The name Fraternity is well known to many Australian rock fans, but very few people are familiar with the band's music (aside from the hardened collector). Of course, the band is famous for the fact it featured the pre-AC/DC Bon Scott as its frontman. The band was a popular live attraction but made little impact on the local charts.
The four members of the original Fraternity were all part of Sydney R&B; band Levi Smith's Clefs circa 1969. Led by Adelaide legend Barrie McAskill, Levi Smith's Clefs issued one of the first Australian progressive rock albums in Empty Monkey (March 1970). Levi Smith's Clefs (sans McAskill) also backed singer/songwriter Doug Ashdown on his double album Age of Mouse. At the beginning of 1970, buoyed by their recording ventures, the four musicians decided to form their own band. Left high and dry by the split, McAskill relocated to Melbourne and assembled a new version of Levi Smith's Clefs.
Fraternity issued the single `Why Did It Have to Be Me?'/`Question' on the Sweet Peach label (October 1970). By the time the single came out, Bon Scott (vocals; ex-Spektors, Valentines) had joined, while John Freeman (another ex-Levi Smith's Clefs alumnus) had replaced Tony Buettel on drums. The Valentines had been a straight teenypop band, and Fraternity was a chance for Scott to indulge in his passion for tougher rock'n'roll. The new line-up recorded its debut album, Livestock, at Sydney's United Sound Studios with producers Doug Ashdown and Jimmy Stewart. Although the album featured a patchy mix of rock/pop tunes and metaphysical, art-rock ramblings, it revealed a band attempting to approach a uniquely Australian sound.
With financial support from businessman/manager Hamish Henry, Fraternity moved to Hemming's Farm on the outskirts of Adelaide in order to `get it together in the country' in the time-honoured communal fashion of The Band and Traffic. Fraternity issued four collectable singles during 1971, `Livestock', `Why Did It Have to Be Me?'/`Cool Spot' (January), `Seasons of Change'/ `Sommerville' (March) and `The Race Part I'/`The Race Part II' (October) on Sweet Peach, plus `If You Got It'/`Raglan's Folly', `You Have a God' (October) on the Raven label. The band's version of the John Robinson/Neale Johns-penned `Seasons of Change' reached #1 in Adelaide, but was overshadowed on the national charts by Blackfeather's more powerful rendition.
In May 1971 `Uncle' John Ayers (harmonica) joined Fraternity. The band won the 1971 Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds, beating out all comers with its thumping rock'n'roll. Sam See (piano, slide guitar; ex-Sherbet, Flying Circus) joined in September, and the band recorded its second album, the collectable Flaming Galah. With See on board, Fraternity achieved a sound similar to The Band's celebrated dual keyboard approach. Despite serving up a bevy of bluesy hard rock, Flaming Galah only featured three all-new songs, next to re-recorded (albeit stronger) versions of old material. `Welfare Boogie' (one of the new songs) was issued as a single, backed with `Annabelle' (March 1972).
By the time the album came out in April 1972, Fraternity had taken advantage of its Battle of the Sounds prize and relocated to London. The UK scene circa 1972 was besotted by glam rock, and Fraternity's brand of blues/country rock hardly set the place alight. Fraternity became known as Fang and undertook the odd tour, but any confidence and arrogance the band had amassed in Australia soon dissipated. The first to leave was Sam See, who rejoined Flying Circus in Canada. Fraternity limped back to Adelaide in disarray at the end of 1973.
Soon after returning home, Scott was involved in a motorbike accident which nearly claimed his life. Howe, Ayers and Freeman formed a new line-up of Fraternity in late 1974 with Mauri Berg (guitar; ex-Headband), John Swan (lead vocals; ex-Hard Time Killing Floor) and Peter Bersee (violin). In mid-1975, Freeman left, and Swan took over the drums with his younger brother Jimmy Barnes (ex-Cold Chisel) joining as lead singer. Barnes' stay was brief and he returned to Cold Chisel. Swan also left to join Jim Keays' Southern Cross and the rest of the band struggled on. Swan later fronted Feather and his own band Swanee.
By the end of 1975, Fraternity had changed names to Some Dream before evolving into Mickey Finn by 1978. Mickey Finn comprised Howe, Ayers, Berg and Joff Bateman (drums; ex-Headband). The 1980 line-up of Howe, Ayers, Berg, John Freeman (drums) and Stan Koritni (guitar) issued the album Mickey Finn on the Eureka label (October 1980). It produced the singles `I'm a Man'/`Quick Release' (November) and `So Many Lies'/`Baby Please Don't Go' (May 1981). Howe later turned up in the ranks of the Jimmy Barnes Band (1984) and The Mega Boys (1985).
Meanwhile, Bon Scott had recovered from his injuries and found fame with AC/DC. Before he joined AC/DC in late 1974, however, Scott sang with an ad hoc collection of Adelaide musicians dubbed The Mount Lofty Rangers, led by ex-Headband member Peter Head (aka Peter Beagley). Scott also cut a demo of a song called `Round and Round' written and produced by Peter Head. The song remained unreleased until December 1996, when Head Office Records (through EMI) issued it on CD EP.
The CD EP also included a ghastly 1990s remake of the song called `Round and Round and Round' that combined Scott's original vocal tracks with slick, new studio backing (à la The Beatles' reworking of John Lennon's demos for `Free as a Bird' and `Real Love'). As it transpired, the original recording possessed a rough-hewn charm that should have been left well alone.