Skyhooks were an Australian rock band of the 1970s, sometimes classified as a glam rock band, because of their flamboyant costumes and make-up.
The name "Skyhooks" comes from a fictional organisation that appears in the film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. See skyhook.
Skyhooks live at Nambassa 1978
Line-up and history
The 'classic' line-up of the band was:
Graeme "Shirley" Strachan (vocalist) (died in 2001)
Red Symons (guitarist, vocalist)
Bob Starkie (guitarist, vocalist), aka "Bongo Starr"
Greg Macainsh (bassist, vocalist)
Imants "Freddie" Strauks (drummer, vocalist), aka "Freddie Kaboodleschnitzer"
Other musicians included:
Original lead singer ??? Steve Hill (died in 2005)
Original guitarist ??? Peter Inglis
Original guitarist ??? Peter Starkie
Replacement singer (Post Strachan)??? Tony Williams
Replacement guitarist (Post Symons) ??? Bob Spencer
Skyhooks' debut Album Living In The 70's
Skyhooks formed ca. 1973. They gained a cult following around Melbourne but a poorly-received performance at the 1974 Sunbury Festival saw the group booed off the stage. Soon afterwards, the original lead singer Steve Hill resigned. To replace him, the group recruited occasional singer, surfer and carpenter Graeme Strachan. The replacement of Hill by Strachan was a pivotal moment for the band, as Strachan had remarkable vocal skills, magnetic stage and screen presence. Alongside Macainsh's acerbic lyrics, another vital facet of the group's sound was the twin-guitar attack of Red Symons and Bob "Bongo" Starkie (younger brother of original guitarist Peter Starkie).
Adopting elements of glam rock in their presentation and with lyrics that presented frank depictions of the social life of young Australia in the 1970s, the band shocked conservative middle Australia with their outrageous (for the time) costumes, lyrics, and on-stage activities, with the result that six of the ten tracks on their debut album were banned by Australian commercial radio. Much of the group's success derived from its distinctive repertoire, most of which was penned by bassist Greg Macainsh.
Although Skyhooks was not the first Australian rock band to write songs in Australia, about Australians, for Australians (rather than ditties about love or songs about New York or other foreign lands), they were the first band to do so and be commercially successful, and the songs were set apart from much of the pop fare of the time thanks to Macainsh's mordant humour.
After initially only charting in Melbourne upon its release on 28 October 1974, their first album, Living In The 70's, went on to spend 16 weeks at the top of the Australian national charts from February to June 1975. It became the best selling Australian album ever up to that time with over 240,000 copies sold in Australia. A single lifted from the album, "Horror Movie", reached number one on the Australian singles chart for two weeks in March 1975. The follow-up album, Ego Is Not a Dirty Word, sold over 180,000 copies, and spent 11 weeks at the top of the Australian album chart from July 1975. The band's success was widely credited with saving the struggling Mushroom record label and enabling it to develop into the most successful Australian label of its time.
Skyhooks' second album, Ego Is Not a Dirty Word
These albums were produced by Ross Wilson, former lead singer of Daddy Cool, which had been the most successful Australian rock group of the early 1970s. Wilson championed the group, signing them to a publishing contract and convincing Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski to give them a recording contract.
The success of Living In The 70's was somewhat due to the enormous support the band were given by the TV pop show Countdown, rather than support from radio ??? in fact, six of the tracks on the LP had been banned by commercial radio because of their sex and drug references. Despite the ban, and as a deliberate act of provocation to commercial radio, the ABC's newly established 24-hour rock music station Double Jay chose the album's fifth track, the provocatively titled "You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good In Bed" as the first track played on air on its first day of broadcasting on , 1975.
Skyhooks went on to release three more studio albums, Straight in a Gay Gay World in 1976, Guilty Until Proven Insane in 1978, containing the well known hits "Women in Uniform" and "Why Dontcha All Get *ucked", and Hot for the Orient in 1980.
