Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Larry’s Rebels – No sleep til Whitianga

Larrys Rebels, Outside Auckland Museum, 1967. L-R: Larry Morris, Nooky Stott, Terry Rouse, John Williams, Viv McCarthy.
Larry's Rebels, outside Auckland Museum, 1967. L-R: Larry Morris, Nooky Stott, Terry Rouse, John Williams, Viv McCarthy.

Record Store Day happens on April 18th and Real Groovy will feature a special vinyl reissue by Larry's Rebels, more details here (plus their vinyl release from the Cleves/Bitch).

Described as 'Largely compiled from long lost master tapes, ‘A Study In Colour’ highlights both the group’s rougher R ‘n’ B roots on Side One and their later Pop Psych material on Side Two.' 

Here's an interview with Larry Morris on the latter stages of the band's career, and how he got kicked off NZ tv for throwing an apple at Howard Morrison in the middle of a live broadcast.

Larry’s Rebels – No sleep til Whitianga.
Burning up the years 9 – part 2
By Murray Cammick,
Real Groove, July 2001, Issue 095, pp 22-24

The Rebels spent a lot of time in Australia from 1966 to 1968. The two music communities almost merged for a few years, with New Zealand promoter Harry M Miller operating successfully in both countries and NZ entrepreneurs Eldred Stebbing and Russell Clark achieving recording deals for their bands in Australia. The La De Das and Ray Columbus had hits on both sides of the Tasman. Many 60s musicians like Max Merritt and the Meteors, Alison Durbin, Johnny Devlin, the Las De Das and Dinah Lee made Australia their home. Larry’s Rebels had limited chart success across the Tasman, but toured extensively and recorded hits including ‘Everybody’s Girl’ in Australia. Band leader Larry Morris speaks to Real Groove.

Were the band's trips to Australia a success or a disappointment?

"From [manager] Russell Clark's point of view or a publicist's point of view there was no trouble saying it was a success, but we didn't feel that we'd succeeded. We didn't have the support system over in Australia that we should have had as kids. Russell was there for the first few weeks and then he basically left us in the hands of strangers.

“We were all young, never been away from home before. Nicky Campbell, our roadie, who was the same age as me was looking after us.

''The Easybeats tour was a great way for us to kick off in Australia, that’s where I met a lot of guys who are still friends to this day. Brian Cadd I met on that tour, he was in the Groop and we're mates in touch every other day by email. We did the Easybeats tour and we did the Animals and the Yardbirds for Harry.”

The Rebels' first encounter with Australian rocker Billy Thorpe was not so positive.

''I met Billy Thorpe In Melbourne In 1966. We were doing a show with the Aztecs and they borrowed all our gear and blew the whole lot up. I nearly had a brawl with Billy that night, [then Wild Cherrys guitarist] Lobby Loyde got in between him and me and stopped it, but I was livid I thought, 'how dare you' He was just so arrogant, an Australian giving a New Zealand band a run-up and I got on his case. The Aztecs were a bloody great band. So loud '' Blowing gear up is not a basis for friendship.

"It isn't a good way to start but Max Merritt took us under his wing because Max Merritt and Ray Columbus were the generation before us. Word got around that, these guys were reasonably good kids and they're no trouble, that 'Larry's a bit of humour but he's a nice bloke'.

"Then I became mates with the heavyweights of the industry then, Glenn Shorrock, Ronnie Burns and Molly Meldrum, who was just starting out. We all used to congregate together in Toorak at the Winston Charles restaurant and nightclub. Billy and I became mates and went on a three day binge together. We went through some sordid shit. Then I rekindled my friendship with him in Los Angeles and had some wonderful times with him in LA."

The Rebels headlined their own nationwide New Zealand tour, Blast Off 68. Terry Rouse quit the band after the tour and Mal Logan replaced him. That same year Morris and John Williams were finalists in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards for their composition 'Dreamtime'. But on the 'Christmas Tour' it was not only 1968 that came to a sudden end.

