Company Caine - A Product of a Broken Reality (1971)
Here are my liner notes for the 2015 remastered CD edition on Aztec Records of Company Caine's 1971 LP A Product of a Broken Reality.
Thanks to Russell Smith, David 'Dr. Pepper' Pepperell, Ian McCausland and Lindsay Farr
"Here's a song with a message... if the message gets through"
The Story of Company Caine (Part 1)
By Ian McFarlane
With the recent death (12 November 2014) of delightfully eccentric singer / songwriter Kevin Gullifer Smith, the story of one of the last unheralded Australian bands of the progressive rock age comes into sharp focus. While Gulliver (as he was more commonly known) had not been visible on the music scene for many years, it was in his role as lead singer with the magnificent Company Caine that he will be forever remembered.
We should never underestimate Gulliver’s contribution to the development of the local music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Even from the earliest days of his performing career Gulliver exhibited a strikingly original and idiosyncratic approach, drawing on blues, vintage rock’n’roll, Professor Longhair-styled New Orleans R&B, psychedelia and soul for inspiration. He was known for his compelling stage act which incorporated an inventive free-form approach and much evangelist-styled ad-libbing. Later he added a satirical Zappaesque / be-bop poetry component to his on-stage banter with Company Caine.
Furthermore, when you consider that the band earned a reputation on Melbourne’s burgeoning progressive rock scene as one of the most adventurous, avant-garde outfits of the day then you understand that his contribution was indeed significant. With the help of nimble-fingered guitarist Russell Smith, master saxophone / keyboard player Jeremy Kellock (aka Jeremy Noone) and numerous other musicians who passed through the ranks, the band created a legacy of fine music.
As one chapter of a story closes, so another unfolds... Which brings us to this digitally remastered CD reissue of the band’s album A Product Of A Broken Reality. Originally issued on the Generation label (GELP 004) in November 1971 and then reissued on the Real label (R 319) in 1975 under the banner of Rock Masterworks Volume One, the album is one of the very last from that time to see official release in the digital age.
It’s a glorious album of varied moods and adventurous styles; in short it remains an underground milestone of the early ’70s progressive psych genre.
The 1975 reissue bears the caption REMIX July ’75, which suggests it was a different mix from the original pressing. Latter-day band manager / rock writer David ‘Dr. Pepper’ Pepperell, however, has confirmed that was not actually the case. As they didn’t have access to the original 2-inch multi-track masters but only the 1/4-inch mixed masters, the sound was most likely re-EQ’ed and the reissue vinyl does feature a slightly louder, punchier cut – however, it is not a different mix.
Before we get to the heart of the album’s music, we’ll investigate the band’s history. Between 1970 and 1975 there were at least a dozen separate line-ups with 19 different musicians who can claim membership.
In summary: the original line-up of Gulliver Smith (vocals; ex-Little Gulliver and The Children, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye, Noyes, Time and The Forest Flower, A Love Supreme), Russell Smith (lead guitar; ex-Nineteen87, Cam-Pact), Jeremy Noone (tenor saxophone, keyboards; ex-Leo and Friends), Clifton Edwards (bass; ex-Chelsea Set, Cam-Pact) and Ray Arnott (drums; ex-Chelsea Set, Browns, Cam-Pact) came together in Melbourne during March 1970.
In May Ray left to be replaced by Tom Watts for a month. Next Eric Cairns (ex-Somebody’s Image, Heart ’n’ Soul) took over on drums and then Tim Partridge (ex-Clockwork Oringe) replaced Clif on bass in October. Next John ‘Ernie’ McInerny (ex-Foreday Riders) took over from Eric. In January 1971 the band relocated to Sydney but Tim departed and Arthur Eizenberg (ex-Square Circle, Big Apple Union, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye) was welcomed as the new bass player.
In June 1971, Jeremy decided to leave and was replaced by Ian Mawson (piano, organ). Even though Jeremy had officially left the band, he participated in the recording sessions for the album which took place in July. After that Mitch Byrne (alto saxophone, flute; ex-Gus and The House) joined. Jeremy was still on the scene and he’d often get up on stage for a blow at venues such as the T.F. Much Ballroom.
