Radio Birdman – 50 years of rocking hard

Radio Birdman – 50 years of rocking hard
Image: Radio Birdman today. Photo: Anne Laurent

Aloha Steve and Danno, in June and July Radio Birdman get to play their Five-O tour across Australia celebrating 50 years since their formation, and this may be the last chance to catch them live.

“It’s a reunion of sorts, but it is also 50 years, so it’s a party of sorts,” Rob Younger, singer said.

“If they want to catch the band there won’t be many more opportunities.”

Known for their uncompromising approach to playing Detroit style rock and roll and their energetic, sometimes frenetic live shows, the band quickly built up a hard core following in Darlinghurst when they got together in 1974, eventually establishing a residency upstairs at the Oxford Hotel, which they dubbed the Funhouse.

Radio Birdman. Image: Bob King

“We were just the local band in Darlinghurst and playing where we could, and there weren’t many options,” Younger said.

We were a local group and it was local people who came to see us at the Funhouse, and people didn’t travel from afar.

“We tried playing further afield and we realised how narrow our options were as we were roundly despised by venue owners.”

What else set them apart was the set comprising of mainly original songs.

“We weren’t very enthused by the local scene and took a dim view of it, and that was one of the reasons why we started up,” Younger said.

“We came on fairly strongly and we were different from the scene which was generally the blues or local bands trying to be Free or Deep Purple, and we stood out and maybe that attracted different people.”

Radio Birdman. Photo: Graeme Webber

Songs such as “New Race/TV Eyes” and “What Gives” quickly filled the streets and squats of Darlinghurst, as did clothing adorned with the Radio Birdman logo, which was wrongly described by many at the time as being a Fascist logo.

“It was merely a symbol and Deniz (Tek) had designed that before the band was formed, and there had been those types of people who accused us because we had a symbol of flirting with Fascism, and that was not the case at all,” Younger said.  

While the local music press, in particular the late Anthony O’Grady, wrote favourably about the band, one confusion lay in lumping them with the new musical culture of punk.

“When we started out they weren’t using the term punk, it is simply described in various American music magazines as garage rock,” Younger said.

“Basically we considered ourselves as a rock and roll band…but the thing was that the advent of punk took us along with it and it increased our popularity.”

Radio Birdman performing. Photo: Andrew Needhan

After a sell out show at the Paddington Town Hall with The Saints and The Hot Spurs, the band relocated to England and signed to Sire Records, home to the Ramones, Madonna, The Dead Boy and Talking Heads.

“What happened was that we went over to England and played lots of shows and went over really well for most,” Younger said.

An American tour with the Ramones was lined up when Sire changed distributors and dropped most of their roster, including Birdman.

“It was mainly internal problems that caused the disintegration of the band, especially when we were recording at Rockfield,” Younger said.

“We ended up not talking and the band split, and that was that, it wasn’t really for lack of success.”

All members of Birdman would go onto other bands until an eventual reunion for Big Day Out in 1996 and 1997 and by the early 2000s, when original members dropped out to be replaced by a new lineup which still includes three original members.

In 2007, Radio Birdman would be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, which saw a reunion of sorts and a tour of the US,Canada  and Europe.

Rob Younger, lead singer, Radio Birdman. Image: Peter Bainbridge

A tour with Died Pretty in 2017 coincided with the release of the feature length  documentary, Descent into the Maelstrom, which traced the history of the band from their origins in The Rats and TV Jones, with footage from their 2015 European tour.

Asked how the current line up gets along, Younger is upbeat when he says: “Disgracefully amicable is how I would describe the current lineup.”

Younger also has a final word on why people should come along to see their shows.

“People always look down on bands that reform and some go out half-hearted but I think if you are putting yourself out there, you have to honour that, and it is always about playing energy jams and getting stuck into it.

That’s the way we play, anyway.”

Radio Birdman playing with the Hard Ons

July 5 , 6 & 7

Manning Bar, Level 2,  Manning Rd, Sydney University


You May Also Like

Comments are closed.