15 October 2005

Cicadas and Flies: Bizarro Merseybeat World Down Under

Earlier, I wrote about the phenomenon I like to call Bizarro Shadows World Down Under. When it became unfashionable to emulate the Shads and The Ventures, bands in Australia (and they weren't the only ones around the world) caught the Merseybeat bug.

Here, Sydney musician and researcher Terry Stacey discusses Sydney band The Cicadas (pictured) in that context:

The Cicadas were one of the first of Australia's bands to be influenced by The Beatles. Other early Beatle bands were Melbourne's Flies (which gave the world Ronnie Burns), Sydney's Rajahs, who had transformed themselves from 50s rocker Dig Richard's backing band, The R'jays, by putting on Beatle wigs and turbans, and The D-Men, whose main claims to fame were that they were the first resident band at Sydney's first disco, Beatle Village, and came from the Sydney suburb of Liverpool (their lead singer Freddie Cooke later migrated to Melbourne, joined The Vibrants and changed his name to Marc Leon).

The Cicadas, formed in 1963, were originally an MOR band doing TV variety shows under the name The Hi-Fi’s until the Merseybeat boom arrived. They signed to RCA and released their first and most successful single, the Carter-Lewis song That's What I Want in 1964.

This had been a minor hit for UK band The Marauders
in 1963 and, unusually, they covered both sides of the Marauders single, the flipside being Hey Wha' D'Ya Say, for their own single.

They then put out a second single, written by veteran rocker, then RCA's A & R manager, Johnny Devlin, with a similar Beatles title, I Need You. This was a minor hit in Sydney.

After a further, unsuccessful, single, a cover of anothe
r Marauders single, Carter-Lewis's Always on My Mind, they relocated to the UK and changed their name to The Gibsons. They released a number of singles on various labels there, including the catchy The Magic Book (rated elsewhere as one of 1966's better singles).

Although they outlasted their Beatle boom contemporaries back in Australia, none of their singles was successful. They put out their last single in 1967.