|Origin||Sydney, New South Wales Australia|
|Genres||Pub rock, pop rock, rock & roll, R&B|
|Labels||Refugee, EMI, Phantom, Powderworks, Possum, Festival, Regular, Roach|
|Associated acts||The Wiggles, The Field Brothers|
The Cockroaches were an Australian pub rock group active throughout the 1980s. Founded in 1979 by brothers, Paul (lead vocals), John (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Anthony Field (lead guitar, vocals); and Tony Henry on drums. They were joined in 1981 by Jeff Fatt on keyboards. In 1986 they signed with an independent label, Regular Records, which issued their first three albums, including The Cockroaches (March 1987), which peaked at No. 9 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart; it shipped 70,000 copies and was certified platinum by their label. The album provided, "She's the One", which became the band's biggest hit when it peaked at No. 9 on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart in April 1987. During 1988 The Daily Telegraph declared The Cockroaches were the Hardest Working Rock'n'Roll Band in the country as they had played over 300 gigs in a year. The Cockroaches released their third album, Positive, in June 1991 and left their label by the end of that year. In March 1994 they issued their fourth album, St. Patrick's Day 10am, on their own Roach Records. Australian musicologist, Glenn A. Baker, described their sound as "rangy, loose-limbed, good-natured, energetic, self-effacing, intuitive, harmonic, melodic, enduring, soused and fiercely frantic". A compilation album, Hey Let’s Go – The Best of the Cockroaches was released by Festival Records in 1999.
In September 1988, the band were promoting their second album, Figertips, when Paul's infant daughter died of SIDS. Although devastated the group continued with a lower profile – Anthony left to resume his university studies but returned periodically to record their later studio albums. Early in 1991 Anthony and Fatt, founded a children's music group, The Wiggles. The Cockroaches alumni served as musical and performing support for the new group: John wrote much of their music, Paul became their manager, and Henry performed with them. The Wiggles used many of The Cockroaches' business practices and reworked some of their songs into the children's music genre. Members of The Cockroaches have pursued other music careers with John and Paul forming The Field Brothers, and Henry being a session musician.
The Cockroaches (also called "The Cockies") were founded in 1979 by the Field brothers (Paul on lead vocals, John on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Anthony "Tony" on lead guitar and vocals), while they were students at St. Joseph's College, a Sydney boarding school. The three brothers were each born one year apart, and were taught music from a young age. Other founders were Tony Henry on drums and Joseph Hallion on saxophone; they were joined by Bruce Hatfield on bass guitar by mid-1980. The band took their name from an obscure alias used by Keith Richards and The Rolling Stones during the 1960s, because, as Anthony Field explained, "it sounded kind of punkish and that scene was blossoming in Sydney at the time". The Rolling Stones were one of their inspirations, during their early years they played "good-time R&B material". One of their first gigs was at their school; Paul convinced the Marist Brothers, who ran St. Joseph's, to allow a charge for the performance. Their proceeds were "donated to 'the missions'". Paul booked their initial performances at local pubs, which, despite some of the member's under-age status, allowed them to perform.
By early 1980 they began writing their own music as well as covering various 1960s rock 'n' roll artists, especially The Rolling Stones. In July 1980 they issued their debut single, "I Want a Leather Jacket", on the Refugee Records label. It was written by Paul, produced by Greg Owens and the band, and recorded at their school and at Studio B in Bondi. According to Australian musicologist, Glenn A. Baker, the track provided "the aura of a rockabilly band ... [but] they have always been much closer in style to the original cocky, bluesy, strident Stones". By the time of their second single, "Bingo Bango" (June 1981), Hatfield had been replaced by Geoff O'Reagan on bass guitar. It was written by John and Anthony, produced by Owens and recorded at Wirra-Willa Studios. By August that year Jeff Fatt had joined on keyboards and Phil Robinson was on bass guitar. According to Anthony, Fatt had been a member of "a seminal Sydney rockabilly band called the Roadmasters", and had joined "to fight boredom". They had hired Fatt and his brother to manage their sound system during gigs. Anthony declared this began "a beautiful three-decade relationship that has made him a very wealthy man". Their early road manager was Graham Kennedy, former guitarist-vocalist for hard rock band, Finch (aka Contraband).
According to Anthony, Paul was "a picture of professional efficiency", whereas John, one of the top Under-19 New South Wales cricketers, was the showman of the group. John's performances on-stage built The Cockroaches' reputation for being a party-band, even though alcohol and drug use was not part of their personal lifestyles. They released five further singles on a range of labels: EMI, Phantom, Powderworks, and Possum Records. One of these, "See You in Spain", on Powderworks appeared on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart Top 100 in July 1984. "See You in Spain" was written by Fatt, Robinson and John; it was produced by Robert Moss at Emerald City Studios. In 1986 The Cockroaches signed with an independent label, Regular Records, and were distributed by Festival Records. By that time, Phil Carson had replaced Robinson as their bass guitarist.
