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Encyclopedia entry for 'Boom Crash Opera' LETTER:

Formed in 1985
 Original line-up: Dale Ryder (vocals), Peter Farnan (guitar; ex-Serious Young Insects), Greg `Spock' O'Connor (keyboards), Richard Pleasance (bass; ex- Government Drums, Bang), Peter Maslen (drums; ex-One Hand Clapping)
 Albums: Boom Crash Opera (WEA, 1987), These Here are Crazy Times (WEA, 1989), Look! Listen! (WEA, 1990), Fabulous Beast (East West/Warners, 1993), Born (BMG, 1995), Gizmo Mantra (BMG, 1997), The Best Things (BMG, 1998).

Almost from its inception in 1985, Boom Crash Opera was the subject of competition between major record companies in a bid to snare the band. Boom Crash Opera eventually signed to WEA with immediate results.

Peter Farnan had been a member of quirky, three-piece Melbourne new wave band Serious Young Insects. Michael Vallance (bass, vocals) and Mark White (drums, vocals) completed the line-up. That band issued one album, Housebreaking, and three singles, `Trouble Understanding Words'/`On Time' (June 1981), `Be Patient'/`Nerve' (May 1982) and `Faraway Places'/`Music to Watch Girls By' (September) on the Native Tongue label (through Epic) before breaking up.

Farnan and Richard Pleasance then formed Boom Crash Opera in Melbourne with Peter Maslen, Greg O'Connor and newcomer Dale Ryder. Ryder became a pin-up idol, and it seemed Boom Crash Opera would become a case of contrived form over substance. The band's first two exuberant singles, `Great Wall'/`Caught Between Two Towns' (#7 in May 1986) and `Hands Up in the Air'/`Leave' (#11 in August) put paid to that when each hit the national Top 20. The singles established the hallmarks of the Boom Crash Opera sound: the tight, funky rock of the music, the boom-like crack of the drums and the work song chant of the vocals.

American Alex Sadkin (Grace Jones, James Brown, Simply Red, Talking Heads) produced the band's eponymous debut album, which came out in September 1987. Sadkin was killed in a motor accident in Nassau immediately following the completion of Boom Crash Opera. `City Flat'/`Spirit of Progress' (July 1987), `Her Charity'/`Face that I'm Living in' (September) and `Love Me to Death'/`Bombshell' (February 1988) were minor hits, while the album peaked at #17 in November.

These Here are Crazy Times (October 1989) reached #7 on the national chart in November, and yielded the hits `Onion Skin'/`Rocks in My Head' (#11 in August), `Get Out of the House'/`Thinking in Slow Motion' (#24 in October) and `The Best Thing'/`Flying a Kite in the Rain' (December). Look! Listen! featured the jubilant `Dancing in the Storm' (#21 in May 1990) and `Talk About It' (#35 in July). At the end of 1990, Pleasance had to step out of the group due to health problems (tinnitus). He produced six tracks on Deborah Conway's successful debut solo album, String of Pearls, and issued his acclaimed solo album, Galleon, on East West in 1991. It contained the singles `Sarah (I Miss You)' (May) and `Don't Cry' (August). Pleasance issued a new CD single, `Love is All', in August 1994, followed by his second solo album, Colour Blind, in 1995

Various bass players stepped in to replace Pleasance: Mick Vallance, Dorian West (ex-Wildland) and finally Ian Tilley. Boom Crash Opera's only release for 1991, the Dreams on Fire EP (`Holy Water'), only managed #44 in December. The band started 1992 with an Australian tour support slot to Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams. Keith Forsey (Simple Minds, Billy Idol) produced the next album, Fabulous Beast (March 1993), which could not halt the band's further chart slide. Of its three CD singles, only `Bettadaze' (#43 in November 1992) and `In the Morning' (#36 in April 1993) made the charts. The third single was `This Isn't Love' (June).

`Gimme' (#14 in October 1994) and `Tongue Tied' (#25 in February 1995), both from the fifth album Born (March 1995), were the band's biggest latter-day hits. Born was a tougher affair which found the band embracing hi-tech pop, techno-metal and all manner of sound effects and cyberpunk studio trickery. Not only did the Born CD feature the band's album, it also provided computer interactivity (via any CD-ROM-equipped PC or Mac) with video clips and a Boom Crash Opera discography. Two more singles came from Born, `Dissemble' (April) and `Soundtrack (So Lonely)' (June). Over the years, Boom Crash Opera's strong visual image and the uncanny ability of its principal songwriters to pen catchy, commercial songs ensured a string of successful releases.

In 1997 Farnan toured with a reformed version of The Master's Apprentices. Ryder also took time out to play Frank N. Furter in the Australian and Hong Kong stage productions of The Rocky Horror Show. As a four-piece (Farnan, Ryder, Maslen and Tilley), Boom Crash Opera issued a new single `Dreaming Up a Fire' in September 1997. The single saw a return to the rock-solid rhythms that had driven the band's early hits. It was lifted from the album Gizmo Mantra (November).

After 1997, Boom Crash Opera slipped from view. BMG issued a compilation CD called The Best Things in November 1998. Featuring a strong selection of tracks, like ‘Hands Up in the Air’, ‘Onion Skin’, ‘Great Wall’ and ‘Dancing in the Storm’, it was a fine wrap up for the band’s career. In the meantime, former member Richard Pleasance had been commissioned to compose and produce the original soundtrack of the popular ABC-TV series, SeaChange, starring Sigrid Thornton and David Wenham. The title track, ‘SeaChange’ (sung by Wendy Morrison) came out as a single in May 1999.

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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