These included gigs at the Kingston Hotel in Richmond and the Station Hotel in Prahran as well as a long-running Saturday residency at the Polaris Inn in North Carlton. Company Caine slotted perfectly into that Melbourne mid-’70s, counter-cultural, inner-city scene. This was the era of The Dingoes, The Pelaco Bros, Toads, Sharks, Pantha; and of course more commercially minded bands the calibre of Skyhooks, Ayers Rock, Ariel, AC/DC, Kush, Renee Geyer & Sanctuary, Madder Lake, Buster Brown and (the reformed) Daddy Cool. Things always moved quickly and by 1976, the Melbourne scene saw the emergence of newer bands such as Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, The Bleeding Hearts, Mondo Rock, Stiletto, Millionaires and The Sports.
Company Caine eventually got swamped in the rising tide... but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here so more on that later...
Another snippet from Dr. Pepper’s column (Juke, Issue #14, 13 August 1975) reported that Gulliver had decided to change the spelling of the band’s name to Company Kane. The band had inevitably been listed in gig guides as Co.Caine, which was a constant source of annoyance to the singer. He lamented, “You’ve no idea the hassles that can happen to a band with a name like that...”, claiming the drug connotations were never intended and the name was supposed to suggest bushrangers.
“That’s right, Gulliver wanted to change it to Kane but I never agreed with him on that,” David says. “I couldn’t believe it when Ian had done the poster for the concert and he’d written Kane. I said ‘what’s this?’. He said ‘oh they said they’d gotten in to trouble over the original name’. I said ‘you can’t do this, people won’t recognise the band, people would think it wasn’t the real band’, or something.
“So I changed that for the album cover, made sure it was Caine. It was always Company Caine anyway but yes people would abbreviate it to Co.Caine. That was the gag right from the start but then they did get into trouble over the name and the drug connotations. A reporter for one of the Sydney broadsheets wrote a whole editorial about the name and how it was disgusting and that they should be banned. Gulliver wrote some lyrics, ‘David D. MacNicholl tried to put us in a pickle / He said if we changed our name we’d still be the same’ (‘Simple Song of Spring’). He’d written this scathing editorial, so, yes Gulliver was always a bit funny about that.”
Russell has a similar recollection:
“Yeah, we did make it Kane with a K but then pretty quickly we went back to Caine with a C. It was really always Company Caine. I do remember painting a K on my guitar, so there was a period there where it was Kane. I imagine it was to get away from the drug thing, because it was always getting shortened to Co.Caine. The Mighty Kong album had a song about drugs (‘Hard Drugs [Are Bad for You]’). Wilson had had a bit of trouble there and at the time it was part of the deal to try and distance ourselves from any drug connotations. I’d be happy to mention that, people have probably forgotten that. I imagine that was the general idea at the time. See, Gulliver was terribly riven by things like that. To me it doesn’t make any difference, it’s in the past, the way past.”
“Is a fat purse... could get worse”
With regard to the Dallas Brooks Hall recordings contained on the album, they reveal a band with the strength of its convictions. The vocals are at the forefront throughout with the clean guitars also prominent in the mix. ‘Humanoids’ showcases Russell’s lead vocals, in addition to the thrilling harmony voices of Gulliver and Shirley. ‘I Kept Askin’ is a slow, lovelorn blues, Gulliver in particularly fine voice with serious shades of Stevie Winwood. He really was a tremendous singer and his rave in the song’s coda is totally inspired – “I kept asking, where has my baby gone, where’s that woman, where’s that sweet woman, can you tell me where has she gone? Fitzroy!”.
‘Heard The Word’ is an absolute ripper of a song, with the heavy guitar riffs accentuating this cautionary tale of a “rock ’n’ roll bandit” out to rip off the band. Gulliver is simply scathing in his attack on the questionable morals of certain elements of the music industry but he’s also reduced to a complete mess with the pressure. “Gonna break me down / shake me down / keep my royalty cheques / I’m a rock ’n’ roll wreck / I’m a physical wreck / just a rock ’n’ roll wreck / they’re out - out to get me / wow - woe is me”. I’d like to think there’s a glimmer of hope that he’ll overcome such adversity.
