James Reyne – circa 1980
“We’re just yacht club dancing / The city girls were rich” – ‘Lakeside’ (James Reyne)
What’s going on with the lead singer? What’s wrong with his arms? Are his forearms really in plaster? As a strategy for gaining attention, busting your frontman’s limbs is a bit extreme isn’t it? Like many Australian bands of the era, Australian Crawl first comes to widespread public notice with a performance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s television program ‘Countdown’. But when they perform their debut single, Australian Crawl’s vocalist, James Reyne, has his arms in plaster. Years later, Reyne says, “I remember saying, ‘a) people are going to think this is a gimmick, and b) the good side is, if nothing ever happens from here on in, at least we’ll be remembered everywhere we go in Australia as the band with the lead singer with his arms in plaster..’ So it was a blessing and a curse.”
James Michael Nugent Reyne is born on 19 May 1957 in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa. Despite his exotic birthplace, James Reyne is the son of an English father, Rodney Michael Reyne, and an Australian mother, Judith Reyne (nee Leask). James’ father comes from a military background. “My grandfather [Sir Cecil Nugent Reyne] was a [rear] admiral,” James notes. Captain Rodney Michael Reyne was an aide-de-camp (ADC) to the Queen of England…or, more precisely, an ADC to her representative. “Being the ADC to the Queen was a military posting,” James explains. “I think it goes for about two years and then you move on. He was ADC, then, to Sir Gerald Creasy, the Governor of Malta [from 16 September 1949 to 3 August 1954], who became one of my godfathers. Then [my father] came to Australia because he was the ADC of Sir Dallas Brooks, who was the Governor of [the Australian State of] Victoria [from 1949 to 1963]…but then he got out because he didn’t want to be a career soldier.” Captain Reyne marries Judith Leask on 5 June 1956 in Australia. Judith Leask is a teacher. “I was actually born in Lagos, Nigeria,” continues James Reyne. “My parents were in Nigeria because my father had left the Royal Marines…He got a posting with BP, British Petroleum, who had oilfields in Nigeria.” While in Africa, both James’ parents appear in amateur dramatic society productions. They also have a second son, David Nicholas Reyne (born on 14 May 1959 in Nigeria). When David is six months old, the family returns to Australia. Subsequently, a third child is born, James and David’s younger sister, Elisabeth. (Back in Australia, Judith Reyne goes on to become the headmistress of a girl’s school. She starts acting in 1981 under the stagename Judith Graham. Her teaching position is resigned from in 1988 so that Judith Graham may focus on her career as an actress.)
“I grew up in a place called Mount Eliza [in Victoria],” says James Reyne. “Then it was a pretty isolated beachside.” The area is known for its surfing community, but James points out that, “I was never really a surfer. I was always a swimmer and I was certainly part of that world. All my friends were surfers. I’ve always lived near water.” The young lad’s interests soon broaden. “When I was about 11 or 12 I started to hear things on the radio that just resonated with me…I just was a huge fan of The Dingoes [an Australian country rock band]. My parents were quite liberal people. We were always playing…loud music.” Since Mount Eliza is in the Mornington Peninsula district, James Reyne attends the Peninsula School. It is an area where parents ‘raise their young families in a pseudo rural setting within driving distance of [Melbourne, the State capital]. While bored parents attend cocktail parties, their bored children surf and smoke marijuana.’ James Reyne states, “I remember lots of friends of mine, their parents would have cocktail parties that would get a little out of hand…Maybe one of your teachers would end up…with someone else’s wife.”
James Reyne’s interest in music leads him to form a band of his own. “The first band that I was ever in did one show, I think – the sixth form social, when I’d left school and I came back with long hair and a beard.” After finishing high school, James Reyne studies law for a couple of years but becomes disenchanted with this path. His mother, Judy, suggests he switch to a drama course at the Victoria College of the Arts, which James does.
In parallel to his studies, James Reyne puts together a new rock band. James Reyne co-writes ‘Beautiful People’ – the song that will become Australian Crawl’s first single – with Mark Hudson in 1975. Spiff Rouche is formed in 1976 with the following line-up: James Reyne (vocals), Simon Binks (guitar), Mark Hudson (guitar), Guy McDonough (vocals, guitar), Brad Robinson (guitar), Robert Walker (bass?) and Bill McDonough (drums). “[With] Spiff Rouche, we used to run our own gigs down in the [Mornington] Peninsula,” says James Reyne. Most of the members of Spiff Rouche from 1976 to 1978 go on to be members of Australian Crawl; the only exceptions are Mark Hudson and Robert Walker.
Simon John Binks is born on 27 November 1956 in Mount Eliza, Melbourne. When he is 13, Simon joins the Australian Coast Guard Cadets. Simon discovers the guitar when he is 16 and receives his first guitar as a present from his parents when Simon turns 17. Simon Binks is close to James Reyne. “He called me his brother by a different mother,” Simon recalls.
