Stephen Cummings

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Stephen Cummings
Birth nameStephen Donald Cummings
Born (1954-09-13) 13 September 1954 (age 67)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresRock, rockabilly, country swing, R&B, new wave
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • writer
Years active1974–present
LabelsRalph, Missing Link Records, Phantom Records, Regular
Associated actsThe Pelaco Brothers, The Sports, A Ring of Truth, The Drawcards, Four Hours Sleep

Stephen Donald Cummings[1] (born 13 September 1954) is an Australian rock singer-songwriter and writer. He was the lead singer of Melbourne-based rock band the Sports from 1976 to 1981,[2] followed by a solo career which has met with critical acclaim but has had limited commercial success.[3][4] He has written two novels, Wonderboy (1996) and Stay Away from Lightning Girl (1999), and a memoir, Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy (2009).[5] In 2014 a documentary film, Don't Throw Stones, based on his memoir premiered as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Early years[edit]

Stephen Cummings was born in 1954 in Melbourne and grew up in the suburb of Camberwell. He was the vocalist for Ewe and the Merinos.[6]

The Pelaco Brothers[edit]

The Pelaco Brothers formed in 1974, with Cummings on vocals, Joe Camilleri on saxophone and vocals, Peter Lillie on guitar and vocals, Johnny Topper on bass guitar, Karl Wolfe on drums and Chris Worrall on guitar.[6][7] They played "rock-a-billy, country swing and R&B which recalled American outfits like Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. Yet, the band's delivery presented a fiercely Australian outlook".[6] Only existing for 18 months, they later included Ed Bates on guitar and Peter Martin on slide guitar,[7] their posthumous releases were The Notorious Pelaco Brothers Show a live six-track Extended Play on the Ralph imprint (a completely different entity from the San Francisco label) in June 1977 and three studio tracks for a various artists release, The Autodrifters and The Relaxed Mechanics Meet The Fabulous Nudes and The Pelaco Bros, in June 1978 on Missing Link Records.[6] The Pelaco Brothers disbanded in late 1975. Camilleri went on to form Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Lillie formed Relaxed Mechanics and Topper formed the Fabulous Nudes. Lillie, Topper and Wolfe were all in the Autodrifters.[6] Meanwhile, Steve Cummings and Bates formed the Sports in 1976[6]

The Sports[edit]

The Sports were a new wave band formed in 1976 by Cummings and former Pelaco Brothers bandmate Ed Bates, with Robert Glover (former Myriad) on bass guitar, Jim Niven on piano (former the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band)[8] with Paul Hitchins on drums.[2] Their early sets contained covers of Chuck Berry, Billy Emerson, Don Covay, Company Caine and Graham Parker.[2] Original songs, mostly written by Steve Cummings and Bates, completed their sets.[2] The Sports' debut recording was the EP Fair Game in early 1977.[2] A friend in London posted the record to New Musical Express which declared it "Record Of The Week".[9] Andrew Pendlebury (ex-Myriad) joined on guitar in August 1977 and assisted Steve Cummings with songwriting.[2][10] Cummings brought in Martin Armiger on guitar, vocals and songwriting to replace Bates in August 1978.[2] The Sports had top 30 hits on the Australian Kent Music Report singles charts with, "Don't Throw Stones" (1979), "Strangers on a Train" (1980) and "How Come" (1981);[11] and top 20 albums with, Don't Throw Stones (#9, 1979), Suddenly (#13, 1980) and Sondra (1981).[11] "Who Listens to the Radio?", co-written by Steve Cummings and Pendlebury,[12] peaked at No. 35 on the Australian singles charts in 1978,[11] and was their only hit on the United States Billboard Pop Singles chart, peaking at No. 45 in November 1979.[13][14]

Solo career[edit]

After the Sports had disbanded in late 1981, Cummings formed a "part time" band, A Ring of Truth, with Robert Glover (also the Sports), Peter Luscombe (Tinsley Waterhouse), Wilbur Wilde (Ol '55, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons) and Les Stackpool (In-Focus).[15] Stackpool was soon replaced by Peter Laffy (Mondo Rock).[15] According to Tharunka's Diane Livesey, "[they were Cummings] way of relieving boredom for a while and inflicting 'the modern face of cabaret' upon an unsuspecting public ... The only way to describe them is 'truly wonderful'."[15] By late March 1982, Cummings had left that group.[15] He spent the rest of 1982 co-writing tracks with Ian Stephen and waiting out his contract.[3][4] He released his debut solo single, "We all Make Mistakes" on Phantom Records, in December 1982 and followed with "Stuck on Love" in May 1983.[3][4] Cummings' debut album, Senso, released by Regular Records in August 1984, was produced by former bandmate Martin Armiger,[4][7] and recorded with session musicians including Armiger, Joe Camilleri and Pendlebury from his earlier bands.[3] Senso spawned two dance-pop singles, "Gymnasium" in July 1984 and "Another Kick in the Head" in October.[3]

