IT’S 9.45 on a Friday night. Mark Gable is standing on Pittwater Road in Collaroy. The year is 1965. No-one has yet heard of Midnight Oil or Richard Clapton or Australian Crawl or the Celibate Rifles, soon to put this northern beaches idyll on the musical map. No-one has heard of the Choirboys.
Out there, earlier in the day waiting for a wave, Mark and his mates hadn’t heard anything – nothing but the boiling surf and perhaps the horn of an over-heated Valiant back on shore.
Tonight, wafting from the AWA radio, reverb-drenched electric guitars that sound like they emerged from the drum of a curling wave, one with wiry young surfers on nine-foot timber boards momentarily suspended within.
“I was mesmerized by it,” says Gable, who went from venue to venue, band to band over the next 10 years. “There was no need for vocals. This music, influenced by Dick Dale and this southern Californian sound, but panel-beaten to fit Australian surf culture….it was so special.”
Soon, between Chiko rolls and cans of KB, Australians re-engineered what they heard. These imported sun-drenched mini-epics were replaced by Richard Clapton’s “Girls on the Avenue”, a reflection on The Avenue on Sydney’s Rose Bay, and a couple of decades of priceless anthems. The Time and Tide, The Antler, The Mona Vale Hotel, Avalon Beach RSL.
It was these unpretentious, raucous watering holes in the late 1970s, that – when Gable finally found them – gave us The Choirboys. And it was the Choirboys who begot “Never Gonna Die”, “Boys Will Be Boys”, “Struggle Town”, “Empire” and the immortal “Run To Paradise”, not so much the soundtrack to Australian life then and afterwards but a manifestation of Australian life itself.
Eventually, nothing went with surfboards, panel vans, bikinis and beer like the Choirboys. Now the two constants from this storied band’s history, vocalist Mark Gable and bass player Ian Hulme, are reunited with guitarist Brett Williams and drummer Lindsay Tebbutt and still doing what’s least expected. In 2007 it was So Easy, an album of Easybeats covers.
In 2018, it’s 1965 – an album that takes us back to 9pm on a Friday night in the year of its title. Guitars, drums and … that’s right …
“This is a way for us to reconnect with where we came from,” said Gable. “In the beginning there were no record companies, no managers, no marketing, no video clips.
“There was just the four of us, our instruments, and music. This is music for its own sake and we’re immensely proud that in the new year, we can share it with people.”
The Choirboys’ eponymous 1983 was, although they didn’t know it at the time, the soundtrack to the end of an era. AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Angels and Cold Chisel were in the drums of their own personal waves that summer and the scene would change irrevocably over the next three years. What Oz Rock became was never be better represented than Big Bad Noise, released in April 1988.
At the height of the MTV epoch, the memorable videos features an all-female road crew, cricket, pubs, pool, bikies and the steelworks.
“1965 picks up that legacy; it’s a contemporary soundtrack to a bygone era,” says Hulme. “And it’s a salute to our roots on the northern beaches of Sydney – and all the flavours that it evokes from the late 60s early 70s.”
As a new year dawns on an increasingly wrought and complicated world, it’s time to go back to an age of comparative innocence.
Welcome to 2018; Welcome to 1965.