You can make a case that Radio Birdman is the most important Aussie band ever. You have to deal with AC/DC, of course, but there are plenty of philosophical tacks that can get you there. You have to deal with their contemporaries The Saints, who are of similar importance in Australia (and of course, there’s always the Birthday Party…). This week saw the Australian release of this ass-kicking 8-disc Radio Birdman box set (7 CDs, 1 DVD)—fortunately, there’s a helpful guide to help you navigate its riches.
Radio Birdman famously named themselves after misunderstanding Iggy’s vocals in the Stooges’ song “1970” off of Fun House. (The words they misunderstood were “radio burnin’.”) In 1977 Radio Birdman played the Marryatville Hotel in Adelaide, video for which is supplied below—the description says HD, but more importantly, it’s a multi-cam gig. As you’ll see, the place was packed to the gills, and vocalist Rob Younger is pretty much climbing up the walls with energy. I really like his two-fisted approach to holding the mic, actually two mics duct-taped together, it completely gives him a signature look. The songs are broken up by some interview segments which were obviously done after the gig. Keybs guy Pip Hoyle gamely parses the distinction, probably far more salient in 1977, between “energetic” and “aggressive” for the interviewer.
As terrific as this quarter-hour of footage is, it isn’t the Radio Birdman show I’d give my left arm to see. As Dave Thompson explains in his book Alternative Rock: “Another now-legendary show found them playing the Lions Club in Armadale, to a hall full of pensioners who were as puzzled by the band as the band were by them. Radio Birdman played three songs before they were asked to stop, for fear of killing the feebler members of the audience.” Now that must have been a show to see…. I guess that one isn’t about to pop up on YouTube, huh.
About halfway through the video, a caption pops up with the words “Rocturnal, May 9, 1978,” prompting some questions about whether the Marryatville Hotel/1977 designations are accurate. Fear not. Rocturnal signifies the TV show that aired the footage, according to Thompson: “Further proof of Radio Birdman’s status was supplied when one of their Adelaide gigs was filmed by ABC’s Rocturnal show.”
Descent Into The Maelstrom
Burn My Eye
Search and Destroy (Stooges cover)