When The Celibate Rifles burst forth from Sydney's northern beach suburbs in 1980, the members described themselves as `the best high school band ever in the history of the world'. The band's garage rock sound was directly descended from the first generation of Australian punk, The Saints and Radio Birdman. Since expanding on their proto-punk roots, the Rifles have forged an incisive rock'n'roll identity.
Kent Steedman, Dave Morris, Michael Couvret and Phillip Jacquet conceived the band in 1979 when they were still at high school. Singer Damien Lovelock joined in 1980. He was almost ten years their senior, but he gave the Rifles a much needed lyrical focus for the band's unremitting energy. Celibate Rifles issued the four-track EP But Jacques the Fish independently in March 1982. Hot signed the band and reissued the EP in March 1983. James Darrock (bass; ex-Trans Love Energy, Fifth Estate, Slaughterhouse 5) replaced Couvret (who joined Mushroom Planet) and the band issued its debut album, Sideroxylon (May 1983).
The early records were raw and undisciplined, but they did display the band's flair, humour and commitment. As the album came out, Steedman joined The New Christs when that band supported Iggy Pop on his June 1983 Australian tour. Steedman stayed with The New Christs until October, when his commitment to the Rifles beckoned. He appeared on The New Christs' `Born Out of Time' single. With the Rifles on hold, Lovelock formed an acoustic studio band with Louis Tillett (Wet Taxis) and Brett Myers (Died Pretty). No Dance issued the Carnival of Souls EP on Hot in March 1984.
The Rifles' singles `Pretty Pictures'/`Out in the West Again' (October 1983) and `Merry Xmas Blues'/`Summer Holiday Blues' (December) were departures for the band as they featured acoustic guitars instead of the all-out electric attack. Darrock left in January 1984 to form The Eastern Dark. He died in a car accident in March 1986. Couvret returned for the album The Celibate Rifles (May 1984) and the singles `Wild Desire'/`I'm Waiting for the Man' (April) and `Sometimes'/`E=MC2' (November). The album was still rough-hewn but with more variation, style and power than the debut. Around that time, visiting American critic David Fricke from Rolling Stone was prompted to describe the Rifles as `urban teen frenzy with lyricist Lovelock's adult fears erupting in a glowing atomic fireball of bazooka guitars and terminal -volume'.
The band's only release for 1985 was `Six Days on the Road'/`Groupie Girl' (July). The Turgid Miasma of Existence came out in June 1986. A limited edition EP featuring `Eddie', `Ice Blue' and `Thank You America' was given away with the first 500 copies of the album. The Rifles undertook an extensive tour of the USA, where their records had garnered much praise from the underground press. The band arranged and financed the tour independently. Issued in November 1986, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (recorded live at New York's legendary CBGB's bar, July 1986) captured the band's sound in all its blistering glory.
Couvret and Jacquet left the band in September 1986 to be replaced by Rudy Morabito (bass; ex-Amused) and Paul Larsen (drums; ex-Funhouse, Gun Control). The band toured Europe and recorded Roman Beach Party in Holland during June 1987. The album appeared in November. Morabito left in 1988 to be replaced by Jim Leone (ex-No Man's Land). By that stage, Couvret was playing with The Lime Spiders, and Jacquet had joined Voodoo Lust. The Rifles' last release on Hot to that time was a 12-inch EP featuring a cover of Patti Smith's `Dancing Barefoot' (May 1988). The Rifles signed to True Tone and issued Blind Ear (April 1989), which contained several of the band's best singles, the riff-happy `Johnny'/`El Salvador' (February 1989), the rollicking `O Salvation!'/`Fish and Trees' (June) and the double 7-inch `Wonderful Life'/`5 Lamps'; `Where the Action Is', `She's So Fine'/`Hot Stuff' (March 1990).
