Seminal punk (punk with semen???)
The Chosen Few, or more simply, The Few, derived from a group of like-minded wannabe
rock lovers from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria (Australia) in mid-1976. It
was a combination of mateship, beer, aggro, beer, loud and fast music, beer, and,
oh, beer. I should know — I was there. The original lineup that via a convoluted
and tortuous path led to The Chosen Few, comprised two drummers, three guitarists,
one utterly fucked-in-the-head bass player, singers various and several tight-thighed
groupies. This lineup lasted around 3 minutes 49 seconds, just long enough to call
itself 'Fourth Reich', buy some beer and self-destruct, gloriously, loudly and
messily. I wasn't part of this seminal outfit, but I knew about it because I used
to teach most of the members, who were students at Mornington High School. This
all occurred in early 1976.
The site for all this initial band activity was a farm in Moorooduc, a suburb if
you will of Mornington. One of the guys, Bruce Friday, lived on the farm ('Airlie
Farm') with his mum and dad and little brother. The guys had complete run of the
place, including a barn to practice in and a bungalow to party in. The bungalow
became known as 'The Premises' and was the venue for some awesomely uninhibited
parties. Unfortunately, one night the practicing and partying became confused
(due possibly to beer) and the barn nearly burned down.
The original 'band' fell apart (it was never really together — didn't play any
gigs) resulting in the formation of 'Deathwish' a four piece heavy metal band
that played its first gig in August 1976. As the elder statesman (I had been in
bands before as a singer), I 'managed' this first lineup of Deathwish, but after
about three gigs, they arseholed the bass player, and told me 'Ian, you're the
new bass player and, oh, there's a gig tonight'. Fair enough, except for two
things: I'd never played bass before (I only knew three chords on normal guitar;
I used to be a fucking singer!) and I did not own a bass guitar. No problems! We
went over to Mornington and swapped a slightly 'warm' (er..stolen) guitar for an
El Cheapo bass, and away we went.
Deathwish was influenced initially by Led Zep and all the others, but was inexorably
drawn to old Aussie rock (Masters Apprentices, Wild Cherries, etc) because of its
power and simplicity. We were especially fond of local Oz heroes Lobby Loyde and
the Coloured Balls. These guys played the fastest, loudest and meanest rock this
side of the galaxy. Lobby had been a guitar hero in the Wild Cherries and achieved
legend status in the Aztecs. We became hooked on power rock and we bought every
record we could find that had Stooges, MC5, Amboy Dukes etc and found some compilations
of Detroit/Michigan rock from the 1960s and early 1970s that just blew us away
(e.g. the 'Michigan Rocks' and 'Nuggets' compilation LPs). Budgie and Blue Oyster
Cult were also big favorites, and from the latter we included 'The Red and the
Black' in our set. Even though some of this music was current or only five or six
years old, it had rarely been played in Australia (except for the Coloured balls,
and that was a style thing, as they played originals and souped up fifties rock'n'roll);
most local rock bands drew inspiration from British pop/rock.
A liking for US rock was not shared by all members of Deathwish, and led to a
succession of singers, all of whom were arseholes, and who did not understand the
direction we wanted to follow. As a heavy metal-ish band, Deathwish had a style
that was pretty widespread and acceptable at the time, but as we cranked the volume
up and the music became leaner and faster, we tended to appeal to a narrower but
more fanatical band of supporters. We knew we were on the right track, and that
there had to be more to it than the current Status Quo/Led Zep/Sabbath bands that
dominated. However, some band members would still have preferred to remain a
commercially viable covers outfit.
By the second half of 1977 Deathwish was playing distinctive loud and stripped-down,
balls-to-the-wall rock. We did not know of any other band in Melbourne who played
like we did. All the other bands that we loosely associated with were oriented to
British punk and some were not punk at all: La Femme, for example, were just glam
rockers a la David Bowie. Sure, we liked some Brit punks, especially the Sex Pistols,
but we didn't think it fitted Australia — the Pistols had an apparently solid political
stance as much as anything, but we didn't have a vicious class system and life wasn't
all that bad. We heard about the Saints up in Brisbane, and we were impressed. We
learned about half the first Saints album, and tried to play it louder and faster
(especially 'Demolition Girl' — if you can imagine this song played at about twice
the speed, you'll get some idea of what we were about!).
