The Sports

 The Sports

 Steve Cummings – circa 1979

 “I…I wish I’d never opened my big mouth to you / Give me four good reasons why / We should be in the same world / Live a little and die” – ‘Strangers On A Train’ (Martin Armiger)

The neon light blinked outside my window.  I took another slug from the bottle of booze I kept in the bottom drawer of my desk and lit a cigarette.  When I looked up, she was standing in the doorway.  A halo of blonde hair framed her face and she had legs that went on forever.  In a husky voice she asked, “Is this the Private Eye’s office?”  My slack jaw tried to say ‘Yes’ and I gestured for her to sit down.  “I want you to find out about The Sports for me,” my new client said firmly.  Confronted with my blank expression, she added, “They’re an Australian rock band.”  I numbly repeated, “A rock band?” and then, struck by the odd request, I grumbled, “Whatta I know about rock bands?!  I wouldn’t even know where to start!”  With a flutter of long eye-lashes, the blonde suggests, “You might start with Steve Cummings, their lead singer…”

Stephen Donald Cummings is born 13 September 1954 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.  His father, described as ‘a grumpy man’, works a series of jobs.  The most memorable may be driving a hired car for Japanese tourists.  Steve’s mother works for an accountant.  What they have in common is both Mr and Mrs Cummings are great readers.  He reads westerns while she ploughs through romances.  “So I was surrounded not by high culture, but rather by a kind of trash aesthetic,” Steve recalls.  In his days with The Sports, Steve Cummings goes on to ‘collect hundreds of old comics and detective books’ – but he will later give them all away.

Steve Cummings grows up in Camberwell, Victoria.  He attends art school, but his interests really lie elsewhere.  “When I was at school, and even during the early days with The Sports, I had notions of myself as a sort of Bob Dylan figure [Dylan is a famed American folk rocker from the 1960s, noted for literary lyrics]; very wordy rock poet stuff.”  Cummings muses, “I wanted to do music but I was probably just…It was more I just fell into it.  I wasn’t looking for a career.”  He claims, “I put together The Sports because I was a fan and an art student and, as such, had plenty of free time.  Of course, I hoped it might lead to something, but my ambitions / expectations were very limited.”  Before The Sports, Steve Cummings has a couple of other bands.

The first band for which Steve Cummings acts as lead vocalist is Ewe And The Merinos (the name is a pun on sheep; a ewe is female sheep and Merinos are Australia’s most famous breed of sheep, prized for their thick fleece).  More significant is Cummings’ next group, The Pelaco Brothers.  The name is another arty joke.  Pelaco is an Australian clothes manufacturer whose signature product is men’s shirts.  The Pelaco Brothers are formed in 1974 and exist for eighteen months.  The music they play is described as ‘rockabilly, country swing and rhythm and blues.’  The line-up of The Pelaco Brothers is: Steve Cummings (vocals), Joe Camelleri (saxophone and vocals) (born 21 May 1948 in Malta), Peter Lillie (guitar, vocals), Chris Worrall (guitar), Johnny Topper (bass) and Karl Wolfe (drums).  Later in their career, the band includes Ed Bates (guitar) and Peter Martin (slide guitar).  The Pelaco Brothers do not release any recordings during the eighteen months in which they are active, but some appear after the group breaks up.  There are two EPs issued: ‘The Pelaco Brothers’ in 1976 and the live recording ‘The Notorious Pelaco Brothers Show’ in 1977.  Also three tracks from the act show up on the compilation album ‘The Autodrifters And Relaxed Mechanics Meet The Fabulous Nudes And The Pelaco Brothers’ (1978).  The rather convoluted title gives some indication of what happens to the rest of the group after The Pelaco Brothers disband.  The Autodrifters is a band that includes Peter Lillie, Johnny Topper and Karl Wolfe; Peter Lillie is in The Relaxed Mechanics; and Johnny Topper is in The Fabulous Nudes.  Joe Camilleri goes on to the greatest fame (with the possible exception of Steve Cummings) in the bands Jo Jo Zep And The Falcons (1975-1984) and The Black Sorrows (from 1983).