Mitch and Ian stayed around until about October. Then amid a brief period of confusion, Gulliver announced that he was leaving to join two ex-members of Tully – singer Terry Wilson and drummer Robert Taylor – in their new band Space. Gulliver explained to Go-Set magazine at the time that he hadn’t been writing any new songs and he felt his creativity was drying up and that the change of band would do him good. In a quick reversal he decided to return to Company Caine but in order to recharge his batteries took a couple of weeks holiday.
As 1971 drew to a close, Arthur left and Ray Findlay (ex-Lost Souls, Gallery, Healing Force) came in on bass but he only lasted a month. Trevor Wilson (bass, vocals; ex-La De Das) filled the gap and also introduced a couple of his songs to the band’s repertoire. But that line-up wasn’t destined to last either and within a month Arthur had returned. Around March Mal Capewell (tenor sax, flute; ex-Phil Jones and The Unknown Blues, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye, Dada, Graham Bond and Magick) joined and then Dave Kain (ex-Bitter Lemons, Five Just Men, Square Circle, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye, Big Apple Union, Time and The Forest Flower, Space) came in on rhythm guitar.
Dave described himself to me recently – with tongue firmly planted in cheek – as the “Syd Barrett-type member of the group”. This final line-up of Gulliver, Russell, Ernie, Arthur, Mal and Dave never recorded but remained stable until officially disbanding in October 1972.
The band members scattered to their varied, individual projects for a number of years. Gulliver recorded his solo album The Band’s Alright But The Singer Is... (essentially the second Company Caine album). At the beginning of 1975 Gulliver and Russell assembled a fresh line-up comprising Russell’s spouse Shirley Smith (vocals; ex-Nine Stage Horizon, Lizard), Ernie back on drums, Jeff Burstin (guitar; ex-Gutbucket, Rock Granite and The Profiles) and John Power (bass; ex-Foreday Riders). This version remained stable for a year and their adventures will be the subject of the second part of these liner notes for the CD reissue of second album Doctor Chop.
“I’ll sing about the truth... and I’ll sing about you”
To understand the genesis of Company Caine we also need to examine Gulliver’s early singing career. He started out as occasional singer with The Thunderbirds and The Strangers around the Melbourne dance circuit. In 1965, as Little Gulliver, he issued three solo singles: Larry Williams’ ‘Short Fat Fannie’ (September 1965); ‘A Brand New Beat’ (December); and Chuck Berry’s ‘No Money Down’ (March 1966). To promote his singles, Little Gulliver appeared on all the television pop shows of the day such as The Go!! Show and Kommotion.
He formed Little Gulliver and The Children with guitarist Ian McCausland, issuing the rare Little Gulliver and The Children EP in September 1966 but they broke up at the end of the year. Gulliver relocated to Sydney where he became involved in the burgeoning underground psychedelic scene.
This brought forth psychedelic soul/R&B band Dr Kandy’s Third Eye which included the likes of Dave Kain (guitar), Mal Capewell (sax), Zane Hudson (sax) and Arthur Eizenberg (bass). The band played the Sydney discotheque circuit alongside the likes of Jeff St John and The Id and Nutwood Rug Band but never recorded.
A young Alison McCallum also sang with the band but the arrangement didn’t suit and in early 1968 Gulliver was fired to be replaced by Wally Mudd. The band folded soon after although several members continued as Big Apple Union. Gulliver formed jazz-blues band The Noyes with guitarist Mick Liber and jazz pianist Bobby Gebert. Liber left to travel overseas, so Gulliver formed free-form / soul band Time and The Forest Flower with Kain. By early 1969, with the addition of a horn section, the band had transformed into A Love Supreme. Their radical fusion of jazz, rock and blues never really gelled and by the end of 1969 Gulliver was at a loose end.
In February 1970 he met up with the remnants of Cam-Pact, on tour in Sydney, and they asked him to join a new band they wanted to form in Melbourne.
