|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Groups & Solo Artists|
COMPANY CAINE / CO. CAINE
Melbourne 1970-72, 1975
In a period with its fair share of greats, the legendary Company Caine stands out as one of the most remarkable bands to emerge from the fertile early-70s Melbourne scene. During its all too brief career and through constantly changing line-ups, the group established itself as the cult band par excellence, renowned for their extraordinary and adventurous music, and for the magnetic stage presence and cosmic-comic lyrics of singer Gulliver (Gullifer) Smith. Although the group was short-lived, they lasted long enough to make one of the best records of the period, their extraordinary 1971 album A Product Of A Broken Reality.
Many Australians will be familiar with Gulliver's work thanks to his lyrics for the John Farnham hit "A Touch Of Paradise", (co-written with Ross Wilson), but Company Caine remains one of the most shamefully neglected and overlooked bands in Australian music History. Incredibly, they rated only a four-line mention in Noel McGrath's 1978 Australian Encyclopaedia of Rock, although this was rectified by a sizeable entry in Ian McFarlane's 1999 Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop.
Gulliver (whose given name is Kevin) got his start in the mid-60s on Melbourne's booming dance/disco circuit; his first major group was the popular soul band Little Gulliver and the Children. They scored a local Top 40 hit in Melbourne with a reworking of Larry William's "Short Fat Fannie" which went to #29 locally in September 1965. They released a couple of singles and one self-titled EP on the W&G label in 1966.
In 1967 Gulliver moved to Sydney and formed Dr Kandy's Third Eye (1967-8). Reputed to be one of Australia's first psychedelic bands, they used films, slides and other psychedelic lighting effects during their performances. Besides Gulliver, the lineups of Dr Kandy during this period featured some very interesting names - two other future Co. Caine alumni, Mal Capewell (reeds) and Arthur Eizenburg (bass), famed vocalist Alison McCallum, drummer Daryl McKenzie (aka Lefty Zarsoff), later of Nutwood Rug, Jeannie Lewis Band and The Fabulous Zarsoff Bros, and organist Ian Walsh (Levi Smiths Clefs, Python Lee Jackson).
After Dr Kandy's broke up, Gulliver was involved in a series of intruigingly-named 'underground' bands from 1968-70: Time and the Forest Flower (described as playing "soul with a lot of underground things"); A Love Supreme, a jazz-oriented outfit, which included future Flying Circus bassist Terry Wilkins, and Ripped Family Marches, which, reportedly played "heavy versions of bubblegum music" and which changed its name to the even odder Ripped Family Rocket Machine Men in early 1970.
Note: Who's Who of Australian Rock lists Gulliver as being involved with Tully somewhere around this time, although exactly how is not known. It's possible that the Gulliver connection was actually to Space (aka Tully in Space) which was formed by ex-members Robert Taylor and Terry Wilson after they left Tully in late 1971.What is known for sure is that Space guitarist Dave Kain joined Company Caine when they relocated to Sydney.
Gulliver returned to Melbourne. In March 1970 he and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Noone (ex-Lipp Arthur, Sons Of The Vegetal Mother) combined with the final four-piece lineup of Cam-Pact (Ray Arnott, Clif Edwards, Russell Smith and Greg Blissett) and the band was renamed Company Caine. Acccording to Clif Edwards, "Eli Klamm", whose name appears in listings of the band at this period, was a pseudonym for Jerry Noone.
Over the next 12 months the group's reputation grew, but there were more lineup changes, beginning with Ray Arnott. He left in July to join Matt Taylor's Genesis for two months, before replacing Mark Kennedy in Spectrum. Arnott was replaced by Eric Cairns (ex-Somebody's Image, Heart'n'Soul) who left around Sept. 1970 and was eventually replaced by John "Ernie" McInerny, from The Foreday Riders. About the same time Clif Edwards was replaced by Tim Partridge, who apparently stayed only a few months. Partridge went on to become one of the most in-demand bass players in the country during the late '70s and '80s, and now teaches bass at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music.