From 1975 to 1977, Skyhooks was (alongside Sherbet) the most commercially successful group in Australia, but over the next few years, Skyhooks rapidly faded from the public eye with the departure of key members, and in 1980 the band announced its break-up in controversial circumstances. The demands for the band to reform were successful in 1983, with a record sum of money being paid for each of the original members to play a series of concerts. Further reformations took place in 1984, and in 1990 the band finally recorded new material, Jukebox in Siberia, which shot to the top of the charts.
That same year, The Latest and Greatest: 16 Greatest Hits, a compilation album, was released. The tracks were taken from Skyhooks' first four studio albums along with two recent hits, "Jukebox In Siberia" and "Tall Timber".
The final release on new Skyhooks material came in 1998 when Skyhooks: The Collection was released. This two disc set contained both new and previously released songs. Disc one contained a sort of greatest hits package, very similar to the 1990 release "The Latest and Greatest", except with a few additional tracks. Disc two is what is now referred to as "The Lost Album", songs recorded in 1990 and 1994 recording sessions with the reunited classic lineup but were never released around the time of recording. This second disc is essentially a sixth studio album by the band. Fans of the band consider 'The Lost Album' to be among the band's strongest of releases.
"Shirley" Strachan and Red Symons both went on to successful careers in Australian commercial television. Symons now works on ABC radio and writes humorous columns for the press. After the demise of Skyhooks, Starkie still plays locally, Strauks became the drummer in the later line-up of noted Melbourne rock band The Sports, and other acts such as The Bushwackers and the Old Skydaddys. Macainsh played with John Farnham, and in recent years has been a board member of both APRA and PPCA, and is now a qualified lawyer. Strachan was killed in an air crash on , 2001, when the helicopter he was learning to fly crashed into Mount Archer near Kilcoy, northwest of Brisbane.
A memorial concert was held on September 11 2001 to pay tribute to Strachan at the Palais Theatre. Tributes were paid and the remaining members of the most popular Hooks line ups (Strauks, Macainsh, Starkie, Symons and Spencer) performed with guest vocalists Daryl Braithwaite and Ross Wilson. It is the only time Red Symons and his replacement, Bob Spencer have performed together on stage. Braithwaite performed "All My Friends Are Getting Married" with the band whilst Wilson sang the rare Skyhooks track "Warm Wind in the City". after the tribute we all went to The Palace next door for a drink, as we had a beer or two all hell broke lose as on the cable TV, we all watched the dreadfull attack on New York, we all left and ran to our familys and loved ones to watch in horror in New York at our homes. it was a Horror Movie...shocking me right out of my brain...
A night to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of the Living In The 70's album was held in 2004. It was a historic night with several different incarnations of the band performing. The only absences were Strachan, Hill and original guitarist Peter Inglis. Vocals on the night were handled by Ross Wilson, Tony Williams and Bob Starkie.
The original line up of Skyhooks and Steve Hill reformed in 2005 at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney for a one-off gig. Hill had been diagnosed with cancer and the original Skyhooks, Inglis, Starkie, Strauks and Macainsh joined with Hill to show their support. Steve Hill passed away a few weeks after the performance.
In March 2009 the "Skyhooks Complete Live History" was completed for the bands website (www.skyhooks-music.com). It is a full listing of all the Skyhooks live shows that they have played. To date it is 925 live shows.
(12" vinyl / CD)
Living in the 70's 1974
Ego Is Not a Dirty Word 1975
Straight in a Gay Gay World 1976
The Skyhooks Tapes 1977
Guilty Until Proven Insane 1978
Live! Be In It 1978
The Best of Skyhooks 1979
Hot for the Orient 1980
The Skyhooks Box 1982
Live in the 80's 1983
The Latest And Greatest 1990
The Skyhooks Roadcase 1992
The Collection 1998
The Lost Album 1999
(7" vinyl / CD single):
"Living in the 70s" / "You're a Broken Gin Bottle, Baby"
"Horror Movie" / "Carlton"
"Ego is Not a Dirty Word" / "Every Chase a Steeple"
"All My Friends Are Getting Married" / "Saturday Night"
"Million Dollar Riff" / "Forging Ahead"
"Let It Rock" / "Revolution"