I missed Th’ Dudes. They had two frantic years of success in 1979 and 80, both years when I was working overseas, and then they were gone. But never forgotten. How could you forget where DD Smash and Dave Dobbyn came from? And Peter Urlich certainly never went away. Lez White and Bruce Hambling went to Australia, but always come back when Th’ Dudes play. The only tragedy has been the loss of Ian Morris 10 years ago, but tonight we have brother Rikki, a star in his own right, and the first person to record Finn Andrews, Gin Wigmore and Ella Yelich-O’Connor. And the sixth Dude isn’t one. Victoria Girling-Butcher is unmistakably a girl, formerly of Lucid 3 and a long-time member of Dave Dobbyn’s band, and she joins Th’ Dudes on this, their final final tour on guitar and backing vocals. So, it’s in eager anticipation that all of us at Auckland Town Hall wait for 9 o’clock. Blissfully.
But the waiting gets easier because at 8 pm sharp we are off and Racing and what a revelation they turn out to be. Once upon a time there was a precocious band of kids called The Checks who won the Smokefree Rockquest and went touring with AC/DC, REM, Oasis, The Killers and Hives and then broke up but two of them are still together, Ed Knowles and Sven Petterson and with two other musicians Izaak Houston (Space Creeps) and Daniel Barrett (Sherpa) they formed Racing a few years back and have been the in form racers of psychedelic heavy indie rock ever since. Deep breath.
Indeed its retro but it’s a retro night and be proud of it. 7 songs of various hues include a riff which is superstitiously superstition and the guitar shrieks and moans and reverberates and the voice goes high like Gillan on Jagger and the boys swig a beer between songs like rock lords of ancient times and it’s bloody good. Leaves me Racing to the record store for more because I don’t like Spotty-fi I prefer Hi-Fi.
What is it about these days when a bunch of guys in the 60s can get up on stage and act like bad-ass kids? And sound better than ever. And jump and cavort almost as well but not quite. Possibly because guys in their 70s are also doing it. But also because the lucky generation can still come out and relive the heady days of their youth when everything was possible and nobody cared. Forty years on. And sometimes more.
But that’s the scene at the Town Hall when Th’ Dudes arrive right on time, and “Right First Time”. The first thing you remember is that Peter Urlich is the singer and can still sing, and Dave Dobbyn is a bloody good guitarist (who occasionally sings) and also write first time, along with the late Ian Morris. And they are quickly into their work, a high paced ramble through their two albums, all but 2 or 3 songs make the cut tonight and we now remember that Th’ Dudes were influenced not only by the Beatles and the Stones but also by the punk and pub and garage rock phenomena of the late 70s which existed in separate genre buckets but occasionally got mixed up by the likes of Graham Parker in London, Australian Crawl in Australia and our own Dudes here in Kiwi.
It was the venues, stupid, which allowed for high paced electronic antics played loud over a sea of sweaty drunken punters who didn’t know the difference between anything and didn’t remember it the next day but could pick an anthem. Songs like “On The Rox” and “Take it Back” give way to a slower ballad, “You Don’t Have To Go” which could have been written by a bunch of famous songwriters but instead was written and sung by Dave Dobbyn.
And then we dive into the Tex Pistol which was Ian Morris and also Rikki and in honour of Ian are treated to his late 80’s hit single “Game of Love” and nobody remembers that Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders did this song in the 60’s and it was written by an American because forever more it’s Tex Pistol’s.
And, facing “The Modern Choice” we are treated with what for me is their biggest and best song, “That Look In Your Eyes” from 1979 with its funky midsection, Beatles riffs, bass solo and Eric Burdon interlude which turns the audience into a solo performance and its just a great song which leaves us exhausted, exhilarated and accelerating. Dave Dobbyn then opines on the inevitability of baldness (he should be so lucky……..no, he is so lucky) before we “Stop Crying” over the loss of hair and the image of the chopper chopping off our heads as the fool proof way to go bald, and it’s another fucking great song and it’s stool time.
Fortunately the stools are carefully placed and not passed and the band retreats leaving Victoria and Dave “Loyal” to Peter who has the honour of singing the Dobbyn anthem which could be our national anthem if we didn’t have one called “Bliss”
And next Dave and Peter retire and Rikki emerges to sing his anthem and reminisce about leaving school in 1978 and being employed by Th’ Dudes as a roadie and ultimately sound guy. Just one more Catholic boy from Sacred Heart who can’t sing ( as Lez White might once have said). But “Nobody Else” can sing this song better than Rikki, who had a number 1 in the 1988 and still sings it at least once a year at my birthday party.
But now we are on the home stretch and “Bad Boy Billy” rocks along with a background video depicting cars tearing by on the motorway about to crash but not. “Something I don’t Need “ is just what we need and “You Can’t make Me Dance” is a big rocker. Dave corrects the title of “All My Lovers” to the singular ( but I’m sure his wife doesn’t believe him) as they reminisce about the Windsor Castle and the Gluepot and Bruce Bam Bam Hambling lays down a 60s garage rock sound which we can’t get over at all. Dobbyn does another blistering solo on “Walking in Light” and we are theirs tonight.
The lyrically challenging song of the 80s comes at last, and we can’t wait to get ourselves another as the blissing for binge drinking which may or may not have been a parody takes us to a raucous conclusion , except for when we get another we become a “Wild Thing” and have to go home.
Th’ Dudes had two massive years in 1979 and 1980 before heading to Australia where they once performed after a support band called, or about to be called, INXS and the excess of starting over again was felt to be too hard, and Ian Morris called it quits and played their last show naked and some girl painted eyes on his butt cheeks and the others acquiesced. The parts cannot function without the sum.
It was a momentous decision but probably the right one. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had a night like tonight.
Th’ Dudes setlist:
- Right First Time
- On Sunday
- On the Rox
- Until You Do
- Take It Back
- You Don’t Have To Go
- Game of Love
- The Modern Choice
- That Look In Your Eyes
- Stop Crying
- Nobody Else
- Bad Boy Billy
- Something I Don’t Need
- You Can Make Me Dance
- All My Lovers
- Can’t Get Over You At All
- Walking In Light
- Be Mine Tonight
- Wild Thing
Radio 13 thanks and credits Chris Zwaagdyk of Zed Pics for all the images in this review.