Bill McDonough (born 1953) and Guy Gillis McDonough (1955 – 26 June 1984) are brothers. They are the sons of William Morris McDonough and Juneva McDonough. The boys grow up on the Mornington Peninsula and attend the Peninsula School.
Bradford Leigh Robinson (1958 – 13 October 1996) is born in Adelaide, South Australia. His father, James Robinson, becomes a judge in the Federal Arbitration Court. Brad is raised in Frankston South, Victoria, and attends the Peninsula School.
In early 1978, Spiff Rouche splits into two groups. Clutch Cargo consists of: James Reyne (vocals), Simon Binks (guitar), Brad Robinson (guitar), Paul Williams (bass) (born 1955) and David Reyne (drums). “Little brother was asked along to try and keep a beat and that was my first professional job,” admits David Reyne. The other group arising from the ashes of Spiff Rouche is The Flatheads: Guy McDonough (vocals, guitar), Robert Walker (guitar?), Sean Higgins (synthesisers), Nigel Spencer (bass, synthesisers) and Bill McDonough (drums). The Flatheads exist from 1978 to 1980.
Late in 1978 Clutch Cargo changes names a couple of times. At first, for a brief time they jestingly use the name The Mike Stand Band. There is, of course, no ‘Mike Stand’ in the group; it’s a pun on ‘microphone stand’. A mike stand is perched on the stage in front of each singing member of the line-up. The band then switches to Australian Crawl, naming themselves after a swimming stroke. Although the tongue-in-cheek nature of The Mike Stand Band is appropriate to their style, so too is Australian Crawl given the group’s background in swimming and surfing. “The name Australian Crawl came about because…a lot of us had been swimmers,” confirms James Reyne. “We played all our really early gigs to a surfing crowd,” says James Reyne, “and obviously, it was the sort of music they liked hearing. The music always had a big dance beat, because that’s what’s required, but mainly it was what I’d call rage music, very loud and full-on.” Australian Crawl’s first live gig is in October 1978.
Drummer David Reyne leaves Australian Crawl in 1979. “Starting off with Australian Crawl was an amazing opportunity. I should have taken more of a chance with it,” David Reyne later remarks ruefully. The younger Reyne brother goes on to undertake an acting course at the Swinburne Film Institute. David finishes at Swinburne in 1980. Taking his place in Australian Crawl is Bill McDonough, formerly of Spiff Rouche, who is recalled from The Flatheads.
After a number of local gigs, Australian Crawl grows popular enough to play shows in Melbourne. This leads to the group securing a recording contract with EMI. So the introductory Australian Crawl line-up for most fans is: James Reyne (vocals, occasional guitar, piano, percussion), Simon Binks (lead guitar), Brad Robinson (guitar), Paul Williams (bass) and Bill McDonough (drums).
The music of Australian Crawl is usually characterised as pop or rock. Although James Reyne may like to think that the band plays “very loud and full-on”, there is a competing view that they are ‘lightweight provincials.’ “Being lightweight – that does worry me because it’s not true at all: If anybody ever said that to me…that’s stuffed,” contends drummer Bill McDonough. Yet part of Australian Crawl’s output leans toward pop rather than rock. It is correctly noted that Australian Crawl is ‘essentially sculpted as the Melbourne Beach Boys’ and they are also likened to U.S. country rock band The Eagles. Perhaps outweighing the influence of such U.S. acts is the stimulus provided by earlier Australian acts. James Reyne’s fondness for The Dingoes is already noted. The vocals of The Sports’ Steve Cummings seem to prefigure Reyne’s work and the larrikin sarcasm of Skyhooks is acknowledged by bassist Paul Williams as an inspiration for Australian Crawl’s lyrics and rocking tunes. “I never thought Australian Crawl was any more than just a good little pub band,” concludes James Reyne. They are ‘a bizarre anomaly against the largely punk and political scene’ of the time.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Australian Crawl is James Reyne’s ‘marble-mouthed drawl.’ It is said that ‘the characteristic drawl in singer James Reyne’s vocals seems to approximate an Australian accent’, but, to his detractors, it is an eccentricity that leaves the words of the songs indecipherable. Yet while this lack of clear diction is an irritation to some, it should be remembered that this is rock ‘n’ roll, an idiom in which a stylishly slurred vocal is preferable to supper club gentility. Reyne’s vocal stylings are partly the result of conscious choice and partly just his native accent – his ‘Australian drawl’ if you will.
