Tracks

  1. Just to be With You
  2. I Need Your Love
  3. The Honeydripper
  4. Cry Cry Cry
  5. Dancin Shoes
  6. All in the Same Boat
  7. Yes Indeed
  8. Boogie in the Barnyard
  9. Saturday Night at the Fish Fry
  10. Blow Joe Blow / Security
  11. King of Fools
  12. Beatin Around the Bush
  13. Fix it Up
  14. Let it Out
  15. I Got That Feelin’

Crew

Dave Riddoutt
audio

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons were one of the most powerful bands to emerge out of the Melbourne clubs in the mid-70s – with a glorious blend of originals and obscure covers with tight musicianship and a laddish sense of entertainment.

They were fronted by ball of energy Joe Camilleri who sang and played sax, and his nickname derived from Giuseppe, the Maltese name for Joseph gave the new band their name.

Recalls Camilleri, “They originally invited Stephen Cummings and me, both of us were in a band called The Pelaco Brothers. The deal was Stephen would sing and I would play sax.

“”We arrived at the rehearsal after a Pelacos country gig 100 km away the night before, a bit worse for wear and wearing the same clothes.

“Stephen decided in the end to go off and form The Sports but I was in awe of these guys, great musicians who’d been in legendary bands.”

Wayne Burt (guitar, vocals) was from Rock Granite and the last days of Daddy Cool, Jeff Burstin (guitar, vocals) from Co. Caine, John Power (bass, vocals) from Foreday Riders and Gary Young (drums, keyboards, vocals) an original part of the Daddy Cool phenomenon.

Burt, Camilleri and Young contributed individually to the satchel of songs, and all five were fine singers in their own right.

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons hit the ground running. Within weeks they were packing out clubs, eventually playing 300 shows a year around the country and abroad.

Wayne Burt: “The people who came to our gigs were real music fans… we weren’t a pretty boy band by any means!

“”Our wide variety of styles when we started out, meant the crowd never got bored. As we tried out new sounds, they trusted us enough to go along with us.”

Dave Ridoutt, a brilliant electronics and electrical engineer, also Falcons sound engineer and owner of the Live At San Remo, NYE 1976 tape: “The Falcons and Ariel were the best bands in Melbourne at the time, we packed out the clubs, and there was a bit of competition between us.”

Joe Camilleri: “After the wonderful decade before when The Beatles, The Stones, Coltrane and Miles blew your head, the ‘70s went on to be a time of incredible things, and audiences had more tolerance for the avant-garde.

“People had more stamina and patience to let a band experiment.”

Part of the appeal was Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons’ sense of entertainment.

Out front Camilleri’s onstage fashion sense included 1930s zoot suits, scarves, turbans, satin shirts and, as a one-time apprentice tailor, self-made trousers which invariably tore as he went into his frenzied routines and needed to be gaffa-taped while one of the others took a solo.

The band would do everything to rouse the crowd – holding guitars and saxophones in the air, and dancing around like dervishes.

Camilleri would blithely give away the stage production, and once crawled into the bass drum while Young was pounding the hell out of it.

During an ill-matched heavy metal show in San Francisco, the headbangers displayed their disapproval by throwing things (including eggs) at the stage. Camilleri yelled back: “Is it any wonder your parents lost the Vietnam War – you can’t even shoot straight!”

At a Sydney show when a member took it into his head to play nude, no one batted an eyelid.

So while both band and audience exuberantly celebrated at the shows, Live At San Remo, NYE 1976 takes on a greater rowdiness as it was at a Victorian surfside venue on New Years’ Eve! It was more than just fireworks going off.

Live At San Remo, NYE 1876 features Wayne Burt classics as the blues ballads “King Of Fools” and “I Need Your Loving (I Remember)”, the swamp rock guitar interplay “Dancing Shoes”, the horn driven tribute to Willie Dixon “Yes Indeed” while “Beating Around The Bush” from the Oz movie soundtrack is a formidable performance with horns and guitars whipping around each other. The opening track of Live at San Remo NYE 1976 John “Boodle” Power plays bass and sings the Muddy Waters blues classic “Just to be With You”

Their covers were not obvious ones. Camilleri would go to hip underground record stores and find imported R&B, jazz and soul compilations.

From these came Joe Liggins’ cool shuffle “The Honeydripper”, Louis Jordan’s 1958 “Barnyard Boogie (Boogie In The Barnyard)” and rollicking 1949 “Saturday Night At The Fish Fry” and Sammy Kershaw’s 1958 hit “All In The Same Boat”. They were discoveries for much of the crowd and became live favourites.

Dave Ridoutt’s tape captures the last blaze of glory for the original lineup.

Not long after, Wayne Burt quit to spend more time on his graphic arts, to be replaced by guitarist Tony Faehse and saxplayer Wilbur Wilde.

Warne Burt: “I later regretted leaving. It was not for personality reasons. But we’d be playing at discos, and as soon as we went off for a break, everyone would hit the dance floor.

“Then we’d come back on, and everyone would leave. It was soul-destroying. But it forced Joe’s hand to write songs with the rest of the band which were commercially successful.”

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons went on to greater heights with radio hits as “Hit And Run” and “Shape I’m In”, platinum albums, playing legendary festivals as the Montreaux Jazz Festival and Elvis Costello taking such a shine to their “So Young” that he sang it every night on a world tour during the encore.

Joe Camilleri too sees Live At San Remo, NYE 1876 as capturing an early gold period.

“Soon as we had ‘Hit & Run’, we went further to the record books. But we lost something that I didn’t realise at the time. That wonderful thing we shared, this music, audience allowed us to f**k up because they’d laugh along.”