the MILESAGO interviews
Ross Wilson and
Interview by Michael Hunter
The following interview with Ross Wilson and Ross Hannaford from Daddy Cool was conducted in 1992. The "Totally Cool" box set had just been released, containing every track the band had recorded over its two lifetimes, and the Rosses were on a promotional jaunt around the country. This was a few years before the tentative Daddy Cool / Skyhooks reformation and dual album and tour were mooted, with just the one CD EP to show for it at the end of the day. The interview was conducted for dB Magazine in Adelaide but never published, making this its first public airing.
I started by asking if they would have been happy to talk about the whole Daddy Cool experience two or three years previously.
RW: "Not really, no. But I do like this idea of everything that we did now released on CD. I think that's a good project. I mean, Hanna and I have both got lives that exist independently of Daddy Cool. We don't sit around the house thinking of DC all the time."
RH: "I get out my hat now and then."
RW: "The thing is, we lived it 24 hours a day which is different to our audience, whenever they felt like putting the record on or going to see us play. That's different. It was pretty full on for two-odd years."
RH: "There was never a time when we never wanted to play, playing was always a groove, you know. We always played great. It was always just the other shit. The pressure was always on and we got tired of that."
Eagle Rock was accompanied by one of the first video clips for an Australian single.
RW: "The thing about the video clip is that there's nothing in sync! The clip cost $300 and it's fantastic. I like it. I still like clips where it's just a bunch of images that are not necessarily anything to do with miming the song and you've got footage of live stuff going on."
The music industry must have changed a lot over the last 21 years. Is it more professional now?
RW: "Yeah, but it's not necessarily a good thing. It's a good thing in that you can make a lot more money out of it now, you can make a profession out of it, but because of that, it can take away from the spontaneous eruption of new musical movements, for instance."
I suppose the independents have that sort of role to play now.
RW: "Yeah, but they're a bit precious half the time, cliquey. I never have much time for cliques, especially when it comes to music. I prefer to listen to it all and decide for myself whether in my opinion I like it or I don't.
"The difference between now and then for instance, is that there's a lot more of everything around now. At any one time, you've got maybe twenty Australian acts that are kind of happening. Back then, there was only ever like room for two at the top, in competition with each other. With us, it was like lightweight, boppy, happy stuff which was Daddy Cool and on the other hand, you had heavy, piss-drinking, tending towards violence Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, you know. And then a couple of years later, it was taking-the-piss-out-of-everything Skyhooks versus the pretty boys from Sherbet. It wasn't until later in the decade, that rule started to blossom into room for lots and lots of people at any one time."
After the disappointment of the band's initial break-up, the offer came to reform for the Sunbury music festival in early 1974. Response was encouraging enough to prompt a reformation but unfortunately, problems persisted.
RW: "The main thing about when we got back together, we weren't able to develop because we were having a fight with the record company and we couldn't record. We did make a couple of singles, but one of them we financed ourselves. We couldn't get anything done, you know, and that basically stopped us in our tracks."
Did the final line-up record any demos at least?
RW: "No, the only things we did were "The Boogie Man" and its B-side, and a version of "All I Wanna Do Is Rock" which was a song we did with Mighty Kong. That's about it. Oh, and they recorded a live show when we played with Skyhooks at Dallas Brooks Hall, and there are two tracks on the Daddy Cool compilation from that, "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "You Never Can Tell", which I both really like and that all shows that we were still cutting it. If there are any regrets, it's that we didn't do another album because we should have."
What are all the other members doing now?
RW: "Well, Mondo Rock's not going any more, we played our last gig in the middle of '91. I've had this band Raw, playing just around in my neighbourhood, that's real good. I'm trying out new ideas in that, it's a pretty full-on band but it's just a now and again thing. I've just been writing, trying to set my sights on my next solo album. I was just talking with Hanna yesterday about how I'd like to produce his band and maybe cut a few things."
RH: "The band's called Diana Kiss. It's like Kate Ceberano's sextet without Kate. We've been playing some reggae and some originals. Ross has jumped up a couple of times and we've done some things and it's sounded OK. Otherwise, I've just been doing bits here and bits there. I've always played in a couple of bands at once. I was in Goanna for a little while. Odds and sods, live playing."
What about Gary Young (drums)?
RH: "He still plays a couple of nights a week. He's in a sort of country…"
RW: "…blues boogie band. He's right into his couple of radio shows he does on community radio, one on 3CR and one on RRR. The 3CR one is called "Friday On My Mind", he plays just Australian stuff, modern as well as old."
Which leaves Wayne Duncan (bass).
RW: "He's always a very quiet kind of a guy but he's been playing non-stop since then."
He had an accident a while back, didn't he?
RH: "Yeah, he damaged his arm and had to get it set. He's still got a funny hand but he hasn't lost his touch."
Tell me about the "21 years of Eagle Rock" ceremony in Melbourne earlier this year.
