|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Groups & Solo Artists|
Sydney, 1961-1970; reformed 1999
Strats ahoy! The sharp-dressed Atlantics in their heyday.
L-R Bosco Bosonac, Peter Hood, Jim Skaithitis, Theo Penglis
Eddy Matzenik (guitar) 1961-62
Bosco Bosonac (bass)
Harvey Foster (vocals) 1963
Peter Hood (drums)
Eddie Moses(vocals) 1963
Kenny Shane (vocals) 1963
Jim Skiathitis (guitar) 1962-70
Long hailed as Australia's first and greatest surf band, The Atlantics not only spearheaded this musical genre in Australia, but also gained international renown for their superb guitar-based instrumentals. Glenn A. Baker rightly calls them "one of the most extraordinarily talented rock groups Australia has ever produced" and their eclectic output -- most of it written by members of the group -- included powerhouse surf numbers, incendiary garage-punk and even psychedelia.
The Atlantics were (and are) accomplished musicians and composers, one of the most popular live acts of their day and a sought-after backing group for other singers. They were remarkably prolific as recording artists -- during the Sixties they released eighteen Singles under their own name (plus one under a pseudonym), as well as providing backing for vocalists -- including Johnny Rebb and Russ Kruger -- on some twenty other Singles released between 1964 and 1969. Some of these sides some are now almost as sought-after as the group's own recordings.
The Atlantics formed in Sydney during 1961; the original members of the band met at high school in Sydney's eastern suburbs. The Shadows and their legendary lead guitarist Hank B. Marvin were an obvious and strong influence on The Atlantics, as they were on so many other guitar bands and soloists of the late Fifties and early Sixties; American surf pioneers The Ventures were another important inlfuence.
The choice of name, however, was virtually accidental, as Peter Hood recalled in his interview with local surf-music guru Stephen McParland:
"We were walking around one day trying to think up a group name. We went through names such as The Eagles, The Falcons, and The Jet Streams ... you name it. Then we saw a sign -- 'Atlantic Petrol' -- and we thought, 'Well you can't get more publicity than that'.
Through 1961 the group slowly built up a following around Sydney. They pawned almost everything they had to buy their first amplifier, which cost a whopping £235 -- a huge sum for the time. Luckily for teh budding rock stars, by the time their parents found out, it was too late to return it! The group also managed to acquire a complete set of the all-important Fender guitars, intruments which were still comparitively rare in Australia at the time due to trade restrictions and high import duties. Their other equipment included Fender amplifiers and the famous Klempf Echolette tape-echo machine. The group soon became well-known for their adventurous use of sound effects and they experimented constantly to come up with startling new effects.
Although chiefly known as an instrumental group, they in fact had a vocalist for some time early in their career. The first was Harvey Foster, followed by Eddie Moses and finally Kenny Shane, who possessed a vital quality -- he both looked and sounded like Cliff Richard. He remained with the band until late 1963 or early 1964 and recorded two Singles with them.
The Atlantics might have remained one of the scores of obscure semi-pro bands of this period, but their fortunes changed when they not met local music agent Joan King, one of the few female agent-managers in Australian show business at the time, who took the group under her wing. She became their manager and persuaded them to turn professional. She arranged their first TV appearance, on ATN-7's New Faces TV talent quest, where they were voted 'Most Promising Group of 1962', and more TV appearances followed.
They made a demo tape of some of their original material and shopped it around for some time without success; the labels showed some interest in the songs, but not in the band. Finally, King managed to persuade producer-arranger-musician Sven Libaek to listen to the tape. Norwegian-born Libaek, a former child prodigy pianist, had emigrated to Australia after a world tour promoting a film in which he had featured as a teenager. At the time that he met the Atlantics, Sven had recently been appointed as the A&R manager and house producer for the new local division of the American CBS label. The Australian division of the CBS label had been launched following CBS' takeover of its former Australian distributor, the Australian Record Company (ARC) in 1960, although the company itself continued to trade as ARC until the late 1970s.