"I discovered there was no accommodation in Whitianga. 'What the fucks going on?' One of the roadies said 'We're all staying on the bus and we're going back straight after the show.' 'Where's Russell and Benny?' 'Oh they're in the local pub.' So I went over there and they weren't in the bar so I looked around and was told, 'They've checked in, they've got a suite here.' 'Oh really?' That really got up my nose big time.
“So I went up there and said 'unless you get accommodation for me and the band you won't ever see me sing with the band again.' Russell said 'Yeah, Yeah, right Larry?' They never took me seriously They didn't and I left the band and that was it. I regretted it all my life, because I think the Rebels could have been playing now. If we had stuck at it we could have become very, very wealthy and successful, and we'd be still recording now. Like Tim and Nell Finn are.

“But If I said something, I Stuck to it. I was caught with my own personality, once I had said 'you do it or I'm going to leave the band' , I was committed. Nobody believed me. The only one who really took me seriously was Dennis 'Nooky' Stott.

“I can remember Nooky saying to the others 'he's gonna do it.' I went on stage and as we finished the last number I said 'Ladies and gentlemen, I'm dreadfully sorry to have to say this but that is the last song I will ever sing with this band until the day I die. Thank you, good night.' It was on the front page of the NZ Herald and that was it, I've never sung with them again. ''

Do you think the band could have survived because it was special?

"We would have survived without a doubt. It was a very, very special band I've seen it with Hello Sailor and earlier in my life I saw it with the Stones. I remember seeing the Stones the first time, and seeing Keith Richards tuning up Brian Jones' guitar. He had one of those lovely pear shaped guitars. I thought, "Christ, these guys aren't all that together as musos if Keith's got to tune Brian's guitar for him.' But those guys together were something fucking magical. 

“And Hello Sailor were like that as a band. Early in their career they were average musicians, but those four personalities together - Graham Brazier, Harry Lyon, Dave McArtney, Ricky Ball - and you had something very, very special. The Rebels were like that. We had this special thing because of the people - John Williams, Nooky Stott, Viv McCarthy, myself, Terry Rouse, and then later on Mal Logan because Terry couldn't handle it any more emotionally. It got too much for him and he went 'Ah screw this world' and he got out of it.' 

I thought your departure might have been because music was changing?

''No, nothing to do with that at all. It was all to do with Benny Levin and Russell Clark not getting us a hotel room in Whitianga. It's the only reason I left the band. If you're on the road with a major act who have made you a fucking fortune and if you can't put us in a room and you can put yourself in one! That is the only reason I left the band.

“I could show you our original contract, they were getting 40 percent of everything we earned which was a massive amount of money they made from us. But no regrets [about that] we signed the contract."

In the 60s, nobody thought a band would last more than a year or two, is that correct?

''No, We'd been together seven years when I left. We didn't feel that. We started as youngsters, 15 or 16 year olds, John was 14. I've only had four bands in my life and I've been doing this 38 years."

What Larry's Rebels songs are you most proud of?

'' 'Lets think of something' and 'Everybody's girl'."

While the Rebels added Glyn Mason and released the hit single 'My son John' and the album Madrigal, Morris became a regular on the cabaret circuit and a resident on TV shows C'Mon and Happen Inn. "It was exactly the same show, the graphics changed to Happen Inn." 

In 1969 the Rebels moved to Melbourne and recorded a single, 'Can You Make it on Your Own'. In January 1970 the group split and Logan and Mason stayed in Australia working in bands Chain and Home.  

It wasn't drugs that got Morris thrown off TV, well not the first time, like In the Garden of Eden, it was an apple.

"I threw an apple at Howard Morrison when he was live on Happen Inn, one of my best shots. I played softball for Point Chevalier, I could hit you in the chest with a softball. This was a rotten apple but it was hard enough on one side. He started singing 'Born Free' and I turned to Shane and I said 'this has no place in this bloody show, this is a rock show. What's going on? This is politics mate!' I grabbed this apple and hit Sir Howard in the chest and it exploded all over the place and I heard in the cans of the camera closest to me, 'What was that? Who did that?' As the apple hit him, I knew I'd done a stupid thing. I'd ruined my whole career.

“Howard was disgusted, he wanted to punch me so bad, but he just wasn't up to it and I'm standing there, arrogant as fuck In my bloody yellow flowered suit and Howard walked over and said 'That's disgraceful!' It was live on TV, there was nothing they could do.

