is a copy of the screed on the Milesago website, which is not directly
accessible by linking.
formed in mid-1973, after the breakup of Spectrum. When Spectrum
drummer Ray Arnott announced he was leaving to join Ross Wilson's
new band Mighty Kong, Putt and Rudd commendably decided to end the
band rather than try to recruit a new member, feeling that it wouldn't
be possible to recreate the special spirit of that group. Within
a few months of Spectrums's farewell performance their new band
(whose name was taken from the character in Shakespeare's "The
Tempest") was up and running. Ironically, the two new members,
Tim and Nigel, had originally come to Melbourne to work with Ross
Wilson and Ross Hannaford on their new project (which became Mighty
Kong) and it was after they departed that Wilson asked Ray Arnott
to join, thus precipitating the split of Spectrum!
Strong record company interest in Ariel quickly led to a contract
with EMI's progressive Harvest imprint. Their superb debut single
"Jamaican Farewell" looked set to repeat the early success
of Spectrum but it only managed to reach No.34, its success hampered
by lack of airplay, especially in Sydney, although it impressed
the industry enough to win the FACB 'Single Of The Year'. They toured
as support to Gary Glitter November 1973 and released their excellent
first LP A Strange Fantastic Dream in December, with writing credits
split fairly evenly between Gaze and Rudd. According to Noel McGrath,
the album was also the first use of Moog synthesizer on an Australian
rock record (though it's possible Tully may have been the first
Australian band to recod with one) and producer Peter Dawkins still
names it as one of his favourite productions.
fared well commercially and critically, reaching #12 in the LP charts
in February 1974, although there was a minor controversy about Stephen
Nelson's brilliant, hallucinatory cover painting, which included
(shock! horror!) a hypodermic syringe. Airplay for the LP was further
hindered by the banning of three songs ("Confessions Of A Psychotic
Cowpoke", "Medicine Man" and "Chicken Shit")
by the commercial radio industry's self-regulatory body, the FACB.
particularly important outcome for the group was that EMI International's
President, Allan Davies, fell in love with the album: "You
know, Peter," he enthused to Dawkins, "I can't recall
ever hearing a song about necrophilia!" Renowned British DJ
John Peel also picked up both album and single and "said some
really nice things about both of them". These and other factors
led to Ariel being invited to tour the UK and record their next
album at Abbey Rd.
second album was to have been a John Whyndham-ish science fiction
concept piece, The Jellabad Mutant; you can read more about this
long-lost project in Paul Culnane's feature article. But before
the project had even been conceived, there was a major disruption,
with the band abruptly splitting in two. Mills, Macara and Gaze
quit amidst some rancour in April 1974, after a trip to Perth and
Mike retreated to the Mornington Peninsula with his family. He began
writing fragments of new songs on his "trusty Canora guitar
and a crappy tape recorder" which began to form themselves
into "some sort of order ... the beginnings of a Grand Idea
that might eventually become what every songwriter had dreamt of
since Townshend dropped Tommy on an unsuspecting public -- a Rock
to Melbourne, Rudd "did what I always did -- I called Bill".
They worked on the new material over a period of weeks, and by May
they the piece sufficintly ready that they approached drummer John
Lee to rehearse with them. John, a fine drummer who had previously
played in Sayla, Blackfeather and Gulliver Smith & The Dead
End Kids, had just left The Dingoes, after recording their first
album and their debut single "Way Out West". The three
began rehearsing together, and in June or July, as the material
took shape, John suggested bringing in his former bandmate from
Sayla, lead guitarist Harvey James. Mike later discovered that John
and Harvey had also known each other in school, a connection which,
he later realised, would sow the seeds of "another 'them and
us' scenario" in the band's internal politics.
who was already gaining a reputation as a player to watch, had recently
left Mississippi and returned home after that band's disastrous
trip to England. Rehearsals continued and before long it became
apparent that this arrangement had taked on a life of its own. More
by accident than by design, the quartet became the new lineup of
Ariel. The new lineup cut a terrific single, "Yeah Tonight"
which was released in August -- presumably to keep EMI at bay while
they beavered away on the new album.
