The Time: October 1974; The Place: Festival Hall, West Melbourne; The Scene: I was 15 years old and had taken my first girlfriend to see Hush, the La De Das and Stevie Wright in concert. Four guys ambled on stage unannounced and plugged in. The bass player had an enormous walrus moustache. I recognised him and lead singer Mike Rudd from Spectrum, and this was their new band Ariel. I already knew and loved their hit from 1973 'Jamaican Farewell'.
They proceeded to play a set of dynamic hard rock, all nimble riffs and adroit time shifts framed by a series of loud and biting yet fluid lead guitar solos from Harvey James, and the intensity of it all made my head spin with excitement. I can't remember the actual songs they played, but the experience was such that I became an instant convert. When the Rock & Roll Scars album appeared in April 1975 I thought the title had a decadent ring to it and I bought it immediately.
Hard edged yet melodic songs like 'Keep on Dancing (With Me)', 'We Are Indelible", 'Men in Grey Raincoats' and 'I am the Laughing Man' gave me many hours of listening pleasure. I was always intrigued by the album's sub-title, almost inconspicuously noted on the bottom of the front cover: Before the Mutant.
Many years later Mike Rudd was to explain to me the significance behind that, and thus was revealed one of the great mysteries of Australian rock'n'roll. When Harvey James and John Lee had replaced original Ariel lead guitarist Tim Gaze and original drummer Nigel Macara respectively in early 1974, Rudd had begun rehearsing the band for album number two.
The new record was to have been an ambitious science fiction concept album called The Jellabad Mutant. Ariel demoed the new material but the EMI executives rejected the concept out of hand. Abbey Road Studios in London was already booked, but here was the band left without any songs! All of which is why the new album consisted mostly of re-recorded versions of old Spectrum and Ariel material, with only three new songs thrown in for good measure.
The EMI suits should have let the visionary Mike Rudd play out his grand concept and record the album he had wanted. But then again, we would never have had the Rock & Roll Scars album, would we? I'll leave you with that little slice of irony. Now, just turn the music up real loud and enjoy!
by Ian McFarlane
(Ian McFarlane is the author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop)
1. Keep on Dancing (With Me - 2:54
2. I'll Be Going / I'll Be Gone - 4:19
3. Rock And Roll Scars - 3:44
4. Real Meanie - 4:08
5. Men In Grey Raincoats - 3:22
6. Launching Place Part II - 2:24
7. We Are Indelible - 2:42
8. What The World Needs (Is A New Pair of Socks) - 3:16
9. Red Hot Momma - 2:36
10.Some Good Advice - 5:45
11.I Am The Laughing Man - 2:45
12.Yeah Tonight (Bonus Track) - 3:09
13.I Am The Laughing Man (Bonus Track, Alt. Version) - 2:57
All compositions by Mike Rudd
*Mike Rudd - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
*Bill Putt - Bass
*Glyn Mason - Guitars, Vocals
*Harvey James - Guitars
*John Lee - Drums