Gulliver announces the song as “We’re gonna do this as a single in a couple of months, next month, pretty soon, so we hope you like it”. Sadly the band never did lay this track down in the studio. Nevertheless, this is the archetypal example of the band’s dual guitar attack, with Russell and Jeff’s interlocking playing alternating between solid rhythm and searing lead, as well as snapping tightly around the central riff. It’s on a par with the earlier line-up’s legendary ‘The Day Superman Got Busted’ in the heavy stakes, and highlights what Russell has said about the influence of the heavier side of Mighty Kong’s music. The sprightly ‘Simple Song Of Spring’ ends the session on a high note.
Dr Pepper continued to report on the various band ventures:
“Company Caine have filmed a live-in-the-studio performance at the ABC studios for GTK. Songs were ‘The Golden Boogie’, ‘Woman With Reason’ (sung by Russell and his wife Shirley), ‘Heard The Word’, ‘The Stumble’ (Russell and Jeff playing their double lead guitar tour de force) and ‘Humanoids’. (Juke, issue #21, 1 October 1975).
At the end of October, Company Caine set off to Sydney for a three-date residency at the infamous Bondi Lifesaver. Because the original Company Caine had lived and worked in Sydney circa 1971-72, they were considered a de-facto Sydney band and were treated as returning heroes.
“We broke the Friday night bar record at the Bondi Lifesaver!” David says of the Sydney tour. “That’s what we would have done in Melbourne if they’d just started with the big concert at the Dallas Brooks Hall, but the band did have to work. In Sydney it was ‘wow, Company Caine are back and they’re on at the Bondi Lifesaver’. We just packed the place out, it was a huge success, people loved them. I remember walking out on the first night with about $1,000 in cash in my pocket. I was thinking somebody’s gonna mug me. So we all made money on the tour to Sydney which was very rare in those days.”
Russell has another side of the story to tell, being the typical tale in the life of a touring musician.
“I do remember going up to Sydney for gigs. I think Shirley went in the ute with Jeff and I went in the van with all the band gear. The roadie was driving and then somewhere along the Hume Highway the accelerator ceased to work and we drove to Sydney using the throttle. Finally we ran out of petrol and pulled over in the breakdown lane and then got run into the rear by a big semi-trailer which promptly drove off!
“We’d tried to get some sleep and we woke up with this big bang! The van was an old Home Pride bread truck, the walls had been insulated with this polystyrene stuff to keep the bread warm. It was those polystyrene bubbles you have in bean bags and this stuff went flying everywhere, it was a nightmare. I looked out the window and it was like snow falling and there were microphone stands and other bits of gear spread all around. The mixing desk got smashed, it was unbelievable. Fortunately I hadn’t taken my Goldtop Les Paul with me, I had another guitar with me on that trip.
“So we finally limped into Sydney and played at the Bondi Lifesaver. I remember vomiting at the Bondi, probably from shock or something. We did the first gig, that’s all I can remember, I don’t remember any other gigs and I don’t remember much more about that tour.”
Later that November they entered TCS Studios (where they’d recorded A Product... in 1971) and laid down three tracks with producer Ross Wilson and engineer John French.
‘Doctor Chop’, ‘Buzzin’ With My Cousin’ and ‘The Golden Boogie’ were earmarked for a prospective single but because they’d spent so much money on securing Wilson’s services – his stock as a in-demand producer had risen following his work on the first two, incredibly successful, Skyhooks albums – Electric Records were unable to lock in a single release. Fortunately, the tracks were held over for the eventual album release on Lamington Records in 1976.
The music of ‘Doctor Chop’ is undeniably poppy with its slippery guitar riff, the “whoo whoo ooo-eee-ooo” harmony vocals, percussion elements and sunny Caribbean feel yet it’s definitely one of the band’s oddest tracks. What do the lyrics mean?
