How does anyone measure a career in rock and popular music?
� By the hit singles? Well Icehouse's record is impressive. Eight Top 10 albums and 20 Top 40 singles in Australia starting with 'Can't Help Yourself' in 1980. More than 28 platinum albums in Australasia. A run of Top 20 singles, including a number of chart toppers, in the USA, Britain and across Europe. 'Electric Blue' stayed in the Top 40 for nearly six months and Man of Colours remained in the charts for more than a year and sold a record-breaking 700,000 copies.
� By the influence the music has had on others? Well Icehouse's record continues to demonstrate the band's enduring influence and the admiration of a new generation of musicians. In recent years, for example, such cutting edge Australian bands as The Whitlams, Custard, Snout, Superheist and Lo-tel have all recorded old Iva Davies compositions. And, even more significantly, the people involved with the new album of Remixes have been fulsome in their praise for Icehouse.
� Ivan Gough: “I’ve always loved Icehouse even way back from when they were Flowers ... Icehouse were able to fuse pop, synth and vocals without being cheesey. ‘Don’t Believe Anymore’ was a song that I literally didn’t stop playing for a week after I bought it.”
� Wicked Beat Sound System’s Damian Robinson: “‘Love In Motion’ has always been a favourite ‘Iva D’ track of ours.”
� Infusion trio Jamie Stevens, Manuel Sharrad and Frank Xavier: "Iva [is] a true Australian pop idol. Infusion respectfully pay homage to the man who taught us how timeless pop survives for all eternity, until the end of time � forever.”
� Funk Corporation’s Paul Flex Taylor: “I thought they were so far ahead of the time with their sound: Icehouse are one of those bands that hit again and again with a variety of styles of pop.”
� Eric Chapus, aka Endorphin: "To me, Iva’s voice reminded me of David Bowie, and I was a huge Bowie fan, and not a lot of people here were doing similar things.”
� BeXta: “I fell in love with Icehouse, and basically grew up with them.”
� Josh Abrahams: “I was a huge fan � the things I liked about Icehouse were the dark, cold aspects to their songs.”
� On Inc’s Scottie: “Icehouse emerged from the late ‘70s early ‘80s along with other classic bands like the Models and I was instantly hooked.”
� By their enduring relevance? Well let's just say that two Australian No.1 albums in the past couple of months have involved contributions from the deft hand of Iva Davies. For their album Torch the moon The Whitlams covered 'Don’t believe anymore' and on Shoot This Motor Ace asked Iva to arrange and produce the string section on their first highly successful single 'Carry on'.
� Equally Iva Davies has recently contributed to a forthcoming CD from Jarboe, of the influential industrial New York band The Swans, along with such guests as Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Tim Bowness of No-Man. And 'Hey Little Girl' has been a major European and UK dance hit for House producer Mathias Shauffhauser.
� By the kind of people who have publicly admired the work? What higher praise can there be for a song like 'Great Southern Land' than the way the great American funk producer Bill Laswell mixed it into a superb 16 minute opus? It is worth remembering that Iva Davies most successful hit in the USA, 'Electric Blue', was the result of a collaboration with John Oates from the white soul duo Hall & Oates.
� By the company a musician keeps? Well what about Iva's music for both Boxes and Berlin, successful productions with Graeme Murphy's internationally acclaimed Sydney Dance Company? What about being invited to open for David Bowie on a tour of Europe? Or being invited by both Bowie and Peter Gabriel to join their US tours in 1982? Or his award-winning soundtrack work with director Russell Mulchay? Or the fact that Icehouse's Measure for Measure album features the doyen of British electronic experimenters, Brian Eno, singing, playing & treating keyboards.
� Or his central role in the Millennium celebrations in Sydney when, with Richard Tognetti, he performed 'Great Southern Land' and heard his music floating across the harbour as it was broadcast around the world in one of the biggest television linkups in history? At other times Davies has co-written, recorded and performed with the Yellow Magic Orchestra's drummer Yukihiro Takahashi & Ryuichi Sakamoto; played oboe on Jamaican reggae star Junior Delgado's latest album; and been actively involved in the production of a number of recordings by young Australian groups. He has also recently written with Andy Partridge (XTC), 808 State amd Tac Head's Simon ‘Mr. Monday’ Mundey.