Rise to success
The band's debut album, The Cockroaches (March 1987), which had been recorded with Robinson on bass guitar, was produced by Charles Fisher (Radio Birdman, Hoodoo Gurus, Martin Plaza); except one track by Roy Nicholson. It provided three more singles: "She's the One" (January), "Some Kind of Girl" (May) and "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" (August) (a cover version of the 1964 single by Dick Holler & the Holidays). The album reached No. 9 on the Kent Music Report Albums Chart, and in 1988 was awarded a platinum certification by their record label for shipment of 70,000 copies. "She's the One" became the band's biggest hit when it peaked at No. 9 in April 1987. "Some Kind of Girl" and "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" also made the Top 40. Peter Mackie replaced Carson during 1987, Phillip McIntyre of Texas and the Big Beat Radio website described Mackie's time with The Cockroaches as "[h]is most successful period as a player".
According to Anthony in the late 1980s the group averaged over 300 gigs a year throughout Australia. They performed at town halls, concert halls, Bachelor and Spinster (B&S) balls, parties, and pubs; and were "one of the biggest crowd-drawing groups in Australia". In 1988 The Daily Telegraph surveyed booking agencies and determined that The Cockroaches were the Hardest Working Rock'n'Roll Band in the Country. Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane described The Cockroaches as "an in-demand pub band [that built] a sweaty, frenzied atmosphere with good old-fashioned showmanship and unpretentious, energetic rock'n'pop". Anthony claimed they were "shunned" by the major record companies in Australia. Even after their debut album was certified gold, they remained independent: they organised their own shows and paid expenses from their own accounts.
The Cockroaches recorded their second album Fingertips in 1988 with Fisher producing at Festival, Trafalgar and Alberts Digital Studios. The album peaked at No. 32 on the ARIA Albums Chart. The line-up were the three Field Brothers, Fatt, Henry and Mackie. According to Anthony, they were disappointed with that album and regretted giving over much of its sound to the producers, but toured heavily to promote it. Fingertips produced their next four singles, including "Hey What Now!" – written by John – which reached the Top 40. The group appeared at the World Expo 88, in May 1988, before a crowd of 92,000 attendees. Some footage of their performance was broadcast on a TV special, the audio included live versions of "Empty Heart", "Wait Up", "Some Kind of Girl", "You Can't Sit Down" and a cover version of Ray Charles' song "Drown in My Own Tears". In September that year, while the band were touring for the album, Paul Field's eight-month-old daughter, Bernadette, died of SIDS. Paul recalled "[n]othing was the same after [my daughter's death], it crushed me and left us all wounded". Subsequently Anthony left the group to return to university and continue his early childhood education course, but Paul returned to performing "in order to feed his family, sometimes with some of the original band members, other times not". Early in 1989 The Cockroaches supported a national tour by label mates, Mental As Anything.
They recorded a third album, Positive, which came out in June 1991, it was produced by Mark Moffatt (Mental As Anything, Jenny Morris). The album produced three singles, including the gospel-flavoured track, "Hope" (August 1990), "I Must Have Been Blind" (May 1991), and a cover of the Brenda Lee song, "Here Comes That Feeling" (August 1991). Their version of the latter had featured in the 1990 film, The Crossing, starring Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer. According to McFarlane "[b]y the end of the year ... The Cockroaches as a band concept had run its course". However Baker, who wrote the liner notes for their March 1994 album, St. Patrick's Day 10am, states "The Cockroaches never went away, they just keep playing, very much in the mode of their earlier days". For that album the line-up was the three Field brothers; Fatt on Hammond organ, keyboards and cow noises; Henry on drums and cabasa; Mackie on bass guitar and backing vocals; with additional backing vocals by Jane Bezzina, Greg Truman and Steve Pomfrett. It was recorded at the Tracking Station and Noisegate Studios mixed by Pomfrett with John, engineered by Pomfrett, and produced by the band.
In November 1999 Festival Records issued a compilation album, Hey Let’s Go – The Best of the Cockroaches, which included a newly recorded track, "Something Good This Way Comes". Paul noted "We had a good following around the unis, pubs and colleges. We had a reputation as a good live act. The 80s was a very vibrant scene for local music, you could get TV exposure on shows like Simon Townsend and Hey, Hey it’s Saturday, so we got a recording contract, with a record released in 1987. I had a difficult choice – to teach or sing. I followed my heart, gave the teaching away, and we started doing a lot of touring". Back in 1994 Baker had declared "the sound of the Cockies seems to embody all of the basic concepts of rock'n'roll as we've always known and loved it. Its rangy, loose-limbed, good-natured, energetic, self-effacing, intuitive, harmonic, melodic, enduring, soused and fiercely frantic".
