GLANCING from behind the stage at Johnny Diesel’s back and past it at the screaming pubescents enjoying their first outdoor concert, John Brewster muses, “yeah, I like them, they’re great”.
Brewster, former Angels guitarist and current member of generation-gap-less Anglo-Australian boogie merchants The Bombers, is talking about the Diesels, not the pubescents.
The said Bombers, consisting of Brewster, former Status Quo bassman Alan Lancaster, ex-BB Steal drummer Peter Heckenberg, rookie vocalist Tyrone Coates and tyro guitarist Steve Crofts are about to make a full-strength marketplace assault on Johnny and friends.
Via the rather unsettled Party Boys, Brewster and Lancaster have been through it all a few times before and, as you’d expect, are hardly scared by the prospect of competing for punters with the likes of Mr. Lizotte.
“This band I know full-well can go on any stage in the world, look any audience straight in the eyes, look any band straight in the eyes,” says Lancaster, with “Soul Revival” belting out of the PA not far away. “If we weren’t better than the Party Boys, better than the Angels, better than the Quo, we’d be wasting our time. Ah… we can’t really say ‘better’, it’s more ‘up to date’ than that. It’s got as much potential as those bands and perhaps more. But it’s more up to date in what its doing. It’s not sacrificing its feel, its not sacrificing its roots, it’s just progressing.”
Lancaster (Lancaster Bombers, get it?) it not one to mince words. He’s no spring chicken, y’see, having gone through more professional ‘divorces’ than Zsa Zsa Gabor has had husbands. Sacked from one of the world’s biggest bands in Quo, relocated to Australia only to be embroiled in the last great purge/exodus from the Party Boys, Al hasn’t had an easy decade.
For he and Angel John, The Bombers may well be the last throw of the dice. So far, if you’ve seen them live, you’ll be convinced they’ve come up with straight sixes.
Lancaster was always the consumate professional in the Party Boys, a picture of precision both onstage and in the studio. As much as he insists his new project is democratic, that perfectionism has obviously rubbed off on the rest of the squadron.
Coates has a soaring, definitely metal voice; Crofts is the perfect guitar wanker, resembling a skinny Rick Nielson; and Heckenberg is a powerful presence at the back of it all. The quality of the material they produce is quite stunning.
There is an uncanny confidence and togetherness in this band that almost ensures its success. If they fail, it won’t be through drugs, alcohol or lack of drive. Two veterans and three hungry kids with blues/HR backgrounds. The perfect recipe it seems.
The period when the Party Boys sacked John Swan and Graham Bonnett, and Brewster and Lancaster left is still largely shrouded in mystery. The album was released overseas, Christie and Lancaster did a European promo tour, it began to chart, and then… nothing. All that was left for the next tour was Paul Christie and Kevin Borich.
“When me and Brewster got in it (the Party Boys), we wanted to make it a permanent thing,” said Lancaster. “It got to a certain level where we felt it couldn’t go any further. Although it got its overseas deals, we felt that in terms of every member of the band putting in 100 percent work, the rest of the band weren’t taking responsibility.
“The Party Boys very nearly became a real band, an international band. But, like I said, it could only go to a certain level because of the politics behind it. The administration behind it, the whole structure of the band had to change for it to get anywhere.
It transpires, in fact, West Australian Coates actually joined the Party Boys, but was convinced to change his mind while rehearsing with Brewster and Lancaster!
Tyrone, a muscle-bound he-man frontperson, if ever there was one, takes up the story: “While I was learning the reportoire and we were rehearsing, Alan and John and I started writing songs. We just discovered we had a really good writing chemistry and decided I could make the choice of either going with the Party Boys or waiting and starting with the Bombers, starting out new with an original band.”
Meanwhile, timeless singer Graham Bonnett , flew to Australia to replace Swan. He lasted but a few shows.
“The only reason things don’t work is when you have a member of the band doing all the running, all the lugging and the others are out partying,” Lancaster says. “In this band, everybody does the running. Every department is being taken care of, everybody’s got responsibilities. We know that every band member is up to those responsibilities.
“Graham Bonnett is not that way inclined. He has to have things done for him. The same goes for most artists in the world – they have to have things done for them.
“Tyrone is a better singer than Bonnett anyway. There you are, I’ve said it. (continued below)
“When you get to a certain age in this business, you just don’t get things done for you. You have to do them yourself. I think its the same all over now in the music business. Bands don’t wait for breaks, Breaks don’t come, you go out and get them.”
Signed to US giant A&M, the Bombers’ immediate future looks assured. Their first single, “Running In The Shadows”, was released in November to luke-warm response. Another seven-inch comes in February, followed by the album, Aim High.
“This band, because of who is in it, could have done it in reverse and recorded first and then gone out on the road, but we figured the best thing to do was start from the ground up and earn peoples’ respect,” Tyrone observes.
On Aim High will be the Angels’ standard “City Out Of Control”, and quite possibly “He’s Gonna Step On You Again”, a cover of which the Party Boys took to number one. The Bombers maintain they have more right to play those tracks than the original acts.
The release of Aim High will probably be followed by an Australian tour and some harsh overseas gigging.
“Although Australia is a big record-buying market, second biggest in the world per capita, you still can’t sell enough records to, y’know, retire at a certain age,” Lancaster pragmatises. “So, you’ve got to break it worldwide to have any sort of success. Success is not just being successful in Australia.
“We can make number one in America,” Al says in all seriousness. “That’s all on the cards. The only thing that will stop us from having number one in America and Europe is if we lose our energy and drive. And our energy and drive is way up at the moment.”