The Sports is founded in 1976 by Steve Cummings and a fellow Pelaco Brothers alumnus, Ed Bates.  The band’s name does not reflect an interest in football, cricket or basketball.  “Being not much of a sportsman, I decided to call it The Sports,” is Cummings’ perverse rationale.  Colloquially, a ‘sport’ is a ‘broad-minded person, good loser’.  Although derived from English street language, ‘sport’ in Australia comes to be synonymous with ‘mate’ or ‘friend’ – as in Rolf Harris’ 1957 song ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’.  So although Steve Cummings’ “not much of a sportsman” may be the official line, it may also be valid to think The Sports is a tag meaning ‘The Mates’ or ‘The Friends’.

The founding line-up of The Sports in 1976 is: Steve Cummings (vocals), Ed Bates (guitar), Jim Niven (piano), Robert Glover (bass) and Paul Hitchens (drums).  Niven comes from The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band and Glover is from a group called Myriad.  “I just vaguely met people and dragged them into it,” shrugs Cummings.  “We had strong rockabilly influences at that time, particularly our guitar player Ed Bates.”  Rockabilly is a mix of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and hillbilly music, a more country-flavoured version of early rock.

Andrew Pendlebury joins The Sports as an additional guitarist in August 1977.  Andrew Scott Pendlebury (born 1952 in Australia) is the son of Laurence ‘Scott’ Pendlebury and Eleanor Constance ‘Nornie’ Pendlebury (nee Gude).  They are both visual artists.  Andrew’s elder sister, Anne Scott-Pendlebury, becomes an actress.  She is perhaps best known for appearing from 1987 to 2005 in Australian television soap opera ‘Neighbours’.  Andrew Pendlebury starts out in music by learning violin when he is 4.  He switches to guitar.  Pendlebury was in Myriad, the same band from which Sports’ bassist Robert Glover hailed.  “I always wanted Andrew in the group as a guitarist,” reports Steve Cummings.

The Sports’ recording debut is the 1977 EP ‘Fair Game’ on Zac Records.  The best known track may be ‘Twist Senorita’, a mix of Latin rhythms and rockabilly.  It is co-written by Steve Cummings and Ed Bates.  The EP is produced by Cummings’ former Pelaco Brothers confederate, Joe Camilleri.  “Two friends of ours, rockabilly buffs, paid for us to record…in this little studio in North Melbourne.  We pressed five hundred copies which sold well,” says Cummings.

‘Cruisin In A Citroen’, another Steve Cummings and Ed Bates composition, is performed by The Sports for the compilation album ‘Debutantes’ (1977) on EMI.  Cummings explains that this disc is “a collection of different bands playing in Melbourne at that time and although we didn’t have much in common with them musically, it did give us an opportunity to record again.”  This session is produced by Ross Wilson from legendary Australian band Daddy Cool (1970-1972), though at the time he is perhaps more famous for producing the first three albums (1974-1976) by Skyhooks, another Melbourne-based band.

Meantime, other developments for The Sports are taking place overseas.  A friend of theirs in London posts a copy of the ‘Fair Game’ EP to British rock music newspaper ‘New Musical Express’ who print a review of the disc as ‘Record of the Week’.  “We were totally surprised,” says Steve Cummings.  It leads eventually to The Sports’ recordings being licensed to Stiff Records in the U.K., the home to such new wave rock acts as Elvis Costello and Graham Parker.

Back in Australia, The Sports are signed to Mushroom Records.  The label is owned by Skyhooks’ manager Michael Gudinski and, of course, Skyhooks appear on that label.  The Sports’ relationship with Gudinski is perhaps a bit less convivial.  Steve Cummings later describes him as “an offensive and abusive bear of a man, [though] at least he went to gigs and liked music.”