His second studio album, This Wonderful Life, was released in August 1986. It was a more personal and less busy recording[3] which was produced by Cummings[7] and provided two singles, "Speak with Frankness" and "Love is Crucial".[3] In September 1987, Cummings dueted with Pendlebury on "She Set Fire to the House".[3][7] before releasing his third album, Lovetown in January 1988. Cummings formed Stephen Cummings' Lovetown (aka Stephen Cummings and Lovetown) with Rebecca Barnard on backing vocals, Mick Girasole (also in the Black Sorrows alongside Camilleri) on bass guitar, Peter Luscombe (also the Black Sorrows) on drums, Shane O'Mara on guitar and Pendlebury on guitar.[7] It "was a very subtle, alluring, personal and mostly acoustic album ... full of conversational, narrative vignettes".[3] The album, produced by Mark Woods and Cummings,[7] provided two further singles, "Some Prayers Are Answered" in February and "My Willingness" in May.[3]

Cummings changed labels to True Tone Records for his next album, A New Kind of Blue, which was released in March 1989 and produced by Cummings and O'Mara.[7] It spawned three singles, "A Love is a Life" in October 1988, "Your House is Falling" in February 1989 and "When the Day is Done" in July. The album provided Cummings with his only Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Award, winning "Best Adult Contemporary Album" in 1990.[16][17]

For his fifth solo album, Good Humour, Cummings returned to his earlier dance and funk sound from his Senso album,[3] using a backing band of Barnard, O'Mara and Nick Smith (ex-Kevins) on backing vocals, with additional session musicians from Sydney jazz outfit The Necks, and Robert Goodge (I'm Talking) on guitar, drum programming and co-production (for two tracks).[3][7] The album, produced by Cummings and O'Mara,[7] peaked at No. 40 on the ARIA Album Charts in March 1991.[11] "Hell (You've Put Me Through)", which peaked at No. 33 after its November 1990 release,[11] was followed by a cover of Sly Stone's "Family Affair" and then "Stand Up (Love is the Greatest)".[3] Cummings has supplemented his income by writing advertising jingles: he co-wrote Medibank Private's theme "I Feel Better Now", with Goodge.[3][4]

Cummings' sixth studio album, Unguided Tour, produced by Cummings and O'Mara for Polygram Records,[7] was issued in August 1992 and provided three singles.[3][7] The album peaked at number 76 on the ARIA Charts. In 1993, Cummings' first compilation album Rollercoaster was released.

In August 1994, Cummings' seventh solo album Falling Swinger was released.[3] The single, "September 13" appeared in July and is titled for Cummings' birthday, which he shares with Steve Kilbey.[3][18] Later in 1994, the Toni Childs and Cummings duet, "Fell from a Great Height", was released as a single. It later appeared on Childs' compilation album, The Very Best of Toni Childs in 1996.

Steve Kilbey also produced Cummings' eighth studio album Escapist, released in September 1996,[7] which contained "countrified ballad "Everything Breaks Your Heart" to the psychedelic-tinged mantra "Sometimes".[3] Also in 1996, Cummings published his first novel, Wonderboy,[19][20] which deals with relationships especially those between a father and son.[21]

On 14 November 1998, Cummings and, a briefly reformed, The Sports performed at the Mushroom Records 25th anniversary concert. His next solo album, Spiritual Bum, had Cummings as record producer and was issued in June 1999.[3] He returned to an acoustic, melancholic sound.[3] Cummings also had his second novel, Stay Away from Lightning Girl, published in 1999, which described an aging musician and his band.[3][22][23] In 2001, he released Skeleton Key followed by Firecracker in 2003, Close Ups in 2004, Love-O-Meter in 2005, Space Travel in 2007, and Happiest Man Alive in 2008. On 1 May 2009, his memoir, Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy was printed,[24][25] which his publishers described as a series of anecdotes from his childhood through thirty years of the music business and his family relationships.[26] In October 2010, his 1988 album Lovetown was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.[27]

In 2019, Cummings released his 20th studio album, Prisoner of Love. A four disc anthology album, titled A Life is a Life, was also released in 2019.