Then one night late in 1977, Cal and I went to Pier Rock in Frankston and saw Radio
Birdman. Two things really struck us: firstly, their set was drawn from exactly
the same influences as ours (Stooges, MC5, Blue Oyster Cult and classic sixties rock),
and secondly, their attitude — they simply didn't give a fuck what you thought of
them. The more you put them down, the louder, faster and more aggressively they
played. We thought we'd died and gone to heaven, because it confirmed our belief
that what we were doing was right. Naturally, we made ourselves known and had a
damn fine chat with Rob Younger.
We even made arrangements to go up to Sydney, as guests of various members of Radio
Birdman, and play at their venue, the Oxford Funhouse. Our singer at that time,
confirming our opinion that you are what you eat (and he obviously ate a lot of
cunts!) announced that he didn't want to go to Sydney. This led to a humungus bust
up, with the singer and one guitarist leaving. It took me a few weeks, but I finally
persuaded the remaining members to stick together because we were the engine room
of the band and we had something worthwhile to promote.
We eventually formed a new three-piece band — still called Deathwish: Cal McAlpine
(drums), Bruce Friday a/k/a Fred (guitar) and Ian Cunningham (me, on bass). We all
took a turn at vocals and played several gigs as a three piece. Our sets consisted
of large doses of Stooges, MC5, Masters Apprentices, Wild Cherries, Saints, Pistols,
Coloured Balls, Ramones and originals. We were well received (e.g. at a Somers Yacht
Club dance, we blew the very young crowd of two or three hundred away, particularly
when we did our souped-up version of God Save the Queen), but we felt we were not
a complete unit: we were looking for our own Iggy. This was around November or
We found him in Ian Weaver. What impressed us about Ian was that he could scream
really loudly, and when he sang, he sort of drooled and dribbled a lot, and his
nose ran. He was also a tad unstable, moody, a poofteenth overweight and fairly
slovenly. What more could you desire in a lead singer? Mostly, he dug Iggy and
the MC5 and what we were doing. He was in our movie. He saw where we were coming
from et fucking cetera. We gave Ian all our lyrics (probably on Thursday), only
about forty songs, and said 'Learn these, cunt, we're practicing on Saturday'.
He did. We recorded that session and it is the first half of the collection known
as the 'Bungalow Tape'. Copies available at the door, ladies and gentlemen!
On stage, Ian was amazing. He would use this crappy old mike stand with a goose
neck extension that always collapsed under its own weight, forcing him to sing
from a half crouch. His trousers always looked as if gravity was winning, his
zippers would explode (probably because he was loading an enormous fat!) and his
shirt would hang like a wet rag on a fence. He would pump his legs frantically,
his whole body would gyrate and spasm and then he would swing the mike stand all
over the place while screaming his guts out and sweating like a pig. Sometimes he
stood absolutely motionless for what seemed like ages, just staring at someone or
something in the audience (or something in his head, heaven forfend!). Then he
would explode into convulsive action, as though experiencing a fit. He scared the
fuck out of me, so god knows what the punters thought of him. But he was charismatic,
in that you had to watch him, because you never knew what he would do next. Often
he did nothing extraordinary (by his standards), but there was that element of
menace and instability.
Fred, on the other hand, or 'Fear' as he was known in the band, was quite staid.
He just stood to one side, looked cute, and played incredibly fast loud thrash
guitar. He never ever seemed to be playing hard, but he effortlessly produced a
wall of sound from this El Cheapo Strat copy. He also broke more strings than
John McEnroe, and he always got his guitar lead looped around something, ending
in a sudden silence as all guitar cut out, followed by generally helpful comments
like 'Jesus, Fred, you fuckin' idiot! Plug your fuckin' lead in, you dumb cunt!'
Don't be mistaken: calling a fellow band member a 'dumb cunt' was OK; just never
ever call him a 'fag', as this would lead to instant retribution.
