The original line-up of highly influential Perth outfit, The Scientists (Kim Salmon, James Baker, Rodney Radalj, Boris Sujdovic) will play a 35th anniversary show this Saturday, November 30, at The Bakery, with special guest Like Junk, The Disintegrates and Black Swan. BOB GORDON looks through the past darkly.
Back in May, 1978, there was some party going on in a house in North Perth. There was a band setting up; nothing unusual there.
However this outfit already breathed influence and would, in the fullness of time, spread that across the world via different line-ups and with the same guy at the front. The venerable Kim Salmon.
Although the line-up would be short-lived, this wasn’t just another two-gig/three-bit punk band. Salmon had already survived The Cheap Nasties and had recently gone through Exterminators, who had become Invaders. Guitarist, Rodney Radalj had done similar. Bass player Boris Sujdovic had come from the infamous Rockets, and drummer, James Baker, was until recently in The Victims with Dave Faulkner. All would go on to further pioneer/pirate infamy with Le/The Hoodoo Gurus, The Beasts Of Bourbon, The Johnnys and The Dubrovniks.
And so, the (modest) stage was set for this very un-ordinary band – The Scientists.
“I remember that we wanted to come on like Personality Crisis, the opening track on the first New York Dolls album,” Kim Salmon recalls. “All screaming and blaring out from the outset!”
“We dressed up!” James Baker recalls with fondness. “We turned the amps up. We drank lots of beer and all had a great time. Oh, and we only played eight songs.”
Some 35 years on this band are looked back upon as influential and mythical. Tellingly, at the time it was a different story.
“Well, we were instantly lauded for having the forethought to break away from the English punk stereotype popular in the local hipster scene with our blend of power pop/noise/art,” Salmon states with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
“Actually no… and sorry for the sarcasm, but we were largely ignored by Perth. I don’t want to sound bitter because I’m not, but I’d be lying to say otherwise.”
Salmon says that the vision for the Scientists, musically and otherwise, was, “to show everyone else how it’s done!” Given the experience already within the nascent band, it was a realistic ambition.
“We wanted to be out there like Perth had never seen, heard or experienced,” Baker adds. “Look good, play loud and with no real care about what the Perth scene though of that, or us. We just had to deliver attitude rock’n’roll as we saw it. We felt the Perth scene needed to be shaken up.”
The scene of the time was splintering from the blues rock leanings of the earlier part of the decade, with a local take on what was happening internationally in punk rock circles. Venues such as the Governor Broome Hotel and Hernando’s Hideaway were the stages for both bands and audience.
“I was very wasted most of the time,” Salmon reflects, “so most of it is foggy, like a dream. I look back on my life then like a bad copy of a script based on a bunch of Lou Reed songs or from Warhol movies. These places were a suitable enough backdrop for that to occur in.”
Baker, for his part, seems to recall the era a little more fondly.
“Great memories,” he notes, “must be some of my only true rock’n’roll memories of Perth at the time. I feel sad that places like that no longer exist. It was fantastic that the management of those places were open to new, slightly dangerous and sort of exciting bands. I will always be thankful to the people that managed those places; they allowed the scene to happen. You would have to have been there to really know the answer to this question!”
The Scientists would record their first single, the classic Frantic Romantic, in January of 1979, by which time Sudjovic had left. He was replaced by Dennis Byrne, who would soon also leave, along with Radalj a few months later.
So, what caused the end of the first line-up?
“Discontent,” says Salmon. “Perth did not get us at all. It was like the feeling a child has if it’s been rejected by its parents!”
“We’d just had enough,” Baker states. “The bass player wanted to leave and Kim and I decided The Scientists didn’t have a future in Perth. We had both decided to move to Sydney where I joined The Hoodoo Gurus (ironically with Radalj) and Kim formed a new version of The Scientists.”
It was, of course, only the beginning of another era of great rock’n’roll for all these unusual suspects in a raft of influential bands. Needless to say, none of them would ever have imagined they’d play a 35th anniversary show in their old hometown. Or…
“Of course!” says Salmon. “We knew we’d go down in history as legendary. We planned this all!”
“No fucking way,” Baker laughs, “but hey, what a great ‘Scientific’ experiment and experience this whole thing is! I am really looking forward to playing all the old songs again, and revisiting what is a big part of the inception of the Perth scene… and that sorta means catching up with great friends.”
The Scientists will play a 35th anniversary show this Saturday, November 30, at The Bakery.
Get your tickets here.