Brad Shepherd can vaguely remember the first gig he played with the Hoodoo Gurus, way back in 1982. “I think the first I gig I played with the Hoodoo Gurus was at the Leichhardt Hotel around October 1982,” Shepherd recalls. “At the time, the Gurus had something of a reputation, so it was pretty daunting coming into the band. We played a warm-up gig that night, and we called ourselves the Swarmies and we were truly awful!” Shepherd laughs. “But our next gig at the Gaelic Club was much better.”
Shepherd had joined the Hoodoo Gurus after the departure of founding member, guitarist and Australian rock’n’roll enigma Roddy Radalj. One of three guitarists in the original Le Hoodoo Gurus lineup – and co-writer of the band’s debut single Leilani – Radalj had left the Gurus after the band’s other guitarist Kimble Rendall was replaced by bass player Clyde Bramley. Having cut his teeth in Brisbane punk band The Fun Things, Shepherd had moved to Sydney and joined The Hitmen, the post-Birdman band that featured both Bramley and future Hoodoo Gurus drummer Mark Kingsmill. “I was pretty nervous when I joined,” Shepherd concedes. “I’d come from The Hitmen, and I was still coming to grips with who I was.”
Shepherd was fortunate enough to be in the Hoodoo Gurus at the time of the release of the band’s debut album, Stoneage Romeos. A live recording of the band at The Tote Hotel (then still known as The Ivanhoe) captures the second incarnation of the Gurus on the cusp of evolving from the band’s bubblegum pop origins into a fully-fledged rock’n’roll band. “I don’t specifically remember that show,” Shepherd says, “but I can remember the era in which we would have played. We used to do this thing when James Baker would come up the front to sing [The Troggs’] I Can’t Control Myself, and I’d play drums. That was pretty cool!”, Shepherd laughs.
After Baker was unceremoniously sacked from the band – a dismissal which, according to Australian inner-city rock’n’roll legend, led directly to Shepherd’s ousting from The Beasts Of Bourbon – Mark Kingsmill joined the Gurus for the recording of Mars Needs Guitars. Despite a succession of well-received albums and singles – including the inebriated party classic Like Wow, Wipeout – by the '90s the Hoodoo Gurus were feeling jaded. Bramley had left in 1988 to be replaced by former Divinyls bass played Rick Grossman; in 1997 Faulkner announced that the Gurus would be taking an extended break. Faulkner, Shepherd, Kingsmill and Grossman reconvened in the Persian Rugs in the late '90s, before the reforming the Hoodoo Gurus permanently in 2003. It was a break that Shepherd believes was necessary to both prolong the band’s career, and to remind the members of the strength of the musical and platonic bond with the band itself. “We really need that break to realise that there was a real magic in the band,” Shepherd says. “Even though we’d broken up, we were still hanging out together, possibly even more so than when we were playing in the Hoodoo Gurus. It was really an invaluable learning experience to realise that we had this unique set of relationships in the band,” he says.
The release of the Hoodoo Gurus’ most recent record, Purity Of Essence – the band’s first release on Sony Records – affirmed both the band’s place in Australian musical royalty, and the ongoing songwriting brilliance of Dave Faulkner. The album was promoted with a succession of sell-out shows across Australia, including a sizeable compliment of outer-suburban shows.
It was after the Purity Of Essence shows that the members of the Hoodoo Gurus started discussing the prospect of a 30th anniversary tour. Enter Sydney promoter and long-time friend of the band Tim Pittman, who had some of his own thoughts for a major event. The result is the Dig It Up! tour, featuring the Hoodoo Gurus – playing Stoneage Romeos in its entirety, followed by a selection of other hits – alongside legendary overseas bands The Sonics, The Fleshtones and Redd Kross, and a slew of local bands. “The idea can really be attributed to Tim Pittman,” Shepherd says. “I can speculate that he was going to do something like a local version of South-by-South-West, and that dovetailed with our idea of doing a 30th anniversary event.”
The Hoodoo Gurus sat down with Pittman and came up with a wish-list of bands to perform at Dig It Up! First on the list was The Sonics, the '60s legendary garage punk band from Tacoma, Washington State, a band Shepherd had first come across in the late '70s via a compilation of Pacific North-West punk bands. “I’ve never seen them before, but I’ve spoken to people who’ve seen them since they’ve reformed, and they’ve all said they were phenomenal!” Shepherd says. “Gerry Rosalie’s scream can still strip paint!”
The Fleshtones was another immediate target, partly due to that band’s association with the Hoodoo Gurus during the Gurus’ tours in the United States in the '80s. “Dave [Faulkner] had been to the UK and the US in the late '70s, and the bands that were most influential for him were The Cramps and The Fleshtones,” Shepherd says. “We first played with them in 1984, and we got along with them like a house on fire.” There were other names on the wish-list that came to a dead-end – “We put Television on the list, but we couldn’t afford them,” Shepherd says – though the presence of Redd Kross, another band with which the Gurus has forged a bond over many years, was more than adequate compensation. “We had a great time playing with those guys,” Shepherd says. And is there any prospect of Roddy Radalj appearing on stage during the performance of Stoneage Romeos? “Rod got on stage with us in Perth a few years ago – in fact we couldn’t get him off the stage!” Shepherd laughs.
BY PATRICK EMERY
HOODOO GURUS host and perform at Dig It Up!, their invitational starring The Sonics, Died Pretty, Red Kross and heaps more taking place across the Palace Theatre, Pony and Spleen Bar on Wednesday April 25. Info and tickets from feelpresents.com. Gold Watch is out now through Sony.