Cal's stage persona was pretty much determined by his being fixed behind his drum
kit. A big lad, Cal & we called him 'Trainpacker' after those sumo-like station
attendants used at Japanese railway stations. He really did flail those sticks,
and laid down a murderously solid beat. He rarely made mistakes, except when
indulging in herbal remedies. Then he was hopeless. When 'normal' he was a shit-hot
Then we have your humble narrator. Because we played such stripped down rock, I
tended to play a cross between bass and rhythm guitar. I mostly strummed the melody
(if there was one!) and made sure that there was a loud filler in lead breaks.
Mostly I stooged around back stage, and occasionally lay down for a little nap
while Fear displayed his histrionics. I wrote most of the lyrics, and with Cal
provided nearly all our original material.
Once we had a decent set of songs under our collective belt, we started playing
around Melbourne, or anywhere we could get a gig. The problem was, there were fuck
all gigs available. Most of the regular venues were 'owned' by established booking
agencies or record companies, who didn't want to know about anything that even
loosely resembled 'punk'. Consequently, we played parties in backyards and anywhere
we could find an audience.
This would have been early 1978, and we had connected up with a guy from Mushroom
Records called Barry Earl. Barry was organizing punk bands onto the Suicide Label
(a subsidiary of Mushroom — it had to be, they shared premises and phone numbers).
At his suggestion, we decided to discard the name 'Deathwish' (fuck knows why, it
had heaps of credibility, especially for the Suicide Label!) and so we settled on
'The Chosen Few'. The Chosen Few was a far better name than one Barry suggested:
he wanted us to become 'The Young Savages'. Puke! Other names we considered but
discarded at that time were: 'The Poofter Bashers', 'The Fearless Dog Lovers'
and 'The Inspired Chicken Motel'. In retrospect, we all love the name 'Fearless
Dog Lovers' - depending on your point of view, it meant brave and defiant friendship
with man's best friend, or a tendency towards bestiality.
A few enlightened promoters eventually opened up several venues, such as the Tiger
Lounge (Royal Oak Hotel) in Richmond and the Seaview a/k/a The Crystal Ballroom
(George Hotel) in St Kilda. Most of these venues were outside the mainstream of
rock, but we were not in a position to choose. We played regularly at the Tiger
Lounge, mainly supporting the Boys Next Door (or the Fags Across the Road, as we
called them). The Boys Next Door had their own arty college crowd, and we definitely
did not meet their approval. You could see the audience split into clear sections:
their crowd wore black, were fashionably disheveled, had dyed hair (black, mostly)
and generally aped British trends. Our lot wore whatever they liked (jeans, tee-shirts
and Army Surplus mostly), were genuinely disheveled and were quite physical in their
support — they'd get up and crazy-dance right in front of the stage (crazy-dancing
was inspired by Radio Birdman — when the music is that fast, epileptic convulsing
is about the only type of reaction possible!). Our lot were beer-driven and were
very aggro, probably a bit ockerish as well.
Eventually, this venue was closed to us after a little incident one night about
half way through a set, when I realized that the usual stage racket had abated
somewhat. As bass player and backup vocals, I was at the front of stage right,
thrashing away and providing (as always) great back up, except I had become a solo
act. I looked around and I was the only one on stage. Ian had been overtaken by
some unusually destructive urge and, tiring of trashing microphones, leads, stands
and monitor boxes, decided to fix up Fred the guitarist, so he punched him right
out. Fred was saved from even worse through the intervention of Cal. They all
disappeared off stage and left me to it. I told the crowd to get stuffed and
walked off. I never found out the cause of this stoush, but I suspect it might
have had something to do with Ian fucking Fred's girlfriend. This event ultimately
led to Ian being chucked out of the band.
We played quite a few gigs at the Seaview, a really good venue (big stage, big PA,
good audience area, lots of bars) which became 'Punk Central' in Melbourne. The
only thing was, most 'punks' were just fucking fashion plates. We hated them
and called them Fag Trendies. I wrote a song called rather imaginatively, Fag
Trendies, where I specifically listed all the things we hated about them. At
the Seaview, these bizarre creatures would parade around the front of the stage,
trying to outdo each other with contrived acts of nihilism and self-mutilation.
We gave first prize to the couple who had a root in front of the stage using a
metal tube chair as a sex aid (I kid you not!). Ian would prance, mince and thrash
all over the front of the stage, screaming invective and spitting hatred at the
Trendies from a distance of about three feet. They lapped it up, silly bastards!