Part of Australian Crawl’s appeal is due to their handsome good looks. They are ‘five sun-bronzed Aussies from middle-to-upper-class backgrounds.’ James Reyne and Brad Robinson are particularly attractive to the ladies. With a prematurely receding hairline and a short stature, Bill McDonough – perhaps the runt of the litter – declares, “If people are going to write about us as beach gigolos then they can stick it. They can call us what they like. I find that hilarious.”
Virtually all the members of Australian Crawl contribute to the songwriting to some degree. If there is a dominant author, it is probably vocalist James Reyne. There is a curious contradiction in their lyrical themes. Although the band members generally come from comparatively affluent backgrounds, they routinely skewer the same elements of society. The idle rich are subjected to vicious broadsides and deft ripostes are flung at the decadent, wealthy snobs. While Australian Crawl’s punk rock and new wave contemporaries attack the same targets, they do so from the perspective of the angry, downtrodden masses. By contrast, Australian Crawl adopts a more cheeky and humorous tone, if no less cutting.
Just days before Australian Crawl records their debut single, vocalist James Reyne is hit by a car while he is crossing Swanston Street in Melbourne. Both his wrists are broken. In the aftermath, his arms are put in plaster to set the fractures in place and help the healing process.
The first single by Australian Crawl, ‘Beautiful People’ (AUS no. 22), is released in August 1979. The single is produced by David Briggs, the lead guitarist from The Little River Band. Briggs had helped Australian Crawl get a recording contract after they caught his attention. ‘Beautiful People’ was co-written back in 1975 by James Reyne and Mark Hudson. The two were members of Spiff Rouche from 1976 to 1978. James Reyne’s vocal renders the song’s title as “Byoo…Tiffle Pipple.” Slewing around sharp guitar riffs, the lyrics critique the ‘shallow materialism of residents [of the moneyed Melbourne suburb] of Toorak.’ For instance, Reyne wittily points out “The garden’s full of furniture / The house is full of plants.” There is also a reference to “Going out tonight to get their Bombay rocks off,” which is a nod to Bombay Rock, a night club in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Australian Crawl promotes ‘Beautiful People’ by performing it on the television program ‘Countdown’ – though James Reyne still has his arms in plaster.
‘The Boys Light Up’ (1980) (AUS no. 4) is the first album by Australian Crawl. Produced by David Briggs, the disc is issued by EMI in April. Overall, the sound is thin and favours the top end of the mix, the lead guitars and vocals. The debut single, ‘Beautiful People’, is included on this album. The title track, ‘The Boys Light Up’ (AUS no. 22), is the most potent piece in the band’s recording career. It is also claimed to be their ‘most popular live song.’ Officially, ‘The Boys Light Up’ is credited as a James Reyne composition, though guitarist Simon Binks has alleged that he helped write it. The song begins with a taunting harmonica riff, but Reyne – who plays that part – admits, “That harmonica lick…is about the only one I could play.” The title is widely misinterpreted. “I think they [suburban audiences] thought it was about dope smoking,” says Reyne, but he clarifies that it is inspired by more conventional tobacco cigarettes. “When we were in fourth form, they used to make us go to dancing class with our sister school…We used to sit outside and have a cigarette ‘cos it was so tough,” says Reyne, before chiding himself that it was “stupid, childish.” ‘The Boys Light Up’ evolves into a scathing tale of sin and ambition: “Want to tell you ‘bout my mountain home [i.e. Mount Eliza]…Later at the party, where all the M.P.s [Members of Parliament] rave / ‘Bout the hummas she’s been giving / And the money that they save / For her it is skin lotion / Him [her husband] promotion to / That flat in Surfer’s Paradise [in the northern Australian State of Queensland] with the ocean view.” James Reyne says, “’The Boys Light Up’ is probably a well-written pop song…It’s about fellatio, but…it was also about the sort of burgeoning…new middle class…” The most commercially successful song from the album is the forlorn semi-ballad ‘Downhearted’ (AUS no. 12), a track co-written by drummer Bill McDonough with his former Flatheads band mates Guy McDonough and Sean Higgins. Simon Binks offers the almost-reggae ‘Red Guitar’ and the opening track, ‘My Coffee’s Gone Cold’, as well as co-writing two tracks, ‘Chinese Eyes’ and ‘Boot Hill’, with James Reyne. Guitarist Brad Robinson co-writes ‘Way I’ve Been’ with his father, Justice James Robinson (“Order Campari’s in Japanese / Greet the Queen on a bended knee”), prompting some sniggering headlines like ‘Pop Goes the Judge.’ Brad Robinson and James Robinson share a songwriting credit with James Reyne and Bill McDonough on ‘Indisposed’. This is a bit of internal legend-building that explains just why James Reyne’s wrists were in plaster when the band was doing their first publicity rounds. Rendered in ‘Reyne-speak’: “Want to tell you ‘bout my friend-a / He got hit by a fender / But he’ll soon be on the mend-a / He’s of the male gender.” Yes, James Reyne was struck by a car. Brad Robinson and James Reyne co-write ‘Walk My Way’. That leaves Reyne’s portrait of a woman who was ‘Man Crazy’ and the closing track, ‘Hootchie Gucci Fiorucci Mama’, which Reyne co-writes with producer David Briggs. Eddie Rayner from Split Enz provides the delicate, stark piano accompaniment on this track as Reyne launches another salvo at the idle rich: “Every day I see you wearing things that have never been worn before / While the children at the government schools give money for the poor.” ‘The Boys Light Up’ is the best Australian Crawl album. Musically, its achievements are humble, but lyrically, this is their sharpest and most incisive work. It captures the band’s smart-aleck attitude to winning effect while retaining an accessible charm.
