Some time ago in Green Valley, three mates from Fairfield Patrician Brothers (Tom Watson, Michael Rooney & Frank Mangione) were busily and incompetently playing quite loudly, some of their favourite tunes. Much to the (understandable) alarm of Mr Johnson, the Rooney's next door neighbour who became the source of much yelling of abuse and banging on the wall of their garage. Having had a band, of sorts, ("Benefit") that had played a couple of very small time gigs (with fellow Pat's mate John Chaumont) they knew they were bound for great things to come. Songs that formed part of the repertoire were Thane Russell's version of Security, Yardbirds I'm a Man, John Mayall's The Same Way - amongst others. This foursome entered the 2SM Pepsi Pop Poll and at least obtained the status of recording one of their songs, "Back to the Valley", at a tiny studio in the city. This being a typical twelve bar of the day with lyrics by Mick's brother Terry. This historical relic represents the first recording by members of the Lonely Hearts and probably the best element of this recording was John Chaumont's vocal.
No good would come of this though...
Mick moved on to bigger and better things. Bison (Martin Cass, Phil Vassely), "Sterven Woode" and "Steela" in the company of drummer Steve Brabeck. Tom and Frank didn't do very much of note, but did manage to waste a lot of rehearsal time with Ronnie Bissett ("Booze Brothers", "Switchblades"). The three were then approached by the milkman (Martin's old man) to join "Bison" (Mick & Steve had left "Bison" by then) and tour Asia wearing satin stage clothes. The threat of satin clothing being sufficient to put paid to that idea. Sometime later, Tom joins "Steela" (On the Road!!) with Mick, Steve, Fang and Kev Lucas. Kev was another Liverpool local and a great guitar player. After a seemingly never ending string of vocalists, "Steela" is in a precarious position. In line with the way music was changing in the late 70s, Tom announces "The Plan" to Mick. In addition to Mick's own reticence he knows that Steve will be difficult to persuade. Around this time, Dave Guest another Pat's lad and someone who was always considered a spiritual band member, made his presence known from his flat in Fairfield. In conjunction with losing Tom's first Stones LP, finds his way through EMI 301 establishment to record and release a single under the name "Dave Guest and the Guest Stars".
The Lonely Hearts form as a bunch of people, of loose association and questionable motives. Determined to be a rock and roll band. Not withstanding that they barely know a barre chord amongst them, they set off upon the well worn path that many a fool had attempted before them. John Wiebeck, Steven Douse, John Rooney, Anthony Bautovich and Stephen Rawl armed with an overdrive pedal and a Les Paul copy, played a few party type gigs and attempted a local battle of the bands at Louie's Loft in Liverpool. This was attended by members of Radio Birdman, Assassins, Subversion and other members of the inner city scene. As expected, other than a few fiery arguments enjoyed by many, all was mostly in vain.
The Lonely Hearts, as people would initially come to know them, came about as a result of the need for the band "Steela" to find another vocalist. John and Bauto had formed a sort of folky duo and entered a local talent contest. Tom had initially thought that John may be a suitable singer. In line with this thinking John and Bauto also thought that it might be a good idea to have a real band backing them. After something of a stalemate where, John was possibly wanted but he wanted Bauto to come along, the band was born. Rehearsals would take place at the Rooney's home or a scout hall out the back of Fairfield and in between we'd be off somewhere to play the pinnies or space invaders!
So begins the seemingly endless party that was to be the Lonely Hearts. Bauto and Tom were the songwriters and spent quite a deal of time applying the trade. Mick's natural business flair and the fact that he had a job where he was permanently attached to a telephone allowed him to talk up the band and really start to get the band a good deal of work. With the intent of playing the "inner city" the band struggled on. The first city gig was at the Sydney Cove Tavern supporting Midnight Oil. The band went over a storm and Peter Garrett's voice that night was even sub-par for him. Given this and PA problems this was the multiple encore type show that was the Lonely Hearts baptism of fire. The band had a large live following and also a hell of a lot of friends. An early dedicated follower was Smithy. He would appear at most shows. We'd known Mick Blood (Lime Spiders) from the Steela days and he was an occasional roadie too. Daryl Mather was a friend of Bauto and John and attended most local gigs. Billy Gibson, Biff O'hara and lots of others appeared to be adherents of what the Lonely Hearts appeared to be good at.
