Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lobby Loyde
Plays With George Guitar

Released 1971 on Infinity
Reviewed by achuma, 09/02/2006ce

Lobby Loyde is an under-appreciated legend of Australian rock, and his best days start right here with his first solo album. He was hardly doing nothing before that, however. Originally from Brisbane, the guitarist went to school with the slightly younger Billy Thorpe (who would become far more famous but was less important musically in all fairness), with whom he’d later cross paths again through both music and friendship. One of his first groups was the Purple Hearts, then joining the second incarnation of Melbourne’s Wild Cherries in 1967. Previously more of an r&b band, with Loyde’s arrival they turned to hard psychedelic rock and worked up a great live reputation. Unfortunately, the group at this point only released two singles, later issued the same year together as an EP, and another two singles in 1968 with different line-ups. I’ve only heard a couple of these early single tracks, none of which really account for their more uncommercial live reputation, which is a shame. The band was a bit of a revolving door by now, and later in ’68 people were coming and going a lot, including three chaps who would leave at the end of the year to form the nascent Chain, a legendary blues rock band (who were also very much a revolving door outfit).
By now Loyde had vacated the premises as well, and the group soldiered on in some form until falling apart early the next year.
Not wasting any time, Loyde joined the new formation of Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs pretty much straight away. Previously a pop/r&b band famous across the country, Thorpe had his mind seriously changed after discovering acid and a couple of years later reformed the group with all-new members. Now heavy blues rock in a quasi progressive outlook was the name of the game, and Loyde helped a great deal in making the transition. Not only did he give Thorpe some tips on the guitar, which were taken to pretty quickly, Loyde was an amiable ‘bad influence’ and one of the scruffiest rockers around. Really, stick a mouldy old greatcoat and some newspapers over him and he’d look right at home in an alley somewhere, no disrespect intended. Rather, that’s one of the things I love about the guy, because he didn’t look scruffy to look cool, that’s just who he was [and he wasn’t exactly a Prince Charming in the looks department, either] and it embodied his whole approach to life and the music industry – no bullshit, no image work or posing, no frills, and I Did It My Way thankyou very much (not that you’d be likely to ever catch him doing that song!). At this point, it must be said, he’s on record as saying in a very early interview that he’s one of the best rock guitarists in the world, which doesn’t exactly sound like ‘no bullshit’, because although he has talent and used it well, it’s a pretty big stretch to say he’s that great a guitarist. Maybe I’m just making excuses in his defense, but I reckon he was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when he said that, toying with the journalist interviewer – or at least just passing through a stage of youthful over-confidence. Regardless, I’ve met the guy briefly and he’s got to be one of the humblest and most genuine people I’ve met, and he’s under no illusions of being a guitar god.
Anyway, Loyde stayed with the new Aztecs long enough to record their ‘first’ album [discounting the older records which are very much from a bygone era], ‘The Hoax Is Over’ [Festival/Infinity, 1971], before splitting. Recorded on acid from what I’ve read in Thorpe’s autobiography vol. 2 (‘Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy’), it’s a fairly indulgent album, full of exceedingly lengthy blues rock jams with plenty of solos, and a couple of shorter numbers, one of which rocks pretty hard. So, having set Thorpe and crew on the way to glory – they would become one of the most popular live bands in Australia in the early 70’s, although far from being the best local band – and having survived nearly being shot in the head (on two separate occasions on the same night) by drunken and pissed-off farmboys after one particularly chaotic gig in the middle of nowhere – Loyde didn’t drop a beat and set about making a solo album, which is what all this has been working up to. About time, you might say, but a bit of background is important.
He did this with the aid of the drummer and bass player both from the just-disbanded Fanny Adams and previously from Max Merritt & the Meteors – Johnny Dick and Teddy Toi, respectively. Fanny Adams were a great progressive heavy rock band that had evolved from Doug Parkinson’s In Focus, and they had shown a lot of promise. However after setting the stage for their grand entrance by proclaiming how great they were, they fell apart within a really short space of time due to various problems and just bad luck, leaving behind an album to be remembered by. Not bad luck for Loyde though, who quickly poached the rhythm section, got loaded with them on hash and acid, and hit the studio.
Incidentally, the name of the album comes from the name of Loyde’s guitar at the time, a Les Paul with the name ‘GEORGE’ stuck crudely on the body in strips of white tape. Certainly a break from the habit some over-precious musos have of naming their guitars with female monickers, preferably seductive-sounding ones!
And what’s the music sound like? Mostly what we have here is dirty hard fuzzed underground rock with an acid rock hangover; it’s raw and proud like it was made by human rats who drink meths, smoke whole dope plants in toilet-paper joints, eat whatever they can scrape off of the mountain of dirty dishes festering in the (blocked) sink, and shower city hall with molotov cocktails when they’re not jamming, fucking or sleeping. Lobby sings about freedom to be an individual, and how he wants some of it and is taking it anyway, sex, and how he wants some of that too and will take what he can get (and with his looks and hygiene it probably wasn’t nearly as much as he would’ve liked), and sticking it to the man with a guitar in hand and middle finger pointing to the stars. Lobby’s vocals are kind of hollered a lot of the time rather than sung with much finesse, sometimes out of key but going for it anyway, not that he cares and neither do I, often semi-snarled with a snotty sense of independence and confidence, but never arrogance. The guitar is recorded thin and trebly but mostly well-fuzzed and unmannered, delivering the goods with gusto and efficiency but no flashy virtuosity; the bass is just there, solid and pumping out the riffs reliably; the drums are simply there too, doing the job and keeping time perfectly but again, no flash and lightning, just business as usual. But that doesn’t matter really (and you could even say it’s a virtue – though usually I prefer my drummers with a bit more flair), this is Lobby’s show and the other two are there to breathe out a backing, which they do very well, also considering that they’d probably only just learned these songs the day before. There’s a fairly unique vibe going on here on most tracks, but some sonic comparisons can be made here and there to contemporaries such as the Groundhogs, early Led Zeppelin, early Grand Funk, the Human Beast, Hendrix, Jessie Harper, early May Blitz and perhaps also a little bit of Taste, MC5, Pink Fairies, Edgar Broughton Band and Creepy John Thomas thrown in for good measure. Don’t get too excited, there’s arguably flashes of these band’s styles here and there but at the same time, Lobby and band don’t really sound like any of them overall.

