30 years of The Meanies: Spiderbait, Frenzal Rhomb and more share their favourite Meanies memories
08.07.2020

30 years of The Meanies: Spiderbait, Frenzal Rhomb and more share their favourite Meanies memories

Photo by Peter Wheeler

We caught up with a bunch of music industry heavyweights to find out what The Meanies mean to them.

In the 30-plus years since their formation, Aussie punk titans The Meanies have surpassed the ‘band’ title to become a full-blown institution.

From their sweat-soaked, ferocious live shows to their explosive catalogue of influential albums and EPs, they’ve not only left their mark on the Australian punk scene, but on the hearts of fans, peers and anyone else who has had the pleasure of encountering them.

Today, The Meanies unleash Desperate Measures, their first studio album in five years. To commemorate the occasion, we called on a bunch of music heavyweights to share their favourite Meanies memories. From putting drumsticks where drumsticks should never be put to leading the rise of all-ages gigs, these are the moments that have made the mad larrikins so well-loved.

And, to truly get you in the right headspace for this stumble down memory lane, be sure to check out The Meanies’ new film clip for their latest single ‘Monsters’ first.

Janet English – Spiderbait

The Meanies in the backroom of the packed Tote, early ‘90s. Sweat dripping from the roof, running down your face and into your drink.  Link, bleeding from his cut chest onto the front row, flinging himself wildly across the stage.  So many body fluids shared.  Hard to believe now.  At one show, one of Link’s dreadlocks disconnected and flew across the crowd into my face. Gold. Clothes reeking of passively smoked cigarettes spilling out onto Wellington St for the walk home to putrid Collingwood share houses.

How awesome were those Meanies shows?  Funny, irreverent, explosive.  They were the heartbeat of Melbourne’s punk scene.  Such a sense of community.  The Meanies were a huge part of that community, supporting bands, establishing an all-ages scene, creating a place where the odd folk were welcomed and celebrated.  I’m forever in awe of those Meanies.

Sahara Herald – Tour Director, Frontier Touring

The early ‘90s were glorious times for Australian music. There was an undercurrent of anticipation, a feeling that music was changing, that we were a part of the change and that anything was possible. The true ethos of punk, the DIY attitude, didn’t just apply to bands – it was young indie promoters, agents, labels, record stores, publicists, venues – the works. Everyone was hands-on and multi-taskers.

I first met Wally Meanie in his booking agent capacity: I had a couple of venues I booked in Brisbane plus a spare room at home with bunk beds. We’d plot and plan little tours to Queensland for new bands out of Sydney and Melbourne, they’d play at my venues then crash at my place. Everything was cheap and cheerful with a wonderful sense of camaraderie. Wally is that special rare mixture, a born hustler and networker, a genuinely lovely guy, a passionate music fan and supporter of the bands he loves.

I finally got the chance to work with all of The Meanies closely when they were booked to support the national tour of Bad Brains, who I was tour managing. I’d never seen The Meanies live prior to that and it was quite a shock to be honest. It would be lazy to categorise them as a punk band, there’s so much more going on. A suburban, antipodean Hüsker Dü, progressive psychedelic pop-punk, furious Ramones tempos, Beatles pop smarts, messed up in angular King Crimson arrangements. They had it all and I was enthralled. It was a challenging tour to work for reasons I won’t go into here, but it is often in adversity that true bonds are formed, and I’m grateful to say that Wally remains one of my dearest friends and confidantes to this day. Viva le Meanie!!

Raül Sanchez i Jorge – Magic Dirt

The first time I heard The Meanies was on a compilation tape in 1991. I think the song was ‘Paranoid’. I was blown away, ‘cause not only did it sound cool as fuck, mean, angsty, and tough, it has great words and was a brilliant song. That is the thing for me about The Meanies – they have such great songs, and dozens of memorable, sing-a-long tunes. As soon as my friends and I found out they were from Melbourne – our hometown – we went to see them whenever they played.

One of my first memories was seeing them play a lunchtime show at Monash Uni, Caulfield. There was a bunch of people eating on the lawn, but Link went nuts. He was crazy, getting in peoples faces, leaping and jumping about. We joined in and walked off thoroughly beat – covered in sweat, cuts, grass – and we loved it.

Going to a Meanies show was nuts. We usually came out hurt somehow, but that was part of the fun – stagediving, crowd surfing, being in the mosh was the best. And The Meanies would whip the crowd into a wild, singing, dancing frenzy. Fuck, we had lots of fun acting like idiots. There was a danger. Seeing them at the Laneway show outside of Au-Go-Go for the launch of the Gangrenous EP was a true highlight of my life. It was pure, fun, no-frills dirty punk-rock at its best.

