The Urban Guerillas

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The Urban Guerillas
Vanguard, Sydney circa 2010
Background information
Origin Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Genres Pub rock, punk
Years active 1981–present
Labels Watchful Eye
Members Ken Stewart (guitar / vocals)
Michael Elsley (drums / vocals)
Phil Paviour (bass / vocals)

The Urban Guerillas are an Australian pub rock band.[1][2] Originally formed in Adelaide, the band is currently based in Sydney.

Beginnings 1981[edit]

A tough, punk-influenced band with a fiercely independent streak,[3] The Urban Guerillas was formed in Adelaide in 1980 as a trio with Ken Stewart (guitar/vocals), Terry Burgan (bass/vocals) and John Martin (drums). Terry and John had recently moved to Adelaide from Whyalla. After playing their relentless, driving brand of original pop / punk rock music[3] around Adelaide for a little over two years and releasing two independent cassettes,[1][4][5] the band moved to Sydney and seamlessly slotted into the live pub circuit.

Sydney 1983–1987[edit]

In 1983 they went into Studios 301 to record and released the song 1984[6] on their own label, The single sold in enough quantities to attract the attention of George Wayne from Triple J[4] who invited the band into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation studios to play live to air. In 1984[4] they recorded a more pop-oriented single, She's Probably,[2][5] produced by Adelaide guitarist Mal Eastick[5] from Stars (Australian band) and producer of the Andy Durant Memorial Concert. This single won numerous favourable reviews around the country[3] and gave the band a boost around Sydney before a membership reshuffle took some time to consolidate the new four-piece line up.[7] The band resurfaced nationally in 1986 with their Borrowed Time EP[2][3][7][8] and an appearance on a nationally televised talent quest Star Search (Australia). During this time the Urban Guerillas played regularly at the Sandringham (Sando) and until Roaring Jack entered the scene, had held the over-the-bar record[9] of takings at the famous inner west hotel. (The Roaring Jack crowd consistently managed to out-drink the Urban Guerillas punters). The band toured nationally in 1986[2][3][8][10][11] mostly headlining but also playing some notable supports with The Saints,[7] The Hitmen, the New Christs and Spy vs Spy.[7] In 1987 the band released their signature tune Here Come the Americans.[12][13][14] An anthem against the Americanisation of Australian culture. Using a war analogy for the cultural invasion gave the song a literal interpretation that resonated with the peace movement. The song gave the Urban Guerillas a provocative edge and the renewed attention from the media delivered access to the suburban venues. Through various line-up changes[13] the band experimented and consistently fronted up as an energetic and formidable live performance unit until the end of 1987, when after much touring and having all their gear stolen,[15][16][17] the Guerillas had imploded.

Another View 1988–1990[edit]

In 1988 Stewart played solo in addition to supporting Roaring Jack[18] whilst putting together another three piece. This outfit toured to Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide[17][19][20] frequently and the suburban bars in Sydney but their regular work became to an abrupt end when Stewart fell off the drum-kit while playing guitar during a gig in Oatley, breaking his wrist. However, before the accident the Urban Guerillas had managed to record their first album, Another View, in 1989 with Phil Punch at Electric Avenue studio and released it in 1990 to critical acclaim.[17][21][22][23][24][25]

Funky Zoo[edit]

Ken worked with new bass player Phil Paviour to write a children's musical around a song, The Funky Zoo, that Ken had written. Enlisting musicians from other bands that they had played with. Ken assembled a cast and put the Funky Zoo on in Bondi Pavilion Theatre in 1992. It was immediately recognised and booked for a week of shows at Tumbalong park, Darling Harbour, for the Festival of Sydney 1993. After 30 live shows the Funky Zoo song was nominated for the Australasian Performing Right Association Children's Song of the Year in 1993. In 2008 the Funky Zoo returned to the stage in Sydney, this time, using professional actors. The show was relaunched at Bondi Pavilion, where it began, followed by a week of shows at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre in Newtown, including an appearance at the Newtown Festival.[26][27][28] During 2009 and 2010 the Funky Zoo spread its environmental message to sell out shows far and wide throughout Sydney suburbs and regional NSW.[29][30]

Recording and touring 1995–2002[edit]

In 1995 with Just a Lifetime getting airplay,[31] the band again played regularly around Sydney in various line-ups while releasing the Mad in Australia EP CD in 1997[32] and Carols by Blowtorch and Cloud Above my Head albums in 1999. In 2001 the Urban Guerillas released their Big Brothersingle[33][34] and began touring interstate. Through 2002 the band extensively toured the outback including regional Northern Territory and South Australia,[35][36] twice touring the remote outback and desert townships of central Australia including Alice Springs.

