- For the British band of the same name, see Peter Kember
|Also known as||Indelible Murtceps, Spectrum Plays The Blues|
|Genres||Progressive rock, blues|
|Years active||1969–1973, 1999–present|
His Master's Voice
Peter "Robbo" Robertson
|Past members||Bill Putt
Spectrum is an Australian progressive rock band that formed in Melbourne in 1969 and, in its original period, remained in existence until 1973. Its members also performed under the alter-ego Indelible Murtceps. They reformed, initially as Spectrum Plays The Blues, in 1999.
The central figure in the band was Mike Rudd, a New Zealand-born singer, songwriter and guitarist from Christchurch. Rudd arrived in Australia in 1966 as rhythm guitarist for the NZ group Chants R&B. That band only lasted a short time after they arrived in Australia, but he remained in Melbourne, teaming up with singer/songwriter Ross Wilson and guitarist Ross Hannaford.
Wilson and Hannaford's first band The Pink Finks (which had also just broken up) worked in a similar vein to Chants, and had already had some local chart success in Melbourne. Mike was invited to be the bass player in a later lineup of their next band, The Party Machine (1967–69), which gained local notoriety when copies of their self-published songbook were seized by Melbourne police due to alleged obscene content in the lyrics.
The Party Machine split in 1969, when Ross Wilson spent several months in London after being invited to join expatriate Australian progressive group Procession. After his return, Wilson and Hannaford formed the more experimentally-oriented Sons of the Vegetal Mother (1969–71); this was an occasional event-based project, rather than a full-time band, and Rudd played bass in its floating lineup on numerous occasions. During 1970 Sons of the Vegetal Mother was overtaken by the rapid rise in popularity of its offshoot band Daddy Cool (in which Rudd did not perform) but by this time Rudd had formed his own band, Spectrum.
The formation of the original lineup marked the beginning of Rudd's enduring partnership with bassist Bill Putt, formerly of Melbourne bands Gallery and The Lost Souls. They formed a lasting friendship and musical partnership, and have worked together ever since. Organist Lee Neale came from pop band Nineteen 87, and drummer Mark Kennedy had already worked with Putt in Gallery.
Rudd has commented that Kennedy's musicianship helped carry the band through its difficult first year. Initially, Spectrum drew on the work of contemporary bands like Traffic, Soft Machine and Pink Floyd and played covers of music by these groups, but they soon developed their own style and Rudd began writing original material. Alongside Putt's bass playing and Neale's keyboard work, a key feature of Spectrum's sound was Rudd's guitar playing—he was one of the few rock guitar players at that time who eschewed the near-universal use of the guitar pick, preferring to play electric guitar with a finger-picking style. Combined with contemporary improvements in amplification and recording, his playing technique and his use of a vintage Fender Stratocaster guitar allowed Rudd to develop a highly characteristic sound.
Twelve months of solid performing on the booming Melbourne dance and discothèque circuit enabled them to develop their own sound and write and refine a substantial set of original material, which became the basis for their first LP. They were regulars at the concerts events held at the various "head" venues around Melbourne like the T.F. Much Ballroom, Garrison and Sebastian's, and they appeared with other leading progressive bands like Tully, Tamam Shud and Sons Of The Vegetal Mother.
Rudd had conceived Spectrum as a concert band, and they generally performed with an elaborate concert set-up that included a large PA and a full multi-media light show; at one stage the band also supplemented their act with contributions from members of the Melbourne performance troupe Tribe. They played at all the major Australian rock festivals of the period, including Wallacia, Myponga, Mulwalla, Rosebud and Sunbury. However, their national success was limited by a lack of radio airplay in other capitals, and the fact that they rarely ventured outside Victoria, visiting other cities only intermittently.
Just prior to being signed up by EMI, Spectrum cut a demo single which they hawked around to record companies as a 7" acetate. One side was an early, folky version of one of the newer songs in their set, "I'll Be Gone"; the flip was another original, "You Just Can't Win". According to rock historian Ian McFarlane, these acetates are now "impossibly rare" and only two or three copies are known to have survived.
Once signed to EMI, the band went into the studio to make their first official recordings, under producer Howard Gable, who had recently re-located from New Zealand and had established himself as one Australia's leading pop producers with his work for bands such as The Masters Apprentices.
Despite a loyal following and much praise from the music press (notably Australia's pop 'bible' Go-Set) the band were virtually broke by mid-1970, when a measure of salvation came in the form of a contract with the new EMI progressive imprint Harvest. Soon after they scored a surprise No. 1 Australian hit with their first single, "I'll Be Gone", which has become one of the most enduring Australian rock songs of that era.
They released their debut LP Spectrum Part One in March 1971, although it did not include the hit single. Drummer Mark Kennedy left just after it was recorded, and he was replaced by Ray Arnott. Kennedy later worked with a number of important Australian acts including Ayers Rock.
Spectrum's second album, released in early 1972, was an ambitious 2LP set called Milesago, notable as the first Australian rock double album, and is still regarded as a landmark of Australian progressive music. It is also notable for being the first Australian rock album to be recorded using the newly installed 16-track recorder at Amstrong's Studios in Melbourne, the first studio in Australia to acquire one of these machines.
Unfortunately for Spectrum, the nature of the Melbourne music scene was undergoing a profound change at this time. This was partly due to legislative changes to the age of majority (which had been recently lowered in many Australian states from 21 to 18) and to the licensing laws governing entertainment in hotels in Victoria. These legislative changes coincided with demographic changes—the young audiences who had patronized the unlicensed dances and discos of the mid-to-late Sixties were now ageing into their late teens and early twenties, and could now be legally admitted into licensed premises.