The story of this last line-up of Cam-Pact – comprising Russell, Clif and Ray – is one of those odd little threads that makes up a broader tapestry of intriguing music. Cam-Pact circa early 1970 was essentially a blues band and bore no relation to the original line-up which Keith Glass and Chris Stockley had formed as a Stax/Tamla Motown-styled soul band in early 1967. Both Glass and Stockley had left by mid-1969 and when the subsequent line-up fell apart leaving organist / vocalist Bill Blisset with the name, in came the three new players.
Promoter David Flint, who also owned Melbourne discotheque the Thumpin’ Tum managed Cam-Pact and it was through his connections that he was able to keep the band together.
Russell takes up the story:
“Bill left just before we were due to go to Sydney for two weeks, so it was panic stations. We were all completely stunned, like ‘what are we gonna do?!’, so we left it to David. He was a great wheeler ’n’ dealer and organiser, so after a couple of days he said he’d got Matt Taylor, who was coming down to join Genesis, to fill in. We didn’t have any time to rehearse so we just played blues songs which is something we had in common with Matt. I was aware of what he’d done in the Bay City Union.
“Then while we were in Sydney, we were looking for someone new to sing with us and Matt said ‘you should try Gulliver Smith, he might be the guy you’re looking for’. I said I hadn’t heard that name before. And Matt said ‘do you remember Little Gulliver’ and I remembered seeing him on The Go!! Show. I auditioned Gulliver at the Plaza Hotel in Kings Cross, playing my Gibson Goldtop unplugged and I thought, ‘wow, this guy is a real blues singer’. Like Matt, he was one of the very few around at the time who had those old blues chops, he was a serious blues guy and I said ‘yeah, this could be good’.
“Gully wasn’t that keen about leaving Sydney because he really loved living there but he said ‘yeah, okay, I’ll come back to Melbourne’ and he lived at his parents place in Carlton and we got started on organising the band. In the meantime I’d been talking to various other players and Jeremy said he’d join the band. The basic premise was that me, Gulliver and Jeremy all wanted to do original stuff.
“We started writing original material, we just plunged straight into it. I had a tape recorder and I’d already written the first verse of ‘Woman With Reason’, just to show Gulliver what we could do and that was the first one we worked on together. Well, it was either that or ‘1967 (The 13th Mother)’, I can’t remember exactly which.
“Gulliver also had songs that he’d done in Sydney with Dr Kandy’s Third Eye, one of those being ‘The Day Superman Got Busted’. He could only remember the riff and Jeremy kept on at him and picked him clean until we thought we’d got everything we could out of him. Then we basically wrote the rest of the song, the chords and stuff around the riff and arranged that to what you hear on the album. And that was it from the word go.”
“I like to scream like an animal... on the verge of a love affair”
Melbourne at the time was certainly a lively hotbed of musical activity. The teen dance scene was still prolific but for the serious musician the prospects were exciting. New, more far-sighted bands such as Spectrum, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Chain, Carson, Sons of The Vegetal Mother, Daddy Cool, Healing Force, King Harvest and Lipp Arthur were starting to force a change to a different type of entertainment.
These bands had discarded old modes and were engendered with a powerful sense of how far they could take their music. The head scene was burgeoning and Company Caine stepped into the arena with their inventive, original progressive psych sound. They were fairly typical of a lot of bands on the scene: living hand-to-mouth from gig-to-gig, dealing with equipment falling apart, vans breaking down and the like. They did, however, get lots of work.
Through their connection with Flint, the band immediately got gigs at the Thumpin’ Tum; they also played all the other venues around Melbourne, from Berties to the T.F. Much Ballroom and beyond. Clif remembers that one of the most unusual gigs they did was in a cinema before the premier of Michelangelo Antonioni’s existentialist drama Zabriskie Point.
Company Caine appeared at a couple of Vietnam moratorium concerts (May and September, 1970), organised by John Pinder from the Let It Be agency. Pinder was also the promoter behind the T. F. Much Ballroom concerts. At one of the moratorium concerts, Russell and Jeremy featured in the stage band backing soul / blues singer Wendy Saddington.