We became nauseated by all the falseness in the business. When we played around
the Mornington Peninsular, we were an ARAB band (i.e. we were looking for 'a root
and a beer', except for me, my darling wife, honest!) and we played because we
liked playing. We played loud and fast, and we were appreciated for it. When we
tried to make our way in the big world, all we came across was fakery, chicanery,
lies and absolute fucking bullshit, in big steaming piles. There seemed to be a
yawning gulf between us and the self-styled music business impresarios. We rejected
this self-adulation, or at least we acknowledged it and laughed at it, and our
obvious scorn of the system and those who ran it was what landed us squarely in
the 'punk brigade', rather than our music.
We didn't fit into the British-oriented punk scene very well at all. We rejected
the accepted punk uniform of predominantly black clothing: we wore white, played
white guitars, white drums, even had white guitar leads. We dropped the white gear
after a while, mainly because it was boring: you had to pay a bit more than lip
service to maintaining it, otherwise it looked utterly shit house. We never wore
the usual punk paraphernalia of safety pins, chains and razor blades, but chose
to wear Fosters beer can ring pulls etc instead.
We wrote songs about false fashions and other 'punk' bands (Fag Trendies and Disco
Tek Wreck), rock industry bosses (Record Co Execs and the Joke's On Us), social
malaise (TALOIGA and Terminal Rock), teachers (Get Knicked), the conundrums of
history (Adolph, You Beauty!) and simple pleasures in life (No Fun on the Beaches,
To Kill or Maim, and Backstreet Killer). We deliberately and quite systematically
vilified everyone we came into contact with, especially industry tin gods. I mean,
calling the guy who thinks he's managing you a slimey, cock-sucking fuckwit pommy
(or words to that effect; I think I might also have called him a cunt, but I can't
be sure) probably didn't advance our cause, but it seemed the right thing to do at
Our audiences also copped a fair hiding from time to time. Ian often singled out
an individual; e.g. one night he asked if Jeff Rule (an identity then and now in
the alternative music scene) was in the audience and then said "This next ones for
you Jeff, it's called Get Knicked", or he would scream out 'Calling Barry Earl'
just as we launched into 'Record Co Execs'. Normally 'Fag Trendies' would be
introduced by a line such as 'There are a lot of you out there, you little shits!
We took to carrying axehandles on stage. We all had one, lovingly embellished with
personal identification. The idea was that any cunt who gobbed on us was going to
get fucking smashed right then and there.
We were big on self-promotion, oh yes! We placed ads in the music press expressing
support for Idi Amin and Pol Pot, but denied any complicity in the Hilton Bombings
(although we admitted to a garbage bin fetish). On posters we quoted Jayne Mansfield
as saying 'I lost my head over The Chosen Few', Linda Lovelace admitting to being
'choked-up' for the Chosen Few, while another quoted Hitler as saying 'The Chosen
Few are a gas!' The word 'Chosen' usually had a swastika instead of an 's'. We
derisively adopted punk personas: Bruce Friday became 'Bruise Fear Die', Cal
became Zoom Schwartz or Trainpacker, Ian became 'The Een' a/k/a Sonic Schwartz
and your humble narrator, oh my little droogies, became 'Goid' (fuck knows why!)
Through it all, and probably despite it all, we eventually won our supporter base,
and we were able to play up to three or more gigs a week regularly. We played
regular supports at the Seaview and had a sort of residency at The Champion Hotel
in Fitzroy. We even got to headline in Adelaide at a 'Children of Tomorrow' concert.
That gig was unreal, even by our grubby standards, but not because of anything to
do with music. A couple of days before we drove to Adelaide, the boys had one or
nine beers one night and went a bee's dick overboard. Ian, Cal and Fred lived in
a flat in Spray Street, Mornington which we called The Fitness Centre. Under the
influence of heaps of piss, the lads decided to brand themselves as members of
The Chosen Few — literally! They made brands with the initials 'TCF' out of wire
coat hangers, and branded themselves on the arms. Silly cunts! By the time we got
to Adelaide, the wounds had partly healed, except for Ian's. His had become
suppurating open wounds, oozing puss constantly, and he was half out of his skull
with fever and pain. However, this gig was huge: the sound was enormous, and the
Adelaide crowd had obviously not seen a full-on band of our type. They got right
into us and went right off.