‘Reckless’ (1978) (AUS no. 43) is The Sports’ debut album.  It is produced by Joe Camilleri because, according to Steve Cummings, he “was the only person we knew who had recorded…’Reckless’ was recorded in one week, basically live.”  Most of the album is co-written by Steve Cummings and Ed Bates.  This includes the band’s first charting single, ‘Boys (What Did The Detective Say?)’ (AUS no. 55).  This is essentially a rockabilly tune, but with some dynamic rhythm shifts.  The detective of the title advises, “We’re going down to Russell Street.”  Until the 1990s, Russell Street in Melbourne was the address of the headquarters of the Victoria Police Department.  Also on this album is ‘When You Walk In The Room’ (AUS no. 42), a cover version of the 1963 Jackie De Shannon song also covered, in 1964, by The Searchers.  The harsh ‘I Put The Light On’ comes across like the soundtrack to a film noir: “I couldn’t sleep last night / I was not sleepy ….While she was looking at me / I lit a cigarette.”  The title track, ‘Reckless’, is more downcast and gentle with Andrew Pendlebury sharing a writing credit with Cummings and Bates.  “I wanted to expand into rock and pop, that’s why we got a second guitarist, Andrew Pendlebury, to join just before this recording,” says Cummings.  “I wanted to leave our rockabilly roots behind and move the band on musically.”

Given that Ed Bates’ strength is rockabilly, it is no surprise that he leaves The Sports, since he doesn’t fit with the band’s new direction.  In August 1978 he is replaced by Martin Armiger.

John Martin Armiger is born 10 June 1949 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, U.K.  His parents are both musical.  His father plays double bass and piano and sings in local bands.  His mother plays piano and sings.  Martin has three younger brothers: Keith, Andrew and Michael.  The Armiger family moves to Australia when Martin is a child.  They settle in Elizabeth, South Australia.  Martin Armiger attends Adelaide University in Adelaide, South Australia, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974.  He then moves to Melbourne, Victoria, and becomes part of that city’s musical scene.  He plays guitar with The Toads (1973), The Bleeding Hearts (1976) and The High Rise Bombers (1977-1978).  The last-named act also includes Paul Kelly, who goes on to be a famous Australian singer and songwriter.  “I was a big fan of Martin,” says Steve Cummings.  “Martin had a great harmony voice, was a very ‘pop’ songwriter, and was a very good rhythm guitarist in the Keith Richards mould [of British rock titans, The Rolling Stones].  Martin was also the member of the group that I had most in common with on a personal level.”

This line-up adjustment creates the best-remembered incarnation of The Sports: Steve Cummings (vocals), Andrew Pendlebury (guitar), Martin Armiger (guitar), Jim Niven (piano), Robert Glover (bass), Paul Hitchens (drums).

The Sports is a new wave band and this is a tag which sits comfortably with Steve Cummings.  They are one of Australia’s first new wave acts.  The Sports may have started as a rockabilly act, but they quickly outgrew that definition.  New wave supplants punk rock.  There is some overlap between the two genres.  They both favour a back-to-basics approach, discarding the layers of artifice and pretension rock music accumulated during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Punk is aggressive and has a political dimension, attributes that are largely absent from new wave.  A more commercial proposition than punk, new wave is also quirkier, more eccentric.

The Sports pseudo 1950s rockabilly grounding explains how they fit the back-to-basics side of new wave, but what idiosyncrasies do they display to fit the other half of the equation?  It is largely in the lyrics.  The Sports songs often sound like they should accompany a gangster movie.  Steve Cummings seems to be as influenced by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, hard-boiled detective fiction authors, as Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, literate new wave rockers.  Yet the scenarios are shot through with a peculiarly Australian sensibility.  It’s like Mickey Spillane’s private investigator Mike Hammer has taken a wrong turn and found himself on the rain-slick streets of Melbourne in the 1970s.

At first, Steve Cummings co-writes the bulk of The Sports’ songs with guitarist Ed Bates.  After Bates’ departure, Andrew Pendlebury becomes Cummings’ partner in pop.  The addition of Martin Armiger gives The Sports a strong second author.  While the Cummings-Pendlebury team provides the lion’s share of material, Armiger (writing alone) contributes most of the rest.  Gradually, Cummings begins to co-write with Armiger as well as Pendlebury.  It’s a generalisation but, usually, The Sports’ vocalist writes the lyrics and the guitarists provide the music.

Steve Cummings is described as ‘handsome, stylish, but incredibly anxious.’  No matter how well-tailored his attire, Cummings seems ill at ease, as though his garb is the wrong size.  It’s boyishly endearing.  Steve Cummings’ vocals are also very distinctive.  He takes an original path to where the syllables in a word should break and where the emphasis should be placed.  A strong Australian accent further distinguishes his pronunciation.  Oddly, despite the dangers of creating a mangled, indecipherable mess, Cummings nearly always renders his songs comprehensible – albeit quirky…but that fits the new wave ethos.