There’s footage of Wendy singing the slow blues ‘Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out)’ in the Gordon Mutch film Once Around The Sun, purportedly filmed at the Pilgrimage for Pop Festival, Ourimbah (January 1970). The caption reads “Wendy Saddington & Company Caine” and while Wendy did perform at Ourimbah the caption is incorrect for two reasons.
Firstly, Company Caine hadn’t even been formed at that point so could not have played at Ourimbah. Secondly, while Russell and Jeremy can be seen clearly playing on stage behind Wendy, it wasn’t actually Company Caine the band.
“It was a very exciting time,” says Russell. “We basically worked a lot at the Thumpin’ Tum and because of our connection with David, he could do contra deals with club owners in the other cities. We used to play for Alex Innocenti, in Adelaide, he put on the big shows there. I’ve got a poster from one of his gigs, called the Heavy Holiday Blues Spectacular. It’s got Spectrum, Company Caine, W.G. Berg and Red Angel Panic.
“Also, there was a lot of interaction with the other bands. I was intimately involved in watching Spectrum form. I’d been playing in Nineteen87 with Lee Neale, the organ player who joined Spectrum; I wanted to be in that band, you know. I loved what they did. The first Spectrum, with Mark Kennedy on drums, was an extraordinary band.
“Ross Wilson wanted to join our band. He played us all these new songs he’d written, ‘Eagle Rock’, ‘Come Back Again’, great songs. We thought, ‘well, if he comes into the band what’s Gulliver gonna do?’ Gulliver wasn’t a great harmony singer and he didn’t play an instrument so we said ‘look, you should do your own thing’, so he went off and formed Daddy Cool. When I saw them I thought, ‘well, that’s exactly what he should have done’, he was so clear in his mind what he wanted to do. Ross has always been a great supporter of me and Gulliver.”
The name Company Caine was often shortened to Co. Caine, which was clearly a pertinent drug reference at the time. But what was the actual correct band name?
“I think that was some kind of clever little publicity thing,” surmises Russell. “A lot of gig posters showed us as Co. Caine. Then people just started referring to us as Co. Caine. We probably never called ourselves that as such. Originally David wanted to call it Caine Company. We weren’t overly impressed with that and someone fiddled around with it and we realised that it did have the potential to become Co. Caine. But really the band’s name was Company Caine.”
“I’ll sing about politics... and sing about peace too”
As 1971 emerged, the guys decided to move to Sydney because as Russell says:
“Basically we got the ‘you will never work in this town again’ from some of the booking agencies, they didn’t really like what we did, we were a bit too out there I think. We’d done a lot of great things in Melbourne, but Sydney was a whole different ball game for us. We worked a lot in Sydney; we played at the Arts Factory fairly often, a hippie gig. Like in Melbourne, there was a lot of hippie stuff happening at the time, alternative type of gigs that we did. We used to work the Whisky a Go Go, Chequers and venues like that.
“We lived in Chippendale, right near Central Station, and it used to be a real slum. We worked at a club just near there, Jonathon’s; they used to call it the Alfoil Inn. Sherbet played there, Fraternity. Also, we did a lot of the festivals: Myponga (South Australia) in January 1971; the Aquarius Festival in Canberra, with Daddy Cool and Spectrum; Sunbury in January 1972; then Mulwala Rock Isle festival during Easter 1972. We used to do the whole circuit of universities along the eastern states, so that was good. And did some of the Much More Ballroom concerts in Melbourne.”
The band was in Melbourne during July for gigs, including the massive Buoyancy Benefit concert at the Myer Music Bowl, alongside Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, Langford Lever, Spectrum and Daddy Cool. The main order of business earlier in the month, however, was recording at T.C.S. with engineer John French and producer Gus McNeil, who was also their song publisher (Cellar Music) and record label manager (Generation). As well as the usual band instrumentation, they made use of a 12-string acoustic guitar and a Celeste as well as hiring session players John Lee (bass clarinet), singer Danny Robinson and Steve Dunstan who concocted the computer music and voice that opens ‘Symptoms’ and ends ‘The Last Scene’.