“Yeah, ‘Doctor Chop’... that’s a strange song,” Russell says. “I mean lyrically, I don’t know what Gulliver was thinking there. It’s a good song musically but it is strange. But that’s what we did. I can remember sitting there trying to work out other songs like that. We liked those songs they had in the ’60s, you know, like the boyfriend rides off on his motorbike and he dies on the railroad tracks. We wrote a song like that one time. I don’t think we ever played it but we had the whole scenario, the storyline, it was just fun. I can’t remember the name of the song.”
‘Buzzin’ With My Cousin’ is one of the album’s best tracks, with its hint of nostalgia and shout out to good friends in the lyrics. It may also give a lie to the avoidance of any drug connotations with its opening lines: “Buzzin’ with my cousin back in 1969 / Took a toke for a joke and he was feeling fine”. All the same there’s lots to like about this uplifting song – Gulliver’s bright vocals and the underlying harmonies for example but the key element here is the song’s distinctive rhythm.
“When we recorded ‘Buzzin’ With My Cousin’ we didn’t really know what to do with it,” Russell explains. “Wilson suggested we try it with the reggae feel and it worked. He was already very interested in reggae because rhythm was a big part of what we did. If you listen to the Mighty Kong record there’s a lot of jungle rhythms going on there, that’s part of what Ross Wilson was into. So it wasn’t so much Gully and me but we took that on. Some of the songs remind me of Mighty Kong, they could have been written for Mighty Kong, the heavier ones. And we wrote another song which Mighty Kong did, ‘Beelzebub Boogie’. We didn’t record that in either Mighty Kong or Company Caine although both bands did that song live.
‘The Golden Boogie’ is another effervescent song which harks back to the early days of 20th century music. It’s essentially a love song to one of Gulliver’s favoured music forms. In his rave towards the end of the song he references American composer and musician W.C. Handy (known as “the Father of the Blues”) and ends the song with “Rock ’n’ roll has just been revived but the boogie never took a dive / Rhythm and blues that’s its kin but the boogie is where it all begins”. Gulliver and Ross Wilson clearly had an affinity for such matters, as Ross also loved the boogie. Daddy Cool’s ‘Daddy Rocks Off’, for example, is John Lee Hooker meets Aussie blues; the result “boogie, boogie, boogie...”
“Can you help me... with this desire”
By December the band was still getting small local gigs, such as at Martinis (Imperial Club Hotel) in Carlton, in addition to doing well on the university circuit. The most significant thing that eventually hampered the band’s development was that they couldn’t break into the larger Melbourne suburban pub circuit. They’d been marginalised by Premier Artists, the city’s major booking agency which was effectively the live touring arm of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Records.
At the time Premier booked big name bands such as Skyhooks, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, AC/DC, Renee Geyer and Sanctuary, Ayers Rock, Captain Matchbox, Ariel, Redhouse, Madder Lake, Richard Clapton, Split Enz, Buster Brown and Matt Taylor, plus interstate bands Finch, Sebastian Hardie and the Ted Mulry Gang. The other big agency name in 1975, Spirit Management booking agency, handled Kush, The Dingoes, Little River Band, Phil Manning Band, Silversun, Greg Quill and Freeway.
Company Caine just couldn’t get the figurative foot in the door. Besides, times were changing in the music industry: Countdown was sweeping all before it as the arbiter of pop tastes while punk and new wave were on the horizon. The band’s days were numbered, and in early 1976 Dr Pepper forlornly reported the band had broken up again.
Russell is philosophical about the outcome of all their efforts:
“I think basically we weren’t getting any gigs, there wasn’t any interest in us. I don’t remember that there was any particular event that pushed us over the edge. We didn’t have any big falling out or anything like that. I think we just ended up running out of options. It was very difficult to get work, we didn’t have that booking agency backing. It might have gone back to the original band because one of the main reasons we went to Sydney was the booking agencies didn’t really like what we did... you’ve gotta be able to get work in Melbourne otherwise you can’t survive.
“You couldn’t survive by just doing the inner-city, counter-cultural gigs, which didn’t require an agent, but you really needed to get out there into the regular circuit of work. Which is what Premier Artists provided. We weren’t a part of any of that, so we were really pushing it to get any work of any regular nature. Then Joe Camilleri came along, he was such a great showman, and he was forming a new band with Wayne Burt who’d been in Rock Granite with Jeff. I remember the guys raving about Joe, ‘oh, you should see Joe, man he’s fantastic’.