far things had fallen into place rather nicely, but it all began
to turn pear-shaped over the next couple of months. With writing
more or less complete, Ariel demoed their new album at EMI Studios
in Sydney, wit the sessions produced by Peter Dawkns and engineered
(probably) by Martin Benge. However, to the band's dismay, EMI rejected
it outright. Mike sardonically comments that they were told that
it had been rejected because EMI England had "a basement crammed
full of rejected rock operas". It would be nearly thirty years
before The Jellabad Mutant saw the light of day on record, when
it was reissued by Mike and Bill's RareVision label. In the liner
notes, Mike ponders wistfully about what could have been:
interesting to speculate what might have happened had we been allowed
to proceed with the Mutant with an intact budget (EMI slashed the
budget for Rock'n'Roll Scars adding to the pressure) and with the
time to to reflect and be creative with the raw material you hear
in the demos. I regret not going in to bat for it at the time. We
had a fabulous opportunity with the best technical assistance any
band could have wanted. But I didn't sell the dream, even to myself."
rejection of The Jellabad Mutant obviously placed them in a very
difficult position. EMI England had offered them the chance to record
their next LP in London, but the band suddenly found themselves
unable to record the material they had spent the last year working
on. To complicate matters even further, they soon realised that
EMI England had made the offer on the basis of the first album and
were expecting the original Ariel lineup. The news that they were
getting an entirely new Ariel apparently went over like a lead balloon
with 'the suits' at EMI House in London.
left for the UK on 12 October 1974 for the recording and some gigging,
hoping to capitalise on the momentum, including favourable UK reviews
of "Jamaican Farewell". After the 30-hour flight to London
they were greeted by manager Phil Jacobsen, who announced "There's
been a change of schedule. We start today." They immediately
began eleven days of recording at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios
with engineer Tony Clark, who was impressed with "the speed
and efficiency" with which the Aussies worked. It was mixed
by the great Geoff Emerick, engineer on most of the later Beatles
Albums and Singles. The tracks they recorded there became their
next LP Rock'n'Roll Scars.
Mike somehow found time to dash off three new (excellent) songs,
the rejection of the Mutant project forced him to fall back on earlier
material from his days in Spectrum/Murtceps. These songs, rearranged
for the two guitars, formed the bulk of the album. They included
new versions of "I'll Be Gone", "Launching Place",
"We are Indelible", "What the World Needs (Is A New
Pair Of Socks)", and a superb reworking of the Murtceps' "Some
Good Advice", which showed the skills of Harvey James to the
full. The album also included a new version of "Red Hot Momma",
which had been cut by Ariel Mk I but was only released as the B-side
of Jamaican Farewell. The cover photo features a subtitle, "Before
The Mutant" -- evidently an ironic reference to this album's
abortive predecessor. One of the three new tracks from the album,
"Keep on Dancing (With Me)" was issued as a single in
March '75, but it didn't make the charts.
its troubled birth, Rock'n'Roll Scars is still much loved by Ariel
fans. It remains an excellent record and a tribute to the skills
of the four musicians -- even though Mike, fairly, considered it
a retrograde step. He has often been asked about recording at the
legendary Abbey Road Studios, but it must be remembered that he
was under great pressure to come up with enough suitable material
for a whole album in a very limited time. Consequently he had no
chance to savour what should have been a special experience, and
doesn't have particularly fond memories of the sessions.
returned to Australia in January 1975 and the same month they added
New Zealand-born Glyn Mason on guitar and vocals as fifth member.
Glyn's previous credits included Chain, Copperwine and even a stint
with Thunderclap Newman. His powerful, soulful voice was a great
addition to the band, and the three guitar lineup packed a real
punch, but unfortunately this terrific lineup was woefully under-recorded.
Happily though, a high-quality live recording of this lineup has
recently come to light, and it's a priceless historical document
for several reasons. Made at the Station Hotel, Prahran on 11 November,
1975 -- the night of the dismissal of the Whitlam government --
the tape includes a live rendition of a suite of songs from The
Jellabad Mutant, and it showcases what a polished and dynamic live
outfit Ariel Mk III really was. Hopefully, Ariel fans will get a
chance to hear this great gig in the future on CD. An alternate
version of the Mutant Suite, taken from a live Double Jay broadcast,
has been included on the new Jellabad Mutant CD (see Discography).
was during this period of Ariel's History that Mike Rudd played
a small but crucial role in the story of another up-and-coming New
Zealand band, Dragon. Dragon had arrived in mid-1975 and had been
slogging it out for several months in wine-bars and clubs in Sydney.
