Sydney, 1966-69

Kerrie Biddell (vocals) Jan. 1968-1970
Tony Bolton (drums) 1967-70
Tony Bowman (guitar) late 1966
Gino Cunnico (vocals) 1966-67
Bob Daisley (bass) late 1966
Derek Fitton (vocals) 1967
Mike Howlett (bass) Jan. 1968-1970
James (Jim) Kelly (guitar) 1966-1970
Bruce Maddon (keyboards) 1967-Aug. 1968
Rory Thomas (keyboards) Aug. 1968-1970
Paul "Sheepdog" Wheeler (bass) 1967-Jan. 1968


Sydney pop band The Affair formed in 1966 and lasted until mid-1970. They are not well remembered today, and the group released only two Singles during its career but like many other Aussie acts, The Affair is notable for the important musicians who passed through its ranks, including bassists Bob Daisley, Mike Howlett and Paul "Sheepdog" Wheeler, guitarist Jim Kelly, drummer Tony Bolton and vocalist Kerrie Biddell.

The Affair went through numerous lineup changes, with guitarist Jim Kelly being the only member to last through the group's entire career. The band formed in 1966 by 16-year-old singer and child actorGino Cunnico -- hence the group's original name, The Gino Affair. The first lineup was also featured guitarist Ray Burton but by late 1966 the lineup had changed to Cunnico, Jim Kelly, Tony Bolton, Tony Bowman and Bob Daisley (both ex-Dennis Williams & The Delawares).

The group's name was shortened to The Affair at the beginning of 1967 but Cunnico left a few months later after being invited to join leading pop-vocal group The Executives. He was briefly replaced by Derek Fitton (ex-Derek's Accent) but the at the end of the year the band took a different direction with the recruitment of a brilliant young New Zealand-born vocalist Kerrie Biddell.

Paul Wheeler left in January 1968; he was replaced by Mike Howlett (b. Lautoka, Fiji 1950). Keyboard player Rory Thomas (ex-The Questions, Doug Parkinson In Focus) replaced Maddon in August, adding his distinctive Hammond organ sound.

Ian McFarlane describes The Affair as " always a polished and professional pop band". In a 1997 interview, Mike Howlett described their wide ranging repertoire, which included:

"... a mixture of soul and Aretha Franklin songs plus some jazz covers like Lambert, Hendrix & Ross songs and 'jazz-rock' adaptations of Mel Torme stuff -- quite advanced really."

The Affair competed in the Vocal Group section of the 1968 Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds, and they won the finals. The prize, passage to the UK on the Sitmar cruise line, enabled them to travel to England, which they did in 1970.

In the meantime, The Affair recorded two Singles for Festival Records. The first, "Shoeshine Boy" b/w "What Became Of Mary" (July 1968) was produced by the great Pat Aulton. The second, "Money Can't Buy Me Love", was backed by a cover of Sly & The Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" (October 1969), a number that was very popular with Aussie groups of the period and which became something of a signature tune for Kerrie, who re-recorded it on her 1970 solo album.

After a series of television appearances and club and cabaret residencies, the band used their Hoadleys prize to travel to the UK in mid-1970. One of their final Australian TV appearances was on on the ABC's HitScene, broadcast on 16 May 1970. They performed a song called "Reckon" and did a short interview with host Dick Williams. A tape of this episode is known to survive in the ABC archives and this episode of HitScene has been re-broadcast on a couple of occasions on the Xmas holiday editions of the ABC's Rage .

Like most Australian groups who took the same route, The Affair found it impossible to break into the closed English music scene and the group broke up a few months later. Most of the members returned to Australia, but Mike Howlett remained in the UK, where he has lived ever since.

After The Affair ...

Kerrie Biddell joined the Daly Wilson Big Band and went on to a successful solo career in jazz, as well as being an in-demand session vocalist. For the full story on this great Aussie singer, please see our Kerrie Biddell.

Paul Wheeler joined Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and then MacKenzie Theory

Tony Bolton played in Luke's Walnut, Traine, Freshwater, Country Radio, the Stevie Wright Band and Greg Quill's Southern Cross.

Jim Kelly has long been recognised as one of our finest guitarists and through the late Seventies and Eighties he was a sought-after session musician. After The Affair he became one of the scores of top musos who passed through the ranks of Levi Smith's Clefs, followed by a stint in Mother Earth, which featued a young Renee Geyer on lead vocals. In 1975 Jim and Mick Kenny formed Crossfire, Australia's most successful jazz-rock fusion band. Crossfire toured extensively and cut seven Albums, including a live album with American singer Michael Franks and Australia's first direct-to-disc LP. In 1990 Jim moved to Lismore where he took up the position of Head of Guitar Studies at Southern Cross University. He has released five solo Albums and has written a guitar instruction book, The Dominant Seventh Chord and Then the Blues. As well as being a guest clinician at teaching institutions throughout Australia, Jim remains a popular performer at major jazz venues and festivals.

Mike Howlett went on to a fascinating and very successful career in the UK after the other members of The Affair returned to Australia. In 1973 he joined renowned British progressive band Gong, which had been founded by renowned Aussie expatriate Daevid Allen. Mike played with Gong until 1977, recording several Albums and co-writing most of their material with drummer Pierre Moerlan. After leaving Gong he formed proto-punk outfit Strontium 90 ca. 1976, the group that first brought together the future members of The Police: Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. Howlett in fact introduced the three to each other, and he also taped several demos of the band, including the first version of Sting's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" which was the first recording the three ever made together. He also taped a London gig from the same period, which marked the first time that the future Police played together live. Strontium 90 were unable to secure a record contract, so Sting and Copeland eventually headed off to form The Police. Howlett then concentrated on production and rapidly became one of the most influential British producers of the period. His credits include some of the most significant Singles and Albums of the early Eighties -- among the acts he produced are Fischer-Z, The Teardrop Explodes ("When I Dream"), Sniff'n'the Tears, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark ("Enola Gay", "Souvenir"), Martha & The Muffins ("Echo Beach"), Tears For Fears, Gang of Four ("I Love a Man in a Uniform"), Blancmange ("Living on the Ceiling"), Comsat Angels ("Independence Day"), China Crisis, Berlin, John Foxx, numerous recordings by A Flock of Seagulls (including the hit "And I Ran"), The Thompson Twins, Joan Armatrading, The Alarm and Hunters & Collectors' Payload EP.



July 1968
"Shoeshine Boy" / "What Became of Mary" (Festival FK 2450)
Produced by Pat Aulton

October 1969
"Money Can't Buy Me Love" / "Sing a Simple Song" (Festival FK 3365)

References / Links

Ian McFarlane
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin 1999)

Spencer, Chris, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry
Who's Who of Australian Rock (4th edition) (Five Mile Press, 2002)

Mike Howlett official website

Aymeric Leroy
Calyx: the Canterbury website
Mike Howlett interview, 1997