“I can remember Joe from back in the ’60s, his band The King Bees. They were great. He sounded just like Mick Jagger. That band also included Peter Starkie, who was Bongo’s big brother. They were a tight band, they played R&B and Joe could really play the harp, and this was well before he started playing saxophone. He’d been around a long time.
“So Joe probably got to the point where he wanted more profile and he probably made Jeff and John a good offer (laughs). I think he realised where his strengths were and he wanted to do Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons with Wayne, Jeff and John and they got Gary Young in on drums. Then later on they got signed to Mushroom. I didn’t have a problem with any of that. The Dingoes were with Mushroom, we were friends with them. In fact I went to high school with the bass player John Bois. Being on Mushroom and working all the time gave The Dingoes the big chance of going to America.”
David confirms the state of affairs.
“The band tried really hard. I loved working with them. I got as many gigs for them as I could, at the alternative venues like the Station or Polaris. I was also able to book them into the university circuit, RMIT, Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe, Caulfield, they did get a lot of work there. The main problem was that we couldn’t get them booked through Premier which was a blow. That agency embargo really broke them in the end. I think it was just business, Premier couldn’t see any commercial value in the band.
“When they did play everyone loved them, they went over like a house on fire. I saw most of the gigs they played and they were always great. It just didn’t work out in the end. Company Caine didn’t really click with the times. Changes were coming in, punk was just around the corner in 1976, the scene was starting to change.”
By June 1976, Gulliver had formed a new band, Gulliver’s Travels, which concentrated on playing his favoured musical gumbo of New Orleans R&B, in the manner of Fats Domino, Professor Longhair or Dr. John. Also Billy T had formed and were gigging by May, which is when the Doctor Chop album finally appeared. The album probably only sold 500 copies, so it remains a genuine rarity of the era.
Gulliver departed for the UK in 1977 where he worked for many years with his Gulliver Smith Band. He returned to Australia in the late 1980s but put his music career on hold. He died on 12 November 2014.
Russell Smith kept active on the music scene. After Billy T broke up in April 1978, he joined Leo De Castro’s Heavy Division before travelling to Perth in 1979 where he and Shirley joined a band called Zeroes. He teamed up again with Hannaford in a version of Goanna around 1983. He’s played with numerous bands since, most prominently as a member of Jeff St John and the Embers.
“It feels like my heart... is on fire”
We now come to the bonus material portion of this remastered CD edition. The band’s full 45 minute set at the Dallas Brooks Hall was recorded and while only four tracks were selected for the original vinyl album, we’ve added three additional tracks from the concert.
Jesse Stone’s ‘Don’t Let Go’ (which had been a hit for Roy Hamilton) and Chuck Berry’s ‘Carol’ deliver the band’s love of vintage rock ’n’ roll.
“Gully loved to do things like that,” Russell confirms. “We didn’t do that many covers but when we did we’d do something that we really liked. He was always up for that kind of thing. And of course anything you’d choose he’d go ‘oh, that’s by so-and-so’, and he’d quote you the original song. He was a few years older than the rest of us, he’d had a lot more experience. He loved rock ’n’ roll, he loved blues, he loved New Orleans R&B. His favourite singers were Jackie Wilson, Larry Williams and Little Richard. Although that is me singing the first part of ‘Carol’.”
Gulliver also steps aside to allow Shirley to shine on the soul classic ‘Until You Came Into My Life’, which was an Ann Peebles song from her 1974 album I Can’t Stand The Rain. Russell sings sweetly on the backing vocals.
Following the release of the single ‘Dear Carolyn’ b/w ‘Now Iʼm Together’, in March 1972, Company Caine had travelled to Mulwala over the April Easter weekend, for the Rock Isle Festival. The band had already played at the inaugural Sunbury Festival, so they were well versed in performing on the large stage.