The band start gigging profusely in the city. The Stagedoor, Civic, Sydney Cove and many more. We we're given the opportunity to play Rags. Portrayed as the ultimate punk gig in the city we thought we should play it. So after three gigs already in the last 14 hours (two sessions at the Capitol theatre with Mi-Sex and Hunters Humpy with Ward 13) we turned up at Rags. It was the height of the punk era and they would stand at the front of the stage and spit on the band that happened to be playing. Not something the Lonely Hearts would consider enduring. The band took to the stage and stood right upfront at the edge of stage quite aggressively inviting anyone stupid enough to do their worst. Mick noticed one of the punk's trying to spit on his brother, John, so he dove straight into the crowd (guitar still plugged in and around his neck) and started punching the punk out. The rest of the band lept into the crowd to assist (this was actually captured on cassette tape but we haven't relocated it yet). Back in the dressing room a member of the audience drops in and comments "man you guys are great - do you just pick people out of the audience at random to punch out?".
The first opportunity to record was delivered at Festival studios (still looking for that demo tape). Amongst other industry figures Martin Fabyini of Regular Records had expressed interest in the band. So we found ourselves being recorded with Cameron Allen as engineer producer and also Patrice Newell looking on which certainly made our McLeans show (she starred in a McLeans toothpaste commercial).
We played with so many great bands, Chisel, Angels, Mentals, INXS,Mi-Sex, Dragon, etc etc and played at too many venues to remember them all. We would sometimes roll up to a gig with anywhere from one to three bus loads of friends. We even took a bus load of friends to Melbourne and stayed at Macy's which is one of the cheap hotels that bands would stay.
We would do crazy things all the time and we were forever taking the piss out of everyone. Once we rang Wayne De Gruchy (managed Zoot, Dragon, John Paul Young & the All-Stars) to drive out from the city in his Bentley and pick us up and take us to the Skippy Milkbar in Liverpool for milkshakes and hot chocolate which he did God love him!
Far too many gigs and highly inflated egos within the band, introduced the members to stresses that occur in most units but inevitably caused distance and friction amongst band members who were then on the outer. Steve Brabeck, who was a great drummer and a good guy was the first to fall. Steve was running late for a support gig with the Angels at Newcastle Workers Club (his ex-girlfriend's fault). Even though we went on on time it marked the start of the end for Steve with significant pressure put on him by Bauto. Given both unreasonable expectations and all round bad attitude by the rest of the guys he unfortunately left the band.
Next to join the band was Phil Edwards. Phil was a great talent also and couldn't believe that the answer was, "We only play fast songs and slow songs!" when he asked Mick what the tempo of a particular song was! Phil was a great asset and also great fun to have around. His appalling sense of humour perfectly complemented efforts of a similar vein that emanated almost continually from Mick. Rehearsals could be unbearable considering this fact alone. This fun doesn't last forever unfortunately. Phil was considered unsuitable after some time and was replaced by Steve Lucas. Steve was a fine drummer and also another ex-Pat's. Power within the band shifted to the point where after an absence from the band due to an injury, Tom arrives at a gig at Parramatta Leagues Club to be told by Bauto that he isn't needed by the band anymore. Without support forthcoming from Mick or John he considers it not worth the trouble and heads off to Tasmania. A two track 15ips tape fed from the desk of the Parra gig exists in OK quality.
The Lonely Hearts then try out Richard Jakimszyn as a replacement guitarist but this does not work out. The Lonely Hearts successfully carry on and fool around with management proposals and recording options including a stint of demos with John Tagg (Radiators management). It was during a tour in Melbourne that Mick realises that the Lonely Hearts are not the same without Tom and it was soon after Melbourne and a week playing at the Kellar Bar in Thredbo the band disintegrates.
