The sun has almost set on 2016, and one of the highlights of the year has been the reformation of the Ted Mulry Gang (TMG). The fact that TMG are playing out live, 40 years after their halcyon days is quite incredible – and something we should all be thankful for. Not just playing out though – for if you’ve seen them live on any of their handful of dates in the latter part of this year on their ‘This Ones For Ted’ tour – you will be all too aware that live, they are more than delivering the goods – and are killing it as a live unit. If you told me a few years back that TMG would be out and about playing live in 2016 sans Ted, I would have told you, “Not a snowball’s chance in hell, never in a million years”. Yet with Ted’s younger brother Steve Mulry out front – it all makes perfect sense.
I think the last time I saw TMG was at Promises at Sylvania, or somewhere in Sydney’s south in 1995 or 96 supporting Suzi Quatro. I remember thinking that Quatro was boring and TMG blew her away. Twenty years later, TMG are kicking major ass, and are one of the hottest live tickets doing the rounds right now. Vocalist Steve Mulry is certainly doing justice to the TMG material, and is singing his absolute heart out. I’m sure Ted is looking down on his brother and old band mates with a smiling nod of approval. Yep – they are more than doing justice to the TMG legacy – and with Steve out front – are adding to it. In fact, after seeing the band a couple of times on this current tour, I can say hand-on-heart that Steve is making the material well and truly his own. With Steve coming from a heavy rock background, TMG in 2016 are tougher sounding, more muscled up, and a tighter rocking unit. Part of that is due also to having rock solid Mark Evans of AC/DC on bass.
It is short sighted to pigeonhole or stereotype TMG as a ‘Countdown band’ or a band known for only ‘that song’. For some people, I’m sure the revival or nostalgia tag is a reason that gets them along to see the band, yet take my word for it – TMG have a depth and quality to their songs that have seen their material endure incredibly well over time. It’s the aforementioned reason though, (a misguided opinion shared by the mainstream who see the band as a one hit 70s teen band), that has precluded TMG from being inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame. It’s an injustice, and no doubt political, as to why TMG have not been inducted into the Hall Of Fame. It would be a just acknowledgement, yet at the end of the day who really cares. Who gives credence to this two-bit, self-serving organisation anyway? As someone who likes to think I know a little bit about rock ‘n’ roll, take my word for it instead when I tell you that TMG have several albums worth of memorable, original, catchy rock that has stood the test of time – and still sound killer. Great melodies, great choruses, great songs. Some of their best material in fact is off their last couple of albums, ‘Disturbing The Peace’ and ‘Locked In’.
Many of Australian biggest bands of the 70’s had a second bite of the cherry in the 90s (including John Paul Young via ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and Skyhooks in 1983 and 1990/91). Those that didn’t have this second run were given their dues as part of the Countdown concerts in the mid 2000s, with bands like Supernaut, Cheetah, Hush and of course Sherbet (arguably the biggest Australian band of the 70’s), reforming with both Clive Shakespeare and Harvey James on guitars. Ted’s passing in 2001 precluded TMG from taking part in the Countdown Concert series. In the early part of the 90s though, TMG did do a bunch of shows and TV appearances a part of a short lived 70’s revival – including Hey Hey Its Saturday and 70’s themed nights. Yet to me, this early 1990’s revival of the Seventies music and culture, was more about having a swipe at the music and fashion of that period – and was taking the piss out of it. It was ‘daggy’, it was uncool – so that made it cool right? Which really missed the point. I dig Australian rock ‘n’ roll – it’s the best in the world. From AC/DC to Rose Tattoo, Skyhooks, The Angels, Screaming Jets, Screaming Tribesmen, Radio Birdman, Easybeats, Saints and all points in between – In my opinion, TMG are one of the best band’s this country has ever produced and in a just world, should have/could have been as big as AC/DC.