Although the festival site was situated along a beautiful section of the Murray River (near Albury) it’s generally remembered as a let-down, with rain hampering events on the Monday and the standard of facilities leaving a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, the crowds were treated to performances by international visitors Canned Heat and Stephen Stills and Manassas while local stars such as Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Friends, Greg Quill and Country Radio, Coloured Balls, Pirana, Gerry and the Joy Band, Chain, Carson, La De Das, Pirana, Tamam Shud, SCRA, Frieze and Russell Morris and Cycle made a good showing as well.
Amazingly, one of Company Caine’s sets was recorded for posterity and five tracks are presented here for the first time. The line-up at the time was Gulliver, Russell, Ernie, Arthur Eizenberg (bass) plus newest member Mal Capewell (Tenor sax, flute; ex-Phil Jones and The Unknown Blues, Dr. Kandy’s Third Eye, Dada, Graham Bond and Magick, Carson).
The jazzy, minor-key ‘Hey George’ presents a magnificent guitar solo from Russell. The song later appeared as the final track on Gulliver’s album The Band’s Alright but the Singer is... This particular version of ‘Carol’ features Gulliver on lead vocals for the first half, with Russell taking over the vocals following the instrumental breaks.
At the start of ‘Now I’m Together’ Gulliver encourages the audience to buy the new single, “If you haven’t spent all your bread at the festival, maybe you could buy it next week. It only costs a dollar and 10 cents”. ‘Mostly Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine’ is the Bob Dylan song delivered in fine style. Compere Gerry Humphrys calls for one more song from the band and they launch into a spirited version of Little Richards’ ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’ for good measure.
The final extra track is a genuine Company Caine rarity. In 1975 they’d appeared as the anonymous backing band on a single credited to The Record Bandits, ‘They’re Closing Down the Import Shops’. The Record Bandits were the brainchild of Keith Glass and David Pepperell whose import record shop Archie ’n’ Jugheads had been one of many targeted by overzealous record companies for supplying local music fanatics with the very best albums brought in from overseas.
“Oh yeah, we loved doing The Record Bandits thing,” Russell says. “That was probably our first recording. And John Power had been partner in a record shop in Sydney, so they knew of each other’s involvement in imports. The import shops were the only places where you could get your good stuff. It’d be great if you could include that song as a bonus track on the CD.”
Keith takes up the story:
“The single was recorded as a protest against record company attacks on (by then) an Australia wide motley collection of indie record shops. We released it on the Columbo label because at the time we had to obliterate the Columbia trademark from all imported records by felt pen... or be taken to court on copyright charges. So ‘They’re Closing Down the Import Shops’ was a sort of poke in the eye to the majors (as if they were paying attention). I largely wrote one side, ‘Hands Off’, and sang it in a Dylan take off vocal style and Pepperell largely wrote ‘They’re Closing Down...’. The song was credited to Raphael Urso which was one of David’s non de plumes. Funnily enough, he wasn’t at the actual session.
“I’d enlisted the reformed Company Caine, plus Graham Lowndes to help out. As to the vocals on ‘They’re Closing Down...’, John Power sings the first verse, then Graham sings the high chorus with Gully on the backing vocals. I sing a verse. Then Gully sings ‘they’re closing down the import shops they’re trying to make us fake it / they’re closing down the import shops but we ain’t gonna take it’ with Graham. Finally we all pitched in on the chorus, Gully, Russell, Shirley, Graham, John and me.
“We’d arranged with similar shops to ours in most states to take some copies and listed the shops on the back of the sleeve... many were apathetic, some probably never paid. The cover says ‘This record is a Limited Edition of 1000 copies’ but it could have been a 500 press. There was no airplay, no reviews or mentions at the time anywhere I can remember. We probably didn’t sell all the copies and it never really achieved our stated aims. Still, I have always loved gimmick songs and records, I’ve done my share of ’em over the years... many shall remain nameless!!”
David concludes the story:
“Keith and I wrote ‘They’re Closing Down The Import Shops’. Well, I sang it to Keith and he worked out the chords, so he got a co-write. It’s a great song. I wrote the lyrics while I was sitting in a cafe! I based it on The Who’s Tommy, it’s got that call and response sort of sound. ‘I’m sad to say that it seems to me that right here now in the land of the free I can’t even buy an import LP’.
