Sydney band Died Pretty has produced some of the most inspirational rock music heard in Australia. By drawing on an eclectic and diverse range of influences (The Velvet Underground, Television, vintage Bob Dylan and Neil Young, 1960s psychedelia and 1970s progressive rock), Died Pretty unashamedly plundered rock's past to arrive at an original sound that was always passionate, atmospheric and uplifting.
Velvet Underground devotee Brett Myers and rock journalist Frank Brunetti formed an experimental Suicide-styled duo during April 1983. With Ron Peno added, the aggregation took the name Died Pretty. When Jonathan Lickliter (bass; ex-End) and Colin Barwick (drums; ex-End) joined a month later, the band began playing the inner-city circuit. Ron Peno already had a considerable underground reputation via his stints with The Hellcats (a tough New York Dolls-inspired covers band) and Brisbane hard rock outfit The 31st (with future Screaming Tribesmen leader Mick Medew, and future Hitmen and Hoodoo Guru's guitarist Brad Shepherd). Died Pretty's early contemporaries included The Screaming Tribesmen, The Flaming Hands, Hoodoo Gurus, The Celibate Rifles, The New Christs, Sunnyboys, The Lime Spiders, Beasts of Bourbon, Wet Taxis and many other celebrated independent bands.
Having signed to the Citadel label, Died Pretty issued three classic singles: `Out of the Unknown'/ `World Without' (April 1984), `Mirror Blues' Part I/ `Mirror Blues' Part II (October, 1984) and `Stoneage Cinderella'/`Yesterday's Letters' (June 1986), plus the compelling Next to Nothing 12-inch EP (August 1985). `Out of the Unknown' and `Stoneage Cinderella' combined sombre, evocative backing with intense guitar scree, while the 10-minute `Mirror Blues' was a driving psychedelic epic that packed an incredible punch. All reached #1 on the alternative charts. `Out of the Unknown', `Stoneage Cinderella' and `Final Twist' (from Next to Nothing) later appeared on Citadel's essential double album compilation Take Everything Leave Nothing (March 1988). By the time Died Pretty came to record the Rob Younger-produced Free Dirt, Mark Lock (ex-Phantom Agents) had replaced Lickliter and Chris Welsh (ex-31st) had replaced Barwick. Free Dirt came out in August 1986.
What Goes On issued the singles and album in the UK while Closer issued Free Dirt in Europe. While the band's records sold well on an alternative level in Australia, interest in the band was at a premium overseas by that stage. Died Pretty left for its first tour of Europe and the USA in October 1986. In France and Italy, in particular, Died Pretty was treated as rock'n'roll royalty, which was a far cry from the complacency the band often experienced with homegrown audiences.
Lost (June 1988) was a more expansive and versatile album than Free Dirt. Lost became the second biggest-selling alternative album for 1988 (between Ed Kuepper's Everybody's Got to and The Church's Starfish). It yielded the singles `Winterland'/`Wig-out' (Acoustic) (October 1987), `Towers of Strength'/ `From a Buick 6' (June 1988) and `Out of My Hands'/ `When You Dance' (November 1988). `Winterland' was the best-selling alternative single for 1987. In between the year it took for the album to be released, Steve Clark (ex-Glass) had replaced Lock. Long-serving member Frank Brunetti left in April 1988. Before he left, Died Pretty undertook its second tour of the USA and Europe. The last record to feature Brunetti was the #1 alternative hit `Everybody Moves'/`In Love Prison' (March 1989). John Hoey (ex-X-Men, Thought Criminals, New Christs) came in as his replacement. Hoey's first major assignment with the band was a third tour of Europe and the USA. Once the tour was over, the band recorded Every Brilliant Eye in Los Angeles with producer Jeff Eyrich (The Gun Club, The Plimsouls).