Media reviews[edit]

Alongside Nick Cave and Tim Rogers, I would nominate Stephen Cummings. He is easily one of our great storytellers, capable of creating lives in miniature[28]

— Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 2001

Apart from Paul Kelly, no other Australian solo artist has managed to sustain a recording and performing career at such a high level of artistry for as long as Stephen Cummings[29]

— Shaun Carney, The Age, 1 November 2001

Debonair, romantic and sensitive, Cummings owns a voice that allows vulnerable yearning qualities as much space as an authoritative voice of experience.[30]

— Lauren Zoric, Rolling Stone Australia, issue 544, January 1998

In a year rich in fine albums from singer-songwriters as diverse as Bob Dylan, Ron Sexsmith and Lucinda Williams, this is one of the finest[31]

— Larry Schwartz, The Sunday Age, 28 October 2001


  • Cummings, Stephen (1996). Wonderboy. Port Melbourne, VIC: Minerva. ISBN 1-86330-511-4.[20]
  • Cummings, Stephen (1999). Stay Away From Lightning Girl. Milsons Point, NSW: Vintage. ISBN 1-86330-590-4.[23]
  • Cummings, Stephen (2009). Will it Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? : misadventures in music. Prahran, VIC: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-643-5.[25]


Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart positions
  • Released: August 1984
  • Label: Regular Records (RRLP 1208)
This Wonderful Life
  • Released: August 1986
  • Label: Centre Records (829 725-1)
  • Released: January 1988
  • Label: Rampant Releases (RR052)
A New Kind of Blue 53
Good Humour
  • Released: February 1991
  • Label: True Tone Records (847625)
Unguided Tour 76
Falling Swinger
  • Released: August 1994
  • Label: Polydor Records (5233552)
  • Released: September 1996
  • Label: Polydor Records (5318402)
Spiritual Bum
Skeleton Key
  • Released: 3 October 2001
  • Label: W. Minc Productions (WMINCD021)
  • Released: February 2003
  • Label: W. Minc Productions (WMINCD028)
Close Ups
  • Released: 10 October 2005
  • Label: Liberation Music (LIBCD7181.5)
Space Travel
  • Released: 25 August 2007
  • Label: Liberation Music (LIBCD92435)
Happiest Man Alive
  • Released: 6 September 2008
  • Label: Head Records (HEAD099)
Tickety Boo
  • Released: 2 November 2009
  • Label: Head Records (HEAD123)
Good Bones
  • Released: August 2010
  • Label: Liberation Music (BLUE180.2)
Reverse Psychology
  • Released: 17 February 2012
  • Label: Head Records (HEAD155)
Nothing to Be Frightened Of
  • Released: August 2014
  • Label: Head Records (HEAD198)
Prisoner of Love
  • Released: February 2019
  • Label: Bloodlines / UMA (BLOOD43)

Live albums[edit]

List of live albums
Title Album details
Live 2002
  • Released: April 2003
  • Label: W. Minc Productions (Limited Edition)
Live in the Big Room (CD/DVD set)

Compilation albums[edit]

List of compilation
Title Album details
Puppet Pauper Pirate Poet Pawn & King
  • Released: October 1997
  • Label: Polydor Records (5378832)
That's My Cave Man
  • Released: January 2008
  • Label: Stephen Cummings
A Life is a Life – Anthology
  • Released: April 2019
  • Label: Bloodlines / UMA (BLOOD44)


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1982 "We All Make Mistakes" 89 Senso
1983 "Stuck on Love" 76
"Backstabbers" 40
1984 "Gymnasium" 27
"Another Kick in the Head"
1985 "What Am I Going to Do?" 80 Non-album single
1986 "Speak with Frankness" 83 This Wonderful Life
"Love Is Crucial but Money, That's Everything"
1987 "Set Fire to This House" (with Andrew Pendlebury) Lovetown
1988 "Some Prayers Are Answered"
"My Willingness"
"A Life Is a Life" A New Kind of Blue
1989 "Your House Is Falling" 80
"When the Day Is Done" 161
1990 "Hell (You've Put Me Through)" 33 Good Humour
1991 "Family Affair" 167
"Stand Up (Love Is the Greatest)" 142
1992 "Keep the Ball Rolling" 125 Unguided Tour
"Didn't Anybody Ever Say No to You"
1993 "I've Got a Lot of Faith in You" 171
"Teacher I Need You" 102 The Heartbreak Kid soundtrack
"Whatever Love Is" 144 Rollercoaster
1994 "September 13/White Noise" 160 Falling Swinger
"The Big Room"
1995 "Fell from a Great Height" (with Toni Childs) 147
1996 "Sometimes" 157 Escapist
"Taken by Surprise" 175
1999 "Don't Talk to Me About Love" Spiritual Bum
"Wishing Machine"
2004 "When Love Comes Back to Haunt You" (Acoustic version) Close Ups
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.


