Monday, 8 January 2018
Boys! (What Did The Detective Say?)/Walk In The Room/Reckless/Don't Throw Stones/Suspicious Minds/Live Work And Play/Big Sleep/Who Listens To The Radio/Wedding Ring/The Lost And The Lonely/Perhaps/Strangers On A Train/Black Stockings (For Chelsea)/Blue Hearts/Stop The Baby Talking/How Come
The Sports were formed in 1976 by Stephen Cummings who was the lead singer of Melbourne rockabilly group, The Pelaco Brothers, (which also comprised Joe Camilleri, Peter Lillie and Johnny Topper). The original line-up were Cummings and ex-The Pelaco Brothers band mate, Ed Bates, on guitar, Robert Glover (ex-Myriad) on bass guitar, Jim Niven (ex-The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band) on piano and Paul Hitchins on drums. Their early sets contained covers of Chuck Berry, Billy Emerson, Don Covay, Company Caine and Graham Parker material. Original songs, mostly written by Cummings and Bates, completed their sets. The Sports' debut recording was a four-track extended play, Fair Game, which was released in early 1977 on the independent label, Zac Records. A friend in London posted the record to the New Musical Express (aka NME) which declared it 'Record of the Week'.
The Sports were in tune with music trends dominating London rock and had provided song-based rock as an antidote to punk, which was dubbed new wave. Cummings was compared favourably with Mick Jagger and Bates was praised for his slide guitar style: being similar to Little Feat. "We were totally surprised," Cummings said in 1997 of the NME review; he continued, "It was the last thing you'd expect. It was my making and my undoing in some ways. When you have everything go right so quickly you expect that everything after that is going to be good and that easy. It meant that I probably didn't put myself out as much as I should have."
Andrew Pendlebury (ex-Myriad) joined on guitar in August 1977 and assisted Cummings with song writing. Cummings recalled, "I just vaguely met people and dragged them into it. I always wanted Andrew in the group as a guitarist and I had an idea for a rockabilly country sound. But I always wanted to change it because I really liked the MC5 and wanted to make it more like that as well." In May 1978 The Sports issued their debut studio album, Reckless, on Mushroom Records with ex-The Pelaco Brothers band mate, Camilieri, as their producer.
The lead track, "Boys! (What Did the Detective Say?)", was released in March 1978 and peaked at 55 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart. In England it provided some confusion with the similarly titled, "Watching the Detectives", by Elvis Costello, which had been released in the previous October.
In August 1978 Cummings brought in Martin Armiger (ex-Toads, Bleeding Hearts, High Rise Bombers) on guitar, vocals and for song writing, to replace Bates. According to McFarlane, Bates had been "ousted" as Armiger "had a more commercial outlook". On the strength of Reckless, The Sports were chosen to support Graham Parker & the Rumour's Australian tour later that year. Parker arranged for The Sports to support their United Kingdom tour in February of the following year. Fellow Australian musician Keith Shadwick accompanied the band on the tour and wrote an extensive account for the Australian music magazine Roadrunner.
In November, they started work on their second album, Don't Throw Stones, with Pete Solley and Dave Robinson producing. It was released in February 1979 ahead of their joining Graham Parker & the Rumour's UK tour. While in the UK they recorded another four-track EP, O.K, U.K!, which appeared in August that year.
The group's third album, Suddenly, was released in March 1980 and was also produced by Solley. In Australia, the album reached No. 13 and its lead single, "Strangers on a Train", peaked at No. 22. Before the album had appeared Hitchins was replaced by Iain McLennan (ex-Ariel, Mondo Rock) on drums and Niven was replaced by Red Symons (ex-Skyhooks) on keyboards. To promote the album, in March and April 1980, The Sports undertook a national tour with Mushroom label mates, Split Enz. Symons left after the tour and McLennan, who had hepatitis in May, was then replaced by Freddie Strauks (Symons' band mate from Skyhooks) on drums.