Gulliver's stage presence helped to earn Company Caine renown for their stage performances, and as the group came together they amassed a strong set of strikingly original material co-written by Gulliver, Russell Smith and Jerry Noone. They became established as one of the leading attractions on the Melbourne 'head' circuit, gigging alongside bands like Spectrum, Sons of the Vegetal Mother, Tully and the (new) Aztecs. In the words of Ian McFarlane, "... the band's music was more expansive, more 'out there' than just about every band of the day". But this should not be taken to mean that the music was wilfully obscure or 'difficult'. In fact, notwithstanding the 'freaky' and experimental elements, it was a unique amalgam of rock, pop, blues, soul, R&B, jazz and avant-garde that was both challenging and accessible. Another key feature was the surreal humour that pervaded their work. The fact remains that their music could - and should - have reached a far wider audience.
By mid-1971, the band had gelled into the "classic" lineup -- Gullifer, Russell Smith, Jerry Noone, Ian Mawson, Arthur Eizenberg and John "Ernie" McInerney. Original member Clif Edwards also returned at this time, but apparently only for the studio recordings. They went into Melbourne's TCS Studios in Richmond in July to record their legendary LP A Product of a Broken Reality. It was produced by Gus McNeil and engineered by John French, and released on the Generation label. McNeil was already something of a legend himself -- once dubbed "The Wild Man of Sydney Rock", he had had gained a considerable reputation as vocalist with seminal Sydney band The Nomads, where he was immediately recognisable by his long hair and bushy beard. (Coincidentally, in mid-1999 as this piece was being written, the Canberra Times published an old photo of Gus fronting the Nomads at a Canberra Day concert in Civic Square in 1967. Most of the members of Gus's band, The Nomads, went on to form highly rated Latin-rock group Pirana.)
In 1978 rock historian Noel McGrath described the LP rather dismissively as having been "...described in some circles as brilliant." He evidently didn't belong to those circles but I believe it's no exaggeration to say that Product is a landmark of Australian music. There is really nothing else quite like it, and it's was easily as good as -- if not better -- than anything that was coming out of the US or the UK at the time, especially considering the pressure under which it was recorded, and it still stands up brilliantly today in all respects.
The LP was packaged in one of the all-time great Australian record covers -- a bizarre, futurist construction by renowned Melbourne artist Ian McCausland, who was a regular Go-Set contributor, art director of Daily Planet, and creator of memorable cover art for Carson, Spectrum, Chain, Daddy Cool, Blackfeather, The Dingoes and many others and designed the Madder Lake logo.
The cover depicts a strange anthropomorphic music machine from some imagined future, emitting a large music note from its speaker/mouth. In the top right-hand corner, the title consists of the prefix "A Product of a Broken ...", underneath which are four check-boxes. The first three, empty, labelled "Home", "Society", "Dream"; the fourth, labelled "Reality" has been crossed.
The material is diverse, yet the album has a genuine identity and cohesion. Musically Product careens across a schizophrenic range of moods and feels, from blues-pop to heavy metal to progressive jazz-rock, yet it all hangs together perfectly. Tying in with the cover art, Side One opens with the strange, mechanised voice of a computer in a future century, informing us that we are about to listen to rock'n'roll music ca.1971; then we're plunged straight into the powerdrive intro of "Symptoms". The song kicks off with a killer keyboard riff, which must be one of the first uses on an Australian record of the Hohner Clavinet (the harpsichord-like keyboard which features so memorably on The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition"). Russell Smith picks up the riff on guitar before delivering some stinging lead breaks; then abruptly we are launched into a spacey jazz realm, with Jerry Noone's superb bebop saxophone, followed by Gulliver's surrealist soul vocal, and then we are thrown back into a reprise of the frantic opening riff and more powerful guitar work by Smith.
