Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rage Rage Rage Rage....Raaaaaaaaaaaaaage

Australian readers of this site will no doubt be familiar with Rage, the staple 'post-pub' music video program shown every Friday and Saturday night on ABC. For teenagers growing up in the backwaters of country Australia like myself, years before the belated introduction of cable TV, Rage introduced us all kinds of artists that never graced the airwaves of local radio, let alone the local record store.

(Sample dialogue from record store clerk in country town: 'Mudhoney' No, I don't think we've got any Mudhoney. Would you like the new John Farnham instead?' This isn't from personal experience, but you get the general idea)

Moving from the small country town of Orange to the slightly larger city of Canberra meant that access to the artists featured on Rage was much easier to come by. At the age of 12, I spent hours after school hanging around the local record store of choice, the sadly departed Impact Records. When my friends and I weren't reading comics, looking at laser discs (which I had never seen in my life before, and three years later never saw again), or using what was left of our lunch money to buy trading cards (either Upper Deck basketball, Spiderman or Simpsons), we hung around the ten CD changer listening posts, soaking in whatever aural pleasures were deemed 'Albums of the Week' by Rob, Dick and Barry.

After seeing the clips shown on Friday night's Rage, I'd note down any of the ones that I simply had to hear again, and go into Impact the following Monday afternoon to occupy the listening posts for an hour or two before grudgingly trooping home to make a belated start on my homework.

Friday night's Rage played only new videos, with the first clip usually reserved for the latest pre-release video of the week. I can still remember vividly watching clips such as 'Beetlebum' and 'Smack My Bitch Up' for the very first time (the later which I taped, then gave to a friend to play at a house party the following week. For five minutes, everyone stopped drinking and watched the Jonas Ackerlund video, before letting out a collective 'What the f**k?') and making sure I'd chuck a tape in my stereo in case they came on the radio, as having a taped copy of the songs would be my only chance of listening to them whenever I wanted before the official release date, which was usually a good month away.

Saturday nights though were even better, as that's when Rage handed over the controls of the night's playlist to the artists. Usually it would be either a well known overseas band that was touring Australia at the time (Beastie Boys, Trent Reznor, Faith No More) or a local rising talent. They'd be handed a big red book of available videos to choose from, and pick forty of them to comprise the evening's viewing. This would then be followed by the complete videography of the selected artist (indeed, the three artists I've mentioned all have a stellar history of fine music videos which are easily available on You Tube).

One particular evenings viewing, which I still have on VHS back in Australia, was programmed by Custard, who were I guess Australia's answer to Pavement, although slightly more radio friendly.

Custard - Pack Yr Suitcases

At the time, I was probably slightly obsessed by this band, to the point where I swapped mixtapes with fellow Custaro (as the band referred to themselves) fans, and even got a prompt fan mail reply from lead singer Dave McCormack on the back of a postcard from an American fast food chicken shop. Class.

While I was more interested in making sure I recorded the band's video collection later in the evening, what really made the night worthwhile was the forty clips Dave, Matthew and Paul from the band chose from Rage's red book. The next two and a half hours introduced me to more undiscovered music than I had ever encountered before, or since. On one evening in September 1996, I first heard Devo, Wall of Sound, The Pixies, Frank Black, Pavement, and countless other artists who made me stop listening to grunge and start delving into more underground fare. Here's the list in full, with thanks to Craig Latham, and some of my favourite clips from the night.

# Beastie Boys - Hey Ladies

# Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl

# Devo - Are You Experienced?

# Kraftwerk - Telephone Call

# The Fauves - Everbody’s Getting A Three Piece Together

# The Hummingbirds - Two Weeks With A Good Man In Niagara Falls

# The Go-Betweens - Head Full Of Steam

# Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot

# Pere Ubu - Love Love Love

# Wall of Voodoo - Mexican Radio

# The Pixies - Here Comes Your Man

# Frank Black - Men In Black

# The Fauves - Dogs Are The Best People

# Pavement - Rattled By The Rush

# David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy

# The Fauves - Misguided Modelling Career

# Snout - Cromagnoman

# You Am I - Jewels And Bullets

# The Pixies - Digging For Fire

# The Pixies - Alison

# Presidents of the USA - Peaches

# Devo - Freedom Of Choice

# Soundgarden - Jesus Christ Pose

# Beasts of Bourbon - Psycho

# The Rolling Stones - Faraway Eyes

# Supergrass - Caught By The Fuzz

# The Hard Ons - Girl In A Sweater

# The Saints - Stranded

# The Pixies - Alec Eiffel

# Pavement - Gold Soundz

# John Kennedy - Big Country

# Dinosaur Jr - Going Home

# Tom Waits - 16 Shells From 30 Ought 6

# The Jesus and Mary Chain - April Skies

# Kiss - I Was Made For Loving You

# The Reels - Quasimodo's Dream

# Mental as Anything - Beserk Warriors

# Frank Black - Headache

# Bobbie Gentry - I'll Never Fall In Love Again

# Sonic Youth - Sister

# Joy Division - She's Lost Control (note the Rage logo at the start!)

Wow. Some mighty fine selections there, and certainly I'd argue if it wasn't for Custard's choices that evening, music wouldn't play such an important role in my life as it has since (which went from being a mere listener to getting involved in music journalism, community radio, working in record stores, DJing, promoting club nights, and boring people to death with whatever remix/b-side is preventing me from sleeping, working, or having normal relations with friends/family/partners). Wait a minute.... now I know who to blame too. Bugger.

(NB: One of the fond memories of watching Rage late at night with my sister was the 'one more clip' mantra. As in: 'OK, one more clip, and if it's shit then I'm off to bed'. Of course, the next clip was usually something brilliant like Aphex Twin's 'Come To Daddy', which would bring about a repeat performance of the mantra. 'OK, one more clip....' and so on, until you were awoken at 3.30am by the sound of My Bloody Valentine's trademark wall of noise chosen by Thurston Moore. Whoa!)

* Bonus - As a tip from man about town Will Kane, here's Japanese J-pop band Drumkan's cover of one of The Pixies songs selected above.

Drumkan - Alec Eiffel

1 comment:

sisterleaguer said... mean I was supposed to keep the Custard/Rage video currently collecting dust in my spare room? you tell me.
Just jokes, it's still ok. Dunno about the U2 videography one tho'. I remember that the Madonna one went backwards in time so you had to stay up through the shitty mid-90s clips to get to the pop-genius of 'Borderline' at something like 3am...ahhh.

Thanks for the shout out. Guess what was on last night's Rage? New Beasts of Bourbon video. OMG those dudes are still alive! I think Rage is one of the reasons that Australian artists stepped up the production values on their videos. Check out the beautifully weird one for Gotye's 'Heart's a Mess' to see where we've got to.