Sydney 1970-75

Stan White (keyboards) 1970-1971
Keith Greig (keyboards) 1971-72
Jim Duke-Yonge (drums) 1970-1973
Tony Hamilton (guitar) 1970-75
Graeme Thompson (bass) 1970-75
Phil Hitchcock (bass) 1974
Andrew McCue (keyboards, flute) 1973
Richard McEwan (guitar, vocals) 1972
Paul Spetter (drums) 1973


Critics have pigeonholed Pirana as mere Santana clones, and while comparisions are understabdlble and the influence of Santana is obvious, this arguably did the group a considerable disservice. Its dynamic and rhythmic performance at the definitive Sunbury music festival in 1972 drew inevitable comparisons to the Latin-rock champions of Woodstock, due in no small measure to their superb performance of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice". But there was much more to Pirana than that facile categorisation allows

Let's acknowledge, then set aside for a moment, the band's obvious debt to Santana as their early musical template. Beyond that, we can hear examples of fine, melodic songwriting -- mainly from keyboardist Stan White on the first album, but consummately taken over by guitarist and vocalist Tony Hamilton on the second -- that displays a diversity of influences while still keeping the band's innate individuality. It's a bit like their contemporary peers, Sebastian Hardie or Sherbet, who also had a hard time living down copious (and mostly bogus) comparisons while they tried to forge an original path.

For a start, Tony Hamilton's guitar was never less than wonderful. He sang commandingly, with soul, atop Jim Yonge's fluid drumming, supported by the anchorage of Graeme Thompson's throbbing bass. Keyboards were vital to the Pirana sound, and Stan White and his successor, Keith Greig, provided rich Hammond organ reinforcement for the overall feel of the band.

In Pirana, members came and went, but it is essentially the core band comprising Duke-Yonge, Thompson, Hamilton and Greig (who replaced Stan White after the first LP), who made the records and sustained the bulk of the band's performing tenure, and must be most remembered as the definitive entity. Hamilton, Thompson and Yonge were all ex-members of Gus & The Nomads, a 60s R&B/pop band fronted by "the wild man of Sydney rock" Gus McNeil. Gus was executive producer on Pirana's debut album, and several others including the legendary A Product Of A Broken Reality for Company Caine, Greg Quill's early solo recordings (including the  Fleetwood Plain). Gus also set up his own publishing company, Cellar Music, which (besides Pirana) also handled publishing for Mike Rudd, Greg Quill, Ross Wilson and Gulliver Smith.

Pirana's first recordings were as the backing group for Greg Quill's 1970 solo album Fleetwood Plain. They signed to Harvest in 1971 and issued two singles. Here It Comes Again (May) was reputedly the first local single released in stereo, and can still be found on Raven's Golden Miles compilation CD; the same month they toured nationally as support band on the historic package tour by Deep Purple, Free and Manfred Mann's Chapter Three. Their second single was "I Hope You Don't Mind" (Nov.) Late in the year Stan White left to join pop band The Going Thing, and he was replaced by Keith Greig.

Pirana in concert in Sydney at the Deep Purple/Free/Manfred Mann show in May 1971.

In concert they were always regarded as a top-drawer act; they went down a storm at the inaugural Sunbury rock festival, and their live version of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" earned them a track on the Sunbury '72 album. EMI issued their second LP Pirana II in November 1972, by which time Richard McEwan had replaced Hamilton on guitar. Andrew James replaced Greig in 1973 and Phil Hitchcock replaced Graeme Thompson on bass in 1974. The band continued to work on the dance and pub circuit, but they didn't record again, and they eventually broke up in late 1974.

Duke-Yonge (aka Jimmy Tonge) went on to work with Corroborree, the Anne Kirkpatrick Band and Bullamakanka and in the late 1970s Keith Greig was a founding member of The Brucelanders, who went on to considerable acclaim in their later incarnation as The Reels (minus Keith).

Original article by Paul Culnane (revised 2007).



May 1971
"Here It Comes Again" / "Find Yourself A New Girl" (EMI-Harvest HAR 9457)

Nov. 1971
"I Hope You Don't Mind" / "Funny Games" (EMI-Harvest HAR 9734)


Pirana (EMI Harvest SHVL-603)

"Elation" (Stan White)
"Sermonette" (Stan White)
"Time Is Now" (Tony Hamilton)
"Find Yourself A New Girl" (Stan White)
"The River" (Stan White)
"Easy Ride" (Stan White)
"Stand Back" (Tony Hamilton-Stan White)
Produced by Pirana. Executive producer: Gus McNeil. Engineer: John Taylor

Nov. 1972
Pirana II (EMI-Harvest SHVL609)

"Pirana" (Tony Hamilton)
"Then Came The Light" (Tony Hamilton)
"I've Seen Sad Days" (Tony Hamilton)
"Persuasive Percussion" (Hamilton-Yonge-Thompson-Hitchcock-Greig)
"I've Got To Learn To Love More Today" (Tony Hamilton)
"Jimbo's Blow" (Hamilton-Yonge-Thompson-Hitchcock-Greig)
"Thinking Of You" (Tony Hamilton)
"Here It Comes Again" (Tony Hamilton)
"Move To The Country" (Tony Hamilton)
Produced by Peter Dawkins. Engineered by Martin Benge. Recorded at EMI Studios, Sydney

Other Recordings

(EMI-HMV SOXLP 7561/2) 2LP
Various artists compilation, recorded live at the 1972 Sunbury festival; includes the Pirana track "Soul Sacrifice"

The GTK Tapes Vol 1 (EMI-ABC CD 4797402)
Rare various-artist performances from the ABC-TV show; Vol. 1 includes Pirana performing "Gassin'" and "GTK Theme"

References / Links

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

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