I think Link Meanie is a songwriting genius. There, sorry Link, I said it. It’s true. And that Linky scream articulated my feeling as a young man so well. The world had Nirvana, we have The Meanies, I fuckin’ love’em!

Ray Ahn – Hard-Ons

The Meanies are still one of, if not the best, Australian band. I saw them play from their beginning, and the striking thing about the Meanies is that they do not ever put forward mediocrity. Every live show is action-packed and Link leads the way – if anybody was born to front a band, it was he.

Their recorded output tells the same story. There is a deceptively simple yet sophisticated and unusual feel to their songs. They have a happy knack of matching their songs with perfectly chosen production and mix. They are great every time. There are no mediocre songs, nor shows, in their repertoire.

It just can’t be a fluke.

Quite simply, from their inception until the present, the Meanies knew what they were and are doing. They are incredible. What a perfect balance of rock-solid rhythmic muscle and unmatched song-craft.

And charisma.

In 1990 I saw Link cut his chest up with some sharp stage debris during their set. The blood seeped through his shirt vulgarly and many in the crowd were visibly upset and sickened. In 1994 I saw Link shove a drumstick up his date and point his entire moon at the ceiling, all the while singing his head off. After the song, whilst removing the drumstick from his person, he remarked to the audience, “They come in pairs, don’t they?” which made the audience flinch as one.

Imagine these ridiculous impromptu parlour tricks coupled with the best power-pop songs ever written and you will feel the insane legend that is the Meanies.

Jane Gazzo

It is truly hard to quantify the impact The Meanies have had on the Australian music scene.  For so many, The Meanies are our cult underground heroes. Our Ramones. Loved by fans and other bands the nation over, but mostly shunned by the bigger media and mainstream.

It’s something I have tried to fathom over my long association with them since the early ‘90s. The Meanies were the instigators of what became known as the all-ages movement in Australia. They were the pioneers of alcohol-free events, not only initiating a generation of gig-goers but also giving a leg up to any other band around, worth their salt.

I loved watching The Meanies as a young teenager. Lead singer Linky was a visual spectacle to behold. He’d cartwheel and flail across the stage with those oh-so-long dreadlocks trailing behind him, almost cartoon-like, but his presence would fill the entire room.

They looked unlike any other band around at the time and their stylised artwork and hilarious music videos all made you feel you part of their club. In fact, they once had a ‘Groovie Meanie’ fan club, complete with numbered membership cards.

The Meanies sets were loud, fast and full of slam dancing. I lost items of clothing and various jewellery bits in the mosh and got my feet and limbs stamped on countless times, but fuck it was fun.

I admire The Meanies’ tenacity. After 30 years they are still making great music and are still the same bunch of shambolic larrikins who were so instrumental in mine and so many other music nerds formative years. They are truly worthy of a place in the Australian Music Hall of Fame. Shit, it’s time The Meanies were rightfully paid their dues.

Jay Whalley – Frenzal Rhomb

I’ve basically tried to spend my whole musical life trying to be as good as the Meanies. The most offensive thing Wally ever said to me was when we played with them at a festival for the first time and he said, “I heard there’s a band kicking ‘round that’s ripping us off, then I saw you guys and you don’t sound anything like us”. I thought, ‘Fucken hell, that’s all I’ve been trying to do!’

Lindsay McDougall – Frenzal Rhomb

The Meanies were an essential part of my musical education, almost like salvation. Seeing them open for Pearl Jam at Sydney Entertainment Centre and again at Eastern Creek helped drag my angst-filled early teen years away from the bloated corpse of grunge towards the equally-bloated but infinitely cooler corpse of punk rock.

Hilarious and obtuse lyrics, strange chord patterns disguised by perfect melodies smiled-snarled on top, and the most ridiculous churning guitar sounds which, at the time, I believed were assisted by the mysterious “Geelong” distortion pedal. What a band! And yes I know there are suggestions that Frenzal Rhomb may have borrowed a page or two from the playbook of the tall-thin-dreadlocked-white-guy-fronted-SG-playing-guitarist-and-bass-playing-backing-vocalist-having-outfit, but that’s just wild speculation. We were friends, nothing more.

Next time you see Link or Jason ask about the Brisbane Dockside Drum Stick Arsehole Family Breakfast Incident, but you’ll probably have to specify which one.

The Meanies’ new record Desperate Measures is out now via Cheersquad Record And Tapes.

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