Alongside the likes of Regurgitator, silverchair, Spiderbait, Powderfinger and Tumbleweed, Sydney band You Am I holds pride of place as one of the best, and most successful, Australian guitar bands of the 1990s. And in the tenacious Tim Rogers the band possessed a gifted songwriter whose spirited and insightful songs were at the heart of You Am I's success. To top it off, Rogers was able to combine the guitar swagger of Keith Richards with the power chord, windmilling arm action appropriated from the young Pete Townshend to telling effect.
Rogers formed his first band, The Pleasure-heads, while studying arts/law at the Australian National University in Canberra. Rogers returned to Sydney, where he joined Glazed Expression before forming the first version of You Am I in December 1989 with school friend Nick Tischler and older brother Jaimme Rogers. From early on, You Am I mixed the gritty raunch of early 1970s The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Faces with the frenzied kick of The Clash, The Jam and The Replacements. The band gained valuable experience playing supports to Sydney contemporaries like Box the Jesuit, Massappeal, Falling Joys and The Hard-Ons. Jaimme Rogers left at the end of 1990 to be replaced by Mark Tunaley.
In May 1991, You Am I issued its rough-hewn debut, 12-inch EP, `Snake Tide', on the Timberyard label. Through manager Kate Stewart's work connections with promoter Ken West, the band appeared at the first, Sydney-only, Big Day Out held at the Sydney Showground (Hordern Pavilion) on 25 January 1992. A second EP on Timberyard, Goddamn, followed in May 1992. One month before the EP came out, the band's live sound engineer, New Zealand-born Andy Kent (ex-Pupils of Love), replaced Tischler on bass. By that stage, Rogers had established his credentials as a fine songwriter and the band a reputation as an exciting, dynamic live act.
You Am I signed a new deal with rooArt Records' subsidiary label Ra, which resulted in the CD EP Can't Get Started (November 1992). With the CD EP's release, You Am I set off on a national tour supporting Hoodoo Gurus. The band ended a successful 1992 by contributing the track `Alembic' to rooArt's Australian grunge-pop compilation Crack in the Sun or Fade in the Shade (November 1992) alongside the likes of Nursery Crimes, Guttersnipes, Screamfeeder, Massappeal, The Meanies, Tumbleweed and Headache. You Am I appeared on the bill of the inaugural national Big Day Out tour in January 1993. Lee Renaldo from US band Sonic Youth (also on the BDO bill) was impressed enough to produce You Am I's next release (with engineering assistance from The Welcome Mat's Wayne Connolly). The CD EP Coprolalia (April) was bursting with kinetic energy and first-rate songs like `Cool Hand Luke' and `Last Thing You Can Depend On'. You Am I then embarked on the joint Tune In Turn On Sell Out Australian tour with Tumbleweed (May to June).
The members of You Am I spent eight days recording their debut album, Sound as Ever, at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota with Renaldo and Connolly, after which they played a handful of American showcase gigs. One month before the release of Sound as Ever (November 1993), Tunaley was ousted from the band. At that point, Rogers considered folding the band, but instead asked journeyman drummer Russell `Rusty' Hopkinson (ex-Vicious Circle, Bamboos, Cremator, Kryptonics, Killing Time, Nursery Crimes) to join. Hopkinson supplied the boost of confidence required for You Am I to make the leap into the premier league of Australian rock. Sound as Ever gave rise to three CD singles, `Adam's Ribs' (October 1993), `Berlin Chair' (February 1994) and `Jaimme's Got a Gal' (May). `Adam's Ribs' logged the #50 spot on the 1993 Triple J Hottest 100 list. `Berlin Chair' was one of the most popular singles of 1994 and it logged the #23 placing on the 1994 Triple J Hottest 100 list, while `Jaimme's Got a Gal' appeared at #77. Sound as Ever also won You Am I the 1993 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) award for Best Alternative Release.
One of Hopkinson's first major engagements with You Am I was the second Big Day Out national tour in January 1994. The band came into contact with BDO headliners Soundgarden, who invited You Am I to fill the opening slot on their next American tour. Following an Australian tour supporting Hoodoo Gurus and US visitors Redd Kross during April, You Am I spent six weeks supporting Soundgarden across North America (July–August). You Am I linked up with Lee Renaldo again during September to record a new album at Green Street Studios, New York. Hi Fi Way (February 1995) remains one of the finest Australian albums of the 1990s. Full of audacious, incisive and tuneful rock'n'roll it made its debut at #1 on the mainstream national chart and went on to sell over 35000 copies. One track, `Gray', was a tribute to Rogers' friend, the late Stephen `Goose' Gray from Box the Jesuit. The first pressing of Hi Fi Way featured a limited edition, seven-track bonus live CD EP, Someone Else's Crowd. Hi Fi Way won You Am I its second ARIA award for Best Alternative Album.
