Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Welcome to America, Radio Birdman and Thank You Very Much!

As Radio Birdman enters the final leg of their first ever US tour more than a few words are in order. One of the coolest things about blogging is that with a few keyboard strokes you can create, deflate, or anoint. PR machines, spin artists and major corporations are powerless against bloggers. In other words, yes, I have a pulpit! What ticks me off today is tomorrow the magnificent Radio Birdman start the East Coast swing of their 1st US tour ever (DC, NYC, Cambridge, and Philly) and the shows in medium sized clubs aren't even sold out(yet) and their awesome new CD Zeno Beach isn't even on a major label!(actually that might be better for them, really!) Radio Birdman is truly a seminal band in the history of Rock and Roll and they are a national treasure for both Australia and the United States, and it is time to give them their due! Wake up, America!

You need go no further than Deniz Tek's hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan to find the origin of Radio Birdman's high energy rock and roll. Imagine a wild-eyed youngster cutting his rock and roll teeth on bands like the MC5, Stooges, Dick Wagner and the Frosts, The Rationals, SRC(the Scott Richard Case), the Amboy Dukes and the Bob Seger System, and Third Power to name a few. In Tek's own words, "23 years of motor city madness." It all started with the MC5s "Lookin at You" 45 in 1966--a record so powerful it defined the genre "high energy rock and roll" and took a few years for its influence to be felt. From there a steady stream of rich guitar hungry desperate rock and roll emerged. And Deniz Tek soaked all this Detroit grease up like a sponge. Radio Birdmen took their name from a Stooges song, and years later in 1981 Tek along with vocalist Rob Younger, and bassist Warwick Gilbert joined with Dennis Thompson of the MC5 and the Stooges'Ron Asheton in the New Race--whose lone lp would not see a US release for 15 years! But thats jumpin' ahead. Somehow Deniz Tek found his way to Syndey, Australia where he formed Radio Birdman who not only helped create but also jump start the growing Aussie punk scene in 1977.

Though they were punk more in attitude than sound, the desperate vocals of Rob Younger augmented by a three guitar attack coupled with judicious use of piano and crazy lyrics about the sun, burning, crying, eskimo pies, Rolling Rock, guns and TV, created a dense, yet airy, rock and roll attack. The cryptic Radio Birdman symbol was no doubt a nod to Blue Oyster Cult whose heavy rock and roll sound and science fiction mumbo jumbo also provided some fodder for Radio Birdman to harvest. Needless to say, when Birdman's first LP came out in 1978, it was in no time relegated to the bargain bins--just like other Sire LPs--the Saints "I'm Stranded", the Dead Boys "Young Loud and Snotty" and Richard Hell's "Blank Generation". Radio Birdman's second LP "Living Eyes" a year later remains unreleased in the US. Its a quite unusual LP which rewards repeated listenings, yet it fails to capture the fury and sonic attack of their earlier recordings.

25 years later, everything has changed, still Radio Birdman seems to be merely a footnote here in the US.(a fact that Sub Pop helped change a few years ago with the release of the Essential Radio Birdman) Though they imploded as their second LP was released, Birdman's immediate influence in Australia was palpable. They inspired whole scenes as well as producing intriging offshoots like the Visitors, the New Race and the New Christs. Deniz Tek continued to record, though his best work was with vocalist Rob Younger, a fact reinforced by the incredible Deep Reduction 2 CD on Get Hip in the mid 90s. The second of two Deep Reduction releases, it betters the intial Deep Reduction(a collaboration of Tek and PA's Stump Wizards) with the addition of Younger and PA's Jonathan Sipes(ex-both the great Swag 45 and the Omega Men). The savage sound of that CD was a harbinger of things to come.

Finally, 28 years later the 3rd Radio Birdman studio LP has emerged and Zeno Beach was certainly worth the wait and they never sounded fiercer! Their guitar heavy Detroit rock and roll never went out of fashion with those in search of true rock and roll glory. The posers and trendhoppers will pass this by--indy rock it aint--but those who live and breathe for real high energy gutbucket rock and roll, their cup runneth over. Thanks to internet and the music industry the morass of faceless, talentless bands spreads across the land like a salt pancake. The real flavor of the month has been around for 28 years. Thank God, once again, for the cities on flame with the rock and roll of Radio Birdman!

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