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.



Anonymous said...

I remember the Gibsons back in the 60's. My dad was making Watkins WEM guitars at the time. The Gibsons went to the factory/shop a few times. They gave us a signed photo which we still have, and also brought all their UK singles. A big fan at 10yrs old!
One of them came to stay at our house, either Johnnie K or John Brummell.
Wonder where they are now?
Annette Franklin

GEOFF DART said...

All the members of THE GIBSONS returned back home to Australia in 1970. The group disbandoned and all the members stayed within the music industry in different fields.
Geoff Dart returned to Melbourne and joined a large music firm called Allans Music. John Kaye continued singing together with his wife in major events throughout Australia. John Brommell became a senior executive with Warner Bros Music.
John Rigby travelled to America and
busked his way around the country.
Today Geoff Dart and john Brommell have retired. John Kaye has his own video and film company Sadly John Rigby committed suicide in Byron Bay in 1986.

I hope you find this information interesting.
John Kaye and I still very much in contact with each other and still remember and discuss the wonderful times we had as THE GIBSONS.

signed Geoff Dart

Lyn Nuttall said...

Interesting indeed! Thanks for your update.

Andy Leslie said...

John Rigby was my cousin and I remember the band arriving in England and staying in a house on the border between Walton-on-Thames and Shepperton. (I was very young)

A question for Geoff Dart: were you still recording in the UK in 1969? If so, what studios?


Andy Leslie

Unknown said...

Hi Andy. No the Gibsons did not record again after 1968. The group changed its sound and look by becoming a two boy, two girl group, and mainly performed live in theatres and cabaret throughout England Scotland and Ireland. They worked with many top British entertainers and had good success in his field before returning to Australia in 1970.
Thank you for your interest.

signed Geoff Dart

Andy Leslie said...

Thanks for the reply. I guess we'd have met when you were in the UK as John Rigby was my cousin. I'm still in touch with Jan after all these years. Best wishes, Happy Christmas.

Lyn Nuttall said...

Great thread, Andy & Geoff. Thanks.

Unknown said...

It was John Bromell, their drummer (my cousin). Lovelly guy. Was the mainstay of Aussi music for decades and MD of Warner Brothers music. Died a few years ago.