Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Australian Pop by Birtles & Springfield

Like fellow Aussies the Sherbs, Zoot never escaped teen-star status. But as Zoot Locker proves, they were certainly adapt at churning out clever pop tracks. Because of their time period, Zoot used every trick in the psychedelic book; but most songs maintain the three-minute mark, resulting in shrewd and skewered singles much like the Move delivered. Innocent innocuousness such as "Monty & Me" about walking the dog or "One Times Two Times Three Times Four" seems unfairly buried in the past. Of course, Beatles nods abound, such as the Lennon-isms of "Hey Pinky." With this smoking version of "Eleanor Rigby" the quartet attempted to jettison their early "pink" image, jumping aboard the bizarre "heavy covers" bandwagon with Vanilla Fudge and Rare Earth. The Hollies are another pervasive influence ("Flying" shares rhyme schemes with "Dear Eloise" over a "Helter Skelter" riff) while "Mr Songwriter" echoes the Byrds by way of Dylan. "Freak" foreshadows "Highway Star" and many Sweet moments. The informative liner notes guide the listener through this startlingly sterling posthumous collection, proving Zoot was much more than a mere launching pad for Rick Springfield and Little River Band.
For the release of Zoot's inaugural single, "You Better Get Going Now," the band draped themselves, as well as the gaudy Berties discotheque venue, in bright pink. Pushing the slogan "Think Pink -- Think Zoot," the band would later burn their pink suits and bare their backsides in an act of defiance that ultimately was unable to resurrect their forever pink-stained careers.
Forming in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1966 and calling themselves "Down the Line," a soon re-badged Zoot achieved local fame on the dance scene before moving to Melbourne in 1968. Shortly after their pink-fuelled launch, their second single, "One Times, Two Times, Three Times, Four," peaked at number 32 on the Melbourne charts and the band began playing the Melbourne TV show Uptight regularly. Their next single, "Monty and Me," hit number one in Brisbane and the band, along with local contemporaries the Valentines, the Flying Circus, and New Dream, developed a strong teen following with their blend of disposable pop. Replacing guitarist Roger Hicks with Rick Springfield saw the band's sound begin to mature, and they toured with the cream of Australian pop on the national Operation Starlift Tour in September 1969. They ended the year by being voted Top Australian Group in Go-Set magazine's Pop Poll.

Despite burning their former pink outfits for the cameras and baring their backsides for Go-Set, their next single, "Hey Pinky" (April 1970), failed to chart. Nevertheless, the band placed second to the Flying Circus in Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds final in July 1970 and released their debut album, Just Zoot, the following month. The band achieved their biggest hit with their next single, a cover of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," which peaked at number four on the national charts in March 1971. The single later achieved gold status after being re-released by EMI in 1979 and Zoot formed a reputation for performing heavy covers of well-known songs. Zoot's next single, "The Freak," failed to achieve chart success and, still haunted by their former teen-star status, the group disbanded in May. Several of the bandmembers continued successful careers in music and film, including Rick Springfield, who went on to achieve international success as a singer and actor in the U.S.

Very good sixties pop.
Enjoy it!
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