Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Atlantics - 1989 - Legendary JRA-Ramrod Sessions

Whirpool/Girl Can't Help It/Pretty Thing/You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover/Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do/It's a Hard Life/I Put a Spell on You/By the Glow of a Candle/You Tell Me Why/Come On/Waiting Here for Someone/ That Loving Feeling/Take a Trip / Flowers/When I Look into My Life/A Girl Like You/Baby Blue/I'll Never Let You Go/I Just Can't Help Believing/ight Shades of Dark Pt. One

Formed in the southern beachside suburbs of Sydney, Australia in 1961, the group began performing locally, and soon gained a following. Contrary to the accepted surfing connotations of their name they actually took their name from a local brand of petrol, Atlantic. In early 1962 they appeared on a local television talent show New Faces, where they were voted "Most Promising Group of 1962." They signed a deal with booking agent Joan King, who convinced the members to quit their day jobs and produce a demo, which she shopped to a variety of record labels. After several rejections, they were signed to CBS Records in 1963. The A&R representative for CBS, Sven Libaek, was especially impressed by the group's original compositions. Most Australian instrumental rock bands at the time merely aped and covered material from The Shadows or, to a lesser extent, The Ventures. The Atlantics had the advantage of having twin lead guitarists, both highly proficient on solo work and both capable of pushing the band along with a driving rhythm. It was this, together with the band members' European cultural influences (largely Greek with some Yugoslav and Hungarian - all members came to Australia as child migrants) that gave their music that passionate edge over other local bands of their day.

 In February 1963, CBS released the first single, "Moon Man" b/w "Dark Eyes". "Moon Man" was an original song written by Peter Hood, and "Dark Eyes" was a traditional tune reinterpreted by the band. While the single was not a hit, it did gain enough attention for CBS to agree to continue to support the group.

By this time the surfing music craze had reached Australia's shores and a host of local bands such as The Statesmen, Jimmy D & the Starlighters (a.k.a. Jimmy D & the Jaguars), The Midnighters, The Telstars, Dave Bridge Trio, The Joy Boys and The Denvermen were all releasing surfing titled instrumental tracks, and in particular, The Denvermen's evocative ballad "Surfside", which had topped Australia's charts in February 1963.

In July 1963 The Atlantics released the single that would become their biggest hit, most well-known song and one which remains a classic of its genre to this day. The monstrous, pounding, driving "Bombora" was written by Peter and Jim and was named after an Aboriginal term for large waves breaking over submerged rock shelves. The B-side was the old traditional English song "Greensleeves". By September 1963, "Bombora" had climbed the Australian charts to reach No 1. It was released in Japan, Italy, Holland, England and New Zealand and in South America. It was nominated as record of the week by US Cashbox magazine and reached No 2 on the Italian charts (where there was even a vocal version released). As well the song was covered by a number of overseas bands. This overseas success made The Atlantics Australia’s first internationally recognized rock act. October 1963 saw the release of their first LP album, predictably named Bombora. They were to release three more albums from 1963 to 1965. On stage the band maintained their reputation at concerts and beachside surf clubs with an exciting, pounding sound combined with a stage act that included them all playing their guitars behind their heads and Theo and Jim on opposite sides of the stage swapping lead lines with one another.

In November 1963 they released the follow-up, another similar thundering surf instrumental, "The Crusher" which, while not quite as successful as Bombora, still made a respectable dent in the Australian charts.

 Their fourth single, "War of the Worlds" however was a total break with the surf sound. Released in March 1964, it was unlike any other of their tracks, or indeed any other instrumentals of the day. A bold and ambitious attempt at a mini Sci-Fi space opera, it had a dramatic buildup intro, tempo changes and dynamic changes. It was way ahead of its time. It featured a battle in space using echo and guitar effects, the like of which would not be heard until Hendrix came along some years later. Disappointingly for the band, many DJ's refused to play it and it failed to make most charts.

By this time The Beatles and the Merseybeat sound had arrived and instrumentals were becoming rather passe. The Atlantics continued to release a number of instrumental singles with titles such as "Rumble and Run" and "Giant" until July 1965. However none of these achieved any commercial success, and did not chart. Their record contract with CBS ended. During 1965 they undertook a far-Eastern tour including Japan.

In 1965, the band members reinvented themselves. They set up their own production company JRA productions. They exchanged their suits and thin ties for casual shirts, T-shirts and jeans and grew their hair long, guitarist Theo Penglis switched to keyboards and they added a vocalist, Johnny Rebb. Johnny Rebb had been a rock star in Australia in his own right in the late 1950s. Indeed he had at one time been known as the "Gentleman of Rock". With Johnny on vocals they proceeded to release a number of tough sounding singles starting with a hard rockin' revival of Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It" and Bo Diddley's, R 'n B, "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover". 

 They recorded songs with a variety of styles between 1965 and 1970 including a cover of The Beau Brummels' top 40 hit "You Tell Me Why" with 12 string guitar hook & harmonies, and an instrumental, "Take A Trip," under the pseudonym band name as The Gift of Love. However they only succeeded chart-wise with an excellent version of Screaming Jay Hawkins "I Put A Spell On You", which reached No. 29 on the Sydney charts in 1966. In 1967 they put out the song that is now widely regarded as a classic punk/garage track, Peter Hood's "Come On". During this time Johnny Rebb continued to release a number of singles under his own name with The Atlantics backing him. 

 They also provided backing on a string of singles for Russ Kruger, Johnny Rebb's brother, and female singer Kelly Green. It was during this time that The Atlantics started their own independent label, Ramrod. They were one of the first Australian bands to set up their own independent label. From September 1967 all their recordings and all those for the above artists were released on their Ramrod label. As well they put out recordings by other bands such as The Motivation.

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