Friday, April 22, 2011

Azaria Dingo And The Seventh Day Adventists (1980)

L-R: Connell, Wade, Rob Inskip, Ring c.1983
History, they say, is written by the winners. James Morrison, Richard Tognetti, Anthony Warlow and Rob Younger are just a few musicians from the Wollongong area who went on to establish national and international reputations. 

Tumbleweed and the New Christs have carried Wollongong’s name far beyond the city borders. Norman Gunston transcended his “What’s On In Wollongong?” beginnings by jamming with Frank Zappa. As a great Wollongong anthem has proclaimed - “The ages wait for us to share our wit and wisdom with the world” [1].

Who will write history now that Charlie Sheen has claimed the copyright on winning? In an era when Rebecca Black can have over 100 million views on YouTube [2], maybe it is better to be a loser. It is time to honour those unsung heroes of the local scene who started at the bottom and stayed there. As teenagers, they dreamed that one day they could be stars. Now the years have passed, they can celebrate that some of them still have their hair and teeth intact. Gary Butler (with some help from Iain Connell) brings us the story of Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists.

Date: 1980

Gary Butler c. 1982
Place: Barrack Heights (a suburb so insignificant in the history of music that even people from Wollongong need to be told that it’s in between Shellharbour and Warilla).

Personnel: Harry Hall: vocals; Gary Butler: guitar; Shane Dew: guitar; Iain Connell: bass guitar; Kevin Ring: drums

Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists were a post punk band, formed in 1980 and may be considered as a meeting of Jimmy & The Boys and Spinal Tap in Joe’s Garage. The band didn’t actually include anyone called Joe, so they usually practised in Kevin Ring’s garage, having already annoyed Harry and Gary’s neighbours enough in previous bands. The members had played together in various permutations throughout their high school years, and having graduated to the wonderful world of dole bludging they were ready to take on the world. Transcending their humble origins as a garage band, they were finally kicked out by Kevin’s long-suffering parents, and moved rehearsals to Warilla Scout Hall. Successfully making the transition from a garage band to a Scout Hall band, they knew that they were on their way.

Named after what was at the time a current events story, Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists set out to combine the theatricality of “shock rock” (inspired by Alice Cooper and Jimmy and the Boys) with a punk aesthetic (inspired by the Sex Pistols and Radio Birdman) and a nonchalant attitude (inspired by alcohol). Their style was marked by an intriguing mix of drunkenness and semi-competence. Harry had his head shaved, and wore a studded dog collar. Gary had no plectrum and no shoes, and he strummed hard enough to draw blood at most rehearsals. They continued to play some songs from the repertoire of their previous garage bands ('All Along the Watchtower,' 'Hey Joe'), worked on more adventurous covers (from Duffo’s immortal classic 'Give Me Back Me Brain' to a punk version of the Archies’ 'Sugar Sugar'), and composed several original songs. Their original material included 'Gifts of Light' (about a heroin overdose), 'No Recollection'(about a post-lobotomy mass murderer) and 'Insults at 20 Paces' (no one has the slightest idea what that one was about, which is why it was one of the band’s most successful lyrical efforts):

You make me crazy
Like snap dried fruit
You say I'm lazy
But at least I root
You give me license
With your long legs
Your breath is incense
Your mind is dregs

It's not really apple
It's too hard to take
I'd buy you a melon
While I ate a flake.

You hold the gooseneck
I bring the soap
You go to gay bars
I bring the rope
If you were a cumquat
And I was a sloth
I'd give you a melon
While I ate a moth


As may be apparent from the downloadable tracks (the first time Azaria Dingo songs have ever been made available to the public), there were still some rough edges to the arrangements. Inevitably tensions began to arise. Kevin, Iain and Shane thought that rehearsal could help the band become “tighter”, and the rough edges could be smoothed out enough for them to perform respectably. Harry and Gary were inspired by the story of Alice Cooper being signed by Frank Zappa on the basis of the audience leaving, and wanted to make the rough edges even rougher – with a little effort, they believed that Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists could have been the worst band in the Illawarra (if not the world). The debate proved impossible to resolve, and the band split without ever performing in public.

L-R: Connell, Wade, Inskip, Ring c. 2009
Once the group folded, Iain, Kevin and Al recruited another guitarist ex-schoolmate John Wade and formed a new band - called Free Beer Inside because Iain “thought it would look good on a poster outside a pub, as in: tonight, Free Beer Inside, a crowd-puller in my cynical estimation”. Predictably enough, Free Beer Inside disbanded before they were able to perform in a pub. Ironically, Gary and Harry’s acoustic duo project (officially titled Harry Butler, but unofficially dubbed Dog Collar and the Bitches by an anonymous punter) were paid in beer for the few times they performed.

In 2009, Harry, Iain, Shane, Gary and John reunited for a few drinks. Kevin wasn’t there (although he had been at a previous reunion which Gary missed). Gary and Shane hadn’t spoken for decades, although both still lived in Barrack Heights – a five minute walk from the original scene of the crime (and each other). Realising that next year would be their 30th anniversary, it was obviously the perfect time to plan a reunion tour. It would have been too easy when they all lived in the same suburb, but now that Harry was based in W.A., Iain was about to move to Scotland and no one knew whether Kevin would be interested, it finally seemed ridiculous enough to be worth pursuing. Plans were made to launch the band with a simultaneous debut performance and 30 year reunion tour.