Seeing the popularity of rock music and realising the financial potential, hoteliers enticed customers into the pubs by putting on popular bands, often free of charge. Consequently, while Spectrum worked to establish themselves as a concert group, the focus was beginning to shift away from the larger concert events and unlicensed city discothèques frequented by 'head' audiences—whose main drug of choice was cannabis—and towards the burgeoning pub circuit, where alcohol was cheap, plentiful and, above all, legal. While the smaller pub venues and their rowdy, combative atmosphere suited more 'aggressive' bands like Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, the erosion of the concert scene posed a major problem for Spectrum, whose complex music and upscale presentation demanded a suitable venue, a large audience, and a reasonable degree of concentration from them.
Consequently, as the pub circuit began to boom, the bigger engagements that Spectrum needed to survive became fewer and less regular. Spectrum adapted to the changing situation in an unusual way—mirroring Wilson's creation of Daddy Cool as "light relief" from the progressive style of the Vegetals, Spectrum created an alter ego, Indelible Murtceps, which performed at pubs, and local dances, playing a more pop-oriented repertoire and using a smaller equipment set-up than they used when performing as Spectrum.
Their next LP, Warts Up Your Nose (1972), produced by Howard Gable, was released under the Indelible Murtceps banner ('murtceps' is 'spectrum' spelled backwards) and contained songs of a more humorous and scatological nature. Shortly after it was recorded Lee Neale suffered a breakdown and left the band soon after its release; he was replaced by Canberra musician John Mills. Neale quit the music scene permanently after Spectrum and has not been heard from since.
Spectrum's final studio LP was Testimonial (1973). Soon after its release Spectrum announced their breakup, a move prompted by the departure of drummer Ray Arnott; Rudd and Putt reportedly felt that it would be impossible to re-create the special chemistry of the group, so they decided to end the band. They played their farewell performance at the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne on 15 April 1973, and the show was recorded and subsequently released in late 1973 as the live LP Terminal Buzz. Both of these releases were produced by Peter Dawkins (musician).
Following the demise of Spectrum, Rudd, Putt and Mills joined forces with guitarist Tim Gaze and drummer Nigel Macara, ex-members of leading Sydney 'underground' band Tamam Shud, to form the group Ariel.
In 2008, the first new Spectrum recording in 35 years was released on the band's own label Volcano Records. The EP Breathing Space also features a number of musical guests including ex-Ariel guitarist Tim Gaze. Mike Rudd has promised on his website that more EPs are planned. The band had also released other albums in more recent years under the self-explanatory moniker of Spectrum Plays The Blues.
At the same time as the release of Breathing Space, Aztec Music reissued the classic Milesago album on CD for the first time, with extra tracks. The label reissued Spectrum Part One in 2007, with its bonus tracks titled 'Spectrum Part Two'.
The second EP of new recordings Breathing Space Too was released on their Volcano label in 2009.
Spectrum still plays live in either three- or four-piece mode; more information on gigs is on Mike Rudd's website.
- Mike Rudd - vocals, guitar, harmonica (1969–1973, 1999–present)
- Dirk Dubois - bass (2013–present)
- Peter 'Robbo' Robertson - drums, percussion (1999–present)
- Daryl Roberts - keyboards (1999–present)
- Bill Putt - bass (1969–1973, 1999–2013; died 2013)
- Lee Neale - keyboards (1969–1972)
- Mark Kennedy - drums (1969–1970)
- Ray Arnott - drums (1970–1973)
- John Mills - keyboards (1972–1973)
- Spectrum Part One (1971, as Spectrum; 2006, Aztec Music re-issue)
- Milesago (1971, as Spectrum; 2008, Aztec Music re-issue)
- Warts Up Your Nose (1973, as The Indelible Murtceps)
- Testimonial (1973, as Spectrum/Indelible Murtceps)
- Spill (1999, as Spectrum Plays The Blues)
- No Thinking (2004, as Spectrum Plays The Blues)
- Breathing Space (2008, as Spectrum)
- Breathing Space Too (2009, as Spectrum)
- Breathing Space As Well (2011, as Spectrum)
- Terminal Buzz (1973, as Spectrum/Murtceps)
- Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet (1984, covers both Spectrum/Indelible Murtceps material)
- Ghosts: Post-Terminal Reflections (1991, as Spectrum/Murtceps)
- I'll Be Gone / Launching Place Part II (1971, as Spectrum)
- Trust Me (alternate version) / Going Home (1971, as Spectrum)
- But That's Alright / Play a Song That I Know (1971, as Spectrum)
- Esmeralda (alternate version) / We Are Indelible (alternate version) (1972, as Indelible Murtceps)
- Indelible Shuffle / Ray's Boogie (1973, as Indelible Murtceps)
- You Just Can't Win (Spectrum) / Make it Begin (Sons of the Vegetal Mother) (1990)
- Kimball, Duncan. "Spectrum / Indelible Murtceps". MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- Sergent, Bruce. "New Zealand Music of the 60's, 70's and a bit of 80's".
- Kimball, Duncan. "The Pink Finks". MILESAGO: Australasion Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975.
- Kimball, Duncan. "The Party Machine (including scans of pages of the offending songbook)". MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964-1975.
- Kimball, Duncan. "Songs of the Vegetal Mother". MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964-1975.
- "'Nice guy' Bill Putt dies". theage.com.au.
- "Goodbye Bill Putt (1947 – 2013)". www.footyalmanac.com.au.
- "SPECTRUM Bassist and Strathewen resident Bill Putt has died.". www.heraldsun.com.au.
- Spectrum - Mike Rudd and Bill Putt's story and music