The basic musical concept of the album, as outlined by the computerised voice at the start of ‘Symptoms’, was centred on a possible dystopian future (in the year 3201) whereby the only way to access music was by pressing the red time button and you’d hear rock ’n’ roll from the year 1971. As the elegiac ‘The Last Scene’ (which is in 7/8 time) fades, the voice announces “So much for folk music, we may be able to revive it in the next aeon” followed by maniacal laughter. The concept had a recognisable futuristic / sci-fi element to the whole thing. A good deal of the inspiration came from the fertile mind of Gulliver.
“I think Gulliver came up with the concept for the album, he titled it A Product Of A Broken Reality,” explains Russell. “He’d worked out the cover concept with Ian McCausland, and the boxes you had to tick. Gulliver was a real wordsmith, he’d write lots of stuff. I still pick up things among my belonging and it’d be something that Gulliver had jotted down on a piece of paper. He was just one of those people, words were his business. So he conceptualised a lot of the album. Mostly what I did was in the recording process, we basically put down the backing tracks first, it was an 8-track recording studio, and we overdubbed the rest of the instruments.”
It was a varied and layered sound, the songs perfectly measured throughout, from the spacey-into-driving Krautrock-esque ‘Symptoms’, the bouncy up tempo ‘Trixie Stonewall’s Wayward Home For Young Women’ and ‘Simple Song Of Spring’ on to the gonzo, way-out ‘The Day Superman Got Busted’ which exists in an unhinged vacuum of its own design. There are the jazzy moments with ‘The Cell’ and ‘The Last Scene’ and it’s all balanced by the love songs ‘Woman With Reason’, ‘It’s Up To You’ and ‘Go See The Gypsy’. Most expressively, there’s a great deal of depth to Gulliver’s lyrics.
The band had a lot of scope, as Russell explains.
“Because we’d played and rehearsed so much a lot of the songs on the album were well arranged but for the most part I was an improviser, you know. I was basically an untutored musician, I knew nothing about the technicalities of music, I just did it by ear, I didn’t read music, I just did what I thought fitted. So I was into the free jazz, blowing side of things, basically working by the seat of your pants, that was what excited me. It might not satisfy everybody, but a lot of people were into it. That was the basic product.
“But you see, Jeremy was different. He’d been the youngest composer to have a contemporary work played by a symphony orchestra in Victoria at that stage. He was a very accomplished musician, he’d studied composition, he could play Bach on the little clavinet. So his input was just as important. But all the improvised guitar solos that you hear, that’s me just doing it on the spot, it’s not written out or anything.
“Jeremy decided to leave the band because he didn’t really want to play rock ’n’ roll, he wanted to be able to play John Coltrane, or Pharoah Sanders or Albert Ayler sort of stuff. He was really impressed with the sax player from Syrius, Michie. Syrius had come out from Hungary and lived in Melbourne for a while. They were serious musicians and Michie was incredible; Jeremy saw him and realised that was what he aspired to be. After Jeremy had played in Daddy Cool for a while, he went to the United States to learn jazz from an old be-bop guy called Warne Marsh, I think his name was.
“Look, we were that kind of band, it was a fairly free approach. It was what you’d probably call free jazz, but it was our version of free jazz. When we had Mal Capewell and Dave Kain in the band we were doing things like Frank Zappa’s ‘King Kong’ on stage... for 35 minutes! You have to remember this was the time of Zappa and John McLaughlin, the Miles Davis albums that McLaughlin played on. I mean things were really developing at such a pace in music, it was a fantastic time.
“Even Gulliver, who loved his blues, was well versed in the jazz thing, he loved all that. But he also loved guys like Randy Newman, different sorts of songwriters. He loved the song writing side of things, we did a lot together over about a seven year period. We mucked around with different techniques and methods of writing. We wrote some songs for other people.”