Beginning right off with a bang, the 5 minute ‘Everybody Come Together’ is street-level call-to-arms and statement of intent, Lobby drawing his line in the sand and telling it like it is. The man is lying to us and people are so all over the place and confused they can’t do squat to make a difference, unless we shake off all the bullshit, keep it real, get focused and work together. After some opening riffing it quickly settles into a bouncy one-note groove with weirdly wah-wahed rhythm guitar and thin, raw, lead riffing and soloing over the top. The chorus adds a few notes, inciting the track title over and over, then up a notch into the charged one-chord main chorus –
“Everybody’s talkin’ peace but all they do is talk
Everybody’s sitting in but all they do is sit
Everybody’s walkin’ away ‘til there’s nobody left to walk
What we’re doin’ is not the way as time will soon show us”.
Everything breaks down into a stomping instrumental section, the pigs are charging out of the pen, and after a while it all fades out on a repeated chant of the title, and we hope you did all ‘come together’.
‘Feels Good’ is an 8-minute slow blues number with soloing pretty much all through, and this is the track I generally skip past. Sure, it’s good as slow blues go, and Lobby’s guitar tone is better-recorded here than on the rest of the album, as well as displaying more technically adept lead licks than anywhere else here, but it’s pretty generic stuff and fails to do much for me, really.

