|Band history and photos courtesy of Greg Morris|
Short and Sweet! This probably best describes the life of Johnny Dole & The Scabs, one of the first punk rock bands in Australia.
THE BEGINNINGIn early January 1977, a Sydney band known as The Strays were looking for a new drummer to complete their line-up and after deciding on the right one, it was time to rehearse and honour a gig commitment four weeks later. During this initial rehearsal period, the style of the music was changing and one of the original members decided to leave. This meant that the line up was now a four-piece and this style was taking the shape of Punk Rock, which was new to the Sydney music scene; their songs were being played faster and grungier.
Embracing the new style was easy for the band as they all felt it was right, so with this new direction a new name was needed and after careful consideration Johnny Dole & The Scabs were born: Terry Walsh (a.k.a. Johnny Dole) – lead vocals, Peter Mullany – guitar, Dave Berry – bass/vocals and Greg Morris – drums/vocals.
THE FIRST REAL GIGAfter more rehearsals where some original songs were crafted to suit the new approach, it was time to look for work. Johnny and Peter approached George Kringus, manager of Radio Birdman who booked the bands at the legendary Oxford Funhouse in Taylor Square, Darlinghurst. The band's first gig was on Friday 15th April 1977. They were well received and played there three more times before the Funhouse closed its doors.
Other regular gigs at the Paris Theatre and supports to both Cold Chisel and The Saints were some of the highlights.
RAY WALSHDuring this early stage, Johnny Dole’s brother was recruited as manager. Ray Walsh was an ex-wrestler who had many contacts in the media and he put these to good use, beginning with interviews and articles in all the local Sydney newspapers including The Sun, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Telegraph as well as music magazines like Ram and Juke. (Some of these articles can be viewed on the band's MySpace page.) Also, at this time a bio was produced to advertise the band to agents and venues.
THE GRAND HOTELBecause the Oxford Funhouse had closed and there was not a lot of other venues that would put on Punk Rock bands, Johnny, Peter and Ray went in search of a venue that would. About to give up because of so many knock-backs, they tried one last hotel in Broadway before going home, and found the publican Fred was open to their suggestions. After agreeing to the request of not changing the décor and only putting posters on the walls, the back room of The Grand Hotel opened its doors to Punk Rock for the first time on Friday 16th September 1977.
The Grand Hotel was considered to be "the" punk rock venue in Sydney, with many notable bands playing there including Rocks, Tommy & The Dipsticks, The Leftovers, Filth, Psycho Surgeons, Blackrunner, Shock Treatment, and Mental As Anything, to name just some. Punk rock being what it is -- unpredictable at best -- The Grand Hotel closed its doors late in 1978, but has taken its rightful place in punk rock history. Unfortunately the building was bulldozed in the name of future development and is no longer standing, although the lane way where the bands loaded in still is!
RECORDINGAs the band wrote more and more original songs, it was decided to record them, so Ray approached Sydney radio station 2JJ to see if they were interested. Because punk rock was only new and 2JJ was an independent radio station, recording a band like Johnny Dole & The Scabs was quickly considered and Keith Walker was asked to be producer. The band recorded in the ABC Studio 201 where all the live-to-air concerts were televised. The band recorded all the tracks live then overdubbed the lead guitar and vocals. Eight songs were recorded and all overdubs and vocals were done on the same day, with Keith Walker mixing it soon after. Interviews on 2JJ were arranged so these recordings could be played on air and the songs at the time were well received and had good rotation.
POSSIBLE RECORDING CONTRACTRay took the recordings to a number of record companies and arranged a gig for the executives to see the band live. This gig, which was at the Journey’s End Wine Bar Woolloomooloo on Saturday 17th December 1977, was a great success with a number of offers being made to the band, but unfortunately no contracts were signed. A three-year publishing deal with Penjane Music was signed but without a recording contract the recordings were never released and it wasn’t until many years later that the recordings surfaced, thanks to both Bruce Griffiths (Aberrant Records) and Steven Danno (Brain Salad Surgery).
FILM CLIPThe band was approached by a student from NSW Uni, with the proposal of doing a video clip to one of the band’s songs, "Aggro." As part of her studies, Peita Letchford had been given a grant from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), so a time was arranged to film the band at a demolition site at Woolloomooloo. This film clip had never been seen or been aired on television and has only recently been located in the archives of the AFTRS and can now be viewed on YouTube. Sadly, Peita Letchford died of cancer in the late '90s.
A CURRENT AFFAIRNext on Ray’s hit list was an interview on Channel 9’s A Current Affair program. Mike Carlton and his crew came to The Grand Hotel and filmed the band performing live. After the gig later that night, the band members were interviewed. Unfortunately Channel 9 has indicated that this interview was destroyed many years ago, though the audio can be heard on the band's MySpace page.
THE ENDThe A Current Affair interview was aired January 1978 and not long after this Greg Morris was asked to leave the band in late February 1978. Soon after Greg’s departure, Dave Berry also left and Johnny Dole and Peter Mullany continued with new members but never regained its popularity and soon folded. They then joined forces with Tommy & The Dipsticks to form the band The Crooked Hearts.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?Unfortunately Johnny Dole passed away from a drug overdose in the early eighties.
After The Crooked Hearts disbanded Peter Mullany joined The Broken Toys who then became Sekret Sekret. Becoming disillusioned by the music business he moved to the country.
Dave Berry moved backed to the mountains from where he came and was last known to be playing in blues band Blue Roots.
After Johnny Dole & The Scabs, Greg Morris joined Rocks and soon after recorded the sought-after six-track EP You’r So Boring. After Rocks disbanded, Greg was in many bands including The Prisoners, The Fringe, The Undecided?, That’s Right!, Peabody Deluxe, and is now playing in cover band Mad Cow.
SCAB ANIMAL CD (Brain Salad Surgery Records, 1996)
WHY MARCH WHEN YOU CAN RIOT?! LP (Aberrant Records, 1985)
WHERE BIRDMEN FLEW REVISITED vol. 1 LP (bootleg, 1999)