Australian bands and singers who recorded G. Smith / R. Smith compositions included: Mighty Kong (‘Some Other New Address’, ‘With A Smile Like That [How Could We Refuse]’); Jeannie Lewis (‘It’s Up To You’); The Sports (‘Now I’m Together’, ‘Don’t Hold Back That Feeling’); and Steve Kilbey (‘Woman With Reason’). Gulliver co-wrote ‘Flash In My Head’ with Ross Hannaford for Daddy Cool. And of course, not forgetting that Gulliver went on to write the perennial ‘Touch Of Paradise’ with Ross Wilson, which John Farnham included on his mega-platinum selling Whispering Jack album (1986).
“I’d like to die like a butterfly... in a suit of the rainbow”
The single ‘Trixie Stonewallʼs Wayward Home For Young Women’ b/w ‘Itʼs Up To You’ came out in September 1971, followed by the album in November. The ABC-TV pop show GTK (Get To Know) produced a highly amusing B&W film clip for the single which showed the very butch members of the band, plus Roger ‘the Roadie’ Davies, prancing around a park dressed in schoolgirl uniforms! It should be noted that Roger Davies harboured ambitions to go into band management: he went on to guide the successful careers of Sherbet, Tina Turner and P!nk, among others.
On the album credits, three songs – ‘The Cell’, ‘Theme For Vishdungarius’ and ‘The Last Scene’ – were nominated as being from the rock opera What the F**k is Happening on Planet Earth?. This was a project that Gulliver and Jeremy had been developing for a number of months; however, it was never completed as such.
Gulliver described What the F**k is Happening on Planet Earth? to Greg Quill in Go-Set magazine as “the first science fiction rock opera”. Essentially, the story line was based around the prostitute Poison Cyanide Gas Mafalda who is hung up on Earth life until she meets an inter-galactic visitor, the spaceman Vishdungarius who falls in love with her. Eventually he has to return to his own planet, Slatsilvania, and Mafalda contemplates suicide although it’s never revealed if she does so or not. Gulliver commented that he had been influenced by (the classic sci-fi novel) Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.
It sounds like it could have been a satire in the vein of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1978) but not so. Can you imagine what a wonderful piece of work this could have been had it been completed? Interestingly enough, a number of other local musicians went on to produce sci-fi based rock operas: Jim Keays (The Boy From The Stars, 1974); Mandu (To The Shores Of His Heaven, 1974); Mike Rudd (The Jellabad Mutant, 1974); and Lobby Loyde (Beyond Morgia, 1976). Gulliver was well ahead of the creative curve if truth be told.
The group presented another of Gulliver’s all new mini operas, A Stone Of Class Distinction, at the Much More Ballroom, Cathedral Hall, Fitzroy (5 February 1972). Also on the bill was Lipp and The Double Decker Bros with The Lippettes doing their “new pseudo-religious hoax” Godburst. Russell nominates this as one of his favourite Melbourne gigs. Opening act was one of Melbourne’s newest and most enthralling concert bands, MacKenzie Theory.
The only other recording the band managed at the time was second single, ‘Dear Carolyn’ b/w ‘Now Iʼm Together’, which appeared in March 1972. ‘Dear Carolyn’ was in the form a letter of regret to an old flame, based around an appealing acoustic guitar / piano arrangement with female backing vocals, a lilting flute solo and ending with one of Russell’s spiralling guitar solos. The flip was an entirely different proposition, a boisterous rockin’ ode to an anti-social misfit who finally gets his shit together. Gulliver’s lyrics are hilariously light hearted but culturally perceptive as well, with references to various subcultures and political initiatives.
An educated guess would suggest the line-up on the single was the Gulliver, Russell, Ernie, Arthur, Ian and Mitch version, in particular with the pumping honky-tonk piano and wailing sax going on during ‘Now Iʼm Together’.
In October, 1972, the guys announced the break-up of Company Caine. Their last run of shows in Melbourne included: 14 October at the Much More Ballroom Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with MacKenzie Theory and Battersea Heroes; 19 October at the Ferntree Gully Hotel; 20 October at Garrison with Sayla, Matt Taylor and Band of Talabene; and 21 October at the Station Hotel.