The Cell is a transcendent progressive rock fantasia; its ethereal backing track blending organ, celeste, clarinet and electric guitar, is built around intricate chord changes, and the coda, "Theme for Vishdungarius", trails off with a dreamlike interplay of guitar and celeste. The album's focal point is, of course the druggy paranoia classic "The Day Superman Got Busted". The track is aptly described by Ian McFarlane as
"... freaked out, mind-blowing spazz-rock anarchy that exists in an unhinged vacuum purely of its own design"!
It's certainly comparable to anything King Crimson was producing at the time -- but a lot funnier! "What star sign are you -- flexible?"
Some of the other tracks are pure fun: the boogie-woogie craziness of "Trixie Stonewall's Wayward Home for Young Women" -- surely one of the nuttiest songs ever to be released as a single in Australia -- and the bouncy (and maddeningly catchy) "Simple Song of Spring", which gleefully namechecks Australian columnist/journalist David D. McNicoll and rhymes him with "pickle"; it also features some of Gullifer's renowned vocal stylings - his scat singing and one of his trademark stream-of-consciousness 'raves' (in this case about aliens from 'the planet Ballboys').
The more musically adventurous tracks are balanced by three powerful and memorable ballads: "Woman With Reason" (with thrilling vocal backing by Danny Robinson (The Wild Cherries, The Virgil Brothers) who also sings on "Trixie" and "Symptoms"). The soulful "It's Up To You" (graced by some beautiful, mellifluous guitar work by Russell Smith) and "Go See The Gypsy". The closing track "The Last Scene" is an impassioned plea to someone about to commit suicide. As the record closes we again hear the mocking tones of the computer, ending with the sound of manic laughter. Intriguingly, three of the tracks -- "The Cell", "Theme for Vishdungarius" and "The Last Scene" -- are noted on the inside cover as being "From the forthcoming Opera "What The F**k Is Happening On Planet Earth?". Interestingly, on the back of the 1975 re-release, the word "forthcoming" has been crossed out and the word "Never!" scrawled underneath it.
There are so many features that make Product such a special album. Gulliver's lyrics range from Goon-style humour to nightmare visions, and his bluesy, declamatory singing style is as much a trademark as his famous black beret. In Russell Smith they posessed one of the ablest and most inventive guitarists on the scene; Jeremy Noone was equally crucial to their sound, broadening the group's tonal palette in much the same way that Ian Underwood did for Frank Zappa. The group as a whole really cooks, as tracks like "Symptoms" will show, and particular mention has to be made of the sterling rhythm section of Mawson, Eizenberg and McInerny. The album is now extremely rare, and the fact that this incredible record has not been available since 1975 is tragic -- although we still hope that this will soon be rectified (see Discography).
A single was issued from the album in September 1971, "Trixie Stonewall", b/w "It's Up To You", which is now just as collectible as the LP. The next single featured two new tracks, "Dear Carolyn", backed by the hilarious rocker "Now I'm Together", the last release from the first incarnation o the band.
There were lineup changes during late 1971 -- Jeremy Noone had left the band in August, briefly joining King Harvest before being invited to join Daddy Cool. His replacement at the end of 1971 was reed player Mal Capewell, whose credits included work with British bands Dada (which featured dual vocalists Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer) and Graham Bond's Holy Magick. At the start of 1972 the band moved to Sydney and shortened the name to Co. Caine (presumably for those who hadn't already got the joke) and brought in another ex-Dr Kandy player, Dave Kain (or Kane) as rhythm guitarist. Sometime during this period, legendary Australian jazzer Bernie McGann also worked with the band.
Co. Caine broke up in October 1972. Russell joined the touring version of the band Duck (a studio supergroup put together by musician/producer G. Wayne Thomas) and then rejoined Gulliver and began work on forming a new project with Ross Wilson and Ross Hannaford, who had recently broken up Daddy Cool. Gulliver went his own way soon after, and launched his solo career.
