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Encyclopedia entry for 'The Cockroaches' LETTER:

Formed in 1979
StyleR&B, pop
 Original line-up: Paul Field (vocals), John Field (vocals, guitar), Tony Field (vocals, guitar), Jeff Fatt (keyboards), Phil Robinson (bass), Tony Henry (drums)
 Cockroaches albums: The Cockroaches (Regular/Festival, 1987), Fingertips (Regular/Festival, 1988), Positive (Regular/Festival, 1991), Hey Let’s Go – The Best of The Cockroaches (Festival, 1999); Wiggles albums: The Wiggles (ABC, 1991), Here Comes a Song (ABC, 1992), Yummy Yummy (ABC, 1993), Big Red Car (ABC, 1995), Wiggly Wiggly Christmas (ABC, 1996).

The Cockroaches took their name from an obscure nom de plume favoured by The Rolling Stones during the 1960s. It was a fitting choice, due mostly to the good-time R&B material that The Cockroaches played during their formative years.

The Field brothers formed the nucleus of the band while still at boarding school, St Joseph's College at Hunter's Hill (NSW). The brothers were also noted for their cricketing skills. John Field was selected as Under 19 NSW Cricketer of the Year. From very early on, The Cockroaches were an in-demand pub band, building a sweaty, frenzied atmosphere with good old-fashioned showmanship and unpretentious, energetic rock'n'pop. As original material began to replace covers in the band's set, The Cockroaches issued a string of singles on a variety of independent labels. In 1986 the band signed a deal with Regular Records (home to Icehouse and Mental as Anything).

The band's first seven singles were `I Want a Leather Jacket'/`Blue Moon of Kentucky' (June 1980), `Through with Her'/`Bingo Bango' (June 1981), `Used to Be'/`She Goes on and on' (August), `Empty Heart'/`Apartment #9' (October), `Shake Jump and Shout'/`Last Night', `Empty Heart' (November 1982), `See You in Spain'/`I've Been Thinking About You' (June 1984), `My Whole World's Falling Down'/`Groovin' in the Graveyard' (June 1985) and `Another Night Alone'/`My Type of Girl' (December).

By that stage, Phil Carson had replaced Phil Robinson on bass. The band's first single on Regular, `Wait Up'/`Henry's Lizard' (September 1986), became a national Top 40 hit and #13 in Sydney. Produced by Charles Fisher and mixed by Jim Bonneford (Kool and the Gang, Jimmy Cliff), the band's debut album The Cockroaches (March 1987) produced three further singles, `She's the One'/`Can in the Hand' (January), `Some Kind of Girl'/`Dr Richmond' (May) and `Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)'/`Something Good' (August). The Cockroaches reached #9 on the national chart, on its way to selling over 100 000 copies and `She's the One' became the band's biggest hit when it peaked at #7 during April 1987. `Some Kind of Girl' and `Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)' also made the Top 30.

Peter Mackie replaced Carson before the band recorded its second album, Fingertips. The album produced the band's next four singles, `Hey What Now!'/`Marie' (#30 in June), `You and Me', `So Wild'/`Some Kind of Girl', `Can't Sit Down' (#35 in October), `Permanently Single'/`Rudolph Had a Baby' (January 1989) and `Another Saturday Night'/`I've Got to Hang on' (August). In early 1989, The Cockroaches undertook a national tour with their Regular label mates Mental as Anything. The band's third album on Regular, Positive (June 1991), produced three singles, the gospel-flavoured `Hope'/`Soul to Soul' (August 1990), `I Must Have Been Blind' (May 1991) and a cover of Brenda Lee's `Here Comes the Feeling' (August), which also appeared on the soundtrack to the feature film The Crossing. By the end of the year, however, The Cockroaches as a band concept had run its course.

Tony Field and Jeff Fatt then embarked on a project called The Wiggles with Murray Cook (bass) and Greg Page (vocals), which turned out to be one of the most successful ventures of the 1990s. The initial idea behind The Wiggles was to produce fun and creative musical projects for Early Childhood Education at Sydney's Macquarie University (the four musicians were qualified pre-school teachers). By combining music, song and dance with characters like Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Captain Feathersword and Wags the Dog, The Wiggles came up with a winning formula that was a hit with the kids. The band's debut album, The Wiggles, and its CD single, `Here Comes a Song', immediately attained Gold Record status (35000 copies sold). The Wiggles eventually attained platinum status (70000 copies), as did the follow-ups Here Comes a Song (1992), Yummy Yummy (1993), Big Red Car (1995) and Wiggly Wiggly Christmas (1996).

The Wiggles toured to an enormous response. The Wiggles also had the honour of creating some of the biggest selling children's videos when Wiggle Time, Yummy Yummy and Big Red Car all achieved double platinum status. The band's fourth video, Wake Up Jeff!, sold over 200000 copies between August and December 1996. The band's fifth video, The Wiggledance, came out in early 1997. By mid-1997, The Wiggles had sold over 965000 videos. The two Wiggles books, Let's Wiggle and Dorothy the Dinosaur's Picture Book, were in their sixth editions at the time of writing.

The Wiggles have also won a number of awards, including two Australian Performing Right Association (APRA) songwriting awards for Best Children's Song of 1994 and 1995. Big Red Car won the 1995 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Award for Best Children's Release. The Wiggles also released a feature film based on their adventures with Dorothy the Dinosaur. In 1997, The Wiggles were estimated to be a $40 million retail business in Australia, which placed them second only to Bananas in Pyjamas in the children's market. Unlike their counterparts, however, whose popularity rose out of a successful television show, The Wiggles' success grew from their creative songwriting skills.

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


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