Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 13th 2019
Classic Australian album
Okay, before I start: NSFW WARNING! Seriously! Some of the lyrics/themes are insanely naughty!
Did you get that warning? Good.
The year is 1987. I was seeing Barbara. At one point I said I'd get her an album she wanted. The album she chose was an extended play, 5-track EP. It was a collection of five songs from the band's debut album, including the two tracks on the hard to get bonus disc single from said album. But the 5-track EP was one a mutual friend named Chiz had introduced us to.
That album is You Have The Right To Remain Silent by The Radiators (1981).
Oddly for these columns, this is sort of a greatest hits EP, but not really. At my high school, it was an album that we all knew quite well. All five songs were the sort you could sing along to. This was one of those albums that everyone seemed to own at least a dubbed copy of. And The Radiators were one of the best bands live I have seen. Unfortunately, Barbara and I had 'separated' by the time they next came to Adelaide, which was a shame; I would have loved to have taken her along to see them. A concert where the audience knows every lyric to every song and were not shy about singing along, and the band just clearly having as much fun as we were.
I was debating whether to write about it, not because of the EP nature (I've reviewed EPs before), but because tracks came from a previous release, which I don't actually own. But, to us, this was the album we all had to have and know about it. So I decided to share a bit of my teenagehood.
Now, I suppose I should explain why this 5-track album should suddenly come up. It's simple, really – I was going through my music collection and I realised I hadn't listened to this album for a long time, so I put it on and… half a dozen listens later I decided I really should do something better with my time. Part of it was the pleasant memories it brought back of some of the times from 1987, but most of it was the sheer joy in these songs.
I will say it again: Bad Language Warning!
Right, with that out the way, here's the album.
'17 (I Wish I Was)' Side one (it's on vinyl!) opens with this song. It's a nostalgic look back at being 17 years old and quite sweet, really… despite the lyric line "…Her tits were too small…" At the time, for us, it seemed like it was the sort of lament we would never be able to relate to. Well, I tell you this – 1987 was my seventeenth year, Barbara (and Claire) was a beauty queen, and there are times when I wish I was 17 again and could make amends for being the prat I was. Yes, it only took 30-plus years for me to completely understand this song. It is a great track.
'Summer Holiday' A fun song about, basically, going on holiday like so many Australian teens, with a surfboard, to a pub and then finding a girl. It is mindless, post-punk rock, with a shout-out to Cliff Richard at the end. While possibly the least song on the collection, it is still a great song. I remember a party at Brett's at the end of the school year, December, the start of summer, where we sang this too many times to be healthy…
'Comin' Home' Side two opens with one of the classic Radiators' songs. A guy is telling his girl to be ready because he's coming home after some time away and he expects her to be ready for him. It's sexist and the hints are subtle, but, live, the entire audience screamed, "Unlock the door and light the fire/ My head is filled with sweet desire/…" and it almost shook the roof off the place.
Now we come to the two songs that, at the time, were hard to get and were the selling point of the album for most of the teenagers who bought it. Sorry, but that is (was? I'm not sure what teenagers are really like in regards to this nowadays) what we were like back then
'Fess' Song' "I take drugs…/ I like sex…/ I like looking at dirty pictures/ I like lying in bed with Fess…" And with that chorus, I don't know how many parties cracked any and all local council noise ordinances as we (and probably countless others) bellowed it at the top of our lungs. Just a simple song about the four things a guy likes, that makes his life complete, as he tells them to a persistent religious hawker. Catchy, an ear-worm and great fun. Oh, and who is 'Fess'? The band's lead guitarist. Doesn't matter… we used to change it to "Brett" anyway because it annoyed him.
'Gimme Head' And the album closes with its most infamous track. It's all there in the title. A guy is asking a girl for a particular form of sexual pleasure. Live, this one was incredible. At parties, this one was incredible. What a song to finish with.
The complete male-dominance and inherent sexism of the lyrics is indicative of the times, and modern listeners more attuned with the political correctness of modernity might not be as appreciative of the attitudes expressed in the lyrics. Yes, it most certainly is a product of its times, but it is surely no less offensive than many modern rap songs, and even pop songs that drop the F-word with increasing regularity.
However, looking past the lyrics, the musicianship is a fine example of what is known as 'pub rock', that almost unique Australian sound. I am a huge fan of this style of music, and the Radiators are one of the finer exponents of it, with Fess' guitar brilliant and a driving drum beat throughout, plus some awesome bass runs. And, more to the point, they are still going strong now, in 2019.
Look, I know this album is not for everyone. But for those of a 'certain age', it is a reminder of the past and it is still a lot of fun. I've used that word a lot here, haven't I? Well, it doesn't matter. It is fun.