Home Interviews Interview” BOB ‘BONGO’ STARKIE


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“The word’s out that it’s fantastic,” Bob “Bongo” Starkie excitedly announced about his Skyhooks show, in a recent phone interview. He is still enjoying performing the music of the band that brought him fame and fortune and has announced a string of dates in January and February for NSW and Victoria where he and his band will play some classic Skyhooks tunes such as ‘Crazy Heart’, ‘Whatever Happened to the Revolution’, ‘Mercedes Ladies’ and more. “I have a band playing a whole lot of Skyhooks tunes; some oldies, some hits,” Bob told me. “The shows go off. There are people at the shows singing every word. I don’t even know all the words.”  With this being the case, it’s lucky Bob sings backing vocals and not lead.


Singing the lead vocals in the band is Melbourne singer Laura Davidson “She can really cut it. She is very comfortable on stage and she always works with the audience. That’s what Shirl was like. They’re very similar actually. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth; Shirl was the same. The only song I sing is Red’s song ‘Smut’, which is funny. I tell a little story about Red and it works out really well.”


The band has performed together throughout the year. “It’s a good band. The other guitarist is Stuart Fraser, one of the best guitarists in the country. He is an old Skyhooks fan. He was saying “Bob, there’s no way I could’ve worked out all this stuff if I had not heard it way back then.” Because he knew it, he was able to pick it all up. He loves it; it’s different. The way Red and I played, no one else plays like that.”


“On stage we play like a band; it’s got chemistry. It’s real fun.” The band is not just appealing to the original Skyhooks fans but to new generations too. “You get people coming up saying ‘Can I have a selfie with you? My dad loves the band.’ A lot of these kids have grown up listening to it.” Bob then went on to say that, generally speaking, the audience are around our age and one of the funniest moments is watching the girls try to dance to ‘Horror Movie’. “The girls go off on the dance floor. It’s really funny seeing them try to dance to ‘Horror Movie’. You really can’t do that.”


Bob explained that the reason he is out playing again is he got sick of looking at his guitar hanging on the wall. “I stopped playing guitar for a while then I thought ‘I love playing guitar! What the fuck’s going on here?’ I never really learnt to play guitar; I just made it up, so I learnt how to play Chuck Berry and it became an obsession for years. I tell you what, it was hard; it’s not easy. He was prolific. All the songs are different. He was really clever. Now I’ve mastered that, I love playing the Chuck Berry rooted music, I’ve moved onto playing Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s guitarist. I always thought he was fantastic.”


“I’m enjoying playing guitar. With this Skyhooks thing, it’s really hard to play; just to remember it all. I don’t know what the hell we were on but some of those tracks off  ‘Straight in a Gay Gay World’, well, we must have been on some hairy speed or something because, to play those songs, you really have to be on the case. Even with Stuart Fraser, he’s like ‘Wow! It’s a workout!’”


The dates in February include two shows in the Gippsland region at Bairnsdale and Morwell. “I’ve been trying to get down there for ages. It’s not unusual to have people from Morwell at my shows. There is a little cluster of Skyhooks fans down there and they drive up to town (Melbourne). I kid you not.”

He is happy to be out playing the songs but admitted he was slightly apprehensive to begin with. “It’s a weird one. I must admit I had to get my head around it. Initially I was thinking ‘should I be doing this?’ but I thought let’s have a look at what it sounds like but after every show it’s ‘fuck that was good’ and then the next show is better because we keep improving. If it wasn’t fun, it would be no point. I’m not doing it for the money.”


I asked Bob why he thinks Skyhooks songs still cut it decades later. “They are well written. I think Macainishy had a very cynical eye to what was going on. He had a good feel of things. Take the suburban trilogy. Toorak – he got Toorak right down in ‘Toorak Cowboy’, ‘Balwyn Callling’; that’s a killer tune and ‘Carlton’ – that was Carlton back then. He got it down. It’s still relevant today; they are memorable.”


And if you think the zany Skyhooks costumes are a thing of the past, think again, Bob ensures me with a laugh that there are costumes. “It makes you feel like you are doing a show. It’s a good thing. I put on the lizard collar; it gets a laugh. I’ve got Stuart Fraser dressed in red, that’s the gag. It goes down pretty well and I’ve got the bass player in a white suit with diamantes. It’s fun. ”


Joining Bob, Stuart and Laura in the band are Steve Williams on sax/harp/percussion, Sean McLeod on drums and Kim May on bass. “It’s a fun band.  I love being on stage with these guys. We have a lot of laughs. Steve Williams definitely contributes. It’s good to have a band that is sounding good and people are enjoying it. We are starting to get booked into little street festivals. That will be fun. It’s not out of the question to do a Day On The Green or something like that.” Bob said they have already booked out various clubs and venues across Melbourne and look forward to playing at many more.


The band is an ongoing project for 2015 with Bob reviewing the future of the band at the end of 2015. “It’s good to see where it can go. I might end up making a record with these guys. They are really good players.” Bob says that the record would be original material, not Skyhooks covers.


by Suzanne Bunker

Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2014. All rights reserved




Tour dates for January and February are:

Sunday 11th of January 2015

Caravan Club Oakleigh Victoria


Friday 23rd of January 2015

Corowa RSL club Corowa NSW


Saturday 24th of January 2015

Barooga Sports Club, Barooga NSW


Sunday 25th of January 2015

Mulwala Water Ski Club, Mulwala NSW



Friday 6th of February 2015

Italian Australian Sporting Club, Morwell VIC


Saturday 7th of February 2015

Bairnsdale RSL Club, Bairnsdale VIC


Friday 13th of February 2015

The Sphinx Hotel, Geelong VIC

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