A while later Tom gets a phone call from Mick asking whether he'd be interested in putting the band together again. The new lineup would be Tom, Mick and John joined by Guilio Mariani (QVs) on guitar/vocals and Greg Ohlback (nee Jimmy Olsen - ex Reporters) and Harry Della as a sort of manager. Not overly enamoured by the overall feel of this arrangement but nevertheless willing to give it a try, a new Lonely Hearts is born. Apart from understated requirements Tom joins given the proviso that the cover songs would include "Alice Long", "Come On Down to My Boat" and "Got to Get a Hold of Myself". The rest of the set was intended to be originals. This is a real break from the perception of what the Lonely Hearts were thought to be. Also songwriting was now being carried out by Tom and John and a fine partnership ensued. Whereas Jimmy was always lot of fun and was just like a mate you'd had for years, Guilio never seemed to be entirely comfortable within the band's structure. Maybe it was the fact that the nucleus of Tom, Mick and John was too overwhelming a situation to be faced with? Jimmy could fit in with the same twisted frame of mind so he was capable of being just as bad as the core band members.
Always wanting to be recording, the band arranged for demos to be recorded at Clive Shakespeare's Studios at Lindfield. Lots of fun and Jimmy comes out with the line..."Just when you thought it was safe to join the Lonely Hearts....- Jooles." Reasonable budget recordings of the time and contains most of the new songs the band had been working on.
Tension grows in the band. A tour of Melbourne is planned and the obvious divisions solidify. Macy's was a favourite place for bands to stay while gigging in Melbourne in the '80s and while we're all happy to stay at the well known rock 'n' roll fleapit "Macy's in Too Whacked Road", Jules would cop out and stayed in the Ambassador or similar. We had booked a heap of rooms for us and the roadies but we ended up only taking the one quadruple room. This we made ourselves from two rooms as they only had doubles and triples. It was a sight to see at night with lots of other band members staying at the same place. In Dec 1981 it so happened that The Divynils were also staying there. As usual, at 3am, after we had gone to the Espy (Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda) to see the Serious Young Insects, the post-gig mayhem unleashed itself between Room 8 (even stink would say room 8 stank) and Room 13 . Not unlike the Borat motel scene (minus the false fist) there was running and scuffling through the hallways, yelling, door slamming and objects flying - as you do. Suddenly - amid all the cuffuffle - in true (psuedo) Rock Star style - we hear a voice - (Chrissy if I am not mistaken) call out, "Can you keep the F&#$'n noise down - we're trying to write songs in here!"
Well, I am assuming the song born from that night was "I touch myself" perhaps.......keeping the dream alive.....
We then had dinner next to the Divinyls, intimidated the Church, and found our way back to Macys to struggle through ankle-deep empty cans and sit on the bed with John Power (Jo Jo Zep, Rock Doctors) drinking our, "incredibly bad (J&B) scotch!" as he described it.
We returned to Sydney on the Sunday night singing "the last Plane out of Sydney's almost gone!" Spirits were low and life on the road was a little difficult at the time with an obvious sense that this was falling apart again. We had a gig at the St George Sailing Club playing support to INXS. We played pretty lousy and the roadies told us that we should leave soon after the gig as the band would soon be here. The roadies were informed that "The Band" were already here! Downstairs at the Rooney's on the wall near the pool table, was a poster for the Metropole Tavern. It proudly announced The Lonely Hearts with support INXS. They weren't really a rock and roll band in our estimation.
Quite a crisis occurred next. Both Jules and Jimmy want to leave and an acrimonious split with Harry also takes place (there goes another truck to pay that debt). Not all bad things are necessarily as bad as they seem. The silver lining of this latest disaster was that although we didn't want Jimmy to leave, Phil Edwards was again available to drum for the band. The band starts seriously rehearsing and becomes a very effective, tight live unit.
More ramblings to follow....