Hi Fi Way produced the limited edition, double vinyl single How Much is Enough When You Got Dry? (November 1994), plus the CD singles `Cathy's Clown' (January 1995), `Jewels and Bullets' (April) and `Purple Sneakers' (June). The double single featured the tracks `When You Got Dry'/`Ken (The Mother Nature's Son)' and `How Much is Enough?'/ `Bitter Young Man of the Fanzine Press'. `When You Got Dry' and `Bitter Young Man of the Fanzine Press' were both non-album cuts. The double single is one of You Am I's rarest releases. Due to a pressing fault, only 449 copies were ever produced out of what was to be a run of 1000.
`Cathy's Clown' took You Am I into the national Top 40 singles chart for the first time when it reached #36 in February 1995. `Cathy's Clown' logged #84 on the 1995 Triple J Hottest 100 list. `Jewels and Bullets' came in at #93, while `Purple Sneakers' performed even better by appearing at #24. Such was You Am I's live popularity by 1995 that the band was able to headline four sold-out shows at Sydney's Metro Theatre in April. By that stage, You Am I had added Greg Hitchcock (ex-Bamboos, Neptunes, Kryptonics, New Christs, Verys) as auxiliary guitar and keyboards player. The band also completed its fourth Big Day Out tenure as part of the January 1995 national bill.
You Am I entered Sydney's Q Sound Studios in December 1995 to record a new album with engineers Wayne Connolly and Paul McKercher (best known for his work with Tumbleweed). Hourly, Daily (July 1996) was another album of urgent, adventurous, unabashed pure pop. Like Hi Fi Way, it made its debut at #1 on the national album chart. It remained in the Top 40 for 18 weeks and went on to sell over 35000 copies. It re-entered the Top 40 during December, where it remained in the lower reaches for another seven weeks. The first pressing of Hourly, Daily came packaged with another limited edition, bonus seven-track live CD EP, Beat Party, which included covers of The Easybeats' `She's So Fine', Creation's `Makin' Time' and Iggy and The Stooges' `Search and Destroy'. Hourly, Daily produced the punchy CD singles `Mr Milk' (November 1995) and `Good Mornin'' (September 1996) plus the CD EP/7-inch vinyl EP `Soldiers' (`Soldiers', `Boulder Fair'/`Six', `Count to Four') (July 1996). `Mr Milk' reached #50 on the national singles chart during December, while `Soldiers' went as high as #33 in August 1996. `Good Mornin'' included a cover of The Easybeats' `I'll Make You Happy'. `Soldiers' and `Good Mornin'' logged the #80 and #84 positions respectively on the 1996 Triple J Hottest 100 list.
You Am I scooped the pool at the 1996 ARIA Awards by walking away with six awards, including Best Album (Hourly, Daily), Best Independent Release (Hourly, Daily), Best Group, Producer of the Year (the band itself) and Engineer of the Year (Paul McKercher and Wayne Connolly for Hourly, Daily). The band continued to tour locally and overseas for most of 1996. If appearing on the bill of the American `alternarock' festival Lollapalooza and touring throughout the UK and Europe with Lemonheads was not enough for Tim Rogers, he also found time early in the year to co-produce (with Englishman Nick Launay) the soundtrack to David Caesar's feature film Idiot Box.
You Am I contributed the tracks `Idiot Box I', `Cats and Dogs', `Idiot Box II', `Gasoline for Two', `Idiot Box III' and a cover of The Victims' `Television Addict' to the soundtrack album (February 1997). You Am I's cover of Beasts of Bourbon's `Drop Out' also appeared on the first single, The Mark of Cain's cover of X's `Degenerate Boy'. The other bands on the soundtrack were Hoss, Snout, Magic Dirt and Crow. At the end of 1996, You Am I recorded in Los Angeles with American producer George Drakoulias (Black Crowes). In March 1997, Ra/BMG issued the international version of Hourly, Daily which featured two of the freshly recorded tracks `Trike' and `Opportunities', in place of `Someone Else's Home' and `Moon Shines on Trubble'. The album came out locally in July. A third track recorded with Drakoulias, `Who Turned Out the Lights?' was earmarked for an American soundtrack album.
You Am I commenced 1997 with its fifth appearance on the Big Day Out bill. The four-track `Tuesday' CD single came out in February. It also included the previously released `When You Got Dry' plus a cover of Peter Townshend's `Circles'. With the single and the Idiot Box soundtrack in the shops, You Am I headed overseas again for an American tour with Lemonheads. The three American recorded tracks were coupled with covers of The Move's `I Can Hear the Grass Grow' and the Gamble/Huff song `(There's Gonna be a) Showdown' for the local release of the `Trike' CD EP (June 1997). You Am I recorded a new album with Drakoulias for release in 1998.