‘George’ [7:06] booms straight into your ears with some stereo sliding bass and geetar making their introductions like swift punches to either side of the head, before they grind into a razor-sharp funky heavy fuzz riff to get the pelvis greased up and agitated. Although the song’s named after Lobby’s guitar, lyrically it’s an almost embarassingly open ode to the kind of love that’s more like no-strings-attached lust for the finer sex, than I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth devotion. Food for thought, then, as to whether he really just wants to fuck his guitar because it’s more electric than any women he’s met lately!
“I need you in my bed
Tonight’s the first dream I got in my head
Baby I need you, yes I do
I need you, I want you
yeeeeeaah... ha ha!
I love you so
I don’t want to be your husband baby
I want to take your clothes off
Cos I love you so”
At least he tells ‘em straight out, instead of saying “sure I want to marry you babe” just to get his end wet. Some might think it’s misogynistic; I just love it for its horny honesty. No deceptive seduction routines here! Then they whip out a funky ascending riff of a Pagey variety, before returning to the riffs from earlier, and further permutations of the lyrical themes, like
“I love you baby
But I don’t want to get involved
I just want your body
Yeeeeaaahh... you know what I mean...” and
“I want to be with you
I don’t care if I gotta pay
You turn me on
And I need you now”
What a polite lad to offer money! Well, at least he’s not a rapist. The boys break down on that funky riff again (as if the whole song isn’t pretty funky so far), then they kick into something very much like the sliding one note bass riff groove off of the middle of Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Inside Looking Out’, with two lead guitar lines squawking and squalling over the top. Here the guitar is even a little reminiscent of Mark Farner’s own, by the way, both in its shitty thin distorted quality (but not as quite as heavy) and in making the most out of a limited technical ability and scoring full rock points anyway. After the bass fades back for a while it slides back in on the fader, while all break it down some more on another cool Zep-like down and dirty bass riff kinda like something out of ‘Heartbreaker’, and fade to black.

‘Dream’ [8:16] opens with chiming guitar that sounds more like a magic xylophone, a sitar and some wind chimes or something, all compressed into a unified matrix, with bass dripping from the ceilings and plaintive vocals –
“Sometimes I have a dream
the dream is beautiful and free
Sometimes it’s a picture of
someone takin’ my freedom from meeeeeeeee....”
before swinging down into some booty-shaking hard riff action as Lobby grinds his boots into the ground –
“I don’t care for your meaning
I don’t care what you see
I am just a thinking man who wants to be me
My aims in life are simple
I just want to be free
To do what I want when I want to do it
Let me be, Set me free
Let me beeeeeeee....”
The riffage changes to something smoother and groovier for the chorus, but without sacrificing velocity –
“I don’t need you approvin’ looks
I don’t read your dirty books
I don’t need to pass your test
I dig truth and freedom best”
After telling ‘em to stick their tests where the sun don’t shine, it’s back to the original hard riff and some more snotty comebacks –
“I don’t give a stuff how you feel about my hair
Or sarcastic words about me washin’ like you
Take your spoken rules and analyse the bit [at least I think that’s what that line is]
That tells me what to do when I want to do it”
Not sure what those last two lines are supposed to mean, but... From here things jam out a bit, and then just when you think the song’s fading out, something else fades back in, and it’s the same thing they were just playing, but now all processed with some of those chiming sounds from the start, only more scattered and lysergic. The bass is on a simple but awesome Holger Czukay locked funk groove and guitar playing simple leads all Michael Karoli-like, drums kicking in the zone like a looser Jaki Liebezeit, some distant cycled piano chords adding more depth, and holy shit, what we’re listening to here is no less than Can trapped in an echo chamber huffing nitrous oxide! And all this with the chance of these guys actually having heard Can at this point being very slim to nil. After a few minutes it fades back to wide-eyed wonder and earthbound rock, slowly building the controlled frenzy back up to more swingin’ riffage, this time cautionary but defiant...
“My mother said son be careful what you say
Your father trifled too, he was nearly put away
I don’t really care if a bullet is my pay
Gonna try for peace ‘til my dying day
Set me free, let me be, set me freeeee!!!”
Then to a reprise the opening cycle of heavy riffs and lyrics and that’s it for that one. Sorry for going overboard on the lyric-quoting, but this song is packed pull of great ones, and I didn’t reproduce all the lyrics, either!