Political activism[edit]

The Urban Guerillas were chosen to perform at Euro-region Camp 2000 for young Europeans visiting Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics to study Antipodean social structure and culture. Over the years, apart from their appearances in hotels and venues throughout Australia, the Urban Guerillas have played at Sydney Airport to 6,000 workers stranded when Ansett Australia collapsed, Peace Rallies in Sydney and Brisbane, No Racism, No War Rally to 50,000 people in the Domain, Corroboree Sovereignty for indigenous rights at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre 2002 Festival of Freedoms, May Day[37] celebrations of workers rights, NAIDOC celebrations and the Hiroshima Never Again Rally commemorating those who died as a result of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[38] The Urban Guerillas have also played for the M1 Alliance, S11 (protest) in Melbourne, Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society (Australia) and Labor Council of New South Wales and Rock for Rights to 40,000 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2007 sharing the stage with The Screaming Jets, Hoodoo Gurus, Dallas Crane, Kev Karmody, Missy Higgins, Tex Perkins and Youthgroup.[39] The Urban Guerillas historically played on Cockatoo Island (New South Wales) with Roaring Jack in 1989 and played on the pickets at Port Botany for the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998 to support workers at threat of losing their jobs. In 2008 they played at the 10 years on from the Maritime Union of Australia waterfront dispute "MUA Here to Stay" concert and against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the back of a truck in Sydney's CBD.[40][41]

Outback and regional Australia tour 2006[edit]

In October 2006 the Urban Guerillas returned to outback and regional Australia starting from Adelaide and touring to Pimba, Roxby Downs, Coober Pedy, Alice Springs,Oodnadatta, Pt Augusta, Streaky Bay, Iron Knob, Pt Pirie, Leigh Creek, Broken Hill, Cobar and Nyngan, this time aided by funding through a grant from the Federal Government and Music NSW to introduce their Every Generation single which promptly received airplay on Triple J.[42]

2007 to 2015[edit]

In 2007, the CD album ...and the wind brought change was released inspired by the social impact on America of Hurricane Katrina. Described as a mix of down-and-out aggression with a peaceful social-conscience the album reinforced the perception about the band's tough musical flexibility and outspoken lyrical content.[43][44] In 2010 the Urban Guerillas performed at the Alistair Hulett Memorial concert along with a collection of bands and artists that had worked closely with him and Roaring Jack. In 2012 the band played sporadically live while concentrating on new material for their next studio album. The 2014 single release of Rise Up and Ballad of Ned Kelly was the band's first release since 2007. The video of Rise Up was immediately banned by Rage (TV program) apparently for its political content while Green Left Weekly TV promptly posted it on their web site.[45] In November 2015 the band released a 5 track EP album My Kindafter which Ken bought a Rickenbacker guitar and a Vox AC30 amplifier which helped to create a whole new sound for the band.

2016 to 2017[edit]

Urban Guerillas at Dee Why RSL 2016 pic by Alec Smart

In 2016, the Urban Guerillas teamed up with Spy V Spy (Australian Band) and toured around Sydney suburbs and regional towns in NSW. In 2017 the Urban Guerillas released a single "No Walls" inspired in part by the newly elected President of the USA boasting about building a wall between Mexico and the United States. Toward the end of the year the band released a song "Guerilla Radio" as an EP. The song had become their signature tune and explained what to expect from the Urban Guerillas in style and substance. The band was taking their music to the streets and played on the docks for the Maritime Union in support of sailors and dockers fighting for their jobs while their union was under attack by Australia's anti-union conservative government. They also performed on the back of a truck at the Hiroshima Day commemoration and nuclear protest rallies in Sydney's Hyde Park.



Year Album title
1981 8 Exploded Hits
1983 Urban Guerillas
1984 Take No Prisoners

Vinyl Singles 7"

Year Title
1983 1984
1984 Shes Probably
1987 Here Come the Americans
1989 Better Than This

Vinyl Albums 12"

Year Album title
1986 Borrowed Time
1990 Another View

CD Singles

Year Title
2001 Big Brother
2005 Here Come the Americans
Just a Lifetime
2006 Every Generation
2014 Rise Up

CD albums

Year Album title
1995 Just a Lifetime
1997 Mad in Australia
1999 Cloud Above My Head
Carols by Blowtorch
2003 Soundtrack to the Revolution
2005 Nukalyptus Surreptitious
2007 ...and the wind brought change
2015 My Kind
2017 Guerilla Radio

Digital Singles

Year Title
2017 No Walls


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