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Work Music

NYC's Number One Antidrugsex Band

The Saga of the Workdogs

Horse: The True Story

Dog daze

Maxwells, 6-2-89

Goin' Down Under

WORKDOGS

There's No Tomorrow for Red


GOIN' DOWN UNDER

First Fleet
The first thing they told us when we finally got off that fuckin ship was that the Workdogs tour was off. I couldn't believe it. We had spent a couple months of misery at sea and oceans of band money on this trip. It was the reenactment of the First Fleet - the one that had brought the first load of cons to Australia -and everything was all timed for us to be there to celebrate 200 years of swatting flies with the locals. And now this. Of course there was no controlling Scott - he was gone faster than a shot of bourbon whiskey. I didn't see him for six months and STILL don't know where he was or what he did during that time.
It had been a coup getting the gig in the first place. Everything was coming down hard around us in NYC and this Aussie Bicentennial deal looked like a good scam. I kept thinking about beating Old Man Winter and I guess I didn't read the small print very well. It had looked like the usual rhythm section contract when we signed it, but now they were using that same piece of paper to justify NOT paying us one lousy cent.

Mooched Drinks and Beernuts
I was in a rough spot. I had put all my personal money into a series of sky-written promo messages for our now-cancelled shows. It was too late to get out of THAT contract; and nearly every day as I wandered around Melbourne broke and hungry I had to look up at "Workdogs - Blues Enterainers" (sic) or "Workdogs - NY's #1 Rambo Type Headband" written in cloud script in the sky. Many days I got lucky and it rained. I had moved in with this unwed mother and her little brat in a 15 buck a night dump in King St., downtown Melbourne, just down the street from the nightclub strip - five big joints right next door to each other. I was using my American accent and hard luck story to get anything I could: not much. I was living on mooched drinks and beernuts. I was in bad shape. But it was strange. Somebody down there was making some serious money. Nightlife was big business. There were lots of clubs everywhere - a couple huge ones in every neighborhood. And bands were really harvesting the green doing watered down versions of the best of obscure Americana - the Big Hits of the Velvet Underground, the Golden Age of Atlantic R&B, Riot on Sunset Strip Soundtrack, etc.. Sometimes they bothered to change the words. It was odd that the audiences seemed to Like It Like That.

Cost Of Living
I was sparechanging in front of a record store when I figured it out. I wasn't getting anywhere so I went in to get out of the rain. Like any entertainer, I had to see if they were well stocked with my records. It's part of the job. As if it wasn't bad enough that there wasn't a single record with Workdogs rhythm, it was even worse that what US records there were sold for 30 bucks a pop. And I'm not talking about some bootleg of the Modern Lovers playing Syd Barrett's birthday party. I'm talking R.E.M.. Thirty bucks.
Stop for a minute and think about the average jerk. He's got a little dough left on Saturday. You think he's going to spend that cash on a 30 DOLLAR IMPORT of some American bozo he's barely heard of cause the only US Rock Press he sees is Rolling Frigging Stone? Or will he spend his Jack getting pissed as a newt watching a band of his mates covering the one or two good songs on that same import plus the good shit from a dozen other overpriced imports.
I don't know. I was still wondering - where do these bands even get the scratch to buy vinyl? I mean I haven't had money for records since 1972. How 'bout a Strat for $1750? Amps cost thousands of bucks. Reefer costs twice what it does here, not to mention the unmentionables...