An honourable mention is due for the James Reyne composition ‘Big Fish’, a highlight of Australian Crawl’s live shows of this period. It only makes it to disc in somewhat muted form as the B side to the first single from the group’s second album.
In 1980 a sixth member joins Australian Crawl. Guy McDonough, former member of Spiff Rouche, younger brother of drummer Bill McDonough and co-author of ‘Downhearted’, is added on guitar. Guy’s former band, The Flatheads, folds in 1980 due to his departure. With two guitarists already, it’s a bit doubtful that Australian Crawl really requires a third guitarist. More importantly, Guy provides the band with another songwriter and, crucially, another vocalist. Usually, Guy McDonough provides backing vocals, but, on some songs, takes the lead giving the line-up an alternate singer. The best line-up of Australian Crawl is now assembled: James Reyne (vocals, occasional guitar, piano, percussion), Guy McDonough (vocals, guitar), Simon Binks (lead guitar), Brad Robinson (guitar), Paul Williams (bass) and Bill McDonough (drums).
Guy McDonough quickly proves his worth, co-writing the next single for Australian Crawl with his Flatheads colleague Sean Higgins. ‘Things Don’t Seem’ (AUS no. 11) is released in May 1981. James Reyne handles the lead vocal for this hard and fast song. In typically baffling ‘Reyne speak’ the chorus is rendered as: “Things just-a / Don’t seem-a / To-hoo / Be goin’ ra-hiiite.” ‘Things Don’t Seem is included on Australian Crawl’s second album, ‘Sirocco’ (1981) (AUS no. 1), released in July. This disc ‘does not mess much with the formula’ for the group, though Peter Dawkins’ production is a bit smoother. ‘Sirocco’ is named after a hot southerly wind from Africa …or movie star Errol Flynn’s yacht – which was named after the same breeze. Mr Flynn, the Tasmanian born Hollywood action hero of yesteryear, is the subject of ‘Errol’ (AUS no. 18) (“I would give everything / Just to be like him”), a song co-written by James Reyne and Guy McDonough. A waggish tribute to a questionable role model, it is the second single from ‘Sirocco’ (“He had to go / ‘The Sirocco’ / He’s sailing the high seas”). ‘Errol’ is also the first single to feature Guy McDonough as lead vocalist. Those exasperated by James Reyne’s mangling of English do not gain much relief. Whether by nature or design, Guy’s vocals follow James’ template closely and are only marginally clearer. Bassist Paul Williams later says of ‘Errol’, “I still love the sound of it. It’s my favourite.” The third single from ‘Sirocco’ is “Oh No, Not You Again’ (AUS no. 58), a pretty strum-along written and sung by Guy McDonough. Guy also contributes the closing track, ‘Resort Girls’, and co-writes the more hard-nosed ‘Trusting You’ with his brother, Bill McDonough. Guitarist Simon Binks supplies ‘Can I Be Sure’ and co-writes the footloose ‘Easy On Your Own’ with fellow guitarist Brad Robinson and Brad’s girlfriend, Australian actress Kerry Armstrong. ‘Unpublished Critics’, co-written by vocalist James Reyne and bassist Paul Williams, satirises Australian Crawl’s detractors: “Standing at the bar / I’ve got my lip on the curl / I’m with the other lean and leer.” In a later interview, Williams acknowledges, “We weren’t hip, you know.” On his own, Reyne pens ‘Love Beats Me Up’, which has a sideways reference to Chrissie Hynde, the American vocalist of British group The Pretenders: “Unlike Chrissie / She’s no pretender.” Chrissie Hynde shares James Reyne’s liking for a trembling vibrato in her singing voice. ‘Love Beats Me Up’ is this album’s pseudo-reggae track. Reyne is also the author of ‘Lakeside’, a tart ode to the wild life of his hometown: “They gonna wallow in the shallows / Great puce hippo”, he yelps. “Said a barbecue and blubber / Please don’t show,” he sniffs haughtily at some less than attractive damsels. Bill McDonough’s bruising ‘Love Boys’ rounds out the disc.