� And when Iva covered The Velvet Underground's 'All Tomorrow's Parties' Lou Reed was so impressed he wrote:“�. Congratulations! I couldn’t have loved it more! I’m flattered to have such talent interpreting my music”
� By the musicians he works with? It has always been argued that Icehouse is Iva Davies' band. If that is the case then he's a very astute judge of exceptional musical talent having included in the Icehouse lineup such luminaries as bass player Guy Pratt who went on to replace Roger Waters with Pink Floyd and to play bass with such heavyweights as Robert Palmer, Michael Jackson, Bryan Ferry and Madonna, Orbital and The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.
It doesn't matter how you want to measure musical success the simple truth is that Iva Davies and Icehouse have passed every test. Icehouse is now a hugely important part of the history of Australian popular music. And Iva Davies, the lead singer and centrepoint of Icehouse, when viewed with 20/20 hindsight from the vantagepoint of 2002, is not only as a hugely successful Australian pop-rock artist but also as one of this country's most significant innovators.
For those unfamiliar with the band's history it's worth recalling that Icehouse, originally known as Flowers, first attracted music lovers in the musically revolutionary post-punk years of the late 1970s. In the beginning they were simply the best covers band this country has ever produced – a note-perfect ensemble who offered sizzling versions of Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, T-Rex, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Kinks and Brian Eno songs to adoring fans. They learnt their craft and artistry from the best.
Their first album, titled Icehouse, featured original material (all but two tracks were written entirely by Davies) and showed that the band belonged very firmly in the great 1970s electronic tradition which had been spearheaded by Bowie, Roxy Music, Brian Eno and German electronic maestros like Kraftwerk, Can and Tangerine Dream. Icehouse belonged to a younger generation of innovative musicians which included British bands like The Human League, OMD, Cabaret Voltaire and solo performers like John Foxx.
Today we look back on these 1980s electronic experimenters and recognise how vitally important they have become. It is now widely accepted that without these innovators many of the most important strands of contemporary dance music – techno, trance, tech and electro – would not exist. It is equally true that Icehouse's generation, embracing Brian Eno's dictum to use the studio as a musical instrument, were at the forefront of experiments in sampling, the creative use of electronics and, perhaps most significantly, the advent of digital technology.
In the case of Icehouse their 'cutting edge' credentials are astounding:
• they were the first band in Australia, and one of the first bands in the world – along with Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel, to use the Fairlight sampler (the grandfather of all computer-generated music) as an integral part of their sound.
• Measure for Measure, recorded in 1985, and including the seductively beautiful 'No Promises', was one of the first three entirely digitally recorded albums.
• The Flowers Icehouse album featured a number of the first wave of synth technology e.g. Mini Moog, Solina Strings, OB 1 (Oberheim)
It was also one of the first recordings to use a ‘click track’. It took 10 years for this to become industry ‘standard practice’ which it remains to this day.
• 'Love in motion' was one of the first recordings to feature the Prophet 5 – the first ‘polyphonic’ synthesiser.
• ‘Hey, Little Girl’ features the original Linn Drum prototype loaned to Iva by the electronic drumkit inventor, Roger Linn.
• Man of Colours used the first generation of Akai samplers which later became the dance music industry’s ‘staple’ sampler.
• Big Wheel was one of the first recordings made on the first generation of fully digital home studio recording systems and contained the first Australian (second in the world) computer interactive content.
The September 20 re-release of the band's eight albums – Icehouse/Flowers (1980), Primitive Man (1982), Sidewalk (1984), Measure for Measure (1986), Man of Colours (1987), Code Blue (1990), Big Wheel (1993). The Berlin Tapes (1995) – offers a superb opportunity to enjoy all of Icehouse's most memorable hits from the 1980s and 1990s while at the same time offering a unique overview of the particular confluence of electronics, synthesisers and rock to produce snappy and enduring hits which have had such a potent impact on so many of today's young bands, DJs and electro experimenters.
The new Icehouse album - Meltdown - The Remixes - is a remix album of classic Icehouse material timed to coincide with the re-release of the Icehouse catalogue. This album features remixes by Australia's premier dance artists and producers including: sonicanimation, Infusion, Ivan Gough, Wicked Beat Sound System, Endorphin, [love] tattoo, BeXta, Skip Raiders, Funk Corporation, Smash ‘N’ Grab, Josh Abrahams and John Ferris/PeeWee Ferris.