The band also contributed a cover of John Paul Young's `Where the Action Is' to the Various Artists album Used and Recovered By (1990). Hot closed its Rifles account with the double retrospective set Platters du Jour (October 1990), a selection of rare early singles and EP sides with a limited edition 7-inch EP containing three unreleased tracks included. The band members undertook various extra-curricular activities between 1988 and 1990. Lovelock had already written and produced a one-off single in 1984, `Summertime (All Round the World)'/`Sunnyboyfriend', for Australian world female surfing champion Pam Burridge (issued under the name of Pam and the Pashions during October). In June 1988 he issued his debut solo album It's a Wig Wig Wig Wig World followed by the single `Disco Inferno'/`Sisters' (April 1990).
Lovelock's studio band included Peter Koppes (guitar; from The Church), Rick Grossman (bass; from Hoodoo Gurus), Joe Latty (guitar; ex-Itchy Rat) and Richard Ploog (drums; from The Church). Guitarist Reeves Gabrels, from David Bowie's band Tin Machine, also appeared on `Disco Inferno'. Lovelock formed a touring line-up of Damien Lovelock's Wigworld which comprised Joe Latty, Clyde Bramley (bass; ex-Hoodoo Gurus), Patrick Polnov (guitar) and Hamish Stuart (drums). During 1991, Lovelock issued the single `The Dalai Lama' (October) and album Fishgrass (December) on Festival. Away from the torrid overdrive of the Rifles, the album found Lovelock in a more reflective and melodic mood.
Steedman formed Crent with Chris Townsend (from Kiss My Poodles Donkey). Crent issued the singles `A.I.D.S.' and `9K.?' plus the mini-album Crent on Waterfront. Crent's music was more in the bayou/boogie tradition of John Lee Hooker fleshed out by Steedman's bursts of Frank Zappaesque wah wah guitar. Crent issued a second album, Pink Album, on the Shagpile label (through Shock) at the end of 1993. Steedman also guested on bass with Ed Kuepper's band The Aints, playing on the live album S.L.S.Q. Jim Leone and Paul Larsen joined Roddy Rayda and The Surfin' Caesars for the album Orgazmatazz.
In October 1990, Larsen left The Rifles to join The Screaming Tribesmen. Nik Rieth took Larsen's place. At the end of 1991, the Rifles signed to Festival. They issued the double album Heaven on a Stick (March 1992), the single `Groovin' in the Land of Love' (December 1991) plus the double 7-inch single Where the Wild Things Are . . . (March 1992). The Rifles shared Where the Wild Things Are . . . with The Hard-Ons to coincide with a joint Australian tour the two bands undertook mid-year. The Rifles' tracks were `5 Lamps' and `Electric Flowers'. Straight after that, The Rifles embarked on the Live Stick '92 world tour which took in dates across the UK, Europe and the USA. Festival issued a second, double 7-inch single from Heaven on a Stick, `Cold Wind', in May 1992.
1992 ended for the Rifles with Hot issuing re-mastered CD versions of the band's first five albums. The Rifles returned to Hot for Yizgarnnoff (a second live album) and Sofa (a 20-track `Best of' compilation) which came out in May and December 1993 respectively. In late 1993, Steedman and Rieth joined Deniz Tek to record his Outside album. Steedman and Rieth toured extensively with The Deniz Tek Group over the next few years and recorded a new album in 1996, Le Bonne Route. Spaceman in a Satin Suit (May 1994) was The Celibate Rifles' best studio album since Blind Ear. The band also contributed a cover of The Sports' `Boys! (What Did the Detective Say?)' to the Various Artists project Earth Music. `Boys! (What Did the Detective Say?)' appeared on the Earth Music CD EP (August 1994) along with Died Pretty covering Laughing Clowns' `Eternally Yours' and Painters and Dockers doing Mental as Anything's `The Nips Are Getting Bigger'.
In late 1996, Hot issued the mail-order only On the Quiet, a selection of acoustic reworkings of previously released material. On the Quiet came with a limited edition bonus all-electric CD EP of Australian covers (including The Sports' `Boys!, What Did the Detective Say?' and Rose Tattoo's `Astra Wally') that showed The Celibate Rifles still to be a peerless hard rock band.