The idea was that Gary and Shane would get together to work on arrangements and make demo recordings, emailing copies to Harry and Iain for them to re-learn the songs. The basic arrangements would be worked out over the internet, and gigs would be booked for Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne. Iain and Harry would fly in, Kevin would be invited, the band would rehearse for a few days, they would perform and the crowd would go wild.

L-R: Hall, Dew, Butler, Wade c. 2009
Predictably enough, the old disputes met 21st century technology. Gary joined several ridiculous Facebook groups [4]. Shane objected to the frequent notifications. Gary ridiculed his objections. Shane objected to the ridicule. Gary ridiculed the objections to the ridicule of the objections to the ridiculous groups. A few Facebook messages later, Shane had “unfriended” him, and the reunion tour was abandoned to the sound of Gary screaming “Help – a baby took my dingo!”

Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists were so successful at adhering to the punk values of not “selling out” that they never performed in public, and never entered a recording studio. Despite knowing each other since the 1970s, there are no photographs showing the band together (even without their instruments). Harry remembers the band’s name appearing in a newspaper, although no one has been able to locate the paper.

The only people from outside the band who ever heard them play were random strangers who (usually after sniffing glue, taking a whole box of car sick tablets, or drinking a couple of bottles of cough medicine) would ask if they could stay and listen. If they are out of rehab, it would be interesting to hear their recollections (but from a distance, most of them were a bit odd).

At this stage, the recorded evidence of Azaria Dingo’s existence is restricted to a single badly recorded cassette, Live in Kevin Ring’s Garage. The songs offered for free download are taken from this cassette. Iain claims to be in the possession of “an old cassette tape of us rehearsing in Ringy's garage, although that's in amongst a pile of stuff back in Australia.” According to Harry, "Somewhere in a pile of cassettes in the walk-in cupboard another Dingo howls to be open”. At this stage, both cassettes remain to be uncovered and may remain forever part of the secret mythology of the legend that was Azaria Dingo and the Seventh Day Adventists.

Live in Kevin's Garage* (download)
Live in Ringy's Garage
untitled rehearsal tape

*includes bonus track - an 1984 recording of Gary Buter playing  'Gifts of Light' solo.

[1] Wollongong the Brave, Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong
[2] 112,397,813 at 1:40, 21 April 2001. Probably more now 
[3] Insults at 20 Paces Lyrics © Iain Connell 1980
[4] Including, but not limited to My Sister Said If I Get One Million Fans She Will Name Her Baby Megatron, I Hate When Your Riding Your Bike And A Giraffe Punches You, I Hate When I'm Driving And A Whale Eats My Face Off!, Legend Has It That We Must Sacrifice Justin Bieber To Appease The Volcano, If 15 Million People Join This Group I Will Cure Cancer  

Azaria Dingo have finally followed in the fine tradition of McCartney including a photo of copulating beetles on the cover of RAM, and the members of Pink Floyd indulging in a custody battle over an inflatable pig which was apparently resolved by the addition of testicles (to the pig).

Without ever playing a gig, we have now apparently reached the stage of attacking each other in public and threatening legal action. I have an over active imagination, but even I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Three months after the appearance of this story, a Rhythm Guitarist Who Shall Remain Nameless (because he hasn’t given permission for it to be published), demanded that his place in history be erased- “as I never gave permission for it too be put on display!! !!!” [sic].

The threat of legal action was mentioned initially, although it was subsequently clarified that “a lawyer was an example!!” (it is not clear what a lawyer was an example of, and I am not going to risk any lawyer jokes, just in case I need one).

For the record: Iain’s contributions to the article did not defame the rhythm guitarist who shall remain nameless, and Steel City Sound President Warren Wheeler has no responsibility for the “Bullshit!!” which I wrote. Iain is the copyright holder of the offending picture, but I will risk violating his moral rights because (a) I don’t believe that he can afford to hire Geoffrey Robertson and set up a tribunal, and (b) he has a sense of humour. In the absence of corroborating evidence, I can only say that this is how I remembered the band, and anyone who wishes to publish an alternate version is free to do so (although I reserve the right to laugh and point).

I will concede that in writing this article, I only sought the approval of Iain and Harry. I didn’t have contact details for Kevin, and doubted whether he’d care. I was intending to ask the Rhythm Guitarist Who Shall Remain Nameless when my Facebook page received 50,000 “likes” (or 100,000 exclamation marks, whichever was first). However, given that apparently the Rhythm Guitarist Who Shall Remain Nameless has “no respect for gary (von crap) [sic] and dont [sic] want to be affilated [sic] with him ! [sic] and it is a load of Bullshit!!”, it seemed unnecessary to consult with him on this postscript. The reader should assume that he disapproves.

In case anyone else was confused by the photos, it should be emphasised that John Wade and Robert Inskip were never members of the “so called band!!”, although they were in attendance at the reunions and John was a member of Free Beer Inside. I hadn’t considered the possibility of removing anyone from the photos until I read this email, because so many of the band bios I have read include photos which include friends and family of the band members.

Rather than involving the lawyers, I propose that we settle this matter with insults at 20 paces. Or maybe we can set up competing Facebook pages, and whoever gets the most “likes” gets to re-edit the article?

Ever get the feeling you would’ve been cheated if we ever played a gig?



    i'm here....i'm there BUT
    I'm not really
    Ah Duffo was my favourite dog food @ the time

  2. and I want to be known as "Dog Collar."not Harry

  3. I want to be known as "Your Majesty". You can't always get what you want . . .

  4. But can you dance to it?