canberra). Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  46. ^ a b "The Dreaming". Australian Government (Canberra). Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  47. ^ Knight S., (1996). "Our Land Our Life" (card). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (Canberra).
  48. ^ Forester (1 April 1976). "Ayers Rock shows its solid face". The Age (Melbourne) David Syme & Co. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  49. ^ a b Gough, Chris (3 April 1976). "Ayers Rock leaving on second U.S. tour soon". TV Times Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  50. ^ Dunlop, Don (25 March 1976). "Sleeve of the week". The Herald (Melbourne). The Herald and Weekly Times. p. 33. Note: article confuses "message sticks" with "clapsticks".
  51. ^ Hotspell (LP album notes). Ayers Rock. Red Rock Records. May 1980. 
  52. ^ a b c 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. 
  53. ^ Burt, Jillian (11 March 1978). "Ayers Rock, Skyhooks, Mondo Rock" Juke magazine David Syme and Co. (Melbourne)
  54. ^ Hotspell (LP album). Ayers Rock. Red Rock Records. May 1980.
  55. ^ The Boy from the Stars CD discogs.com entry. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  56. ^ a b The Boy from the Stars (Media notes). Jim Keays. EMI Records. 1974. EMA. 308. 
  57. ^ a b McFarlane, 'Jim Keays' entry. Archived from the original on 30 September 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  58. ^ a b McFarlane, 'Ray Burton' entry. Archived from the original on 28 June 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  59. ^ a b c d Entries at Australian Rock Database:
    • Rex Bullen: Holmgren, Magnus. "Rex Bullen". 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". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
    • Brian Cadd: Holmgren, Magnus. "Brian Cadd". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  60. ^ "Doug Parkinson". Australian Jazz Agency. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  61. ^ McFarlane, 'Blackfeather' entry. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  62. ^ No worries (LP album notes). Georgie Fame. Four Leaf Clover Records. 1988. ASIN B0083L40WC. 
  63. ^ a b c McFarlane, 'Bakery' entry. Archived from the original on 20 April 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  64. ^ McFarlane, 'Chris Abrahams' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  65. ^ "The Basement" advertisement. Drum Media. (Sydney) May 2006
  66. ^ a b "Col Loughnan". Sydney Conservatorium of Music. University of Sydney. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  67. ^ a b 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. 
  68. ^ a b 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.
  69. ^ a b Ryan (bulion), Gary (23 August 2012). "Albums Pre 1989 Part 2 – Ayers Rock". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  70. ^ "Who's Who of Australian Rock / Compiled by Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 

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