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All About The Hoodoo Gurus

Sydney, Australia, 1981. Punk was dying, new-wave was riding high, and rock purists were chundering into their toilet bowls. Ian Curtis had hung himself a year earlier, and in an ominous reading of the times the remaining members of Joy Division morphed into New Order. Synth-pop kiddie treats like "Blue Monday" would soon be heard in clubs that just a few years earlier were levelling assembled throngs with "I Wanna Be Sedated" or "London Calling." Attitude had taken a backseat to sap, and style had overtaken substance.

Rock, however, was watching and waiting, like a dark stranger on the edge of town, terrifying the timid residents who knew that it would not be kept at bay for long. It was inevitable that a bunch of dangerous musical rebels would come together to stake their claim, and make music dangerous again. But who were these rebels and what would they call their band?

Le Hoodoo Gurus, of course.

Le Hoodoos were comprised of Dave Faulkner (vocals/guitar) and James Baker (drums) from the Perth punk-rock outfit The Victims, and ex-Scientists Kimble Rendall (guitar) and Rod Radalj (again, guitar). Without a bass player, Le Hoodoos wielded their three-guitar attack like outlaw samurais and soon unleashed a torrent of mind-blowing singles to an unsuspecting public: Tojo, Dig It Up, My Girl, True To You, Zanzibar and the ever-popular Leilani, all serving to shock the Sydney music scene into submission.

However, Le Hoodoo Gurus were soon venturing into more dangerous territory that did not vibe with the Scientist crowd, and Rendall & Radalj called it a day - Rod Radalj ambling off to form The Johnnys, and Kimble Rendall leaving to have a crack at a film career. Their departure left the door open to formidable new arrivals Brad Shepherd (guitar/vocals) of The Hitmen & Super-K and his flatmate and Super-K bandmate Clyde Bramley (bass). Thus, the first solid Gurus lineup was formed and as such, in 1984, they released their first studio album, "Stoneage Romeos", as the Hoodoo Gurus on independant label Big Time Records (apparently no other label had the balls to take them on). The album was strong enough the garner them Countdown Awards' "Debut Album of the Year." A mere year later they released their much-anticipated sophomore effort, the excellent "Mars Needs Guitars". Australia had a new guitar-menace on its hands, and it wasn't going to be let off lightly.

By 1985, the Gurus had the better half of the Australian music scene by the throat, and had been tasting some sweet Stateside success stemming from solid airplay on the US college-radio circuit. Shortly after Mars was released, James Baker was mysteriously dismissed from the band and beatsman Mark Kingsmill was brought into the fold as Baker's replacement. Their next album, "Blow Your Cool," was recorded with the new lineup and released in 1987. Despite the positive reception Blow Your Cool garnered from the music press, the Gurus themselves were displeased with the album's final sound (due to lack of vibe with the producer Mark Opitz). In response, they decided to return to their roots for their next album, "Magnum Cum Louder," (released 1989) producing it themselves and recording it at their old haunt, Trafalgar Studios. Magnum caught many critics on their their back foot and threw them to the ground with authority.

The band's final line-up change occured after Magnum's release with Clyde Bramley finally deciding to call it quits. Rick Grossman, a former DiVinyl, stepped in to assume bass duties. And thus the Gurus continued to target every facet of the pop-rock spectrum, releasing the lovingly-crafted "Kinky" in 1991 and the harder edged "Crank" in 1994. Their "blast from the back door," as HG Nelson describes it, came in the form of "Blue Cave" - destined to be their last album, released in 1996.

While Gurus fans Australia-wide patiently awaited their next album with baited breath, the Hoodoo Gurus revealed in 1997 that they felt the time had come for the sun to set on the HG juggernaut. The news of the impending breakup crashed through the Australian music community like a sneaker wave, and sent many an admirer stumbling to find the Kleenex. Graciously, the Gurus promised one last grand tour, christened "Spit The Dummy", to celebrate their legacy and the fans that had supported them whole-heartedly throughout the years. This final tour ran from October 24th, 1997 to January 11th, 1998, after which the Gurus ceased to be.

And that was the day the music died.

So who are the Hoodoo Gurus? You know the story, but do you know the music behind it? I'm glad to say that none of the Gurus music has aged a minute since its release. As subtle as cattle-prods, "Stoneage Romeos" and "Mars Needs Guitars" still sound amazingly fresh, despite the fact that they are almost two decades old in this Year of the Horse, 2002. The rest of the Gurus' catalogue, too, is still here screaming out to be discovered by new fans, and re-discovered by seasoned Hoodoo-heads. All HG albums are currently in print on Shock Records, so there's no reason for you not to check them out and dance furiously to prime-cuts such as "I Want You Back," "What's My Scene" or "Always Something." As the guestbook testifies, the Gurus memory is still alive and well, and if you're not getting into it, you're missing out.

- Gareth Clarke

2004 UPDATE:

Despite the breakup many fans kept the flame alive, hoping that the Gurus might choose to re-form somewhere down the road. To their supreme delight, the Hoodoo Gurus decided to give it another go in late 2003 / early 2004. Three-quarters of the crew reunited under the moniker "the Persian Rugs" with a slightly different sound earlier in 2003; subsequently Dave, Brad, Mark and Rick decided to take another kick at the can as the Hoodoo Gurus. Their new album, "Mach Schau," is currently in stores in Australia and is scheduled for an imminent North American release, with a possible North American tour to follow. For the latest events and happenings see the main page.

Brad & Dave with Charles Fisher, Blue Cave era

Introducing The Hoodoo Gurus...

Immortalized Line-up (1988-1998):

Dave Faulkner:  Lead vocals, guitar, keyboards. Played on all albums.

Rick Grossman:  Bass, vocals. Played from Magnum Cum Louder onwards.

Mark Kingsmill:  Drums & metals. Played from Mars Needs Guitars onwards.

Brad Shepherd:  Lead guitar, vocals, harmonica, percussion. Played on all albums.

Past Members:

Clyde Bramley:  Bass. Played from Stoneage Romeos to Blow Your Cool.

James Baker:  Drums. Played on Stoneage Romeos.

Rod Radalj:  Guitar. Played with Le Hoodoo Gurus only.

Kimble Rendall:  Guitar. Played with Le Hoodoo Gurus only.

Arthur (of late, deceased):  Bass. Unknown.

Note: The photos for Dave, Mark, Brad, and Clyde are from the cover sleeve of the Mars Needs Guitars LP (let's just say they're old), and Rick's pic is from Magnum Cum Louder. All images used with kind permission.

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