At the end of the Adelaide gig, the boys had an open-and-shut opportunity for a
gang-bang with an extremely willing groupie. This tall, slender blond bird came
up to where we were sitting after the show, waved a flagon of wine and asked where
the party was. Christ! A chick who wants to root us AND she brought the grog! Eeek!
However, we were pretty fucked after the gig (and I was faithfully married, so
count me out, lads), but the others only reacted by saying 'Fuck off, mole!'
Typical. Another lost opportunity.
About a week later, we were playing at the Seaview. During our set that night,
Ian leapt into the crowd and invited punters to come and pick the scabs of the
barely healed brands on both his shoulders. We couldn't believe it! We couldn't
believe it even more when two absolutely drop-dead gorgeous chicks came up and
did it! Yuck! Whatever happened to the cock rock tradition of the lead-singer
wanking on stage? Not good enough for The Few — we had to provide a display of
unbelievable tackiness. You had to be tough to be a Few fan, even tougher to be
on stage watching it happen all around you.
Our philosophy towards playing live was pretty basic. Get up on stage, crank
everything up as loud as possible, and then try and race each other to the end
of the song. We stripped our music down to simple structures: most of our songs
are in the key of 'A', because that was easy to play; we had few lead breaks and
in our 'Ramones cum Saints' period eliminated them altogether (although later on
we began to appreciate the dynamics of a good guitar break, as in 'Son of Sam',
that I wrote!). We didn't like rooting around on stage; if we had a break in our
set of more than a few seconds, you could bet we were experiencing serious equipment
failure. We had bugger all patter with our audience (apart from the occasional
repartee between Ian and some wit in the crowd, who would usually offer some helpful
advice such as 'get off!'), we just played frenetically, and they could come along
for the ride, if not, fuck'em! One gig (I forget where) we had an hour set. We
played about 22 songs and collectively lost about ten stone in weight. The Ramones
non-stop style influenced us in this regard. We used to include a few of their songs
in our set (e.g. "Down the Basement" and "Blitzkrieg Bop").
We got the opportunity to make a record through free studio time given to us by
two nice boys (definitely not fags!) called Ben and Baron (Baron, I ask you!!)
Rolls who really stretched their imaginations to come up with the name BB Rolls
Recording Studio, in Smith Street, Collingwood. We played a few gigs for Baron
and Ben (the Flower Pot Men!), and they gave us free studio time as payment.
They were great guys and helped us a lot. We did about three sessions: the first
session we did six tracks, more or less live (these are the first six tracks on
the Bungalow Tape — fooled you there!), This session was one ginormous piss-up.
Cal, Fred and I were in one room (they put screens around Cal, which we thought
was about time) and Ian had a little booth to himself with a glass window in the
door so we could watch him in action. When Ian was doing his vocals, his face
disappeared from the window, but the screaming continued unabated. He went utterly
berserk, rolling all over the floor of the booth, dribbling and frothing at the
mouth, and farting like a demented wart hog. His singing was very excited and
slightly dangerous; we thought it sounded shit-hot. I'm sure Ben and Baron couldn't
rent that booth for at least a month, Ian made it so rank with his particularly
vile flatulence. We coined a new band slogan after this event: The Chosen Few —
the only band in the world that stinks like shit!
We went back to BB Rolls a few weeks later and did two more sessions, which became
the Joke's On Us EP. We couldn't afford a full album, but we found out that if
you made a seven inch record run at 33 1/3 RPM, you could put more tracks on it,
hence our odd record configuration. Our choice of songs was obvious: we just
selected raucous punkoid songs, more or less because we could: what the fuck!
We had little experience of studios, hence we didn't really know what we wanted
or what we should sound like. I'm still convinced that at the last minute, one
of the engineers dubbed the wrong mixes onto what became our master tape, because
the songs on the EP are not as good as I remember the finished product on the night.
I believe the EP contains unmixed songs or partially incomplete mixes, hence the
fairly ordinary sound quality.
The EP was made at Astor Records in Clayton and released 28th August 1978. There
were 500 copies only; I did the artwork and lyrics sheet, and my wife Chris and
I assembled the packs at home. We sold it mainly by mail order and in a few shops
around Melbourne (e.g. Keith Glass at Archie and Jugheads gave us a lot of support —
no money, just support!). We sold most of the discs, so I guess it was successful.
