As the year progressed The Sunsets, now immersed in the blossoming psychedelic scene, reinvented themselves as Tamam Shud. Their new name was a Persian phrase meaning "the very end", which was taken by Bjerre from the closing words of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. (The naming of the group is recounted in a hidden track at the end of Permanent Culture, narrated by Tim Gaze's father.) They were certainly one of the first Australian groups to take up the new acid-rock style led by artists like Cream, Hendrix and Pink Floyd. As the above quote indicates, they were also strongly influenced by free jazz, and by the American West Coast groups like Love, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane -- although they were (in my opinion anyway) far more coherent musically than the Dead, and their songs were less strident lyrically than some of the Airplane's more politicised material.
On stage, their live sound had a distinctive edge thanks to Bjerre's use of an acoustic guitar, amplified by a pickup, and right from the start they were respected by audiences and players alike for their musicianship. Their first appearance as Tamam Shud was at the Intermedia Circus in Sydney in 1967 and they soon became recognised as one of Australia's most innovative bands, with their sets including long, improvised instrumental sections. According to Noel McGrath, "...audiences never danced - they sat and listened".
Over the next five years Shud became one of the most popular live acts of the east coast scene, playing at all the major disco and 'head' venues in Sydney and Melbourne. The lingering "surf band" tag linked them with Sydney's northern beaches surf culture, and it's a misnomer that has been repeated in several refernece books, but according to Lindsay, Tamam Shud hardly ever played the northern beaches. In reality, the major fan base fopr them, and for contemporaries like The Dave Miller Set was on Sydney's university and college dance circuit, and with the 'hippy' audiences at inner city underground venues like the Mandala Theatre in Darlinghurst and the Beacon Theatre in Newtown.
The Shud also had a notable association with the famous Sydney film/lightshow collective UBU who promoted many pioneering multimedia events in Sydney, and Shud were regularly teamed with other leading progressive acts including Tully. They often played at UBU-organised events, including the legendary Underground Dances of 1968-69. In the press release for the first Underground Dance in December 1968, they were described as "the wildest new group on the local scene". They became firm favourites with Go-Set magazine (especially Sydney staff writer David Elfick) and featured regularly in its pages.
Not everyone was so appreciative however. At one early UBU concert -- a benefit for the Coogee Boardriders Club at the Heffron Hall in East Sydney on 10 August 1968 -- the Shud's performance and the UBU lightshow were brought to an early halt by the hall manager, who turned off the power, condemning the event as "the ultimate in depravity"!
Their first LP, recorded at the end of 1968, has been justly hailed by Ian McFarlane as: "... one of the first wholly original rock albums issued in Australia".
It was made independently, the session financed by filmmaker Paul Witzig to provide music for his surf film Evolution (the first Australian surf film to abandon narration and accompany the images with music alone). Four tracks -- Evolution, I'm No-One, Mr Strange and< Lady Sunshine -- were used in the film. These four tracks were later re-recorded, along with eight other originals, for what became Tamam Shud's debut album Evolution.
Most of Witzig's budget was committed to the considerable expense of transporting and filming surfers in exotic overseas locations (air travel was very expensive back then, relative to today) so the budget for the music was minuscule. Consequently, the twelve songs that make up Evolution were recorded live, with very basic equipment, in a single 2-1/2 hour session, and mixed in a mere 1-1/2 hours. Evidently most if not all of the tracks are first takes. The spontaneity is delightfully revealed by the intro to the bluesy Feel Free; the song breaks down just after the count-in and Bjerre is heard to laughingly say "Wait until the bass turns his amp on." Barron had indeed forgotten to switch on!
Although the recording quality is fairly rough, both the material and the performances are very strong, and it stands up extremely well today. Arrangements are excellent, performances are very energetic; Bjerre's strong, soulful vocals carry the songs with ease, Zytnic contributes some tasty acid-tinged lead breaks, and Barron and Davidson provide a solid and supple backing throughout. The standout track is without doubt the beautiful, jazzy Lady Sunshine, which was included on Raven's Golden Miles anthology in 1994. In the Freedom Train interview Lindsay named Falling Up as his personal favourite.
Evolution is now rare indeed; a good copy - if you can find one -- will set you back several hundred dollars on the collector's market, and it cries out for a CD release. There has been talk of one of the local reissue labels doing so, but nothing has eventurated to date. The album was leased to CBS, and both the film and its soundtrack were very successful, thanks in part to Go-Set, who supported the film with a poster competition, a 'win-a surfboard' competition, and regular features on the Shud throughout 1969
1a. Music Train - 3:52
1b. Evolution - 2:45
2. I'm No One - 2:08
3. Mr Strange - 2:34
4. Lady Sunshine - 4:39
5. Falling Up - 2:48
6. Feel Free - 3:12
7. It's A Beautiful Day - 2:53
8. Jesus Guide Me - 3:53
9. Rock On Top - 2:49
10.Slow One And The Fast One - 6:58
11.Too Many Life - 3:04
12.Bali Waters - 6:14
13.Got A Feeling - 2:37
14.My Father Told Me - 3:48
All songs by Lindsay Bjerre
Tracks 12-14 from "Bali Waters EP" (1972)
*Lindsay Bjerre - Songs, Guitar, Vocals
*Peter Barron - Bass
*Larry Duryea - Congas
*Tim Gaze - Guitar
*Kevin Stevenson - Reeds
*Richard Lockwood - Sax, Flutes
*Nigel Macara - Drums
1970 Goolutionites And The Real People