Every Brilliant Eye (April 1990) was one of the finest Australian releases of 1990. It included the single `Whitlam Square'/`Sink or Swim' (February) and the double single set `True Fools Fall'/`A Ballad'; `Is There Anyone?'/`Kingpin' (May). Died Pretty's fourth album, Doughboy Hollow (August 1991), followed the formula set by Lost and Every Brilliant Eye, but with more spectacular results. Brimming with passionate, dramatic and alluring musical vistas, the album took the band into the national mainstream Top 20 for the first time when it peaked at #19 during September. It produced three, near-perfect pop singles `Stop Myself'/`Godbless' (July 1991), `D.C.'/ `Wonder' (September) and `Sweetheart'/`Time' (February 1992). One of the band's showcase gigs around that time was as part of the inaugural Big Day Out held in Sydney on 25 January 1992.
It was to be another two years before the next Died Pretty album, Trace, appeared (September 1993). In the interim, both Clark and Welsh had left the band. Robbie Warren replaced Clark. Murray Shepherd, Warwick Fraser (both ex-Screaming Tribesmen) and Stuart Eadie (ex-Clouds) filled in for Welsh until he returned to the fold in late 1992. While all that activity was going on, Died Pretty's manager John Needham had sorted out a new, worldwide deal with Sony/Columbia. Trace made its debut at #11 on the national mainstream chart (although it slipped out of the Top 40 three weeks later). It yielded four strong singles, the four-track 7-inch EP/CD EP `Caressing Swine', `This Reason'/`A Song for Me', `The Cross' (June 1993), and three CD singles, `Harness Up' (August), `Headaround' (November) and `A State of Graceful Mourning' (December). While the singles scored well on the alternative chart, `Harness Up' was the band's only national mainstream Top 40 hit single (#35 during September). Died Pretty contributed a cover of Laughing Clowns' `Eternally Yours' to the Various Artists compilation Earth Music (June 1994). `Eternally Yours' also appeared on the Earth Music CD EP along with The Celibate Rifles covering The Sports' `Boys! (What Did the Detective Say?)' and Painters and Dockers doing Mental as Anything's `The Nips Are Getting Bigger'.
Died Pretty's last release for 1994 was the Days CD EP which came out in December. Days featured new drummer Nick Kennedy. By the time the Sold album came out in February 1996, Kennedy had been replaced by Shane Melder (on loan from Sidewinder). The Rob Younger-produced Sold album and its CD singles `Cuttin' Up Her Legs' (September 1995) and `Good at Love' (November) failed to chart, and Sony dropped the band from its roster in April 1996. Simon Cox (ex-Juice) replaced Melder in May 1996, and Died Pretty returned to the Citadel label for the CD EP Deeper (November 1996). Died Pretty recorded a new album, Using My Gills as a Roadmap (slated for release in early 1998), which produced another classic slice of pop in the new CD single `Radio' (November 1997). Lack of widespread commercial success has not blunted the acclaim that Died Pretty has always garnered from the music press and dedicated fans. Likewise, the band's remarkable recorded legacy has stood the test of time.
Died Pretty’s seventh album, Using My Gills as a Roadmap, came out in March 1998, preceded by the second CD single, ‘Slide Song’, in February. With influences drawn from electronic sources like Kraftwerk and David Bowie’s Low, with some Roxy Music thrown in, the album was almost electric guitar-free (Brett Myers concentrated on acoustic guitar), with heavy use of keyboards and sample-laden atmospherics. The first single, ‘Radio’, had been the most pop-oriented on the album, with the rest of the material veering into esoteric pastures. Following a national tour in support of the album, Died Pretty slipped from view.
The band ended 1999 with the release of the compilation album outoftheunknown: The Very Best of … (November). The initial pressing came with a bonus disc of rarities and previously unissued tracks. Died Pretty went on tour to promote the album, playing all the classics from ‘Mirror Blues’ and ‘Everybody Moves’, on to ‘DC’ and ‘Sweetheart’ (but not, interestingly enough, ‘Out of the Unknown’ itself).