‘What I Want’ [3:45] swings along at a cracking pace like a rollicking wild west rock’n’roll ballroom dance at the Red Dog Saloon, a bit of a country rock twang present and accounted for but the song’s (arguably) not really country rock yet by a fair stretch. Sounds a bit like the Dead circa ‘Workingman’s Dead’ with the crisp, choppy rhythmic sensibility of the MC5 circa ‘Back In The USA’, but not, at the same time. The guitar has a kind of weird elasticity both in the tone and the way it’s played, both in the rhythm and lead tracks.
“You don’t know my meaning, you don’t know my aims
What I want is freedom, with a world that don’t play games
That’s what I want... peace is what I want”
The song closes out on an sudden unexpected psychedelic sideways diversion in a totally different key, climaxing in a minor frenzy mere seconds later.
‘Evolution’ begins with fuzzed quasi-Hendrix riffing and a looped oscillator or something humming and throbbing in the high-end of the background like washing machine stuck on the ‘weird’ cycle, and it doesn’t let up for the whole 8 minute song. The lyrics are swamped with weird mixing and indistinct phrasing, but despite not being able to decipher a complete sentence anywhere it’s clearly of some kind of cosmic intent to do with evolutions and revolutions on both a human and galactic scale. Then it’s even more into Hendrix land as the band ride it out on a funky tunnel-drive Noel Redding bass riff in the driver’s seat, guitar blazing all over the place (but not attempting to be Jimi) and drums simply doing their job well with no unnecessary frills. Closing it off with a fuzz riff that sounds like something off of Dark’s ‘Round the Edges’, the song goes back to the opening riffs and more vocals before finishing up
It’s not quite over yet, though, there’s still the throwaway but fun ‘Herreni’ – all 1:05 of it – and it’s a madcap comedy hoedown with manic laughter over the top that just gets faster, faster, and faster before nearly falling to pieces but ending with consummate tightness. There’s shades here of the single b-side ‘Slowest Guitar On Earth’ that Lobby would record a year or so later.

After making ‘Plays With George Guitar’, Loyde revived The Wild Cherries as a trio, using the line-up from this album. Although the new group was a trio, they recorded their only release – the single ‘I Am The Sea’/‘Daily Planet’ [Havoc, 1971] – with assistance from Aztecs Billy Thorpe and Gil Matthews. Both sides are great slices of psych-pop with an environmental concern; they are available as bonus tracks on the CD reissue of this album, which came out on Vicious Sloth Collectables in 1999 (thankfully, because the original LP is very rare). However, these tracks aren’t in any way indicative of what the trio really sounded like the rest of the time. Live, the new Wild Cherries were much more of a hard-rocking affair, kind of a long-haired prototype Coloured Balls (his next group, for which see my separate reviews). Indeed, they were already playing some tracks that would later become Balls staples, such as ‘G.O.D.’ (Guitar Over Dose), which they recorded a short (and relatively restrained) version of for ABC TV’s ‘GTK’. They can be seen performing one song – a fairly straight forward but moderately raw and punky rocker with an OTT climax – in the film of the 1972 Sunbury Festival. This is visually one of the scruffiest moments of Loyde’s that I’ve seen, not just the three-day growth, unkempt hair and seeming layer of grime all over, but man, was he in need of some dental work! A month later, The Wild Cherries had disbanded for good, and Loyde went on to form the Coloured Balls. A CD compiling all of the Wild Cherries recordings is supposedly in preparation.
In the CD reissue of this album, there’s liner notes by Australian rock historian Ian McFarlane in place of the original centrefold, which featured a Van Gogh-ish soft-focus painting of a field of flowers. They’ve also included the original version of the front cover as well as the cover of the mid-70’s Calendar LP reissue, which caught Loyde in an amusing moment of dodgy style, pictured on-stage in the Balls days looking uncharacteristically like a country musician (except for the huge amps behind him and lack of a cowboy hat)! A big mistake if you ask me, but who am I to tell this guy how to dress? I just think sticking on an album cover was a bad move, especially as it isn’t even from the same period as that in which the album was made.

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