Speaking of guitarists Andrew Pendlebury and Martin Armiger, Steve Cummings expresses the view that, “Although both guitarists had different styles, they complemented each other.  Martin preferred to play rhythm, allowing Andrew most of the solos.”  The musical harmony of the two guitarists extends to their personal lives.  “He [Martin] and Andrew got on very well,” is Cummings’ assessment.

In 1978 Steve Cummings is living with his girlfriend, Meryl, in a flat above an abandoned shop in Malvern, Victoria.  The couple go on to have a son, Curtis (born 1985).

The Sports are the support act on an Australian tour by British act Graham Parker And The Rumour.  Through this connection, Englishman Pete Solley is brought in to produce the next two albums by The Sports.

‘Don’t Throw Stones’ (1979) (AUS no. 9, US no. 194) in February is The Sports’ finest album.  The first single, ‘Who Listens To The Radio’ (AUS no. 35, US no. 50) (released in November 1978) is the group’s best individual song.  As the name suggests, it is a song about radio airplay.  “It crackles, it clicks, it pops, it starts / It’s blasting out the top forty charts,” sings Steve Cummings.  He decides, “There’s still some magic, there’s still some fun / If you don’t pay too much a-tten-tion.”  What could have come across as a shameless bid for affection from radio stations instead sounds like genuine enjoyment.  The Sports are music fans first, a money-making endeavour second.  It helps that the song has a strong riff.  The song is catchy and its hand-clapping rhythm hits all the sweet spots.  ‘Who Listens To The Radio’ may be light on for cops ‘n’ robbers references, but in its precision made new wave, it is the group’s definitive work.  Steve Cummings and Andrew Pendlebury write both ‘Who Listens To The Radio’ and the album’s title track, ‘Don’t Throw Stones’ (AUS no. 26).  The tension in this song is piled thick due to its sticky, chewing gum guitars – until it bursts into a catchy chorus.  Cummings is on more familiar ground lyrically.  “I jumped out of bed, I stood on the cat! / I looked out the window at the Laundromat.”  The narrator spends much of the song obsessing over the girl who works at her family’s Laundromat.  Between the lines, something awful seems to happen to her, but the exact nature of that mishap remains a mystery.  “Well I’m not blind so I don’t read braille / I see your Laundromat is up for sale,” mourns the vocalist.  Breathy backing vocals bring the song home – to conclude with the sound of a window breaking!  Martin Armiger provides ‘Suspicious Minds’ (which is not a cover version of the Elvis Presley song of the same name).  Like ‘Don’t Throw Stones’, the particular cause for concern in this song remains vague.  The narrator is clearly troubled by some false idea spread by his girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend?), but what it is seems up for conjecture.  The alternating guitar strokes are fittingly tense.  ‘Hit Single’, an Armiger song dating back to his days with The High Rise Bombers, is a harrowing nightmare, belying its innocuous title.  “I don’t want to think about,” howls Cummings, “Though it has been some years / Three tons of steel, lying twisted on the road / I don’t want to think about it, though it’s making me reel / Seein’ you, you’re lyin’ there, you’re twisted / Off your little face and you’re listening to a hit single.”  The best of the rest of the Cummings-Pendlebury tunes is ‘Live, Work And Play’, a foaming rave-up: “I wear a collar / Yeah, and a tie / Wear a badge that says, / ‘Buzz the jerk’ / Always lost in smog when I come home from…work!”  The closing track, ‘The Big Sleep’, is probably named after the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ (1939) by Raymond Chandler or the 1946 movie version starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe.  As an album, ‘Don’t Throw Stones’ embraces new wave rock and inky mystery alike, a combination that neatly encapsulates the main traits of The Sports.

The Sports tour England as a support act for Graham Parker And The Rumour.  While there, they go into the recording studio with Stiff Records’ boss, Dave Robinson producing.  Stiff issued the ‘So Obvious’ EP in 1979 (named after a track from ‘Don’t Throw Stones’) for the British market.  The ‘O.K., U.K.’ EP (AUS no. 40) comes out in August 1979.  It is best known for The Sports’ breakneck cover version of ‘Wedding Ring’, a 1965 song by Australian pop group The Easybeats.

