Posted June 16, 2006


Lobby Loyde at the Purple Hearts reunion in Brisbane

With the Purple Hearts in Brisbane, circa 2006. Lori Lee photo


Lobby Loyde might be physically flagging after a life lived on the ragged edge, but they can’t take his music away. It remains his inspiration and his insulation when the rigours of treatment for lung cancer close in.

“I love music. Always will,” he says, needlessly apologising for some shortness of breath. He doesn’t want to dwell on his illness (which he says, almost off-handed, is terminal) but he’s battling on for the sake of his kids. And for the love of music, you sense.

live with dubsThe occasion is a phone interview from the boardroom of Aztec Records in Melbourne, the label owned by ex-Aztecs drummer Gil “Rats” Matthews that’s responsible for bringing a slew of important ‘60s and ‘70s Australian releases into the digital age. The latest is Lobby’s own “Live With Dubs”, the short-run 1980 live release from his then-band Southern Electric (re-christened “Sudden Electric” after some quick studio tweaking). It's reviewed here.

If you’re judging “Dubs” in terms of what was in Australian record stores at the time, it’s very eclectic. Long songs and symphonic, incredibly loud guitar set against heavy bedrock bass and heady but nimble time changes, it sounds nothing like the lightweight pop, new wave synth or smooth West Coast crud that was dominating the charts. You might also say it’s well removed from the two-chord, three-minute explosions of punk that were setting the Australian live scene alight, but the bloodlines run closer than you may think.

Lobby is Australia’s Original Guitar Hero. In the 1960s and ‘70s, he played with blues ravers The Purple Hearts, the wildly over-driven jazz-tinged Wild Cherries and the positively fearsome volume merchants Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls (the latter presaging punk by a good half-decade). Inevitably, he found himself in Rose Tattoo for a year (on bass), and then moved into production and management with acts like X, the Sunnyboys, Machinations and Sardine v.

So how did “Live With Dubs” make it into the 21st century on shiny silver aluminium? “Gil’s heavily into this stuff,” he says of the label head. “I always wanted it to come out properly. It was only issued in small numbers originally…it wasn’t a big release…and it was written off by the industry at the time as a load of old bollocks.”

Lobby with The Coloured Balls

Not that it worried Lobby – then or now. “It sold bugger all but I was so into the live experience. Playing those songs, with that sort of intensity…it was just good to go out and play. That’s what I lived for.”

Having only owned “Dubs” on a CD-R rip from a nice copy of the vinyl, the re-issue sounds noticeably sharper and the music amazingly fresh. “Rock Fusion” is the tag the man himself has given it, and if the vocals of Mandu and Angry Anderson are overdubbed a little low, well that’s because the guitars are so incredibly loud.

The album was originally on Mushroom, the label headed by Australian music industry pathfinder Michael Gudinski. As a tall poppy who eventually sold his label to Rupert Murdoch for squillions, Gudinski has detractors, but Lobby won’t hear a bar of it: “The people who say he and others like him are arseholes don’t have their enthusiasm. Everything Michael’s put out, he’s loved. I didn’t have any trouble getting him to originally release this.”

It’s less than a fortnight after two reformation shows by the Purple Hearts, over one weekend at Brisbane’s relatively intimate venue, The Waterloo Hotel. It was the band’s second appearance – they played the Woodford Festival a few months earlier – and it happened before a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

The Purple Hearts in Brisbane, circa 1965.

“It was a Half a Cow crowd,” Lobby says, referring to the label that freshly issued “Benzedrine Beat”, an indispensable compilation of the band’s known recordings just two months before. “The crowd loved it, although I found it hard work.

“About midway through the set I found myself doing it tough, physically. I was having trouble even tuning up, so I just played rhythm with the drummer and let the other guitarist play all the lines.

“It’s a small place and they have these rules about not smoking. Well, I can’t help myself – I lit up.

“It was amazing, 40 years later, to be playing a show in Brisbane with those guys. The plan is to do a show in Melbourne, if we can all get it together.”

There’s also a desire to play with the Coloured Balls, should time and circumstances allow it.

The word “intense” springs up like mushrooms in conversation with Lobby, and his love of playing music is blindingly apparent. “I’m obsessed by the stuff – I always have been,” he says. The chance for his albums to be given a second wind is obviously pretty damn pleasing.

“I spent three years in England and there were plans to release ‘Obsescration’ over there, but they fell foul of record label stuff,” he says of the second solo album. It came out in Australia in 1976, just prior to Lobby making his move overseas where he produced studio and live sound for bands as the first wave of punk swept over a bemused Britain.

He also played the UK with his own band (the original Southern Electric) and some of their studio and live stuff – “it sounds incredible” - is likely to pop up as bonus cuts on a forthcoming Aztec release.

“I have no regrets over anything I’ve done. The music has always spoken for itself and I’ve lived for the moments when I get to go out and play.

“You know, I still get a kick out of stuff I hear and I think: ‘I’d love to produce this band’. Then I think: ‘You silly bugger – you barely have time to take a crap’!”

So if re-issues are the order of the day are there any legendary lost tapes under Lobby’s bed? Rumours of an alt and very wild version of X’s “And More?” abound, and there’s that unheard Rose Tattoo album recorded in Los Angeles when Lobby was on bass. Lobby says whatever survived from the former session would have put the skids under AC/DC's foray into the US market but was deemed “too wild” for release. It's MIA, as is the X gem. Mercurial X bassist Ian Rilen's chaotic habit of losing things cops the blame for the latter.

“You know, you have kids and your garage gets too crowded, so stuff goes,” he says of his own stockpiled work. “Gil rescued a load of stuff from the tip after someone tossed it out."

(Gil Matthews: "'I even had a guy approach me who had accidentally stumbled across the lost master tapes of the unreleased second side of Lobby Loyde's 'Obsecration' album at his local tip. I couldn't believe it. More importantly, nor could Lobby.")

More than two decades on, Lobby (justifiably) raves about being involved with the rock and roll roller coaster that was X, citing the recording of their stunning debut "X-Aspirations" as one of the highlights of his life. So was playing for Rose Tattoo.

"I knew I was going to have to play with those guys from the first time I saw them. They were so wild, so exciting and extreme. Intense.

"I played bass with them because I'd always wanted to. I'd played it in my very earliest bands. There was no way they were going to shift me to guitar."

With the Coloured Balls
Lobby and his Coloured Balls during a
mis-spent rock and roll youth.

It's been a solid day of interviews and you can sense the sort of tiredness that might hit a 65-year-old undergoing chemotherapy. Still, Lobby says he's feeling reasonable and says he's physically filled out since supplementing his treatment and diet with prescription steroids. For a middle-aged bloke, let alone a self-described hippy who lived through the Age of Aquarius, that's a radical change. We talk a little about a mutual friend with serious health problems, and Lobby urges me to make sure the guy gets in touch so he can offer support.

"You always have to have a go. That's all I was doing when I got up and played music," says the man whose original guitar inspiration was Scotty Moore.

"I used to see people try and do Hendrix on guitar and all of that and I'd ask them why they didn't just play their own stuff. You can always tell if someone's faking."

It's been an entertaining half-hour and Lobby has to go do a radio interview. He ventures that he loves talking about the stuff he did over the years and "Live With Dubs" holds a special place. He doesn't regret a thing in his career and you can almost hear him grinning down the phone with his parting remark.

"I'm a bit of a naughty person. I turn into a 12-year-old when I play this rock and roll shit."

"Live With Dubs" by Lobby Loyde and Sudden Electric is out now on Aztec Records.

From the Steven Danno-Lorkin archive.