One of Australia’s biggest bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s is celebrating its 50th anniversary by returning to where their recording career began – EMI.
Fifty years after their debut single, ZOOT have signed a new deal with EMI, who will release the definitive career anthology, ZOOT ARCHAEOLOGY, on Friday November 23, featuring a brand-new ZOOT song, a remarkable cover of The Dream Academy’s ‘Life In A Northern Town’.
“EMI signed a very young and naïve ZOOTback in 1968,” founding member Beeb Birtlessays. “Fast-forward 50 years and ZOOT is thrilled to be back with EMI, where it all started, for the release of ZOOT ARCHAEOLOGY.”
EMI Managing Director John O’Donnell says, “It’s incredibly exciting for all of us at EMI to be releasing ARCHAEOLOGY, an exhaustive and proud collection of the work of the brilliant, influential ZOOT. Brimming with naïve genius and youthful power-pop energy, ZOOT, as evidenced on ARCHAEOLOGY, lit a fire that would subsequently burn brightly all over the world.”
Pop guru Ian “Molly” Meldrum is thrilled thatZOOT are getting the deluxe reissue attention they deserve. In 1970, Molly wrote this in Go-Set:
The ZOOT are Super, Super Stars … their fantastic music, superb looks and brilliant stage act has helped to bring back all the excitement (spelt with a capital E, of course) to the Australian pop scene. The ZOOT are really FABULOUS.
“It’s not like me to be over the top,” Molly laughs when reminded of the quote, “but ZOOT really were a fabulous group. I was a huge fan. I still am.”
The ZOOT members have dug deeply into their archives for ARCHAEOLOGY, which features the first song the band recorded, a cover of The Move’s ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’, as well as the band’s EMI debut, ‘You’d Better Get Goin’’. The album also includes the hits ‘Monty and Me’ (produced by Molly and featuring a whistling Johnny Farnham), ‘One Times, Two Times, Three Times, Four’, plus their classic hard rock cover of The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’, a Top 5 hit and Go-Set’s Best Australian Single of 1971.
“Listening back to all these tracks I can hear what a great band ZOOT was,” Rick Springfield says.
ZOOT ARCHAEOLOGY also features live covers of The Beatles’ ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ and Neil Diamond’s ‘Shilo’, plus rare photos of the band, and liner notes written by Beeb and Rick.
EMI will also reissue ZOOT LIVE – THE REUNION, the CD and DVD documenting what was the band’s last performance, 40 years after they initially broke up.
ZOOT LIVE was recorded in 2011, on the Rick Springfield and Friends Cruise in the Caribbean. The re-formation was so successful that the band started planning an Australian tour; what would have been their first Australian shows in 40 years. But soon after, singer Darryl Cottonwas diagnosed with liver cancer. He died in 2012.
ZOOT ARCHAEOLOGY is dedicated to Darryl.
After Darryl died, Rick discovered that both he and Darryl had recorded separate versions of ‘Life In A Northern Town’. “Sitting in the studio listening to Darryl’s solo vocal gave us all goosebumps,” Rick says. Combining the two versions, he then asked Beeb to sing the third verse. “Fifty-four years after I met Darryl, we have a new ZOOT song,” Beeb smiles. “Thanks to Rick, I got to sing one more time with my best friend.”
Originally written as an elegy to Nick Drake, theZOOT version of ‘Life In A Northern Town’ is a tribute to Darryl Cotton, who was still a teenager when he started the band with Beeb in Adelaide.
ZOOT relocated to Melbourne in August 1968, where their management decided to dress them all in pink, creating the infamous “Think Pink – Think ZOOT” campaign. Later, when the band tired of the pink image, and with their music moving in a heavier direction, they burned their pink clothes live on the music television showHappening ’70. They also recorded Rick’s ‘Hey Pinky’, a savage shot at everyone who had bagged the band for wearing pink. They announced the single with an unusual photo shoot. “We decided to promote the release by appearing naked from behind,” Beeb recalls, “as if to say, Kiss My Arse!”
ZOOT were crowned Australia’s Best Group inGo-Set in 1969. They released their only album,JUST ZOOT, in 1970, before splitting the following year.
ZOOT are often referred to as “a supergroup in reverse”. Following ZOOT, Beeb Birtles was a founding member of Little River Band, the first Australian band to have a gold album in the US, where they had six Top 10 hits.
Rick Springfield relocated to America, where he has had 17 Top 40 hits, including the chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning ‘Jessie’s Girl’.
Rick Brewer joined The Ferrets, who released two albums and the classic single ‘Don’t Fall In Love’.
And Darryl Cotton had a Top 10 solo hit with ‘Same Old Girl’, as well as a successful stage and TV career, hosting the much-loved The Early Bird Show. He was also part of Burns, Cotton & Morris (with Ronnie Burns and Russell Morris) and Cotton, Keays & Morris (with Jim Keays).
But it was ZOOT where it all began. As EMI’s press release stated when the band released the JUST ZOOT album in 1970:
“Yes, ZOOT is a breath of fresh air; bursting with catchy melodies, hummable lyrics, gentle harmonies and a solid rock backing.
“WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY ASK FOR?”
ZOOT ARCHAEOLOGY & ZOOT LIVE – THE REUNION
Darryl Cotton – lead vocals
Beeb Birtles – bass/vocals
Rick Brewer – drums/percussion
Rick Springfield – guitar/vocals
Released November 23