“I always thought that was a great song, it always cracked me up. I was supposed to sing the first verse, but I got pissed and didn’t turn up to the session! John ended up singing that. I was out on the town somewhere and completely forgot about the session, terrible! I was so disappointed when I found out, Keith said ‘where were you!’. I went ‘shit, did I miss the session!’. I wasn’t very reliable in those days.
“Keith did a great job with the recording, it was exactly as I saw it, he completely got it. It was about our freedom being eroded away, that was our protest song! It’s Bob Dylan meets Tommy.”
COMPANY CAINE – Doctor Chop
(Original LP release May 1976, CD reissue November 2017)
1. Doctor Chop
2. Buzzin’ With My Cousin
3. Now I’m Together
4. Dear Carolyn
5. The Golden Boogie
6. Humanoids *
7. I Kept Askin’ *
8. Heard The Word *
9. Simple Song Of Spring *
* Recorded live at Dallas Brooks Hall, September 3rd 1975
More Live (Previously unreleased)
Dallas Brooks Hall (September 1975)
10. Don’t Let Go
11. Until You Came Into My Life
Rock Isle Festival, Mulwala (April 1972)
13. Hey George
15. Now I’m Together
16. Mostly Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine
17. Hey, Hey, Hey
Original album liner notes by Dr. Pepper
I only saw the original Company Caine once – someone had organised a rock “spectacular” at the Carlton Football ground with about ten groups – as is usual with these extravaganzas, only a couple of hundred people showed, but it was a sunny day anyway and the vibes seemed clear if not completely up. I spotted Jeremy Noone first, prancing around in an undertakers top hat and tails – Gulliver was just to the side of him clad similarly and in seemingly high spirits (no pun intended). The group that day were stupendous – Russell Smith’s exemplary guitar work fired the band with electric sparks, Jeremy on piano on sax was just wonderful, Artie Eizenberg filled in the universal black holes with solid bass lines and Ernie McInerny flailed away in Elvin Jones limbo land, bringing up the rear. Right out in front was Gulliver, posturing, storming, stalking and raging – it was one of the finest bands I have ever seen – this is the group featured on tracks 3 and 4 on side one. Luise was there too.
The group went through all kinds of traumas and eventually everyone went their separate ways until mid 1975 when Electric Records re-issued their monumental first LP “Product of a Broken Reality” as a deservedly-so “Rock Masterworks Vol 1”.
The new reformed Company Caine retained original members Gulliver, Russell and Ernie and added Jeff Burstin on guitar, John Power on bass and Shirley Smith backing vocals. The new group was immediately obviously musically superior to the old and at their concert in September 1975 they proved themselves to be one of the top groups around – the twin guitar explosion of Burstin and Smith cut swathes through the ether and this combined with the bedrock of John and Ernie provided a dynamite backing for Gulliver’s phantasmagorical vocals – a new band, a new star in the east. Side 2 of this album is a faithful recording of that night.
Ross Wilson offered to produce some tracks for the band these sides represent tracks 1, 2 and 5 on side on. Listening to theses gives a real impression of the potential and power of Company Caine.
The band played regularly around the dance circuit, appeared on GTK and travelled widely interstate. Most unfortunately, like all good things it has come to an end – those whom the gods love die young. Due to several musical problems within the group exacerbated by the usual hassles involved in playing in a band in Australia, the group broke up in early 1976. I think however that this album forms a fitting epitaph to one of the country’s legendary bands. R.I.P. Company Caine.
“Turn it down I can’t hear myself drink.” - Bob Gray
Dr. Chop medicine shop
Sew you up and the pain stops
Young nurse says Dr’s curse
Is a fat purse could get worse
Can you help me with this desire
It feels like my heart is on fire
Can you help me if ya dare
I want tender loving care
I want tender loving care
Sister Stake with the heart ache
Make a mistake she got the shakes
You get no wrists with slipped discs
Or specimens what about lovin’?
Dr. Chop medicine shop
I been waitin’ since 4
She don’t love me no more