The Atlantics auditioned for Libaek in his office. He was impressed both by their sound and their original material and immediately signed them to a recording contract. As far as is known at this stage, The Atlantics were one of the first local rock groups to be signed to CBS in Australia. They enjoyed a productive relationship with Libaek, releasing nine Singles, three EPs and four LPs in just over two years, as well as performing on at least ten other Singles in this period, backing vocalists Kelly Green, Colin Cooper and Johnny Rebb.
The Atlantics' debut single "Moon Man" / "Dark Eyes" (February 1963) featured plenty of the requisite twanging guitar sound, demonstrating the all-pervasive influence of the most important rock group of the time, The Shadows. It failed to make any significant dent on the Sydney charts (there was no recognised national chart at that time) although it was picked up by radio station 2GB and fared respectably, reaching #28 on their 'Tune Table' chart in March. They subsequently won the 2GB Macquarie Broadcasting Network Tune Table Award, in which they were named 'Top Australian Instrumental Group of 1963-64'.
It was the group's brilliant second single that really put them on the map. It was created one day in April 1963, when Hood and Skiathitis had planned to go to the Royal Easter Show, but it was raining, so they spent the day at Skaithitis' house instead and ended up writing the tune that eventually made them world-famous and which is recognised as one of the all-time classic Australian rock recordings -- the immortal "Bombora".
The first part of the tune was written that April day, and was completed by Hood's addition of the middle segment, which he had written a year earlier but had not been able to find a use for. Released in July, the new single, "Bombora" (b/w "Greensleeves") was a massive Australian hit, reaching #1 in Sydney and #5 in Melbourne in July 1963.
The word 'bombora' is reputed to be an Aboriginal word describing large waves breaking over submerged rock shelves. CBS were so enthusiastic that they issued it in the USA -- where it was named 'Record Of The Week' by Cashbox magazine -- as well as the UK, Europe, Japan and New Zealand. It was quickly covered by a number of overseas groups, including a vocal version, recorded in Italy! The group's name assisted in this overseas recognition, as Peter Hood recalled:
"A lot of people thought we were an American band, which in one way was good. Over the years I've met a lot of deejays who have confessed that if they had known at the time that we were an Australian band then they would never have played our records."
CBS was quick to capitalise on the success of "Bombora", with Libaek and the group laying down tracks for their first LP over the next two months. The album came out in October, as did a Bombora EP, and around the same time they released their first vocal single with Kenny Shane, "Surfin' Queen" / "Count Down Stomp". Both were original numbers, recorded at EMI's Sydney studio, but it was not a chart success and Shane left the group soon after.
Their next single, "The Crusher" / "Hootenanny Stomp" was equally impressive, although it didn't chart quite as strongly, reaching #4 in Sydney and #21 in Melbourne in November 1963. Interestingly, the title -- which referred to a huge collapsing wave -- had almost been used as the title for the first single instead of "Bombora". The B-side was inspired of Theo Penglis' love of the music of guitarist Chet Atkins.
These two remarkable recordings established the band as a leader of the burgeoning surf-music craze in Australia. As Ian McFarlane notes, these timeless tunes rank alongside The Ventures' "Walk - Don't Run", The Surfaris' "Wipe Out", The Chantays' "Pipeline", The Pyramids' "Penetration" and Dick Dale's "Misirlou" as classics of the genre.
CBS released both a new LP and a new EP in December 1963. The titles of both releases were intended to capitalise on the current dance craze, The Stomp, which had taken Sydney in particular by storm. Six of the twelve tunes had 'stomp' in the title and apart from "Teddy Bear's Picnic Stomp" and "Tequila Stomp" all the tracks were original group compositions.
The next three releases continued the group's run of classic surf original instrumentals. The thundering "War Of The Worlds" / "The Bowman" was released in March 1964; it was followed by a third EP in April and then another single "Rumble And Run / The Wild Ones" (May 1964). The latter track was, not surprisingly, inspired by the famous Marlon Brando film of the same name.