Afterwards and The Wiggles
Former member of The Cockroaches, Anthony Field attended Macquarie University, and early in 1991 he founded The Wiggles, a children's music group, with fellow students, Murray Cook and Greg Page, Phillip Wilcher (from the university's music department) and The Cockroaches' band mate, Jeff Fatt. In July that year they issued their debut album, The Wiggles, which was dedicated to Paul Field's daughter and shipped 70,000 copies. Anthony and Fatt's new group became "a global powerhouse in children's entertainment". They used former The Cockroaches' members for musical and performing support: Paul, John, and Henry (The Wiggles' character Henry the Octopus was named after him) performed with them on their CDs, DVDs, and stage shows. John helped them write many of their songs. Many early The Wiggles' songs were The Cockroaches' tunes reworked to fit the genre of children's music. Anthony recalled that both The Cockroaches and The Wiggles were inspired by 1960s pop music, the main difference between them was "just the lyrics". He elaborated "The Wiggles music isn't all that far removed from what we did in The Cockroaches, just a different subject matter ... The Cockroaches sing about girls and love and stuff like that; The Wiggles sing about hot potatoes and cold spaghetti". In the mid-1990s Paul became The Wiggles' talent manager.
Australian rock band, Hoodoo Gurus, covered The Cockroaches' tracks: "Pour out My Heart", which was written by John, Anthony and Fatt; and "She Goes on and On" written by John and J Baldwin. Michael Silverman has recorded their version of "Hope", written by John. In addition to his work with The Wiggles, John founded The John Field Band, an eight-piece covers band with John on lead vocals, Bernadette Cogin on lead vocals (later replaced by Bronwyn Mulcahy), Dom Lindsay on trumpet, Dan Fallon on tenor saxophone, Roy Ferin on trombone, Mark Rohanna on piano, Matt Morrison on drums, and Chris Lupton on bass guitar. John wrote the musicals, Evie and The Birdman (July 2001) and Who Loves Me. On 29 January 2005, The Cockroaches reunited for a one-off performance at the Hills for Hope concert as a benefit for the Boxing Day Tsunami survivors, the roster included The Greg Page Band, Mental As Anything and Hush. In 2011 Paul and John Field founded The Field Brothers as a duo and recorded their debut album, 1964. Some of The Cockroaches' songs were re-recorded as country songs, including "She's Some Kind of Girl", "Rely on Me", and "Permanently Single". The album included duets with other country music artists: Troy Cassar-Daley, Shane Nicholson, Amber Lawrence, and Dianna Corcoran. As from 2006 Tony Henry was in charge of student services at International College of Management, Sydney and has provided drums for The Wiggles' recordings. As a session musician Henry has worked for Ross Wilson, Slim Dusty, Crowded House and Mental As Anything. As from 2008 Peter Mackie has recorded three solo albums: What–Me Sing?! (2001), Late Starter (2003), and The Spinning Man (2006).
- Paul Dunworth – bass guitar (1979–81)
- Paul Field – lead vocals (1979–94)
- John Field – rhythm guitar, vocals (1979–94)
- Anthony "Tony" Field – lead guitar, vocals (1979–88, 1991, 1994)
- Joseph Hallion – saxophone (1979-1985)
- Tony Henry – drums (1979–91)
- Bruce Hatfield – bass guitar (1980)
- Geoff O'Reagan – bass guitar (1981)
- Jeff Fatt – keyboards (1981–88, 1991, 1994)
- Phil Robinson – bass guitar (1981–86)
- Phil Carson – bass guitar (1986–87)
- Peter Mackie – bass guitar (1988–94)
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications
|St. Patrick's Day 10am||
|Hey Let's Go – The Best of the Cockroaches||
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"I Want a Leather Jacket"||1980||—||—||Non-album single|
|"Used to Be"||—||—|
|"Shake Jump and Shout"||1982||—||—|
|"See You in Spain"||1984||97||—|
|"My Whole World's Falling Down"||1985||—||—|
|"Another Night Alone"||—||—|
|"Wait Up"||1986||28||—||The Cockroaches|
|"She's the One"||1987||7||—|
|"Some Kind of Girl"||32||—|
|"Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)"||32||—|
|"Hey What Now!"||1988||34||28||Fingertips|
|"You and Me"||43||44|
|"Another Saturday Night"||90||—|
|"I Must Have Been Blind"||1991||—||—|
|"Here Comes That Feeling"||—||—|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
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