The Sports begin work on their third album in England with Pete Solley.  This is interrupted by a trip to the U.S.A. for promotional purposes.  Then it’s back to the U.K. to complete the recordings.  By this time, Steve Cummings says he is, “Homesick and fed-up with the constant touring.”

‘Suddenly’ (1980) (AUS no. 13) is released in March.  The album cover is a sort of venetian blind construction.  As the inner sleeve is lifted upwards, the intercut photos of Steve Cummings on the inner sleeve give the illusion of movement through the slats.  It’s a clever gimmick, but the slats prove flimsy and easily broken, resulting in many copies being damaged in transit.   The Martin Armiger composition ‘Strangers On A Train’ (AUS no. 22) is the pilot single.  Steve Cummings’ vocal handles the curves of this slick pop song with aplomb.  This is another song whose title (though not its subject) is borrowed from an old film: ‘Strangers on a Train’ (1951), a thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  The title track, ‘Suddenly’, written by Steve Cummings and Andrew Pendlebury, is an eccentric piece of fast-paced pop that seems influenced by The Easybeats.  The album contains a couple of shots at a more sophisticated adult pop sound.  Both songs are co-written by Cummings.  ‘Blue Hearts’ is a collaboration with Martin Armiger while ‘Perhaps’ is co-written with Ross Wilson, the producer of ‘Cruisin’ In A Citroen’ back in 1977.  Early copies of ‘Suddenly’ come with a bonus single, ‘The Lost Demos’, featuring ‘Poor Mouth’ and ‘Heart Of Darkness’.  Looking over ‘Suddenly’, Cummings comments, “The others (Martin and Andrew) really had a lot more to do with how this record sounded than I did.  I think I was depressed around here.”  He also notes that, on this disc, “Pete Solley, a keyboard player,…introduced synthesisers and more modern keyboards that our piano player, Jimmy Niven, was unfamiliar with.”

Changes are in the offing for The Sports.  “On returning home [to Australia], the band had become more of a core of Martin [Armiger], Andrew [Pendlebury] and myself,” reports Steve Cummings.  Both drummer Paul Hitchens and pianist Jim Niven are dismissed in 1980.  Iain McLennan is brought in on drums.  McLennan was previously with Australian band Ariel from 1976 to 1977.  No keyboards player is hired to take Jim Niven’s place; The Sports slim down to a five-piece line-up.  Although Iain McLennan plays some gigs with The Sports and appears in the promotional videos and photos for ‘Suddenly’, he is fated never to record with The Sports.  Later in 1980 his place is taken by former Skyhooks drummer Freddie Strauks (born Alfred Imants Strauks, 21 December 1950 in Melbourne).

‘Sondra’ (1981) (AUS no. 20) is released in May.  The album is named after Sondra Locke, the girlfriend of Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood.  The album is produced by Cameron Allan.  Steve Cummings explains that The Sports wanted, “to push the music into different areas…inspired by some of the dance music of bands like Chic and The B-52’s that we’d heard overseas.”  The Sports are still partly a new wave act and so they become a hybrid, a rock band trying to be a dance act.  “Martin [Armiger’s] influence stood out on this album,” says Cummings.  The disco domestic drama of ‘Stop The Baby Talking’, released as a (non-charting) single in 1980, is the first taste of the new Sports.  The heavy-footed ‘How Come’ (AUS no. 21) has a blunt hook.  A puzzled Steve Cummings sings in this song, “Still I don’t know why she wrote a seventeen-page letter just to say goodbye.”  Both of these songs are co-written by Cummings and Andrew Pendlebury.  Collaborations with Martin Armiger mark the following songs.  ‘Lucky Shop’ takes its name from an advertising campaign for the T.A.B. (Totalisator Agency Board), Australia’s sanctioned way of placing bets on race horses.  The song includes Cummings’ confession, “Trashy books make me feel good.”  The fast-paced flurry of ‘Passionette’ also seems semi-autobiographical: “Sometimes I’m a tiger, I’m just so passionette / Get up, fix you breakfast in the kitchenette / Other times it’s reversed, quiet as a mouse / Newspapers, magazines, filling up the house.”  ‘Black Stockings For Chelsea’ is a sultry and smoky change of pace, while ‘This Is Really Something’ is a giddy, lovestruck romp and ‘When We Go Out Tonight’ bursts with excitement.