Their sixth single (October 1964) was a notable change of style and an attempt to diversify their sound and avoid being pigeonholed as a 'surf' band. Even though they had always played a wide range of material, The Atlantics were one of countless bands who had to reassess their style as The Beatles changed the face of popular music during that momentous year. The new 45 featured two Chet Atkins instrumentals, "Teensville" and "Boo Boo Stick Beat", which were updated in the inimtable Atlantics style.
Although there were apparently some who expressed doubts that the group could maintain their high standard of material, they proved their critics wrong with another pair of superb original instrumentals, "Giant" b/w "Mirage", released in January 1965. The A-side was written at their rehearsal hall in just ten minutes and was originally called "Flight Of The Banshee", although the name was eventually changed at the insistence of the record company. The same fate befell "War of the Worlds", which CBS had insisted be renamed, probably because it was felt that the original title ("World War III") was too political.
There were four more releases during 1965, including another new LP The Explosive Sounds of The Atlantics, released in April and a 'Greatest Hits' compilation released in May. It's notable that after a string of originals, both the A-sides of their 1965 Singles were cover versions -- "Goldfinger" / "Bumble Boogie", (released in May) and "Peter Gunn" / "Chief Whooping Koff" (July). It was standard record company practice to revert to tried-and-tested favourites when original material failed to perform to expectations. The "Peter Gunn" single was to be their final release for CBS, and they parted ways with the label later that year, even though their contract had not expired.
Peter Hood: " ... CBS must have realised (or thought anyway) that we'd run our course with them. They couldn't see the thousands of dollars rolling in anymore and also, we wanted to start spending more time in the studio and this they didn't think was worthwhile. Therefore we had to break loose. We thought we still had a good sound and we wanted to develop it further. We were also getting into more vocals and so we asked CBS to let us go and they agreed."
From this point on, The Atlantics' output mainly consisted of vocal Singles. The group's first post-CBS single "That's Old Fashioned / Gotta Lotta Love" was released on Johnny O'Keefe's Leedon label in February 1966.
Later that year they signed with Ivan Dayman's Sunshine label and over the next year Sunshine issued three gritty rock Singles "It's a Hard Life" / "Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do?" (July 1966), a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' classic "I Put a Spell on You" / "By the Glow of a Candle" (January 1967) and the renowned "Come On" / "You Tell Me Why" (March 1967), all of which are now considered classics of Aussie '60s rock, and are often classified in the 'garage-punk' genre, a somewhat innacurate label originally coined to cover the music of American "garage" bands of the 60s. Raven Records included "Come On" on their original LP version of their acclained 60s 'garage-punk' compilation Ugly Things in 1980, and Sydney band Wet Taxis (led by the legendary Louis Tillet) recorded their own version, released as a single in 1984.
The final phase of The Atlantics' career is not well documented at present. After parting ways with Sunshine -- a move probably brought about by the label's sudden collapse in 1967 -- The Atlantics formed their own independent label Ramrod, and they released five vocal Singles and one instrumental -- "Waiting Here for Someone" / "That Lovin' Feeling" (Sept. 1967), "Sunshine and Roses" / "When I Look Into My Life" (Dec. 1967), "A Girl Like You" / "Baby Blue" (Apr. 1968), "What is Love" / "I'll Never Let You Go" (Sep. 1968) and the cult favourite "Light Shades of Dark (Part 1)" / "Light Shades of Dark (Part 2)" (Sep. 1969). For their October 1967 instrumental release "Take A Trip" / "Flowers" the band worked under the pseudonym Gift Of Love.
As noted above, concurrent with their own releases, The Atlantics also backed singer Johnny Rebb on a string of singles released under his name, including four on CBS during 1964, three on the HMV label during 1965, and a further two Singles on Ramrod in 1968.
The Atlantics also had a long and productive association with singer Russ Kruger, backing him on no less than eight singles -- three on Leedon and one on Sunshine in 1966, another Sunshine single in 1967, and a further three Singles on Ramrod in 1967, 1968 and 1969 (see Discography).