“Basically we’d come to a dead end,” explains Russell. “Roger Davies was our manager by then and he said ‘look, I think the band’s run its course’, he was happy for us to break up. And Gulliver got the offer from Ross Wilson to join his new band, which eventually became Mighty Kong when I joined. Before it became Mighty Kong they’d tried out just everybody in Australia in auditions. Gulliver left to go back to Melbourne for that, but it didn’t work out with Wilson. I played with Ernie and Arthur and my then wife Shirley, and we just got a gig at the Coogee Bay Hotel for a couple of months, till the end of 1972.
“Then at that stage Wilson and Hanna appeared in Sydney after going through all these people and none of them worked out and they asked me would I be interested in joining the band. Before that I’d been asked to join Duck, which was the Jon English / Bobbi Marchini backing band that worked with G. Wayne Thomas. I might have recorded with them very briefly but I didn’t end up touring with them.
“I also got an offer to join Country Radio which I turned down, I’d made up my mind to go with Wilson because that was more like my bag, the rock and R&B sort of thing. Greg Quill was a lovely guy but I wasn’t into the country rock thing.”
We’ll halt the Company Caine story there for now; there are many more adventures to be told which will appear in the second part of these notes for the CD reissue of the Doctor Chop album.
Musician and illustrator Ian McCausland talks about his friend Gulliver Smith
“I first met Gulliver in about 1964 and we became good friends. Gully and I were very in tune with each other. He already had a great record collection of all these black American blues and R&B singers. It was everything from Sleepy John Estes to James Brown. And that’s where Gully got his inspiration from initially.
“Gully was like a white bluesman, even in the mid-’60s. He could do an impromptu blues song with this great rave and it would be completely off the cuff. Whether it made sense or not didn’t really matter. Later on we used to listen to Frank Zappa and The Mothers and that kind of avant-garde / rock / jazz sound was also an influence on him.
“That first time I met Gully was interesting to say the least. I was singing a couple of sets with The Strangers at the Essendon Plaza. They were one of the best bands in Melbourne at the time and they had this regular Friday night gig. On this particular night, the Sharpies were causing trouble, there were fights breaking out everywhere with the mods.
“So this big Sharpie called Charlie, who was the king of the Carlton Sharps said to the promoter, ‘oi, if you don’t let our mate sing, the whole place will go up!’ And so his mate was Gulliver Smith. Gully was originally from Carlton and, reluctantly on his part, he’d been adopted by the local gang and they wanted him to sing. So Gully sang a few songs, like a Larry Williams song or two, and I thought ‘gee, he’s a pretty good singer’. And so I started talking to him and we forged a lifelong friendship out of that crazy night.
“This was around the time that The Beatles and The Stones had started to take off and the whole local music scene was changing. Everyone wanted to sound like them, but Gully already had his own unique sound and style based around his love of the black blues guys. He decided to call himself Little Gulliver because he wanted his name to sound black, like Little Johnny Taylor or Little Richard. He thought it was a cool name.
“Gully might have been ambitious but he wasn’t a driven person, he just loved his music. After Little Gulliver and The Children had split up Gully decided to move up to Sydney. This was in early 1967 and he rang me up and asked me to go up to Sydney to join this new band he’d formed, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye. I only lasted a few weeks in the rehearsal stage; I had a young family to support and I eventually came back down to Melbourne when I was offered the job as art director for Go-Set.
“Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye turned out to be a really great band. Gully had recruited sax players like Mal Capewell and Zane Hudson, who he called Zane Tootsville. So he had that kind of Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band vibe going on there.
“Gully stayed in Sydney for a few years. He was such a great singer, so charismatic. By the time he joined Company Caine, he wasn’t that young kid anymore. He’d matured and changed, drugs had started to come into it. But I thought Company Caine was an important band, a real standout on the Melbourne scene. Musically they were fantastic, really adventurous. It suited Gully to have such a great band to sing with.
