It is with that unmistakeable, gut wrenching scream of Rob Younger and its clarion call exhorting us all to play some Stooges that Radio Birdman signals the start of another Wide Open Road, taking a step back and reflecting on what has been a tragic month for Australian music with the passing of Simon Holmes and Tony Cohen. Two people who at completely different times were the soundtrack to my life, discovered at the time, discovered later or in the back bar of sweaty pubs…


Hammer the Hammer – The Go-Betweens
Cut Lunch – Models
Overboard – Pel Mel
Gone Dead – The Moodists
The Friend Catcher – The Birthday Party
Save Me a Place – The Beasts of Bourbon
Gravity – Kim Salmon and the Surrealists

We start with three tracks produced or engineered by Tony Cohen. For those of you who are new to all of this, Tony Cohen was a go-to producer from the mid 1970s right through to 2008. He produced everyone from Hunters and Collectors through to Tex Perkins, with Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds in-between. We start with his work with the Go-Betweens and this one-off single from 1982. Described by the NME Robert Forster as Grant McLennans first great pop song, this production was preceded by Tony producing and engineering the previous Go-Be’s record Send me a Lullaby.

The next song is from Models 10” Cut Lunch from 1981 and we dig out the title track. Edgy, angular and spiky, Models are often referred to as a synth band or known more for the pleasant pop of 1985s Out of Mind, Out of Sight LP, but Cut Lunch is a dark insight into the mind of Sean Kelly and another great example of the Cohen style. Transitioning ever so slightly we have a track from the first Pel Mel LP (Out of Reason) that came out in 1982. Pel Mel were a brilliant synth pop band from Sydney. Part of the experimental scene that embraced band like the Models and extended into pioneers like Severed Heads, Pel Mel were a great pop band at heart. They have recently been compiled and this is where I draw this beautifully remastered version of this track.

Gone Dead, an early single from Dave Graney and Claire Moore’s brilliant Moodists was compiled on this 1983 LP released on Red Flame in the UK called ‘Engine Shudder’. Produced by Tony and apparently also Victor Van Vugt (who also has a Nick Cave connection having produced some Bad Seed b-sides and the Ghosts of the Civil Dead soundtrack from 1989). Next up, engineered by Tony Cohen we have the 1980 single by the Birthday Party. Released towards the start of the BP, pretty soon after the end of the Boys Next Door. This was produced by Keith Glass who at the time owned Missing Link records in Melbourne.

Alright, engineer by Tony, the Beasts of Bourbon are the loudest dirtiest mothers in the canon of Australian indie and alternative. From the debut LP released in 1984 and featuring the pantheon of swampy badness (The original line up included Tex Perkins, guitarists Spencer P. Jones (The Johnnys) and Kim Salmon (The Scientists, bassist Boris Sudjovic (The Scientists, Dubrovniks) and drummer James Baker (Hoodoo Gurus, Dubrovniks), this record never gets old for me. This track was written by the aforementioned Perkins and Salmon. Brilliant, listening to the barking and growling of Tex on this track. DAWTY.

Finally in our tribute to Tony Cohen we have Kim Salmon from his 1993 LP Sin Factory. Another dirty piece of Aussie rock produced by Tony. Brilliant track from a great record, drawing in all of Kim’s influence. Could have been the next Scientists record really.

OK, this has is now the hard section to produce. We also lost one of the greats of Australian music this year. Guitarist, producer, songwriter and friend, Simon Holmes of the Hummingbirds. I could fill and fill this section with memories. The simplest thing I can do is play tracks, sing so loud it hurts and remember my friend Simon.

The Band’s Broken Up – Modern Giant
Alimony – The Hummingbirds
Hindsight – The Hummingbirds
Blush – The Hummingbirds
Madison – The Hummingbirds
Gone – The Hummingbirds
Rosebud – Fragile
Here She Comes – Her Name in Lights
Let’s do it (Let’s fall in love) – Simon Holmes and Morgana Ancone

Produced by Simon, we start with this track from the amazing Modern Giant. It describes so clearly what it meant to be a Sydney-sider in the early 1990s. Released in 2004 and featuring the resonant and profound lyrics of Adam Gibson, this track is the perfect one to start this strange walk through my memories of Simon.

1987. Alimony. The original Phantom 7”. You can take all the records you said you’d never heard, I can’t bring myself to care anymore
1988. Hindsight. The last Phantom single. I can see clearly now where I’ve gone wrong, but it doesn’t help me a bit.
1989. Blush. Started it all for me. Started everything. Every band, every passion, every note, every chord, every most, every bead of sweat at a gig. Every. damned. thing.
1991. From the 2nd LP Va Va Voom, this track closed the record. But. I saw Simon play this song about 10 years ago at the Vic on the Park in Sydney. Written by his ex-wife, he filled this song with so much emotion, pain and loss that it broke my heart.
1993. Gone. The final EP and it was over with the shriek into the dark. I still remember running around in darkened laser tag rooms to this EP, and driving every second week to Canberra with my friends with this blaring on Richard’s stereo.

Off the Hummingbirds onto his first post birds effort. This is from the underrated Fragile record called ‘Airbrushed Perfection’ released in 1995 with members of the Welcome Mat and Sidewinder. This is an epic track worthy of the space we afforded it here. We follow this was a great production effort (along with a whole heap more) by Simon on the brilliant Her Name in Lights record released in 2004 and featuring the vocals of Mary Wyer from Even as we speak. And we end with a track from the Love and Other Catastrophes soundtrack that Simon did with Morgana Ancone (from Nitocris not Girl Monstar as noted wrongly in the podcast, apologies) and the old Cole Porter song ‘let’s do it (let’s fall in love).

Vale Simon and Tony