There was a gap of twelve months before The Atlantics' last recording of the Sixties, which reunited them with their old friend Johnny Rebb. The single "Ding Dong" / "Summertime Blues" came out in September 1969 but the group finally called it a day at the end of 1969.
Although the 'surf' genre had a rather unfashionable image for many years, time has gradually restored The Atlantics' reputation, and interest in their brilliant and pioneering group has been renewed, helped along greatly by the Sydney-based Canetoad label, who began to reissue their many recordings on a series of definitive compilation LPs and CDs.
For a number of years in the 1990s, bassist Bosco Bosonac ran the Vintage Record Cafe in Annandale, in inner-city Sydney, and this was apparently was the catalyst for their eventual reformation. Customers coming in to the shop soon discovered that he was one of The Atlantics, and that led Bosco and his bandmates to realise that they still had a strong following and that many people still held the band in high regard and wanted to see them reform. To the delight of fans around the country and across the world, the group reunited in 1999 with Jim, Bosco and Peter; new guitarist Martin Cilia replaced Theo Penglis, who opted not to rejoin.
In January 2000 they issued their first new album in decades, Flight Of The Surf Guitar, and supported it with their first tour in thirty years. In September 2000, in front of a vast global audience, they performed the immortal "Bombora" during the 'Parade of Icons' in the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. They also performed on ABC TV's Studio 22 and The 10:30 Slot and after the latter appearance they received a flood of emails from younger fans.
Among their numerous performances in recent years, another highlight was their rapturously received appearance on the 'Long Way To The Top' tour in 2002, proving that after forty years this great group had lost none of its power or its enduring appeal. They released more new CDs (in 2003 and 2004). Most recently, The Atlantics were chosen to support popular American singer-guitarist Chris Isaak on his 2004 Australian tour.
In 2006 The Atlantics took part in the making of Delightful Rain, a DVD/CD project celebrating Australian surf music and beach culture over the last five decades. Filmed and recorded between May 13th and 27th 2006 at the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club. The Delighful Rain album was produced by Kerryn Tolhurst and recorded by Mick Wordley, and the sessions included Les Green (The Denvemen), Richard Clapton, Rob Hirst and Martin Rotsey of Midnight Oil, The Backsliders’ Dom Turner, Tamam Shud, Pete Howe, Tim Gaze, Celibate Rifles, GANGgajang, Cruel Sea founder Dan Rumour and his band, The Pigram Brothers, Beau Young and Andrew Kidman.
NOTE: the following are Australian releases only; for a listing of The Atlantics' overseas releases, we recommend the Discography on The Atlantics' official website.
as The Atlantics:
"Moon Man" / "Dark Eyes" (CBS BA 221012)
"Bombora" / "Greensleeves" (CBS BA 221037)
"The Crusher" / "Hootenanny Stomp" (CBS BA 221059)
"War Of The Worlds" / "Bowman" (CBS BA 221088)
"Rumble And Run" / "Wild Ones" (CBS BA 221105)
"Teensville" / "Boo Boo Stick Beats" (CBS BA 221125)
"Giant" / "Mirage" (CBS BA 221153)
"Goldfinger" / "Bumble Boogie" (CBS BA 221183)
"Peter Gunn" / "Chief Whooping Koff" (CBS BA 221197)
"That's Old Fashioned" / "Gotta Lot Of Love" (Leedon LK-1208)
"It's A Hard Life" / "Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do" (Sunshine QK-1433)
