According to popular stereotypes, Australians prefer their beer strong and their football played by their own rules: hard'n'fast. It's an attitude that frequently extends to their music. Rock'n'roll down under has long held a reputation for being hard, fast, loud and delivered with an untamed, youthful abandon analogous to the land itself. In Australia's mid-60s beat scene this wild spirit flourished, manifesting itself in the music of hundreds of young bands, some of which, fortunately, made it onto vinyl. Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions (the Easybeats, the Missing Links, the Masters Apprentices), most of these amazing records remain largely unknown and unreleased outside of their homeland. Now some of the very best of these sought-after sounds can be heard on Big Beat International's ongoing Antipodean 1960s series, the latest instalment of which is Hot Generation, another collection of prime tracks from the archive of Festival Records.
While the artists here drew from a broad stylistic palette - beat, pop, R&B, soul, even surf - the music shares a raw energy and a sense of adventure indicative of the spirit we've come to call 'punk'. This new frontier punk spirit appears in a variety of moods, shapes and attitudes: The Sunsets' The Hot Generation is a relentlessly upbeat celebration of the nation's surfin' lifestyle, yet later the Lost Souls' dark, eerie lament Peace of Mind finds them marooned "a long way from home".
Steve & The Board's two contributions, I Want and I Call My Woman Hinges, typify the Aussie beat blueprint laid out by the Easybeats, combining crunchy guitar riffery, clever vocal harmonies and a unique sense of mischief. The Easys' touch is even more apparent on Johnny Young's Good Evening Girl, written by that group's prolific Vanda and Young. Elsewhere, the Soul Agents provide throbbing freakbeat on I'm Still Mad at You and back Marty Rhone on the vibrantly catchy Every Minute of You, while the Black Diamonds dish out soaring pop melodies on See the Way and Not This Time.
Other highlights include Robbie Peters' fiery version of the Zombies' She Does Everything For Me, the Purple Hearts' fuzz-inflected R&B wailer I'm Gonna Try, Russ Kruger & the Atlantics' powerful Keep Me Satisfied and Tony Worsley's savage take on the Birds' How Can It Be. The latter track was rather out of character for Worsley, who was a frequent visitor to the Aussie charts in his tamer moments, as was Normie Rowe, who shows his rougher side here on the lesser known With Me. Shout-outs should also go to Ray Brown & the Whispers, the Morloch, the Southern Gentlemen and the Pogs who all provide memorable moments. Whatever form it may take, the wild spirit of this 'Hot Generation' possesses every track.
By Mike Stax