“Director Kevan Moore came down in the commercial break, he had his hands on hips and said 'I want to know who did it.' There was a real silence and he said, Íf I have to, I will fire everyone from this show,' I thought well In that case I'd better own up, I said 'It was me.' 'YOURE FIRED, GET OUT! GET OUT!' It was amazing, he just went off, I'd never seen Kevan go off and I've talked to him since and he's said 'I'll never forget, I'll take it to by grave, Larry'."

The next time Morris pissed TV off was due to wacky baccy. "They made a criminal out of me for a pot conviction, I know later on I got involved in a serious matter and went to jail for it. That's not what I'm talking about. Kids have them lives fucked up because they've been busted with a couple of joints or a small bag of pot. The law is totally disproportionate and it's wrong."

When you went solo, was cabaret a good living?

"In 1970 I was getting $500 a show for 20 minutes. The money was extremely good but the quality of the music was crap when you had to work with a different band every night, New Plymouth this night, Rotorua that night. Eight out of nine bands didn't have it in them to cut that stuff and it sounded like it.

“That's why I did not like that work. I was very emphatic, I said to Russell Clark, 'no, this is not for me.' And then they arseholed me because I got the pot conviction. Russell and Benny basically divorced me with a big right boot. They did not want to have anything to do with me. ''

You did cultivate a bad boy image with Larry's Rebels?

"No. My bad boy image was from my pot conviction. When I got in the shit. There's two sides of show business, there's the straight side ... and they're closet pissheads and get drunk and spew just like anyone else. Then there's the outlaws. The moment I got that first pot conviction I became an outlaw.

“I joined [Tommy] Adderley, Richie Pickett, Marlene Tong and anybody else who'd had a pot conviction."

They were conservative times. It is different today.

''You go and ask Simon Poleman about that. I don't think so. You get tarred with that bloody brush. I've been in trouble once in my life. They locked me up for acid. That was in 1972, they released me in 1976 and I have never been back since. ''

What is your best solo recording?

"The 5.55am album which Bruce Lynch produced. It was never ever released. I had just signed a great deal with John McCready at Polygram Records and it all turned to custard when I got into trouble with the LSD conviction.

“When I got busted and taken to jail, Polygram basically dropped me and the album was never released. Barbara Doyle, who was managing me, went and bought all the stock and to this day she owns it and she gets $125 for each copy now.

“When I got out of prison I formed Shotgun, because I didn't want to do that solo thing, I wanted to have a band again. ''

When Shotgun met with little media or public nearest, Morris headed for North America and spent the 80s in the USA.

"I made a lot of money, I was doing recording session work, Hollywood, Nashville, New York. Underground work. I was an illegal immigrant. They didn't give me a visa to get in. I went through the bush from Canada illegally with a mate. There s a network of people who knew me, John Farrar, Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Billy Thorpe, Max Merritt, they were all living in LA."

While at a party at Renee Geyer's apartment in Los Angeles with a who's who of Australian music, Eva Olivia Newton John, Morris got an unexpected tribute when the late Dragon singer Marc Hunter took the floor.

" 'Shut up! I've got an announcement I want to make! The reason I got into this music business. I want to draw your attention to a man here tonight. I saw a Larry's Rebels gig in the Taumarunui High School hall and I'd never seen a bunch of guys having so much fun, and when I saw all the girls banging round after the gig, Todd and I went home from that concert with our minds made up, we were going to form a band.' It was one of the most humbling things that has ever happened to me."

In 1993, Morris and his family returned from the USA, hoping to catch up with vocalist Tommy Adderley. "He was still alive when we got on the plane but he was dead when we arrived. ''

At the Gluepot fundraising concert, Morris performed with the recently defunct but funky Cairo, and they gelled so well, he has performed with them ever since as the Larry Morris Band.

The repertoire extends from the Four Tops to Ben Harper via War's 'Low rider' and the Sopranos theme tune. They will play a Rebels hit if requested.

Morris is dismissive of Larry's Rebels' own songwriting. ''Our first forays into writing, you could tell they were our first forays into writing."

When Jordan Luck recently took time to praise Larry about the ''depth' of his lyrics for 'Dreamtime', as reproduced in Gordon Spittle's book Counting the Beat, Morris replied "I could say the same thing in a few words, now."

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