In 1981 Australian Crawl guitarist Brad Robinson marries Kerry Armstrong. The marriage is short-lived. The aspiring actress, probably best known at the time for her role in the Australian Seven Network television program ‘Skyways’, wants to work in the United States. ‘Her long distance from Robinson dissolves their relationship.’ With Brad’s consent, she marries her friend Alexander Bernstein, but it is only a professional arrangement to allow Armstrong to get a visa to remain in the U.S.A.
Drummer Bill McDonough writes the next single for Australian Crawl. ‘Shut Down’ (AUS no. 17) comes out in June 1982. The lyrics urge a friend to dispense with a gold-digger: “You’re her ticket to the swinging jet-set / You’ll make her summer / You’re her best bet / So look sharp / Play a part / Think with your mind and not your heart.” ‘Shut Down’ comes from the third Australian Crawl album, ‘Sons Of Beaches’ (1982) (AUS no. 1), released in July. The album is recorded in Hawaii with expatriate Australian Mike Chapman acting as producer. Australian Crawl gets all hairy-chested trying to prove their rock credentials on this album. “We’re a big band, and we’ve tended…to play everything at full tilt. On ‘Sons Of Beaches’ we had three guitars going all at once on most tracks,” notes James Reyne. ‘Daughters Of The Northern Coast’ (AUS no. 76) provides the album with its title (“Sons of beaches / Don’t deliver the post”). ‘Sons Of Beaches’ of course refers to Australian Crawl’s seaside origins – and the Hawaii recording sessions – but it has a secondary meaning if it’s ‘Reyne speak’ is devolved to English: ‘Sons Of Bitches’. Guy McDonough is represented on this disc with the pelting ‘Runaway Girls’ (AUS no. 88), ‘Dianne’, ‘Waiting’ (co-written with Brad Robinson) and a roughed-up version of ‘Downhearted’ (from ‘The Boys Light Up’) which still has James Reyne on lead vocals. The rest of the album is written by Reyne. ‘Mid-Life Crisis’, ‘King Sap (And Princess Sag)’ and ‘Live Now, Pay Later’ are all social critiques slathered in withering scorn. The closing song, ‘(Not So) Happy Song For Problem Children’, is a bit more charitable. As usual, there’s a goosed-up reggae number, ‘Letter From Zimbabwe’. Unusually, there is a loping electric blues, ‘Grinning Bellhops’, that is an overlooked gem: “Miss Sinister Snake-Hips / Like some E. Poe dream [i.e. horror author Edgar Allan Poe] / In my ears, lift muzak is ringing / I hear bellboys scream.”
After ‘Sons Of Beaches’, drummer Bill McDonough leaves Australian Crawl ‘due to tensions within the band.’ Guitarist Simon Binks claims, “I sacked Bill in 1983.”
James Reyne takes an acting job, co-starring the Australian television mini-series ‘Return to Eden’ (1983), which screens on the Ten Network. His role is a playboy, Greg Marsden. “It was this ridiculously over-the-top super-soap opera,” says Reyne, but it is ‘a top-rating television melodrama’ and makes James Reyne ‘a household name’ in Australia.
James Reyne’s next project is a casual supergroup put together to play some of their favourite old songs by other artists. The Party Boys consists of James Reyne (vocals), Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) (from The Kevin Borich Express), Harvey James (guitar) (from Sherbet), Paul Christie (bass) (from Mondo Rock) and Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup (drums) (from The Angels). Their repertoire includes such songs as The Rolling Stones’ 1971 track ‘Bitch’. Some of their gigs are recorded for the album ‘Live At Several 21sts’ (1983) (AUS no. 9). The Party Boys shambles on with a variety of all-star casts, but James Reyne appears only in this initial line-up and on the band’s debut album.
Australian Crawl reconvene for the EP ‘Semantics’ (AUS no. 1), released in October 1983. This four track disc is produced by Mark Opitz. Minus a drummer, Australian Crawl employs James Reyne’s Party Boys colleague Buzz Bidstrup to play drums here. Australian Crawl tries for a more consciously modern and contemporary sounding approach. The most successful piece is James Reyne’s ‘Reckless (Don’t Be So..)’ (AUS no. 1). A brooding fog of synthesisers overlays slow detonating drum beats with a delicate acoustic guitar solo tossed in for good measure. The lyrics are dotted with Australiana like the Manly Ferry and explorers Burke and Wills. The other songs on this EP are ‘The Night’ (written by Brad Robinson), ‘White Limbo’ (a Simon Binks composition that revises his ‘Red Guitar’ from ‘The Boys Light Up’) and ‘Looking For Cool’ (authored by James Reyne). ‘Semantics’ is ‘a darker more mature’ work than previous Australian Crawl recordings.