The Sports’ final release is the 1981 EP – or ‘mini-album’ – ‘The Sports Play Dylan (And Donovan)’ (AUS no. 70).  It may be recalled that Bob Dylan was a formative influence on Steve Cummings.  Because Dylan was a great songwriter but only fitfully had hit singles himself, it used to be reasonably commonplace for other acts to record his compositions, even whole albums of the stuff (e.g. ‘The Hollies Sing Dylan’ (1969)).  “We included the Donovan song [‘Sunshine Superman’ (AUS no. 72), recorded by Donovan in 1966] ‘cause he was often referred to as ‘the poor man’s Dylan’.  We didn’t pick the obvious Dylan songs.  Martin [Armiger], Andrew [Pendlebury] and myself picked the songs.”  The four Dylan songs are ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ and ‘Fourth Time Around’ (both from 1966), ‘All The Tired Horses’ (from 1970) and ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ (from 1975).

With ‘no announcements or farewell tours’, The Sports quietly disband at the end of 1981.  “We were tired, we’d toured too much and we wanted to try different things,” concludes Steve Cummings.

The Sports reunite for the twenty-fifth anniversary concert for Mushroom Records on 14 November 1988.

Under the name of Stephen Cummings, the former Sports vocalist releases a number of solo albums: ‘Senso’ (1984) (AUS no. 46), ‘This Wonderful Life’ (1986) (AUS no. 69), ‘Lovetown’ (1988) (AUS no. 61), ‘A New Kind Of Blue’ (1989), ‘Good Humour’ (1990) (AUS no. 40), ‘Unguided Tour’ (1992), ‘Falling Swinger’ (1994), ‘Escapist’ (1996), ‘Spiritual Bum’ (1999), ‘Skeleton Key’ (2001), ‘Firecracker’ (2003), ‘Live At The Big Room’ (2003) (a live recording), ‘Close Ups’ (2004) (an unplugged, acoustic recording), ‘Love-O-Meter’ (2005), ‘Space Travel’ (2007), ‘Happiest Man Alive’ (2008), ‘Tickety Boo’ (2009)‘Reverse Psychology’ (2012) and ‘Nothing To Be Frightened Of’ (2014).  His most commercially successful singles include 1983’s ‘Backstabbers’ (AUS no. 40) (a cover version of the 1972 hit by The O’Jays, an African-American group), 1984’s ‘Gymnasium’ (AUS no. 27) and 1990’s ‘Hell (You Put Me Through)’ (AUS no. 33).  In 1991 Cummings begins a romantic relationship with Kathleen O’Brien, a former rock music photographer who contributed to the Australian publications ‘Juke’ and ‘Ram’ and the Australian edition of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine.  The couple have a son, Dominic (born August 1998), Cummings’ second child.  Cummings and O’Brien marry early in 2011.  Stephen Cummings also has a parallel career as an author.  He writes two novels of fiction, ‘Wonderboy’ (1996, Minerva) and ‘Stay Away from the Lightning Girl’ (1999, Vintage), as well as a more autobiographical work, ‘Will it be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? – A Kind of Musical Memoir’ (2009, Hardie Grant Books).  The latter takes its name from an encounter with U.S. pop star Billy Joel during The Sports’ American visit.  ‘Don’t Throw Stones’ (2014) is a documentary directed by Mike Brook and based on Stephen Cummings’ memoir.

Andrew Pendlebury records three instrumental guitar albums: ‘Between The Horizon And The Dockyard’ (1987), ‘Tigerland’ (1988) and ‘Zing Went The Strings’ (1990).  ‘Calling You’ (AUS no. 97), featuring the vocals of Australian songstress Kate Ceberano, comes from ‘Don’t Hold Back That Feeling’ (1992).  Pendlebury also works with two groups.  With The Slaughtermen he records ‘Still Lovin’ You’ (1986) and ‘Melbourne, Memphis And A Mansion In The Sky’ (1988).  Andrew Pendlebury’s involvement with The Mercurials yields ‘The Mercurials’ (2005), ‘Tangents’ (2008) and ‘Silver And Gold’ (2009).