"I Put A Spell On You" / "By The Glow Of A Candle" (Sunshine QK-1557)
"Come On" / "You Tell Me Why" (Sunshine QK-1691)
"That Lovin Feeling" / "Waiting Here For Someone" (Ramrod RS-1001)
"Sunshine And Roses" / "When I Look Into My Life" (Ramrod RS-1004)
"Baby Blue" / "A Girl Like You" (Ramrod RS-1007)
"What Is Love" / "Ill Never Let You Go" (Ramrod RS-1011)
"Light Shades Of Dark Part 1" / "Light Shades Of Dark Part 2 (Gift Of Love)" (Ramrod RS-1017)
"Surfing Queen" / "Count Down Stomp" (CBS BA221054)
"I'm Glad" / "I Wanna Love You" (CBS BA221114)
"So What" / "Love me with all of your Heart" (CBS BA221042)
"I Want To be Loved" / (?) (CBS BA221127)
"Do You" / "Tell me That You Love Me Too" (CBS BA221128)
"A Girl Named Sue" / "I Just Don't Understand" (CBS BA221120)
"Whirlpool" / "Then I'll Know It's Love" (CBS BA221146)
"The Girl Can't Help It" / "Pretty Thing" (HMV EA4691)
"You Can't Judge a Book" / "Dreams" (HMV EA4695)
"Tell Me Please" / "I Just Wanna Be Free Babe" (HMV EA4732)
"The Monkeyshine" / "I Need You" (Ramrod RS-1005)
"I Just Can't Help Believing" / "To The Patterns on The Wall" (Ramrod RS-1015)
"Tallahassie Lassie" / "Well Ain't That Nice" (Leedon LK-1188)
"Baby Baby Don't Go" / "Little Bit O' Soul" (Leedon LK-1245)
"Splish Splash" / "Separate The Men From The Boys" (Leedon LK-1323)
"Keep Me Satisfied" / "Tell The Truth" (Sunshine QK-1495)
"Look at My Baby" / "My Little Girl" (Sunshine QK-1633)
"My Way Of Thinking" / "I'm the Little Boy" (Ramrod RS-1003)
"Move It Baby" / "I Don't Love You No More" (Ramrod RS-1006)
"Rainbow Ride" / "Money To Burn" (Ramrod RS-1016)
Bombora (CBS BG225008)
"Bombora" / "Surfer's Paradise" // "Bluebottles" / "The Gremlin King"
Now It's Stomping Time (CBS BG225010)
"The Crusher" / "The Gremlin from The Kremlin" // "Shark Attack" / "Stomping Time"
The Explosive Sound of The Atlantics (CBS BG225037)
"Teddy Bear's Picnic" / "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" // "Secret Love" / "Teddy Bear's Picnic" / "Three Coins In The Fountain"
Bombora (CBS BP 233066)
"Adventures in Paradise"
"The Gremlin King"
"The World is Waiting for the Sunrise"
It's Stomping Time
(CBS BP 233086)
"Teddy Bears Picnic Stomp"
"The Gremlin From The Kremlin"
"S.O.S.(Stomp on Stomp)"
The Explosive Sounds of the Atlantics
(CBS BP 233103)
"Express To Bagdad"
"The Sheriff of Nottingham"
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White"
"The Lost Legion"
"Rondo A La Turk"
"On The Rampage"
"Three Coins In a Fountain"
"War of The Worlds"
The Atlantics Greatest Hits
(CBS BP 233190)
"War Of The Worlds"
"Teddy Bears Picnic"
"Rumble And Run"
The CBS Singles Collection 1963-65 (Canetoad) LP
The Complete CBS Recordings (Canetoad) LP
The Legendary JRA / Ramrod Sessions (Canetoad) LP
Flight Of The Surf Guitar (Atlantics Music A005) CD
Flight of The Surf Guitars Backing Tracks (Atlantics Music A006) CD
The Atlantics - The Next Generation (Atlantics Music A009) CD
Point Zero (Atlantics Music A011) CD
References / Links
The Atlantics official website
An excellent American fan site which includes the full text of Stephen McParland's definitive 1978 interview with Peter Hood, a great selection of photos, and two fascinating 1960s articles about the group, including a newspaper article about The Atlantics and manager Joan King written by NZ rocker Johnny Devlin and published at the time "Bombora" was released.
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock (Outback Press, 1978)
ABC 'Long Way To The Top' website
Dreams, Fantasies & Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)