Big Haired Rock N Roll
Things got so bad when they threw us out of the hotel that I had to take a job as a roadie. It was horrible, but I figured if nothing else, I could get a handle on this rocknroll/money thing from the inside.
I learned a little about the regulations on drinking - the national pasttime. If a pub wanted to stay open late it HAD to feature live entertainment. Rocknroll was a necessary evil of the licensing laws. That's why there were so many pubs featuring music. Most publicans couldn't give one iota of a shit if a band even drew flies. They were glad to pay up at night's end as long as they could continue dispensing gallons of beer for a few extra hours each week. That was where the money came from. Most of these publicans were booze gutted middle aged sports freaks whose idea of good music is some drunken uncle of theirs playing "Waltzing Matilda" on a Wurlitzer at a friggin' family reunion. They don't want big haired rocknroll scum around any more than they want teetotalers, which is why they do business with the likes of Management House for all their musical needs: bands, PAs, publicity. Anything you want.
Conspiracy theory paranoids went nuts when they started talking about the connections between Management House and Mushroom/Au GoGo Records (the outfit at least partially responsible for those outrageous import prices). It may seem peculiar for an artist to be managed by his record company, but when musicians are working regularly they don't ask a lot of questions.

Slow Trip
It's a big step ladder rung-wise when a band gets picked up by the Right Management Agency. A Big Agency can keep a band touring for months at a time. Between regular cash gigs and the dole a musician can get by pretty well... quit working days... buy that Strat... maybe even get a record out... if he's willing to walk that management line. Someone like Ed Kuepper was a management dream. He played regularly - in Australia, got his records out - in Australia, was known - but only in Australia. His short term income could be accurately predicted. Management liked it like that. It made their lives easy.
They liked it so much in the case of the band I was roadying for that they had the singer on salery. Just like a guy behind a desk. For all I know Ed might have had the same deal. This might sound like a dream come true to many but the long term cost of such soul selling is high. When the label doesn't want to put out the record they have management explain it to you in very reasonable terms and you understand because they are THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN. And they keep you working even if the gigs and pay are getting worse and... it's a long slow trip down.

Walkin' The Line
In general those bands out there working day jobs were the ones that either wouldn't walk that Company line or were just a little too wild for easy management. Needless to say, these were the bands that I liked. I like bands that aren't afraid to let it get a little unpleasant at times, 'cause who says life is pleasant anyway? Look at mine. I spit On Your Gravy, The Band That Shot Liberty Valance and The Quivering Quims were three names for the same outfit. As they got banned somewhere under one name they'd just come back as someone else. This crew was genuinely disgusting in the way they combined food, fans and sex toys while maintaining a relentlessly brutal two guitar attack. One of my worst/best memories is of trying to protect a PA from these crazy S.O.B.s and their lunatic crowd.
There was also a new low-technobilly R&B outfit around calling themselves Crashland. I got way off watching the singer, Lynn, hiccuping The Madman Blues. I would have loved to have stayed around long enough to see these guys shake up the Melbourne scene, but I figured it was time to get out before I did some real damage. I never back a winner. I'm murder at the track.

Hard Bastard
Besides, the roadie shit was killing me. I could write a whole other book on that side of Aussie Rock - but who would care? Roadies were so low that a rat could piss on the rock we hid under. A very great man once said to me: "I've been on both sides of the PA now and I'll never go back to that Dark Side again." He was right. The only question was how to get out. I was able to sell some photos taken during the Workdogs' ill fated Half Jap/ Velvet Monkeys fiasco to some European collector. I got enough money to get a ticket to Seattle. Then hitched home from there. My Caddy was repossessed and the Workdogs' record deal was down the tubes but I didn't cry. I'm a hard bastard, I admit it. I live in NYC where you get used to this shit. It's home to over ten thousand bands and I can count the ones I like on one hand. Don't go by me - the bands I like can't even get a gig here. If I want to see them I visit them at their day jobs.
Life's like that a lot. It sure was in Melbourne. Ever since I got back people always ask me if I saw the Cosmic Psychos. Yeah, I saw them every time I wanted a chicken sandwich. Three of them work at The Galleon - a hip sort of sandwich dump in St. Kilda, the coolcat part of Melbourne. The gig they were going to do while I was there got cancelled 'cause they all couldn't take off work at the same time. Sound familiar, Rocknroll Assholes?

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