By the time Australian Crawl is promoting the ‘Semantics’ EP, John Watson has joined the band as their new drummer.
A live album, ‘Phalanx’ (1983) (AUS no. 4), is issued in December. Australian Crawl’s rendition of ‘Louie Louie’ (AUS no. 81), a song probably best known for the 1962 version by U.S. group The Kingsmen, is released as a single from this album.
An album version of ‘Semantics’ is issued in the U.S.A. in 1984 by Geffen Records. In addition to the four tracks from the Australian EP, six earlier Australian Crawl songs are rerecorded with new drummer John Watson.
In early 1984 Australian Crawl vocalist and guitarist Guy McDonough tries to detox and enters a rehab facility. He then checks himself out in favour of undertaking a naturopathic procedure at home instead. Somewhere along the line, McDonough contracts the AIDS virus. With his immune system failing, McDonough suffers from viral pneumonia. He is admitted to hospital for many weeks. Guy McDonough dies on 26 June 1984. He was 28 years old. At the time, public notices of Guy McDonough’s death refer only to pneumonia as the cause of his untimely demise; AIDS is not known to be part of his illness until years later. Because AIDS is often – but not always – publicly associated with homosexuality, it raises questions about whether Guy was gay. Guy McDonough’s sexual orientation remains unknown to the general public. Australian Crawl is, understandably, ‘rocked’ by the death of Guy McDonough.
Former Australian Crawl drummer David Reyne returns to the spotlight in 1984. He is part of the cast of the ABC TV series ‘Sweet and Sour’ (1984), playing a member of a (fictitious) rock band called The Takeaways. He is also part of a real act called Cats Under Pressure. His colleagues in this project are Simon Hussey and Mark Greig.
In 1984 Simon Hussey (guitar, keyboards) and Mark Greig (guitar) both join Australian Crawl. In this membership reshuffle, guitarist Simon Binks is discharged. According to Binks, he arrives at a rehearsal one day to find another guitarist using his guitar and playing his riffs.
‘Crawl File – Their Greatest Hits’ (1984) (AUS no. 2) is a compilation album released by Australian Crawl in December.
In 1985 James Reyne combines with Lin Buckfield, the young woman who leads Australian rock band The Electric Pandas, to release a duet version of Garland Jeffreys 1981 song ‘R.O.C.K.’ (AUS no. 44).
‘My Place’ (1985) is a posthumous solo album by Guy McDonough released in April. It is curated by his brother, Bill McDonough. The band on the album consists of Guy McDonough (vocals, guitar), Michael Bright (guitar), Sean Higgins (keyboards), Mick Hauser (saxophone), Nigel Spencer (bass) and Bill McDonough (drums). The McDonough brothers were both in Australian Crawl but they were also in The Flatheads with Sean Higgins (co-author of Australian Crawl’s ‘Downhearted’ and ‘Things Don’t Seem’) and Nigel Spencer.
James Reyne has a relationship with English-born model and stylist Kim Ellmer that results in the birth of their son, Jamie-Robbie Reyne (born 11 May 1985). As a young adult, Jamie-Robbie Reyne appears in the Australian Ten Network television soap opera ‘Neighbours’ from 2002 to 2004 and goes on to a music career of his own.
In May 1985 Australian Crawl sheds bassist Paul Williams. He is replaced by Harry Brus.
The album ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ (1985) (AUS no. 11) is released by Australian Crawl in July. This is issued on the group’s own Freestyle Records label through EMI. The disc is produced by Adam Kidron. Only James Reyne and Brad Robinson remain from the original edition of Australian Crawl. The group’s line-up for this album is: James Reyne (vocals), Brad Robinson (keyboards, instead of guitar), Simon Hussey (keyboards, guitar), Mark Greig (guitar), Harry Brus (bass) and John Watson (drums). The album is determinedly contemporary, in the vein of ‘Semantics’ and, particularly, ‘Reckless (Don’t Be So..)’. The first single, ‘Two Can Play’ (AUS no. 44), is a fruity tropicalia. It is the album’s best moment and its calling card. ‘Two Can Play’ is co-written by James Reyne and Simon Hussey. The duo also co-writes ‘Two Hearts’, ‘You Told Me’ and ‘Always The Way’. The balance of the album is written by James Reyne alone. This includes the disc’s second single, ‘If This Is Love’ (AUS no. 87). ‘Trouble Spot Rock’ (AUS no. 69) and ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ see the band attempting to present a more political edge. ‘Newly Weds In The Morning’ is the nearest thing to Australian Crawl’s customary sarcasm. ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ is ‘a mishmash of styles and a commercial disaster.’
In July 1985 Australian Crawl performs at the all-star charity concert Oz for Africa. Their set consists of three songs: ‘Reckless’, ‘Two Can Play’ and ‘The Boys Light Up’.