Martin Armiger moves into record production, his efforts encompassing also television and stage shows.  His most notable work may be his role as musical director for two television mini-series for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  ‘Sweet and Sour’ (1984) is an account of the rise and fall of a (fictitious) young band.  ‘Come in Spinner’ (1990) is a period piece set in World War Two so the soundtrack mixes jazz and torch songs.

The Sports reunite for three shows starting on 10 May 2015 – and then disband again.  Steve Cummings, Andrew Pendlebury and Martin Armiger are the only members from the group’s history involved in these gigs.  Rounding out the band onstage are the musicians from the SBS television program ‘RockWiz’: James Black (guitar, keyboards), Mark Ferrie (bass) and Peter Luscombe (drums).

I push the folder across the desk.  My client reads silently for a few minutes.  I look out the window, imagining ways the blonde could express her appreciation to me.  I glance over at her and see tears welling in her eyes.  She dabs at her orbs with a lacy handkerchief and explains, “I miss them so much!”  Dames!  Who can figure ‘em out?!  The Sports ‘recorded several exquisite pop songs in the new wave style.’  They played ‘an enticing mixture of rhythm and blues, rockabilly and English-style pub rock, all of it delivered with a particularly sharp pop tang.’


  1. ‘This Is Really Something – The Complete Anthology’ – Sleeve notes by Stephen Cummings (Mushroom Records P/L, 1997) p. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12
  2. as at 10 March 2014, 1 January 2015
  3. 666 ABC Canberra – ‘Canberra Close Up: Stephen Cummings, Musician’ by Gabrielle Rumble (with Alex Sloan) (12 September 2012) (reproduced on
  4. ‘Sunday’ (Australian television program, Nine Network) – ‘Stephen Cummings: The Reluctant Rock Star’ – Producer: Marianne Latham (16 May 2004) (reproduced on
  5. ‘Stephen Cummings’ by Christie Eliezer (November 1999) (reproduced on
  6. ‘Juice’ magazine – ‘The Good Sport’ by Toby Creswell (September 1997) (reproduced on
  7. ‘The Big Australian Rock Book’, ‘Steve Cummings’ by Ed St John (Megabooks, 1985) p. 51
  8. ‘POP sided’ magazine – ‘Odd Man Out’ by ‘Spaz’ (1997) (reproduced on
  9. (April 2011)
  10. ‘The Australian Contemporary Dictionary’ – Edited by J.B. Foreman, M.A. (Collins Books, 1969) p. 470
  11. Internet movie database as at 2 May 2014, 1 January 2015
  12. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 105, 257
  13. ‘Will it be Funny Tomorrow Billy? – A Kind of Musical Memoir’ by Stephen Cummings (Hardie Grant Books, 2009) (via ‘Rhythms’ magazine (2 May 2014) (
  14. Martin Armiger Biography – – as at 2 May 2014
  15., ‘The Sports’ – no author credited – as at 2 May 2001
  16. ‘Buzz’ magazine – ‘An Ode to a Patchwork Guitar Hero’ – no author credited (September 1999) (reproduced on
  17. as at 2 May 2014
  18. – Iain McLennan – as at 2 May 2014
  19. ‘The Age’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) – ‘Stephen Cummings has Local Landmarks on his Mind as a Musical Mission Plays Itself Out’ by Kylie Northover (19 March 2011) (reproduced on
  20. – Kathleen O’Brien Biography as at 2 May 2014
  21. ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ (Sydney, Australia, newspaper) – ‘The Sports Review: Stephen Cummings and New Wave Band Engage in Battle Royal’ by Michael Dwyer (11 May 2015) (reproduced on
  22. – ‘The Sports Reunite for Three Shows and then Disband’ by Paul Cashmere (11 May 2015)

Song lyrics copyright Mushroom/Wheatley Music with the exceptions of ‘Strangers On A Train’ and ‘Lucky Shop’ (both Mushroom), ‘Boys (What Did The Detective Say)’ and ‘I Put The Light On’ (both Wheatley Music), ‘Hit Single’ (Payola), ‘Live, Work And Play’ and ‘How Come’ (both Control)

Last revised 12 January 2017


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