Sydney band Buffalo was one of Australia's pioneering heavy rock outfits. There was nothing subtle about Buffalo's primal, heavyweight sound, but it was delivered with a great deal of conviction. And by virtue of the band's appearance on Phonogram's prestigious and collectable Vertigo label, Buffalo's sound became familiar to record collectors around the world. Indeed, by the late 1980s (long after the band's break up), Buffalo's popularity in territories such as France and Germany far exceeded that experienced by the band in Australia during the 1970s.
Buffalo was the first Australian band signed to Vertigo. In combining the dense, occult riffing of Black Sabbath with the progressive blues chops of other British groups like Free and May Blitz, the band certainly captured the arrogant disposition of the times in a bold and thunderous fashion. The beginnings of Buffalo can be traced back to blues band Head which formed in Brisbane during 1968. The line-up comprised expatriate Englishman Dave Tice, Peter Wells, Neil Jensen (guitar) and Steve Jones (drums). Head moved to Sydney during mid-1970, and by 1971 had issued one single on Phonogram/Philips `Hobo'/`Sad Song', `Then'. Jones and Jensen were edged out to make way for Paul Balbi and John Baxter. With the arrival of co-vocalist Alan Milano in August 1971, Buffalo was born.
Alongside Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Blackfeather, Buffalo was one of the loudest and heaviest bands of the day. Dead Forever . . . (June 1972) and the single `Suzie Sunshine'/`No Particular Place' (May) sold well, with the album eventually selling 25000 copies. The credits on the cover advised: `Play this album LOUD'. Milano left and Jimmy Economou replaced Balbi on drums. Volcanic Rock (July 1973) and Only Want You for Your Body (June 1974) kept up the scorching, heavy metal mayhem, with Baxter's savage guitar work and Tice's demented vocals well to the fore.
Aside from absurdly macho song titles like `I'm a Skirtlifter, Not a Shirt Raiser', the band's controversial album cover designs raised more than a few eyebrows. Dead Forever . . . featured a mournful, blood-soaked face peering through the eyesocket of a skull (classic heavy metal imagery). Volcanic Rock boasted a graphic yet hilarious depiction of the female form as a menstruating volcano. Only Want You for Your Body depicted an obese, screaming woman shackled to a torture rack while the back cover showed the band as leering, lascivious Aussie yob rockers! The last two cover credits advised `Play this album even louder!' and `Now blow your speakers out!'
Buffalo's singles on Phonogram's Philips label during 1973 and 1974 were: `Just a Little Rock'n'Roll'/`Barber Shop Rock' (July 1973), `Sunrise (Come My Way)'/`Pound of Flesh' (September 1973, from Volcanic Rock) and `What's Going On'/`I'm Coming On' (May 1974, from Only Want You for Your Body), plus the rare Buffalo EP (`Suzie Sunshine', `Dead Forever'/`Barbershop Rock', `Sunrise Come My Way') on Vertigo. In mid-1974, Buffalo recruited Norm Roue (slide guitar; ex-Band of Light), but a few months later Baxter was sacked from the band. Although Buffalo recorded two more albums, the band had lost one of its most valuable and distinctive assets and its spirit simply dwindled. Baxter joined Boy Racer and then formed Southern Cross with ex-Buffalo vocalist Alan Milano.
Karl Taylor joined and the band issued Mother's Choice (March 1976), plus the singles `Little Queenie'/`Girl Can't Help It' (August 1975), `Lucky'/`On My Way' (November) and `Sweet Little Sixteen'/`Essukay' (April 1976). The band originally wanted to call the album either Songs for the Frustrated Housewife or Thieves, Punks, Rip-offs and Liars but cautious executives at Phonogram rejected the titles as being too sexual and too controversial respectively.
By the time the album appeared, both Roue and Taylor had left to be replaced by Chris Turner (ex-Drain). Taylor issued a solo album on Polydor, Taylor Maid, later in the year, and went on to form blues-rock outfit Huntress. For a while, Colin Stead (ex-Lloyd's World, Sweet Wine) joined Buffalo as second guitarist, but the line-up proved incompatible. The Tice/Wells/Economou/Turner line-up issued a new single, `Rollin''/`Hotel Ladies' (August), but by the end of 1976 Wells had quit to form Rose Tattoo. Ross Simms came in as the band's new bass player. The Tice/Economou/ Turner/Simms line-up supported UK visitors Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow on tour during November 1976, and then recorded a new album, Average Rock'n'Roller.
The album and second single, `Sailor'/`Average Rock'n'Roller' (May 1977), were Buffalo's attempt at a more commercial sound, but lacked the coherent direction of their predecessors. By the time the album came out in July 1977, Buffalo had broken up. Tice had received an invitation to join English pub rockers The (Count) Bishops. Former Buffalo drummer Paul Balbi had joined that band in London during 1975. Tice left for the UK in March 1977 and Buffalo dissolved. Tice returned to Australia in the early 1980s and formed The Head- hunters with Mick Cocks (ex-Rose Tattoo, Heaven) and Mark Evans (ex-AC/DC, Finch, Heaven).
In late 1977, Turner played with Rose Tattoo as guest guitarist. He went on to rejoin Pete Wells during 1983 in Scattered Aces. Turner also issued a solo album, My Guitar and Me, and single, `I'm Crazy'/`Motel Gypsy' in 1981 on the Big Rock label (through RCA). He issued a second album on Big Rock, Exile (1990).
In recent years, Buffalo lead singer Dave Tice has played regularly around Sydney pubs and clubs, fronting an acoustic blues trio with his old Headhunters band mates, Mark Evans and Mick Cocks. In 1998, Tice recorded an album as part of the Bar Kings, Slippin’ and A Slidin’ (issued on the Full Moon label). Featuring the tough slide guitar licks of John Russell (ex-Flake), the Bar Kings played blues in the style of Johnny Winter and Roomful of Blues, with a distinct Australian flavour.
Dave Tice finally got round to recording his debut, solo album, Lay Down With Dogs, which appeared in April 2000 on the Full Moon label. Backing Tice in the studio was an all-star blues band comprising Peter Wells, Mark Evans, Paul DeMarco (drums; from Rose Tattoo), Paul Wheeler (bass; ex-Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs), Steve Edmonds (guitar; ex-Billy Thorpe Band), Mike Gubb (keyboards; ex-Dynamic Hepnotics) and Mal Eastick (guitar; ex-Stars, Jimmy Barnes Band).