Thursday, 17 October 2019
You Better Get Going Now/1 X 2 X 3 X 4/Monty And Me/It's About Time/Sailing/Yes I'm Glad/Little Roland Lost/She's Alright/Sha La La/Flying/Mr Songwriter/Strange Things/Hey Pinky/The Freak/Evil Child/Eleanor Rigby
Plympton High School mates John D'Arcy on guitars and vocals, and Gerard Bertlekamp (later known as Beeb Birtles) initially on lead guitar and vocals formed Times Unlimited in Adelaide, South Australia with drummer Ted Higgins and a bass guitarist in 1964. Birtles moved to bass guitar and they were joined by Darryl Cotton, lead vocalist from local rivals, The Murmen. The new group of Birtles, Cotton, D'Arcy and Higgins formed in 1965, and were named Down the Line from The Hollies version of Roy Orbison's "Go Go Go (Down the Line)". Soon Gordon Rawson, an ex-school mate of Birtles, briefly joined on rhythm guitar.
Down the Line performed covers of English Mod groups: The Hollies, The Move, The Who and The Small Faces in many clubs and discos around Adelaide, gradually gathering a following. They sometimes backed Bev Harrell, a then popular singer, who was managed by Darryl Sambell. By May 1967, Sambell also managed rising singer, Johnny Farnham, and used Down the Line as session musicians on demo recordings which secured Farnham a contract with EMI Records. One of these was "In My Room", written by Farnham, which became the B-side of his debut single, "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)" released in November. After recording with Farnham, Down the Line were approached by Adelaide-based musician, Doc Neeson, who was interested in band management and suggested: Y'know, you should change the name to something short and punchy like Zoot. — Doc Neeson, mid-1967.
Although Zoot were a popular band during the late 1960s, critics labelled them as teenybopper or light bubblegum due primarily to the Think Pink – Think Zoot publicity campaign devised by their management. After relocating to Melbourne in mid-1968, Zoot signed with Columbia Records/EMI Australia and were managed by Wayne de Gruchy, they recorded their first single, "You'd Better Get Goin' Now", a Jackie Lomax cover with David Mackay producing. They invited the music media to Berties discothèque—co-owned by de Gruchy and Tony Knight—to promote its release in August. Think Pink – Think Zoot had band members dressed head to toe in pink satin, they arrived in Cotton's pink painted car, they were photographed with Cotton's pet dog Monty—fur dyed pink—and the venue was pink themed throughout. The publicity gimmick brought attention to the group and attracted significant numbers of teenage girl fans, however it caused problems in establishing their credibility as serious rock musicians. By December, management by de Gruchy was dropped in favour of Sambell and Jeff Joseph, who also managed Farnham and The Masters Apprentices.
Hicks left by September for The Avengers, and was replaced by Rick Springfield (ex-Icy Blues, Moppa Blues Band, Wickety Wak). Meldrum had produced Wickety Wak's single, "Billie's Bikie Boys" with Birtles as a backing vocalist. From September, Zoot joined other Australian bands on the national Operation Starlift tour, which was generally a publicity success but a financial disaster. For Zoot, it brought about increased media ridicule, peer envy and scorn from detractors, much of the criticism was homophobic such as "pretty pink pansies" taunts. October saw the release of "It's About Time" by EMI, Zoot read about it in Go-Set and had expected to re-record its demo quality. In December, in Brisbane, they made headlines when they were assaulted by street toughs, resulting in injury to Cotton.
They finished second in the Victorian heats of Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds to little known band, Nova Express (with vocalist Linda George). In August, both bands went to the national finals, where Zoot finished second to The Flying Circus.
With the chart success of "Eleanor Rigby", RCA expressed interest in bringing them to the United States to record, but they encountered problems with visa work permits, meanwhile Springfield was being scouted for a solo career. Along with other disappointments and frustrations, this led to the band breaking up in May 1971. Go-Set published their 1971 pop poll results in July with Zoot in third place behind Daddy Cool for 'Best Group', Springfield was 'Best Guitarist' and fourth as 'Best Composer', Brewer was second as 'Best Drummer' to Burgess, Birtles was second as 'Best Bass Guitarist' to Glenn Wheatley (The Masters Apprentices) and "Eleanor Rigby" was 'Best Single' ahead of Daddy Cool's "Eagle Rock". EMI/Columbia released a compilation, Zoot Out in 1971 and another, Best of the Zoot Locker 1969–1971 in 1980.