the swingers

Bio from September 1981 updated in 1997 by Peter Green

Swingers are:

Phil Bud Judd- Guitar, vocals
Ian Kiljoy Gilroy-Drums,vocals
Dwayne Bones Hillman-Bass,vocals

Ask any of the so called music cognoscenti around town who their favourite bands are and there's a good chance their reply will include The Swingers whose debut single "Counting the Beat" effortlessly roared to the top of the charts faster than any other Australian single in ten years.

The Swingers began in new Zealand around June 1979 out of the remnants of the punk scene,notably Dwayne "Bones" Hillman's band, The Suburban Reptiles. Philip Judd was called in to produce a single but the Reptiles guitarist wasn't making it so Judd ended up playing on the session.

Judd meanwhile was still feeling his way back into rock'n'roll after suffering psychic wear and tear following his departure from Split Enz when their initial mid 70's attempt to make it in England floundered. Originally he had intended to pick up the threats of his career as a painter, but the lure of the beat was enough to entice him away from the art world and his day job as an assistant photographer in an Auckland art gallery. The Suburban Reptiles were falling apart at the seams and Hillman, Judd and Buster Stiggs (original drummer now in Models) became The Swingers.

They started to gig regularly in New Zealand (mainly Auckland), building up a repertoire of songs and gaining acceptance. They ran their own shows, booked their own tours and released a single "One good reason" on independent label, Ripper Records,which reached #17 on the national NZ charts.

The first sign of interest came in mid 1980 from Mushroom managing director Michael Gudinski. hearing that Judd was back in action,Gudinski headed over the Tasman to catch their act. By this time The Swingers were on of NZ's top bands. He was impressed and asked them to come to Australia on The Sports "Big Kiss Off" tour as special guests.

More importantly, Mushroom Records signed the band and in a predictably astute move,provided the services of a sympathetic producer in David Tickle, the UK wonderkid who masterminded the SplitEnz renaissance album "True Colours".

Tickle's perfectionist attitude to recording and other delays kept the single in limbo for several months. After the successful Sports tour support, The Swingers spent time stubbornly working around the traps and investigating the complexities of the Australian circuit eventually meeting their manager,Adrian Barker.

"Counting the Beat" was recorded in August 1980 but a final mix didn't eventuate until late November. It was decided to delay the release of the single until after the Christmas break. It was an all time low for the band in a one room flat on Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda,living on handouts.

Towards the end of December, expatriate New Zealand drummer,Ian Gilroy (from The Crocodiles) was enlisted (to replace Buster Stiggs) and the band stopped playing live to rehearse. The release of "Counting the Beat" changed everything. It's success was instant going to #1 nationally within 4 weeks and at the time of writing has exceeded 100,000 sales.

By the beginning of 1981 anyone who was interested had the opportunity to investigate the band live, as they went on the road for two hectic months to promote the single. Swingers live are a revelation. They are one of the most original, refreshing commercial pop bands to grace our shores in years. A sly off-beat humour permeates their best songs, the principle components of their attack are Judd's plaintive vocals and adept guitar playing which hammers away over the tense rhythm section of Gilroy and Hillman, relying on spaces and distinctive chording. It's an approach which demands a high degree of skill and cohesiveness.

The Swingers write as a co-operative song writing team; they usually just et up a cassette and play till something interesting comes up and take it from there.

In May 1981 The Swingers second single "It Ain't What You Dance, It's the Way You Dance It" was released but despite terrific overall airplay, it failed to chart beyond a national top 30 position.

At this point in time however, no one was worried about "Dance" as the album recording was well underway with producer David Tickle at The Music Farm Studios in new South Wales. Half way through during a day of relaxation, disaster struck Ian Gilroy when he fell of a speeding trail-bike and fractured several bones in his wrist and Swingers had to take time out for four weeks while he recuperated.

By July "Practical Jokers" was finished and Phil, together with David Tickle flew to new York to mix the album at Electric Lady Land Studios.

The recording of The Swingers album may appear to have been a reasonably feasible and simple procedure but in fact it was probably the busiest time of their lives. When they had four weeks off because of Ian's arm, Swingers became involved with the music score for the soundtrack for the movie "Starstruck" and as well as performing on screen, they wrote and recorded the title track. At the same time they were planning an elaborate promotional and advertising campaign in conjunction with Mushroom while their management were putting together a two month tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Just prior to the release of "Practical Jokers" the "One Track Mind" single was released and at the time of writing was receiving AM and FM airplay in all states.

"Practical Jokers" is a complicated, pretentious and brilliantly mastered album for the commercial ear. hear and agree.

It's now 1997- 17 years since the release of "Counting the Beat". The song has been made part of the Summer advertising TV campaign by K-mart stores. Mushroom Records have re-issued "Counting the Beat" (with "It Ain't What You Dance..." as the extra track). It's part of Mushroom Records "Classic Mushroom singles" releases as part of their nth anniversary celebrations. It is the first time that "Beat" has been released as a cd single. Australia/NZ release or you can get it via the Frenzy of the Enz club.

Peter Green (December 1997)

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