In 1984, Sydney trio v. Spy v. Spy were on a high. They’d almost broken up but signed to Midnight Oil’s management and label, and the mainstream was opening up to them.
Around the time of the Prince of Wales gig in Melbourne, they were playing powerful shows around the country.
The songs often had pop melodies but the lyrics addressed issues as homelessness, racism, irresponsible consumerism, destruction of heritage landmarks and corrupt cops.
The last song on the tape is the cataclysmic version of the theme song to late night ‘60s TV spy series Danger Man, which they watched every night at 3am in the squat, and “Mugshot” was inspired by the spy thriller novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammet.
What stands out about them on Live At The Prince of Wales 1984 tape was how tight they were, whether on the frantic “Injustice”, “Where Are We Going”, “Slow F***” and “Mugshot” or the more ethereal “Out And Dreaming”, “One Of A Kind” and “Good For Business”.
Recalls Craig Bloxom, the bassist/ lead singer, “We jelled together from our first rehearsal in the squats of Glebe in 1980.
“We set up our gear downstairs in the mouldy cellar and jammed our hearts out raising hell and making a huge racket.
“We realised early on we had a musical spark and enjoyed playing with each other.
“Nobody was keen to be lead singer however so we made a lot of vocal noises and shrieks and yells taking turns to sing as required but only if necessary.”
In 1984, Mark Woods was living in Los Angeles. After long stints as sound engineer with The Models and Men At Work, he was working with US band The Call (they had a big hit “The Walls Came Down” in Australia) when he got the call to join Tina Turner on a three-month US tour.
It ended in October and was to resume in Australia a month later. Woods returned early to Melbourne to catch up with family and friends to wait her arrival.
During this time he got a call from the Oils office to do v. Spy v. Spy’s show.
He had not worked with them before, but loved what he heard of them on community radio.
“They were one of my favourite Sydney bands. Unlike a lot of Sydney bands who were very noisy and brash, they were very melodic and musical, and Craig had a warm voice.
“In those days they were often compared to the Oils, but to me they were more like Crowded House and The Police.
“At the Prince of Wales show I liked the sound I was getting, there was a great vibe in the room, the crowd was going off, there was a lot of space in their music, and you knew that each of the three knew what the other was playing on stage.”
Craig Bloxom remembers the show for another reason. Some young girls joined them in their rooms at the hotel after, and collapsed from excess partying.
“I remember us carrying them unconscious to a waiting cab around 3AM as the receptionist glared at us and said we should be ashamed of ourselves.”