Absent Friends (band)

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Absent Friends
Also known asSean Kelly and His Absent Friends
OriginSydney, Australia
Years active1989–1990
Associated actsModels
The Dukes
Peter Blakeley
Past membersSean Kelly
James Valentine
Garry Gary Beers
Geoffrey Stapleton
Wendy Matthews
Michael King
John Mackay
Ron Francois

Absent Friends were an ARIA Award winning band from Sydney. The band was relatively short lived, forming in 1989 and disbanding in 1990. It featured a number of notable Australian musicians including Sean Kelly (Models, The Dukes), Andrew Duffield, James Valentine (both also ex-Models), Garry Gary Beers (INXS), Geoffrey Stapleton (GANGgajang) and Wendy Matthews.


Following the break-up of Models in 1988,[1] Sean Kelly attempted to launch a solo career with the single "Thank You, Goodnight" (March 1988)[2] (which happened to be the name of Models' last tour), but the single was not a commercial success and in early 1989 Kelly found himself at a loose end. Kelly contacted a number of friends, with a view of putting together an informal band to play a few gigs. The impromptu cooperative was initially dubbed Sean Kelly and His Absent Friends. The initial line-up varied, usually dependent upon the availability of individual members at any given time. Sean Kelly and His Absent Friends kicked off life as a touring act in May 1989, with Kelly (vocals/guitar) joined on occasion by his partner Wendy Matthews (vocals)[3](who performed backing vocals for Models and was a guest vocalist on the Rockmelons debut and ARIA award winning album, Tales of the City), Garry Gary Beers (the bassist for INXS),[4] Nicole Ainslie (keyboards/vocals), Andrew Duffield (keyboards) ex-Models, James Valentine (saxophone) ex-Models, guitarist Michael King ex-Jimmy Barnes, and drummer John MacKay ex-Machinations.[5] Within a couple of months the high-profile group were supporting Crowded House at their July 1989 'Rock For Land Rights' concert.[2]

In late 1989 the band entered the recording studio to record a few original tracks that they had been playing live. The first single released by the newly named Absent Friends was "Hallelujah" via the rooArt label. The playing roster on that track comprised Kelly, Matthews, Beers, Ainslie, Duffield, Valentine, King and MacKay, with guest contributions from keyboardist Roger Mason (ex-Models) and INXS drummer Jon Farriss (who contributed percussion to the B-side track "Come Clean").[2][6] In early 1990 they recorded their debut album, Here's Looking Up Your Address, released on rooArt through BMG Music. The album was released in April 1990, and was preceded by Absent Friends' second single, the quirky soul-funk amalgam "Hullabaloo", which reached number 45 on the Australian charts.[7]

The band's next single "I Don't Want to Be with Nobody but You" was a significant commercial success. It was a cover of the Eddie Floyd classic. The cover to the single credited the song to Absent Friends featuring Wendy Matthews, also guesting on the track was vocalist Peter Blakeley (backing vocals).[2] "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You", peaking at number 4 on the Australian charts during July 1990,[7] and later won the ARIA Award for 'Best Single' for 1991.[8] The album Here's Looking Up Your Address (rooArt) went to number 7 on the Australian album charts[7] and was certified Gold. The album yielded one more minor hit with "Harmony" reaching number 91 on the Australian singles charts.[7]

In 1990 Absent Friends supported INXS on an eight-week European tour, with ex-Eurogliders bassist Ron Francois taking Beers' place and GANGgajang keyboardist Geoff Stapleton filling the void on keyboards left by the departure of Duffield.[9] Ainslie and Valentine also left the band at this time.[2][5] The band played 10,000 seat stadiums through Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and England (including five performances at Wembley Arena).

The band continued to tour over the Australian summer of 1990/1991, out of which their final recording surfaced with the live EP, Networking,[2][5] which was recorded at the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross Sydney. Soon after Kelly decided that Absent Friends had run its course, and the band members went their separate ways.

Matthews soon after recorded her debut album, Émigré,[10] whilst Kelly and Stapleton pieced together another band during 1991 called The Dukes.


Absent Friends have recently[when?] announced a comeback tour of the UK The line-up has been changed to incorporate Matthew Wishart and Anthony Harris on guitar and Chris Lings on drums. They plan to independently release an E.P. later this year.[clarification needed]


  • Wendy Matthews – lead/vocal (1989–1990)
  • Sean Kelly – lead vocal/guitar (1989–1990)
  • Michael "Mick" King – lead guitar/vocal (1989–1990)
  • Garry Gary Beers – bass/vocal (1989–1990)
  • Ron Francois – bass/vocal (1990)
  • John Mackay – drums/percussion/keyboards/vocal (1989–1990)
  • Geoffrey Stapleton – keyboards (1990)
  • James Valentine – saxophone (1989)
  • Andrew Duffield – keyboards (1989)
  • Nicole Ainslie – keyboards/vocal (1989)




  • "Hallelujah" – rooArt (January 1990) AUS No. 100
  • "Hullabaloo" – rooArt (February 1990) AUS No. 46
  • "I Don't Want to Be with Nobody but You" – rooArt (April 1990) AUS No. 4
  • "Harmony" – rooArt (August 1990) AUS No. 92


  1. ^ "Long Way to the Top: The Models". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Absent Friends'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
  3. ^ "Talking Heads:Wendy Matthews". ABC TV. 30 May 2005. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  4. ^ "INX Band Bios: Garry Beers". INXS.com. Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Holmgren, Magnus; Francois, Ron. "Absent Friends". Australian Rock Database. Passagen.se (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Absent Friends – Here's Looking Up Your Address". Discogs. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1970 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988.
  8. ^ "1991 Aria Awards". ARIA. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  9. ^ "Absent Friends". GANGgajang.com. Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  10. ^ "Wendy Matthews". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 November 2008.