Australian Crawl announces their intention to wind-up. They perform their final Melbourne concert on 27 January 1986, but their last show is actually at the Perth Entertainment Centre in Western Australia on 1 February 1986. “We really enjoy Perth, and have a lot of friends there, so it was a conscious decision to play our final show there. Besides, everybody expected us to play the last show back in Melbourne, so stuff ‘em,” says James Reyne. ‘The Final Wave’ (1986) (AUS no. 16), a live album released in September, closes the book on Australian Crawl as well as the short-lived Freestyle Records label.
Australian Crawl’s hits are repackaged subsequently for these albums: ‘Lost & Found’ (1996) [which includes remastered versions of seven tracks from Guy McDonough’s solo album, ‘My Place’]; ‘More Wharf: Greatest Hits’ (1998); ‘Reckless ’79-‘95’ (2000); ‘Australian Crawl And James Reyne: The Definitive Collection’ (2002); and ‘The Greatest Hits’ (2014).
“After Australian Crawl, I made three albums and quite a few singles that did really well commercially,” says James Reyne. He is referring to the albums ‘James Reyne’ (1987) (AUS no. 4), ‘Hard Reyne’ (1988) (AUS no. 7) and ‘Electric Digger Dandy’ (1991) (AUS no. 3) and the 1987 singles ‘Fall Of Rome’ (AUS no. 5), ‘Hammerhead’ (AUS no. 8), ‘Rip It Up’ (AUS no. 34), the 1988 singles ‘Heaven On A Stick’ (AUS no. 59), ‘Motor’s Too Fast’ (AUS no. 4) and ‘Always The Way’ (AUS no. 72) [a revised version of the song from Australian Crawl’s ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’], the 1989 singles ‘House Of Cards’ (AUS no. 17), ‘One More River’ (AUS no. 22) and ‘Trouble In Paradise’ (AUS no. 72), 1990’s ‘Harvest Moon’ (AUS no. 76), the 1991 singles ‘Slave’ (AUS no. 10) and ‘Any Day Above Ground’ (AUS no. 67) and the 1992 singles ‘Some People’ (AUS no. 92) and a duet with Australian country music singer James Blundell on a cover version of The Dingoes 1973 song ‘Way Out West’ (AUS no. 2). In 1992 James Reyne is part of the short-lived project Company Of Strangers with Daryl Braithwaite (of Sherbet fame), Simon Hussey (ex-Australian Crawl) and Jeff Scott. They release one album, ‘Company Of Strangers’ (1992) (AUS no. 9), and the singles ‘Motor City’ (AUS no. 26), ‘Sweet Love’ (AUS no. 21) and ‘Daddy’s Gonna Make You A Star’ (AUS no. 35). “But in the mid-1990s things started to change,” notes James Reyne, as his fanbase becomes smaller and less mainstream. James Reyne’s latter albums are: ‘The Best Of James Reyne’ (1992) (AUS no. 16), ‘The Whiff Of Bedlam’ (1994) (AUS no. 20), ‘Live In Rio’ (1996), ‘Design For Living’ (1999), ‘Speedboats For Breakfast’ (2004), ‘..And The Horse You Rode In On’ (2004), ‘Every Man A King’ (2007), ‘Ghost Ships’ (2007), ‘One Night In Melbourne’ (2009), ‘TCB’ (2000) (AUS no. 32) [an album of Elvis Presley songs], ‘Thirteen’ (2012) and ‘The Anthology’ (2014). The most successful James Reyne singles from the same period are ‘Red Light Avenue’ (AUS no. 32) from 1992, ‘Day In The Sun’ (AUS no. 86) from 1996 and Smash ‘N’ Grab’s dance mix, ‘She Don’t Like That’ (AUS no. 42), from 2005. As an actor, James Reyne’s later credits include playing Roger Davies, the Australian-born manager of Tina Turner in the biographical film about the U.S. singer, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ (1993), and appearing as himself in the telemovie ‘The Postcard Bandit’ (2003). In his personal life, James Reyne makes his home on the Mornington Peninsula where he lives with his Irish-born partner, Tina, and their daughter, Molly (born 2000). James says, “I met Tina in Wagga Wagga [in New South Wales]. Her background was grooming polo horses. She’s extremely down-to-earth.” James Reyne is awarded the Order of Australia in January 2014.
After Australian Crawl disbands, guitarist Brad Robinson turns to a career in management. His most famous client is probably The Chantoozies (1986-1990). Although their frontline of four female vocalists attracts the lion’s share of attention, one of the four musicians backing them up is David Reyne, James’ younger brother and one-time member of Australian Crawl. Brad Robinson contracts lymphoma and dies on 13 October 1996. He was 38.