He signed to the Australian division of the Warner empireReprise imprint, and his solo album The Band's Alright But The Singer Is ... -- apparently the first Australian release on the Reprise label -- featured all of the Company Caine members, plus session contributions from Mick Tulk (Lizard). Bobby Gebert and Dave Conners. Musically, it was a continuation of Company Caine's eclectic musical approach. Two Singles were lifted from the album: Such A Shame/Platonic Love, Woman Pie and Lazy Shoe/Almost Freedom (written by Greg Quill). Such A Shame included two b-sides not on the LP. Russell Smith featured throughout the album, but stayed on with Wilson and Hannaford to become the lead guitarist in what eventually became their new group Mighty Kong.
After fronting a number of backing bands, Gulliver revived Company Caine in 1975; As well as Smith, Smith and Noone, the '75 lineup included guitarist Geoff Burstin and bassist John Power (later members of Jo-Jo Zep & The Falcons) and backing vocalist Shirley Smith, Russell's wife. The impetus was the re-release of Product on the Real label, so they reformed for a well-received tour and put together a second LP Dr Chop, mostly produced by Ross Wilson, with liner notes by rock writer David "Dr Pepper" Pepperell who had been one of the chief instigators of the reformation. Comprising a mixture of live and studio tracks, it's especially valuable for the inclusion of the full-length versions of two songs from the Product era -- "Dear Carolyn and Now I'm Together. the 1971 single tracks (produced by Gus McNeil) which were only released in shortened form at the time.
Dr Chop is one of the rarest and most collectible of all Australian recordings. According to musician Keith Glass, Pepperell's Lamington label was teetering on the verge of collapse when the record was made -- hence the half-live, half-studio configuration. The band (unwillingly) had to compromise on this format because Lamington simply couldn't afford more studio time. According to Keith, only about 300 copies were ever pressed before the label folded, thus accounting for its rarity.
When the label folded, so did Co. Caine Mk II. In 1976 Gulliver put together a new band, the R&B-based Gulliver's Travels. It lasted until 1977 and was quite a super-group -- the roll-call included old pals Mal Capewell, Ian Mawson and Russell Smith, plus John Mills (Spectrum, Ariel), Wayne Duncan (Daddy Cool), "Sleepy" Greg Lawrie (The Creatures, Carson), Rob Souter (Lizard, Dynamic Hepnotics) and veteran guitarist Les Stacpool, whose incredible CV includes work with Johnny Chester, Merv Benton, Levi Smiths Clefs, Rockwell T. James, Doug Parkinson In Focus, Genesis, Aesop's Fables, the Hair stage production, and Country Radio.
Gulliver moved to England in 1977 and lived and worked there for many years. He returned to Australia in the late 80's and reformed Gulliver's Travels in 1989. He continues to write and perform under the slightly changed moniker of "Gullifer Smith". In 1996 he and his partner and collaborator Stephanie Hopkins released the excellent Deux Poetes album, which includes songs co-written with Arthur Eizenberg. Gulliver is now based in Sydney and continues to perform occasionally. In June 1999 he appeared at the Empire Hotel in Annandale, Sydney, and performed a great set of blues and R&B standards, spiced up with the very welcome additions of the Company Caine classics "It's Up To You" and "Now I'm Together", plus some fine tracks from Deux Poetes.
Arthur Eizenberg lives in Sydney and continues to collaborate with Gullifer and Stephanie. Russell Smith now lives in Perth and is a member of the all-star band The Embers, who back the great Jeff St John. MILESAGO is in touch with both Russell and Clif Edwards and we hope to be able to provide a lot more detailed information about the History of Company Caine in the near future. Any reports on the whereabouts or activities of Ian Mawson, Mal Capewell or the elusive Jerry Noone would be much appreciated.
In recent years Gulliver and Stephanie's son Nick has established himself both here and overseas as a blues singer of considerable talent. He has released several highly-regarded Albums under the name Blacksmith Hopkins, which are well worth checking out.