Following a busy 1997, You Am I headlined the Homebake Melbourne concert in January 1998. Then came the support slot to UK visitors Oasis in Melbourne during February 1998. Oasis guitarist/songwriter, Noel Gallagher, had been impressed with the You Am I album Hourly, Daily and duly invited the band to tour Japan and Hong Kong with Oasis. The tour played three nights in Tokyo, including the prestigious Budokan Theatre.
The first CD single lifted from the band’s forthcoming album, ‘What I Don’t Know About You’, appeared in February 1998. It peaked at #23 on the national chart. The second single, ‘Rumble’, followed in April. The Los Angeles-recorded, George Drakoulias-produced new album, You Am I’s #4 Record (May 1998), was another album of lean, nifty rock’n’roll.
It initially came packaged with the Limited Edition, bonus CD Radio Settee. The album made its debut at #1 on the national chart, thereby creating Australian music history with You Am I becoming the first local band to have three consecutive albums debut at #1 on the national chart. Unfortunately, relations with the band’s US label Warner Music were not healthy. On the eve of the album’s American release (26 May 1998), the band announced its split from Warner with the album being cancelled. You Am I eventually signed a new American deal with RCA.
You Am I concentrated on its local fanbase, undertaking the Rumblin’ Dice Roadshow national tour with support band Tumbleweed throughout August. The album’s third CD single, ‘Heavy Heart’ (issued in August) was a hopelessly romantic acoustic ballad. ‘Heavy Heart’ registered #9 on the 1998 Triple J Hottest 100 list, with ‘Rumble’ coming in at #65.
You Am I contributed ‘Purple Sneakers’ to the original soundtrack of the Australian feature film, Occasional Course Language (November 1998, Murmur/Sony). Along with tracks by Grinspoon, Hot Rollers, The Living End, Leonardo’s Bride, Jebediah, Even, Automatic, Ratcat etc the soundtrack was a splendid snapshot of Australian late 1990s alternative rock. You Am I’s cover of US band The Replacements’ ‘White and Lazy’ also appeared on the all-Australian tribute album I’m in Love… With That Song. (July 1999) on Tomboy Records.
In early 1999, after touring constantly for most of 1998, Tim Rogers put You Am I on hold. He teamed up with Jen Anderson, from the recently defunct Weddings, Parties, Anything, with the intention of recording an album. Rogers and Anderson put together a backing band, The Twin Set, with Stuart Speed (bass; on loan from Uncle Bill) and Ian Kitney (drums; on loan from Overnight Jones).
With help from Sally Dastey (vocals), Mark Wallace (accordion), Ed Bates (pedal steel), Peter Somerville (banjo), Richard Gillard (guitar), Ben Hoodanger (trombone), Andy Reid (clarinet, washboard) and Jeff Burstin (mandolin), Rogers and the Twin Set recorded What Rhymes with Cars and Girls. Recorded quickly and issued in March, it featured acoustic, country-flavoured pop tunes with plenty of wit and sparkle. It yielded two CD singles, ‘I Left My Heart all Over the Place’ (March) and ‘You’ve Been so Good to Me so Far (May). The band undertook a tour, which including a support slot in Melbourne to veteran US swamp/blues master Tony Joe White.
Rogers also took a small part in Jane Campion’s new feature film, Holy Smoke with Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel. With his Twin Set album and tour completed, Rogers reconvened You Am I in July 1999 for The Technicolour Weekend three-night stand at the Casa del Resaca warehouse in Melbourne. David Lane joined the band as auxiliary member on guitar. The gigs produced You Am I’s first live album …Saturday Night, ‘Round Ten (September 1999).
Containing all the You Am I standards like ‘Berlin Chair’, ‘Arse Kickin’ Lady from the North-west, ‘Heavy Heart’, ‘Rumble’ and ‘Junk’, it was a strong, swaggering live outing that confirmed the band’s standing as one of the country’s premier rock’n’roll acts. The initial pressing came with a Limited Edition, bonus 5-track CD-ROM disc. The album made its debut at #7 on the national chart, breaking the band’s #1 hit run.
The single, ‘’Round Ten’, was announced for release in September, but does not seem to have emerged. Nevertheless, You Am I offered an exclusive non-album track on the band’s Internet web site for one week in September, which was available for fans to download. The track had been recorded at the same time as the album, but was not intended for release in any other form. You Am I followed the album’s release with the national Shindignation! tour during October.