One thing I can be sure of: I saw The Reels for the very first time at French's Wine bar in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. Don't ask what year, or even think about anything more specific because I really have no idea after all this time. However, it was very soon after I'd seen Midnight Oil there too but this was well before the Oils became the most loved rock band in Australia and some parts of the Western world. Yes, they were both paying their gigging dues, all round the state and far across the territories.
mp3: Love Will Find A Way
As per this very delightful track (their first single), you can see that The Reels started off as a slightly electro New Wave Pop band. Lots of gorgeously overlayed synths but drums and guitars are just as important. A bit too XTC maybe but with less problematic singing and lyrics that are direct instead of annoyingly abtuse. And... just listen to that fabulous Polly Newman rhythm keyboard stuff in the right channel - what an arranger he was.
mp3: Quasimodo's Dream
I can well remember that I saw this version of the band for the very first time at The Rockgarden in William Street, King's Cross. By this time, they'd dropped the guitar completely, added yet another keyboard player - Karen Ansel - and made their outfits even more garish whilst keeping the backdrops as plain, plain white. God, they looked fantastic with their small synths and tiny radio microphones. As futuristic as all get out and I ached to be one of them. The music just got better too with all those reverby vocals: Ooh and Ahs and so on swimming round my skull. No wonder this track was voted in the Top 10 Aussie songs of all time, even if it's lyrical content is completely incomprehensible - it's all about the 'feel', isn't it?
I think I heard this track for the very first time at the Trade Union Club on Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. But I could be mistaken. They must have thought the sound needed toughening up after an album's worth of synth and vocals and drums and mostly downbeat tunes. But it's still the same lineup. Great Glam Rock backing yelps abound but it didn't sneeze itself near the top 100.
mp3 : Bad Moon Rising
I definitely saw this for the very first time on Countdown (Australia's most fab rock show) because, well, they were a 2 piece by then and they'd given up on the gigging stuff. Yes, it's a cover of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival track but it leaves the southern boogie in the cupboard and replaces it with stately, cod-symphonic flourishes. The video was marvellous with Dave Mason's slow motion long-haired walk past a revolving batch of friends, band members and 'legends'.
Some other things to know about The Reels:
- Always well before their time, they predicted the 90's Lounge Music revival 10 years earlier when they released an album of louche cover versions including "This Guy's In Love With You" and "The Last Waltz" as 1982's "Beautiful" (on K-Tel, btw)
- Always supremely ironic, their late 80s album and tour entitled "Neighbors" was based on cover versions of other Australian artists... and didn't they just hate it all by then.
- From the beginning, they pretty much detested the rock business, Australian suburban life, country towns, artists, idiots... all of life, really. Grand misanthropes to the bitter end.
- Guitarist Craig Hooper was the next door neighbour of a work friend. Apparently he shouted a quite lot.
- Buy their best of "Requiem" at your local Sanity store or on the internet here.