Company Caine has always been highly regarded by other musicians. Admirers over the years who have recorded their songs include the following Aussie greats:
- Steve Kilbey (The Church) covered "Woman With Reason" on his album The Slow Crack
- Jeannie Lewis covered "It's Up To You" on her LP Free Fall Through Featherless Flight
- The Sports covered "Now I'm Together" and "Don't Hold Back That Feeling".
Gullifer Smith and Stephanie Hopkins now own the rights and possess the master tapes for all the original Company Caine recordings. They are currently in the process of negotiating for a long awaited CD issue of the classic A Product of a Broken Reality and other recrordings. We await their release with bated breath!
"Trixie Stonewells Wayward Home For Young Women" / "It's Up To You" (Generation GE 002)
"Dear Carolyn" / "Now I'm Together" (Generation GE 006)
Gulliver Smith solo:
"Such A Shame" / "Platonic Love", "Woman Pie" (Warner/Reprise RPA-14006)
"Lazy Shoe" / "Almost Freedom" (Warner/Reprise RPA-14009)
A Product of a Broken Reality (Generation GELP 004)
re-released 1975 as Real Records R319 (remixed by Gus McNeil)
"Trixie Stonewall's Wayward Home" (Smith-Noone-Smith)
"The Cell"* (Noone-Smith)
"Theme for Vishdungarius"* (Noone)
"Woman With Reason" (G.Smith-R.Smith)
"Simple Song of Spring" (Smith-Noone-Smith)
"The Day Superman got Busted" (Smith-Hudson-Cain-Noone-Smith)
"It's Up to You" (Smith-Noone-Smith)
"Go See the Gypsy" (Smith-Smith)
"The Last Scene"* (Noone-Smith)
*(From the forthcoming opera "What The F**k Is Happening On Planet Earth?")
Gulliver Smith - vocals, lyrics and babbling insanities
Jerry Noone - acoustic and electric saxophone, piano, Hammond organ, celeste and boyish enthusiasm
Russsel Smith - acoustic and electric guitars, vocals and nervous itch
Ian Mawson - Fender piano, hammond organ and plastic straw
Arthur Eizenburg - bass and how much is that?
John McInernery - drums, conga and charm
Special thanks to:
Danny Robinson on "The Cell", "Woman With Reason", "Trixie" and "Symptoms"
Steve Dunstan for the computer music and laughter
John Lee for bass clarinet on "The Cell"
The Winlaton Girls Choir on "Trixie"
Roger The Roadie
Front cover art and album design - Ian McCausland
Photography - David Porter
Producer - Gus McNeil
Engineer - John French
Studios: TCS Melbourne July 1971
Gulliver Smith solo:
The Band's Alright But The Singer Is ... Gulliver Smith (Reprise RS 4001)
"Theme For A Phantom Airport"
"Jet Set Blues"
"Your Old Friend"
"Such A Shame"
"Almost Freedom" (Greg Quill)
"A Melody For Edgar Allen Poe"
Dr Chop (Lamington LAM329)
"Buzzin' With my Cousin" (R & G.Smith)
"Dear Carolyn" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"Doctor Chop" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"The Golden Boogie" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"Heard the Word" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"Humanoids" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"I Keep Askin' "(R. Smith-G. Smith)
"Now I'm Together" (R. Smith-G. Smith)
"Simple Song of Spring" (R. Smith-Noone-G. Smith)
Produced by Ross Wilson, except "Now I'm Together" and "Dear Carolyn" produced by Gus McNeil, 1971 (unabridged versions of 1971 single)
Engineer - John French
Studio - TCS Melbourne, September 1975
2000 Weeks: The First Thirty Years of Australian Rock (Moonlight Publications, 1996)
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock (1978)
Freedom Train (Moonlight Publications, 1999)
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)
Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry
Who's Who of Australian Rock (Five Mile Press, 2002)
Please email [email protected] if you have extra information or corrections, or to report any broken links.