Ron Barrett was only 26 years old when he passed away.
I knew him fairly well via him being a member of the Candy Harlots. The first time I saw him with that outfit was supporting Cheap Trick at The Tivoli in April of 1988. I would go on to see him perform with the band on at least 30 other occasions – maybe more. He was always polite and friendly when I chatted with him, and from all accounts – a decent human being.
Barrett had played with the Glam Savages, which also featured bassist Nick Szentcuti and drummer Peter Ayscough. Vocalist Mark Easton who had been fronting the band – left to form the Candy Harlots, taking Barrett and Szentcuti with him. I never saw the Glam Savages. I saw their name in the gig guide, but never did check them out.
From 1987 until his death in 1990, Ron was rhythm guitarist/songwriter with the Candy Harlots. From that first aforementioned show at the Tivoli, to the Harlots Ball at the Coogee Bay Hotel, Barrett had a great stage presence and with his red gretch, and confederate flag draped around his left cowboy boot, looked every bit the underground rock star.
One great memory I have of him is from a weekday show at the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross where he showed up after work in his suit and tie, and did the gig in business attire. He looked cool and I wish I had’ve taken a photo. I remember when the band’s debut single was released, I was so focused on them obtaining worldwide domination, I’d designed a promo flier – even enlisting the help from a local Hanna Barbera cartoonist (a favour I would call on again when working with Girl Monstar). My brother and I believed in the Candy’s are subsequently covered the Sydney CBD with Candy Harlots fliers (even pinning one in a restaurant unlocked menu cabinet on George Street). Later that night – after a gig at the Sydney Cove Tavern, Barrett comes out, shakes my hand and thanks me for all the hard work. In appreciation he gave me a signed 8×10″ which I’ll always keep, cos it means something.
I think the last time I saw him with the band was at a Gladesville show in late 1989. I had dropped out of that scene somewhat – maybe feeling disgruntled that they hadn’t cracked the bigtime. Fast forward to October 1990 when I get a phone call from a friend asking if I’d seen that day’s paper ? He tells me that Ron Barrett had died. I walked in shock to purchase a newspaper and stood reading in disbelief. Barrett’s girlfriend at that time was well-known Australian actress Virginia Hey (who, according to Wikipedia had also dated Michael Hutchence and Duran Duran’s John Taylor). If not for Hey, Barrett’s passing would’ve made the music street press, and not the mainstream media – which is the way it goes I guess.
Barrett died from an asthma related attack. Ultimately – even though the band went on to be signed to a major label – they never did reach the heights which they justifiably deserved. In my opinion, they would’ve made for a great opening act during that Guns n Roses tour of December 1988, but that’s ancient history.
Barrett wrote the tune ‘Wrap 2 Arms’ which appeared as the B-Side of their second vinyl single ‘Danger’ which was released on Timberyard Records. When the post-Easton line-up signed with Virgin, their first single was a re-recording of ‘Danger’ which was backed with another Barrett composition called ‘Hot Love Child’. For a time the band were opening their set with this tune and it was a scorcher. I believe his nephew Dane gigs around Sydney in an outfit called The Disadvantaged. Things go full circle I guess…
26 years old is young, too young to die. I’ve got very fond memories of the Candy Harlots – particularly the 1988 shows, and great memories of their rhythm guitarist named Ron Barrett, who left this earth way before his time. Rock on brother…