My first show with the Rockmelons was at a venue called the Newtown Rules Club, in Redfern, Sydney, Australia on the fourteenth of January 1984. This is how it came to pass.

In 1982 I was one of the first people in town (Sydney, Australia) to own a Tascam 244 - 4 track cassette recorder and I was using it as a mobile studio to do demos for people. I was very busy for a short period, that is until everyone else bought one!

Now one of the great unsung heroes of the club and music scene in Sydney during the 1980s was an inspiring person by the name of Jeff Cook. Credited as "Cookie Jar(h?) Man" on The Rockmelon's debut album, Tales Of The City, he was a great facilitator, manager, engineer, music software pioneer, and an "all things to all people" kind of person. He was also great at putting people together.

Jeff introduced me to the Jones brothers, Bryon and Jonathon, who had a band called "No Heavy Lifting". We recorded six or seven songs together. I remember being a bit tense as I felt I was only pretending to be a sound engineer and was expecting to be caught out at any moment, but we managed to get the songs down OK.

 

 

Peter Kennard, Stephen Allkins, Jonathon Jones, Vincent Dale, Geoffrey Stapleton, Ray Medhurst, Peter Blakely, John Kenny, Sandi Chick and Bryon Jones.

 

Rockmelons

February 1985

 

It was obvious even at that stage that they were exceptional musicians. Bryon was the singer and Jonathon was, (and always will be), the boy genius. He had made a backing track of his excellent drumming and they played along with that, with Jonathon on electric dulcimer and Bryon on bass. If they sounded like anyone (which they didn't), it was a funky Japan.

I recorded another project of theirs called " Les Ukuleles". They both played iridescent "Flying V" ukeles, performing instrumentals such as "Apache" to a Roland 606 drum machine. Ridiculous yet sublime.

I also owned a Vocoder (voice modulator), and when the brothers joined forces with the inimitible Ray Medhurst to form THE ROCKMELONS, I would rent it to them (at a very reasonable price, I'm sure.)

The first Rockmelons show I saw was at a warehouse in Surrey Hills in 1983, and it was a revelation. The sinewy percussive funk sound pumping and jumping out of Jonathon's dulcimer, the utterly charming Mr Vincent Dale groovin' on keys, Ray's astonishingly understated reading of AC/DC's "Jailbreak" and Bryon on bass, keeping it all together as always. I became a fan right then and there.

 

 

L-R Bryon Jones, Sandi Chick, John Kenny, Peter Blakely, Ray Medhurst, Geoffrey Stapleton, Vincent Dale, Jonathon Jones, Stephen Allkins, Peter Kennard.

 

 

I jumped at the chance to climb on board a little further down the track. The band had expanded to include people like groove man Pete Kennard on guitar and the wondrous and hilarious Sandi Chick who sang the first single "Time Out For Serious Fun". There were about 11 of us in the band, (or was it thirteen?) with no live drums.

We used to rehearse at an old terrace house on Cleveland Street and walk up to the Lebanese shops for a fallafel during our break. I felt I was only pretending to be a keyboard player and I suspect Vince did too, but he was gentlemanly enough to give me the simplest parts to play. Anyway, it didn't seem to matter. I had a great time dancing about for thirty-two bars until I was required to hold down one note for two beats.

I always practiced diligently before a Rockmelons show, knuckling down and doing my homework. I thought I was fully prepared when we played to a packed house at a place called "The Graphic Arts Club" in Sydney. In one song I was required to perform a tricky manoeuvre which involved hitting a piece of percussion, triggering a sound from a foot pedal, and a simple run on the keyboard all pretty much simultaneously.

What I hadn't reckoned on was that my mischievous mate Peter Blakely would be right down the front of the stage. With out going into too much detail (suffice to say "smoke got in my eyes"), he managed to divert my attention, and as I went for my keyboard run, I experienced "white out". This is where all of the black notes on the keyboard disappear, and there are no reference points. A glare from Bryon and a surprised look from Jono confirmed I had screwed up.

Peter Blakely later joined the band and went on to record the single "Sweat It Out". I have a vivid memory of him showing up for a gig in a red dress, or was it red lipstick. It may have been both. It was at a venue in Macleay Street, Kings Cross called the Chevron and we were sharing the bill with Kate Cebrano's band, "I'm Talking". It was quite a pivotal gig for me as most of the GANGgajang people were there and it wasn't long before I joined up with them.

 

 

L-R Bryon Jones, Sandi Chick, John Kenny, Peter Blakely, Ray Medhurst, Geoffrey Stapleton, Vincent Dale, Jonathon Jones, Stephen Allkins, Peter Kennard.

 

The Rockmelons always used wonderful singers, and were always (and still are as far as i know) on the look out for great new talent. I was living in Paddington at the time and ran in to John Kenny, an acquaintance from the old Adelaide days. We used to rehearse at the same rehearsal rooms in Enfield, South Australia when he was in the Joe Hooker Band. We got to talking and quite hit it off.

I remembered he had a fantastic voice and I eventually cajoled him into coming over to my home studio to sing on a couple of songs I had written. He was very shy and modest but he was an amazing singer and made my rather ordinary songs shine. I played Bryon and Jonathon the tapes when they came by and the next thing he was in the band. He sang the hit singles "Rhymes" and "New Groove" and went to America with Bryon, Jono and Ray to work with a plethora of legends.

My last shows with the Rockies were when we performed in my hometown of Adelaide at a venue called Le Rox in July of 1985. They were quite possibly my favourites. I had been absolved of all keyboard responsibilities and all I had to do was play congas to their wonderful grooves all night, making it up as I went along. What better band to play congas in. For me it was the end of an era and the beginning of another.

When The Rockmelons released the "Form One Planet" album in 1992, the band Sean Kelly and I put together called "The Dukes", toured with them. They were featuring the remarkable voice of Deni Hines out front, and had the hit single "Ain't No Sunshine".

 

 

"Rules?, what rules" was a portrait I did of Ray Medhurst for my 1993 exhibition.

 

Thanks so much to VINCENT DALE for his invaluable assistance in putting this page together.

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