If the late 1960s was a time of radical social and musical change, when rock musicians went in search of cosmic enlightenment by mingling Eastern philosophies with Western ideals, then Sydney band Tully was the first local manifestation of that search for Nirvana. Alongside the likes of Tamam Shud and Spectrum, Tully helped usher in a bold new era of Australian rock music.
To put it all in a historical context, when Tully formed, the local scene was still dominated by teen idol pop stars and all the attendant fan hysteria. Tully's members were serious musicians, willing to experiment and explore sound through intellectual stimulus and emotional feedback. Improvisation and the mood of the moment were the keys to expanded consciousness. To facilitate their search for spiritual awareness, the members of Tully combined rock, jazz, psychedelia and the European symphonic tradition with a large dash of Eastern mysticism that placed the idea of love and self-knowledge at the core of existence. If such a metaphysical aesthetic now seems intolerably pompous and a flight of pure hippie fancy, then remember that Tully was a product of its time, a time when people believed they could change the world. And, for a while, Tully's innovative and creative musical expression really did make a -difference.
Tully emerged at the end of 1968 from the ranks of R&B; band Levi Smith's Clefs. Having recruited singer Terry Wilson, Tully took a residency at Sydney's Caesar's Palace discotheque. The band had to leave a month later because the patrons could not dance to the music. Tully staged a series of concerts at Paddington Town Hall where a hip new generation of self-styled flower children were willing to embrace the band's more avant-garde sound and approach. The lifting refrains of Tully, by all accounts, were best appreciated sitting cross-legged (and somewhat stoned) on the floor. In July 1969, Tully became resident backing band for director Jim Sharman's Australian production of the American `tribal love-rock musical' Hair. Tully appeared on the Original Cast soundtrack album of Hair which came out at the end of 1969 on the Spin label. Tully stayed with the stage show for six months, during which time the band also appeared at a series of successful concerts at Sydney Town Hall and the Mandala Theatre.
In late 1969, Tully starred in its own television series, Fusions, a program of six half-hour shows produced by the ABC that highlighted the band's live prowess and musical adventurousness. As one of Australia's foremost concert attractions, Tully naturally played a leading role in Australia's first rock festival, Pilgrimage for Pop, Ourimbah, held over the Australia Day weekend, January 1970. By that stage, John Blake had left the band. Graham Conlan (ex-White Wine) and Murray Wilkins (ex-Chain) each filled in on a temporary basis until Ken Firth took over permanently.
In February 1970, Tully achieved a new measure of acclaim by being invited to play with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the conductorship of John Hopkins. The occasion was the Sydney Prom concerts and the work was composer Peter Sculthorpe's Love 200. The band's highly acclaimed debut album Tully came out in July 1970. The album's spacious, reverential and lyrical sense of arrangement owed very little to the burgeoning boogie, blues and hard rock movement. It sold surprisingly well, spending ten weeks on the Australian chart after reaching a peak placing of #8.
Tully's concerts at the time were billed as `Tully and the Moog', with the band becoming the first local group to use the new musical instrument the Moog synthesiser. In December 1970, Terry Wilson and Robert Taylor left the band. The departures were alleged to have been due to the fact that they were the only members not involved in the religious sect Meher Baba. Prior to the departures, Richard Lockwood and Ken Firth worked with Tully's sister band Extradition on its debut album. Extradition's ultra-rare folk album Hush came out in June 1971. By that time, Colin Campbell (acoustic guitar) and Shayna Stewart (nee Shayna Karlin, vocals), both from Extradition, had been performing with Tully for six months. The new, drummerless Tully line-up issued the delicate single `Krishna Came'/`Lord Baba' (May 1971), which reflected the band's religious leanings. Tully's second album, Sea of Joy (June 1971), was the soundtrack to Paul Witzig's surfing film of the same name. As such, Sea of Joy featured a collection of finely crafted musical themes rather than self-contained songs, although the esoteric, folksy mood of the music suited the film's themes of peace, beauty, simplicity and freedom.
Just before the album appeared, Michael Carlos left Tully to re-join Levi Smith's Clefs. Several months later, Tully broke up, and Lockwood joined Tamam Shud. Tully's final album, Loving is Hard (recorded with Carlos), finally appeared in May 1972. In October 1971, former members Terry Wilson and Robert Taylor launched a new band, Space. Dave Kain (guitar; ex-Dr Kandy's Third Eye), Bobby Gebert (piano), Adrian Falk (cello) and Ian Rilen (bass) completed the line-up. At first the band was wrongly billed as Tully in Space. The band's sound combined the electrified cello with electric blues rock, a unique combination. Space, however, proved to be short-lived. By early 1972, Kain had joined Company Caine.
Canadian-born Carlos went on to carve out a respectable career as an in-demand session player and musical arranger for the likes of Jeannie Lewis, Jon English, Ross Ryan and Judy Henderson. Carlos was musical director with the backing band utilised for the 1972 local production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The Superstar band also included Mike Wade (guitar; ex-Climax), Jamie McKinley (piano), Bruce Worrall (bass; ex-Sherbet) and Greg Henson (drums; ex-Levi Smith's Clefs). That line-up appeared on the Jesus Christ Superstar Original Cast album issued on MCA. Carlos later composed soundtracks for feature films like Sunday Too Far Away (1975), Storm Boy (1977), Listen to the Lion (1977), Blue Fin (1978), The Long Weekend (1978), Dawn! (1979), The Odd Angry Shot (1979) and The Dark Room (1982). Firth later joined pop band The Ferrets.