RW: "It was like meet the Prime Minister and he told us what great guys we were and how fabulous our music was and how now we export 100 million bucks worth of music a year and all that sort of stuff. Then we had a meeting in Melbourne with the Lord Mayor 'cause we did a lot of our early concerts at the Melbourne Town Hall, and he did a similar thing, gave us all a plaque and certificates. That was a really good day. They had all these photos of furniture that was smashed at the Town Hall and gave us a bill for the damage! "Just joking, hey…""
Was that the first time the members of DC had been together for a while?
RW: "In public, yeah."
Is that what spurred the idea of DC being worth reminding people of again?
RW: "Well yeah, I guess so. I mean, there is an end to it - it takes care of itself."
It must be gratifying that every so often a new DC compilation comes out and obviously sells well.
RW: "That's just record biz. It's always sold well 'cause it's always on the radio for starters, not just "Eagle Rock" but a whole bunch of stuff you hear regularly.
Would it be unfair to ask what your favourite Daddy Cool song was?
RH: "Come Back Again's mine."
RW: " Yeah, I've got a soft spot for that. It's the simplest song ever written, you know. It's just got this pattern that repeats over and over again and you can play it… we did, for about ten minutes at a time, blow on it."
I remember Long John Baldry having a hit with it here in Adelaide.
RW: "That was through Elton John and Bernie Taupin's record company. Elton took Mondo Rock on tour around Australia. I've bumped into him a couple of times. I think he acknowledges a debt to us because of "Eagle Rock - hey! - Crocodile Rock!"
Is that a true story?
RW: "I reckon it's true, yeah. He made a couple of sombre albums and the next one he made after hearing us was happening, and they were wearing outlandish suits and Crocodile Rock, and Bernie Taupin was on the back cover of one of their albums with a "Daddy Who?" badge. So I think there's a strong case there.
"Marc Bolan was a big fan of ours. After we broke up, he came out to do a tour and he staged this stunt where he wasn't going to leave Melbourne Airport until Ross Wilson came out to meet him, so the record company guy got on the phone and said "You'd better come out so we can get into the city" (laughs), so I went out there and met him and took photos and shit. Gary Glitter came to see us at the Station Hotel in Prahran. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, they're fans of ours. I know 'cause they told me when we were in LA two years ago, they play Daddy Cool on the tour bus."
How does the idea of Daddy Cool being a "legendary" Australian band sit with you?
RW: "Well, the view I have on this, having had to think about it recently, is that the legend of Daddy Cool surpasses the realities in a way, because any negative stuff has been pushed aside. For instance, there was a Daddy Cool backlash about 12 to 18 months into it. I don't blame them really, we were just on the radio so much, there was a certain element of "I'm sick of this, let's tear them down". But now people just remember the good shit and they relate to the songs and what they were doing at the time.
"There's the little cartoon of us on the front cover of the CD and that's sort of what it's all about now; the image of the cartoon characters has taken over from the reality of the four guys. It just exists in its own space and I don't have to think about it. I had to do a bit of thinking about whether or not to get involved in the publicity but because they had a good campaign worked out, I thought "OK, I'll go along with this, sell some records".
So there's this half-thought in everyone's minds to do a reformation tour?
RW: "Only because we keep getting asked. There have been people making offers which is making it more interesting. I don't think we'd just go down the local pub and play, you know, it's got to be made worthwhile. And one element of that is we never really ended up with a lot out of it back then 'cause there wasn't as much money to be made. Also, we spent our own money going to and from America so we didn't really come out of it with much. It's kind of tempting to cash in your chips now. Why not? We deserve it. Records or playing - yeah, we deserve it.
"Things have changed so much. We're probably going to sell more of the Greatest Hits CD than we did of albums at the time. In 1971, you only had to sell 10,000 albums to become a gold record, now it's 35,000. We changed the rules on that because our records sold like 60,000 in the space of six months or something. They had to keep making these gold records to give them to us, so very soon after that they upped it to 15, then 20, now it's 35,000. Before we came along, 10,000 would have been like a really big seller."
To finish, is there any scandalous gossip you'd like to tell us about the good old days?
RW: "There's plenty of that. It's a pity Gary Young's not here, he's got all the dirty stuff, he's a rock and roll animal. We had our share of scandal, we got arrested for drugs and all that, it was all in the papers at the time. We had life on the road, sex with babes and all that kind of shit but who doesn't? Dropping acid and getting stoned every night. I don't do that any more. I got punished by the law for that, anyway. It's not something I encourage personally, I've grown out of it. It's got its down side, you know."
It's kind of nice to be able to meet people you've admired for many years, and this was certainly an example of that. Upon mentioning one track not included on the supposedly complete box set ("The Big Shake" from the "Highlights Of Sunbury '74" LP), Ross Wilson said "Hey, you know more about it than we do!", which is one of those phrases you tend to remember. I also recall their professionalism in never showing any lack of interest when answering questions they must have been asked many times before. It's a shame the eventual reformation didn't really work out, but it is still a testament to the music Daddy Cool created that it continues to entertain so many people a few decades after it was created.
Interview © 2000 MICHAEL HUNTER. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Our sincere thanks to Michael for permission to publish his interview on MILESAGO.