Mr Rockbrat and I have a connection with TMG rock n roll that still resonates to this day. I have fond memories of sitting in my brother’s bedroom playing the TMG Greatest Hits LP over and over again. Man, they sounded better than Slade, better than Quo. Listen to those killer riffs. A lot like AC/DC……AND they were a Sydney band, unlike Skyhooks or Taste (in those days friends, there was still a Sydney Melbourne rivalry). They lived in the suburb next to where I grew up. As kids, my brother and I used to see the TMG band truck everywhere (with Ronnie Roadie no doubt at the wheel). They were a hard rocking, hardworking band playing memorable, original hard edged rock n roll. What was not to like?
Yet let’s get back to the present. Highlights from the current TMG show are many. ‘My Little Girl’ ‘Crazy’ ‘Wanted Man’, ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Lazy Eyes’, and ‘I’m Free’ to name a few of the highlights. Les Hall, as well as being one of this country’s most underrated guitar players, also wrote many TMG staples that have gone on to become Oz rock standards – people forget that fact. To see Les spitting out blistering solos in 2016 at stage left is a sight (and sound) to savour. To hear Gary Dixon run through spot-on acoustic versions of ‘Julia’ and ‘Falling In Love Again’ is another highlight of the show, reminding you just how great these songs are, what an outstanding songwriter Ted was, and what an appealing voice Gary possesses. As guitar players who have had a major impact on Australian rock ‘n’ roll – both Gary Dixon and Les Hall are deserving of way more respect. They are rock ‘n’ roll personified. Drummer Herm Kovac, the backbone of TMG, keeps the beat and hits hard as he always does – Mr Reliable behind the kit. It’s always a joy to see Herm belting out the songs and keeping time. Unrelenting, no frills. The band deliver a ball busting rendition of AC/DC’s ‘It’s a Long Way To The Top’ that sends shivers down your spine. This is as close as you are gonna get to the vintage AC/DC sound- and as I’ve said before, these guys are Australian hard rock royalty – and deserve all the successes and accolades owed to them – more in fact.
TMG have a lineage that is entwined with AC/DC and what became known as the “Albert sound”. They are the only ‘Alberts Band’ out there today playing with any real conviction. Consider also that in 2016, other seventies band like Sherbet, Hush, the original Angels, original Tatts etc will never ever be back – with so many of their key members now having sadly passed on. The starkness that TMG are the ONLY band of this ilk still out there doing it – and doing it bloody well, cannot be understated. When I saw TMG last weekend, Angry Anderson got up and belted out ‘Bad Boy For Love’ as an encore. Does it get any cooler than that in 2016? I think not. Rock fans in Europe would kill to see this kind of event. (Way more needs to be done in Australia to honour the legacy of Australia’s great hard rock bands from the 70s, bands that are revered overseas. There exists an ambivalence amongst the music industry, Government’s and the population at large towards bands from this era of Oz rock. Melbourne has AC/DC Lane? And Sydney ? The HOME of AC/DC and the Young’s. Why is Chequers a Chinese owned massage parlour? Why can’t Chequers revert to a rock venue akin to Melbourne ‘Cherry Bar? Where is the statue to Thorpie? To Tattoo’s legacy? The attitude, the apathy at large is pretty apparent. Yet I’ve digressed. These are issues for another time).
TMG in 2016 are one lean, hard rocking band firing on all cylinders – playing material from the 1970s that sounds relevant and vital, and one can only hope that this recharged line up of TMG enter the studio to release some new material. TMG in 2016 is not revivalism. This is not nostalgia. This is a kick ass rock ‘n’ roll band – the last of their kind. Get out there and see them whilst you can. If you only see one show in 2017 –make it TMG. Satisfaction guaranteed. Go to the band’s web site for details of upcoming shows in 2017.
Check out Episode 62 of the Australian Rock Show – An interview with Steve Mulry, Rick Lum from Hush and TMG fans conducted at the Ted Mulry Memorial Day 3/9/16 here
Check out Episode 42 of the Australian Rock Show – An interview with Ronald Clayton – TMG’s long time roadie (you can meet Ronnie at any of the current TMG shows at the merch table). Listen here
Rockbrat Wonders – Why TMG Are not in the ARIA Hall Of Fame