“I always liked the art I did for the Product of A Broken Reality album. Instead of my normal mode of illustration, I did something different by constructing a scale model, or a sort of diorama. The inspiration came about because Gully had explored that technological aspect, it was the early computer age, and he liked my idea that Company Caine was an electronic machine pumping out this new age message, a brand new sound. So that was the little model with the big mouth and the musical note coming out. And the audience was the ping-pong balls bouncing around and whether they got the message or not, it didn’t matter.
“When Company Caine got back together in 1975, Keith Glass and David Pepperell re-released the album under the banner Rock Masterworks. I re-did the cover because the photo for the original was slightly out of focus and I was always disappointed about that. For the new cover I used a different shot from the same session and made the image smaller so that it looked sharper and you could take the whole thing in with one glance.”
Musician Lindsay Farr talks about his friend Gulliver Smith
“I first met Gulliver when I was about 14. This was at the Croydon market and his father Jimmy used to have his carpet stall set up. Someone was selling records and I remember picking up this album, which was Ray Charles Live, and this little guy beside me said ‘oh, you should buy that, it’s a great record’. So Gully was very knowledgeable about music and we bonded over that. Our friendship grew from there.
“He expressed his desire to be a singer and he was trying out different stage names. At first he was Otis Gulliver and then he hit upon Little Gulliver. Even at that early stage he was well versed in the blues; he loved the blues. I remember one time he even wrote a letter to Sleepy John Estes and what’s more he actually got a reply!
“At first Gully didn’t really have a good voice, it was fairly thin sounding. You only have to listen to his early singles to hear that. But then he had a wonderful singing teacher who helped him with his projection and how to sing from his diaphragm. After that he worked incredibly hard on his voice, he’d always be practising his vocal scales. So by the time he joined Company Caine his voice was full and rich and mature. There’s no doubt about it, he was an incredible talent.
“In those early days, Gully was friends with all the big name performers such as Merv Benton, Colin Cook, the guys from The Strangers, that whole kind of crowd. But I think he always felt a bit on the outer, like he wasn’t really accepted on their level. I lost contact with him for a while when he moved to Sydney. I’d played in a couple of bands by then and in early 1969 I got a gig touring Sydney with singer Robert J. Taylor who’d been in the James Taylor Move.
“When we got to Sydney, the whole of the music scene there was abuzz with the name Gulliver Smith. Sydney suited him, he’d become a great singer and a band leader; they loved him there. And because I was a friend of his, it was almost like I was one of them because of my association with Gully; I got a lot of kudos by just being his friend. All the great jazz players in Sydney at that time, such as Bernie McCann and Bobby Gebert played with him, he had a great reputation.
“Then I joined Heart ’n’ Soul but a couple of the guys in the band were psyched by Gully. They couldn’t really work him out because he could think differently and do things differently and it’d always land right. So when he joined Company Caine it was the perfect band for him to front.
“In the context of the day, A Product Of A Broken Reality is a fantastic album. It’s got so many great songs, ‘Woman With Reason’, ‘It’s Up To You’, ‘Go See The Gypsy’. Musically that connection with Russell and Jeremy helped enormously; Jeremy’s tenor sax sound is full and rich and is the perfect complement to Gully’s singing and then you have his striking personality over the top of everything. That band was the ideal vehicle for his self expression.
“I think Gully’s gift for poetry was his greatest asset. He was able to reveal some of his inner fears, weaknesses and vulnerabilities and that’s the mark of a truly great poet. And because of that we all became stronger ourselves. He had a tremendous spirit and a heart and soul that touched everyone. I really think the best years of his life were the early 1970s.”
COMPANY CAINE - A Product Of A Broken Reality
(Original LP release November 1971; CD reissue 2015)
2. Trixie Stonewallʼs Wayward Home For Young Women
3. The Cell
4. Theme For Vishdungarius
5. Woman With Reason
6. Simple Song Of Spring
7. The Day Superman Got Busted
8. Itʼs Up To You
9. Go See The Gypsy
10. The Last Scene
11. Dear Carolyn
12. Now Iʼm Together
GTK Sessions (1971)
14. Flip, Flop And Fly
15. The Cell
16. The Day Superman Got Busted