Guitarist Simon Binks plays with Broderick Smith’s band in 1988. Smith was the lead singer of The Dingoes, the country rock act that influenced Australian Crawl. By 1992, Binks is married and he and his wife Sharon have a daughter named Elizabeth (born 1992). In 1995 Simon Binks is in a car crash. He is left with slight brain damage, some sensory loss and restricted finger movements on his right hand. Binks sues the North Sydney Council for not adequately posting signs regarding their roadworks and so causing his accident. The Council countersues that Binks was speeding and over the legal alcohol limit. Eventually, the two parties come to a settlement. During the protracted legal wrangles, it is revealed that Simon and Sharon Binks are separating in 2006. Simon Binks is plagued by recurring migraines. Simon Binks gives an interview in which he expresses some animosity towards James Reyne (“I definitely feel betrayed by him”) and complains of his comparatively poor financial situation. Subsequently, ‘Binks claims he was misrepresented’ in the interview.
Bassist Paul Williams marries and works in music-related retail.
Drummer Bill McDonough remains out of the public eye.
Drummer David Reyne is a member of The Chantoozies (1986-1990) but is probably best known for his role as a travel reporter on the Nine Network television program ‘Getaway’ from 1992 to 2006. In 1987 David Reyne becomes romantically involved with Karina Loscher, an interior designer who subsequently works in a flower shop and a winery. David and Karina marry in 1994. They have two children, a son named Hunter (born 16 October 1995) and a daughter named Eva Sunny (born 1999).
Drummer John Watson continues to work with James Reyne during the singer’s solo career.
Guitarist and keyboardist Simon Hussey marries Elisabeth Reyne sometime prior to April 1989. She is the younger sister of James Reyne and David Reyne. Simon Hussey also works with James Reyne in Company Of Strangers in 1992.
Australian Crawl’s ‘lucky break’ coincided with vocalist James Reyne breaking his wrists and so he first came to widespread notice with his arms in plaster. But he and Australian Crawl became plastered into the consciousness of Australian rock music. He once said that he hoped Australian Crawl would be “part of people’s lives; a representation of the beach, the clean air and good vibes.” Australian Crawl purveyed ‘bright, sunny pop rock,’ but it was the ‘combination of light breezy tunes with significantly darker subtexts’ that really made them memorable.
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p 126, 141
- ‘100 Percent Rock’ (digital magazine) ‘Interview: James Reyne’ by Shane Pinnegar (April 2014) (magazine.100percentrock.com)
- wikipedia.org as at 25 October 2015
- ‘David Reyne: A Fansite’ – no author credited – as at 30 October 2015 (zunshine.com)
- ‘The Argus’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) (7 June 1956) (reproduced on trove.nla.gov.au)
- ‘Talking Heads’ (ABC Network, Australian television program) – ‘James Reyne’ interview conducted by Peter Thompson (31 May 2010) (transcript reproduced on abc.net.au)
- geni.com – Rodney Michael Reyne family – as at 30 October 2015
- Australian Crawl bio (You Tube video) (17 May 2009?)
- Simon Binks – au.linkedin.com – as at 27 October 2015
- ‘A Current Affair’ (Nine Network, Australian television program) – Host: Leila McKinnon, reporter: Martin King – ‘Simon Binks’ (9 December 2013?)
- vipfaq.com – Guy McDonough – as at 27 October 2015
- ‘TV Week’ (Australian magazine) (5 November 1983) via (4) above
- ‘The Big Australian Rock Book’, ‘Australian Crawl’ by Ed St. John (Megabooks, 1985) p 17, 46, 47
- allmusic.com, ‘Australian Crawl’ by Tomas Mureika as at 25 October 2015
- ‘The West Australian’ (Perth, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Australian Crawl Still Light Up’ by Simon Collins (24 January 2014) (reproduced on au.news.yahoo.com)
- ‘Crawl File – Their Greatest Hits’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (EMI Records, Australia, 1984) p. 2, 3
- discogs.com as at 30 October 2015
- themusic.com.au – ‘Australian Crawl Feud Spills Into Public Domain’ by Scott Fitzsimmons (19 June 2014)
- azlyrics.com as at 28 October 2015
- neighbours30years.blogspot.com.au by Victoria Kennedy as at 28 October 2015
- ‘Western Mail’ (Perth, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Last Wave Farewell’ by Martin Black (1-2 February 1986) via (3) above
- ‘The Age’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Waiting for Reyne’ by Peter Wilmoth (25 May 2013) (reproduced on theage.com.au)
- Internet movie database – imdb.com – as at 10 November 2015
- themusic.com.au – ‘James Reyne Plays Australian Crawl – The Tivoli’ by ‘staff writer’ (9 August 2014)
- sing365.com as at 10 December 2012
Song lyrics copyright Wheatley Music Pty. Ltd.
Last revised 14 November 2015