Apparently one week we sold more copies than the Angels current single. Hoorah!
The only other reasonable quality recorded product from the band is a desk tape
of the Adelaide gig (great energy, super sound for a desk tape of the time), four
studio tracks recorded in Adelaide the same weekend, and two tracks recorded at
Richmond Recording Studios (produced by Frank Owens from Island Records). When
we recorded with Frank Owens, we did two songs, one take each, then went off to
get food and beer. He was amazed that we didn't want to spend all day fucking
around 'getting it right', so to speak. We bluntly asked him if he liked it, he
said yes, so that ended that. We sat down with our fish and chips and beer!!!
Get your priorities right, mate!
All this while, we all lived on the Mornington Peninsula (me at Crib Point and
the others at the Fitness Centre in Mornington) and we had to travel over 50 kms
for the closest Melbourne gig. This meant we spent an incredible amount of time
traveling to and fro and eventually the effort and expense began to fray the Few
brotherhood, and tensions in the band began to emerge.
In hindsight, the fact that we stuck together without any serious disagreement
for fifteen months says a lot for our initial unity of purpose and our commitment.
We genuinely all thought pretty much alike (although Cal and I wrote 95% of all
songs and music, and tended to dominate the band). However, the Een was simply
becoming too weird to be around. He used to sleep all day and watch videos all
night and he became too unpredictable on stage. He developed this stare that would
have made Sid Barrett envious. Around March or April in 1979, we sacked Ian and
then mutated into 'The Instigators', changed singers (Bohdan X), adopted a keyboard
player (Andy Duffield, great bloke!) and revised our set. Bohdan's songs and his
preferences became prominent and we played more sedately and more conventionally,
but my heart wasn't in it. I gave my place on bass to Billy Blanch and played my
last gig in May 1979. We'd lost the plot. The Chosen Few was dead. Long live the
Where are we now? Cal, a happy family man, hasn't got any smaller, but is still
playing drums and has been in some damn fine bands (Rah Rah The Flag, The Saints,
The Clip Clop Club, the Large No 12s). Fred had (has?) a bit of a drug problem,
but he's alive somewhere. Ian achieved immortality and walked in front of a train
in August 1995. Who knows why. I'm running a band rehearsal complex (also part
owner) and manage bands, got a great wife and daughter, two cats and a Celica.
In the 1970s, we didn't think much about what we were doing. What resulted was too
unfocused, demonic, savage, crude and sarcastic to be commercially viable, but at
the same time it was one great big two-fingered gesture at the whole rock establishment.
It was also monumental fun, and the good gigs were fantastic. You will never see
the like of that energy again. I guess if we'd stuck to our guns (and I don't just
mean The Chosen Few, but all our contemporaries) we might have eventually made a
bigger impact. After all, the so-called punk thing only lasted about eighteen months
in Australia, and the competent musos we knew personally moved on to more acceptable
money bands. The few record companies that had an interest tried to change us all
into pommy clones (little Elvis Costellos), which a few went along with. Most who
were serious fucked off overseas (e.g. Nick Cave and the Boys Next Door a/k/a The
Birthday Party a/k/a The Bad Seeds). Even the mighty Radio Birdman fell in a heap
in 1978, so what hope did we have?
In 1992, a guy called Dave Thomas (lead singer and guitarist in the Geelong band
'Bored!'), instigated a move to revive The Chosen Few. We got Fred to come along,
with Dave Thomas and Jeff Hussey (my brother-in-law) also on guitars, me on bass,
Bohdan X on vocals and Cal on drums. We called ourselves the Fearless Dog Lovers
and did two practice sessions. The backing music was incredible: if we'd played
like that in the 1970s, we'd have been legends. Unfortunately, Fred was hardly with
it (in fact, he was totally ripped), and was carried by Dave and Jeff, and no one
except Bohdan was happy with the vocals, so we pulled out of the project. Two tapes
of the sessions exist.
As for me, I'd do it all again, only this time, I'd mean it!!
— Ian Cunningham a/k/a Goid
CONTACT: Break My Face