Mike had seen them playing around the traps and was impressed enough
that late in the year he took Peter Dawkins (an old friend from
NZ and then CBS house producer and A&R manager) to see the group.
Dawkins too was impressed -- he returned with a group of CBS executives
visiting from the USA, who were impressed enough to signed Dragon
to the label; putting together a strong new repertoire of pop-oriented
material, much of it penned by their recently recruited keyboard
player Paul Hewson, Dragon quickly shot to to the top of the Australian
charts and dominated the late-70s pop scene on both sides of the
the five-piece version of Ariel cut just one excellent single "I'll
Take You High", released in Dec. 1975, and it reached No 36.
They made another trip to the UK in April 1976 but while they were
there John Lee left the band. He briefly joined English group Dirty
Tricks and then finally returned to The Dingoes when they relocated
to America. He was temporarily replaced by the erstwhile Nigel Macara.
Ariel continued gigging into 1976, but their progress was again
disrupted in March by the departure of Harvey James, who was subsequently
chosen to replace guitarist Clive Shakespeare in Sherbet.
for keyboards instead of guitar this time, they replaced Harvey
with Tony Slavich (ex-Richard Clapton Band) on keyboards and vocals.
No doubt facilitated by Mike's friendship with Dawkins Ariel changed
labels to CBS and their third LP Goodnight Fiona, again produced
by Dawkins, was released in August. The wistful single "I Can
Do Anything" was lifted from LP (although, as was almost always
the case with both Spectrum and Ariel, the single version was a
different recording from the album version.
hassles continued when Macara left again in October '76 due to "general
incompatibility", and he was replaced by another former Richard
Clapton Band alumnus, Iain McLennan. The single "Disco Dilemma"
was released in April '77, just before expiration of their CBS contract,
after which they signed to Image Records.
early 1977 the band realised they had taken Ariel as far as it could
go. The breakup was announced in July 1977. Their final gig was
a lavish affair with an 'island fantasy' theme, held at Melbourne's
Dallas Brooks Hall on 31 August 1977; it was recorded live and later
released over two LPs: Aloha Ariel and Live - More From Before.
A farewell single, "It's Only Love", was released to coincide
with the concert. The live LPs were later combined and reissued
as the 2LP set Ariel Live In Concert.
Mike Rudd moved into in promotion and production for a time. He
produced the debut album for Newcastle bands Daniel and Jab and
demos for Janie Conway (ex-Melbourne band Stiletto). Slavich and
McLennan joined a theatre backing-band for a musical play
went overseas to study at the New York Conservatorium of Music,
and after he returned, he and Mike formed a succession of groups:
Mike Rudd's Instant Replay, Mike Rudd & The Heaters (both also
with Tony Slavich) and the more electronically oriented W.H.Y..
Unfortunately he was never able to regain the commercial momentum
of his early 70s successes -- a lamentable fact which says much
more about the parlous state of the Aussie music industry than it
does about the talents of Mike & Bill.
McLennan went on to spells in Mondo Rock and Sports. Glyn Mason
worked solo for some time, then in 1978 he formed Loose String Band
followed by Stockley, See & Mason, with veteran players Chris
Stockley (ex-Dingoes) and Sam See (ex-Sherbet, Flying Circus, Greg
Quill's Southern Cross), and they recorded one fine album for Mushroom.
and Bill have sustained their enduring partnegsubip over the years,
with reunions of Spectrum during the '80s, and a very fine duo album
in 1996, Living On A Volcano. The new 3-piece incarnation of Spectrum,
with drummer Peter "Robbo" Robertson, debuted with the
CD Spectrum Plays The Blues album, which took them back to their
roots. Ariel has reformed for occasional gigs with varying lineups,
including one final reunion of the Mk II lineup with Harvey James
and John Lee, which took place not long before Lee's untimely death
in July 1998. Mike was also forced to withdraw from performing for
some time due to the illness and subsequent death of his wife Helen.
like Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Mike & Bill
have been the hub around which Spectrum, Ariel and subsequent groups
have revolved, and over the years they've built on the idea they
pioneered with Spectrum/Murtceps, in which the various band identities
effectively functioned as modules of a larger project. Mike and
Bill are among the most consistently stimulating and satisfying
performers Australasia has ever produced, and their legacy with
Ariel deserves far greater recognition. Hopefully, the recent CD
releases will go some way to achieving that.