ARIA Music Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music. Cummings has won one award from six nominations.[32]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1989 "A Life Is a Life" Best Male Artist Nominated
1990 A New Kind of Blue Best Male Artist Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
Best Adult Contemporary Album Won
1991 "Hell (You've Put Me Through)" Best Male Artist Nominated
1996 Escapist Best Adult Contemporary Album Nominated

Countdown Australian Music Awards[edit]

Countdown was an Australian pop music TV series on national broadcaster ABC-TV from 1974–1987, it presented music awards from 1979–1987, initially in conjunction with magazine TV Week. The TV Week / Countdown Awards were a combination of popular-voted and peer-voted awards.[33][34]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1984 himself ("Gymnasium") Best Male Performance in a Video Nominated


  1. ^ ""Hurry Hurry Let's Go" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Sports'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Stephen Cummings'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Nimmervoll, Ed. "Stephen Cummings". Howlspace – The Living History of Our Music (Ed Nimmervoll). Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Results for author:"Cummings, Stephen, 1954–"". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e f McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Pelaco Brothers'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 13 August 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Stephen Cummings". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 26 October 2000. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  8. ^ "The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band". MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964–1975. Milesago. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  9. ^ "Songwriters:Steve Cummings, Stephen". Mushroom Music Publishing. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  10. ^ Creswell, Toby (September 1997). "The Good Sport". Juice Magazine. Terraplane Press. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Australian chart peaks:
  12. ^ ""Who Listens to the Radio?" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Top Music Charts – Hot 100 – "Who Listens to the Radio" – The Sports". Billboard. Neilson Business Media. 10 November 1979. Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Sports > Charts & Awards – Billboard Singles". allmusic. Macrovision. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  15. ^ a b c d "Melbourne Exposed". Tharunka. 28 (3). 29 March 1982. p. 22. Retrieved 17 January 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "Winners by Artist: Stephen Cummings". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 3 July 2009.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "ARIA Awards – History: Winners by Year 1990: 4th Annual ARIA Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  18. ^ "The Falling Swinger is as Happy as Larry". The Buzz. September 1994.
  19. ^ Cummings, Stephen (1996). Wonderboy. Port Melbourne, VIC: Minerva. ISBN 1-86330-511-4.
  20. ^ a b "Wonderboy / by Stephen Cummings". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  21. ^ "Wonder Boy by Stephen Cummings – Product Description". Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  22. ^ Cummings, Stephen (1999). Stay Away From Lightning Girl. Milsons Point, NSW: Vintage. ISBN 1-86330-590-4.
  23. ^ a b "Stay Away From Lightning Girl / by Stephen Cummings". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  24. ^ Cummings, Stephen (2009). Will it Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? : misadventures in music. Prahran, VIC: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-643-5.
  25. ^ a b "Will it Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? : misadventures in music / by Stephen Cummings". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  26. ^ "Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?". Hardie Grant Books. 2009. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  27. ^ O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (October 2010). 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-955-9.
  28. ^ Zuel, Bernard (3 November 2001). "So the Stories Go". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media.
  29. ^ Carney, Shaun (1 November 2001). "Skeleton Key review". The Age. Fairfax Media.
  30. ^ Zoric, Lauren (January 1998). "Puppet Pauper Pirate Poet Pawn & King review". Rolling Stone Australia (544). ACP Magazines.
  31. ^ Schwartz, Larry (28 October 2001). "Skeleton Key review". The Sunday Age. Fairfax Media.
  32. ^ "ARIA Awards Search Results – Stephen Cummings". ARIA Awards. ARIA Awards. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  33. ^ "Countdown to the Awards" (Portable document format (PDF)). Countdown Magazine. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). March 1987. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  34. ^ "Final episode of Countdown". 1970scountdown. Retrieved 23 October 2020.

External links[edit]