Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Mansons - Newcastle's Foremost Punk Band

The Mansons originally flourished in the city of Newcastle, 120kms north of Sydney, Australia from 1981 to 1983.

Starting as a series of jam sessions at the house of Monkee Manson in mid-1981, Harry and Monkee had been school chums from Marist Brothers High School and together decided to change the face of Novocastrian music for ever.

After leaving school Monkee became a metallurgist for B.H.P. and met Curlee Manson, who was also in the same field of study.

Providence begat them a drummer one day when a 14 year old boy came jumping over the fence for a ball. He became enlisted as Donny Manson, later changing his name to Donny Anarchy.

The line up now consisted of Harry Manson on vocals and wig wearing, Monkee Manson on guitar, Curlee on bass and Donny on drums.

Soon afterwards a cool biker friend of Monkee's from the BHP Steelworks snapped this picture (below) of the Mansons at the Newcastle Post Office. His name was Bill Pitt and was also responsible for supply of authentic sixties granny specs which completed the look. Note the great beards!

They played their first gig at the Grand Hotel on the 26th September, 1981 supporting another Novocastrian band, the Nonchalence, later embarking on a series of pub and club gigs that are now legendary.

They were the only band ever to be thrown out of Norths Leagues Club, (which had the reputation at the time of totally supporting the fringe punk and alternative music), because of an altercation one night between Harry and the club manager, along with several huge bouncers. "I still don't know why we set up on the floor that night, as opposed to the stage" recalled Monkee in an interview in 1995, "it happened at the end of the night and we all thought we were going to die." They were thrown out, told they would never be Newcastle's foremost punk band, and told never to return.

With no place to play, the band was forced to go under a series of alternate names such as "Harry M" , "Tate's Mates" and the "Beatles" to get work. With no wives and kids to feed, it didn't really matter.

Finding themselves at a loose end one day they decided to record a single entitled "I Died Four Times". The initial inspiration for the song came from a phone conversation with a old school chum, Greg 'Chook' Coleman, who was lamenting that a mutual friend was taking far too long to die of a series of diseases, "You know he's died four times...but he doesn't want to talk about it!", and so the song was born.

The song became notorious, being played by the famous John Peel on Radio London who was rumored to have announced that it had just as much chance as anything else at achieving success.

It even reached top ten in Yugoslavia, or so it was reported by Kerb McCorrison, who became the Mansons de facto manager during those turbulent times.

The Mansons legendary single "I died four times (But I don't Wanna Talk About It)"
and "What is Her Name?"

Kerb became manager after he persistently said he would from the back of a bus one rainy day. They met on a magnificent trip in a double decker bus carrying The Mansons and most of the Newcastle punk scene (almost like a magical mystery tour), through the beautiful Hunter Valley to bring 'punk to the people'. Kerb later toured Europe and was never seen again.

Recording sessions at Angelwood Studios Newcastle
on the 10th and 11th May 1982.

They played some great, and some not-so-great gigs around town. Highlights included fantastic shows at Belmont 16 footers, The Castle, South Newcastle Beach Pavilion and many many parties. Some rare recordings have recently come to light after almost 20 years and display the rare energy and fun of the period.

The Mansons continued for a time to progressively fragment and later disintegrate until the end came at the beginning of 1983, just prior to Donny Anarchy leaving Australia for a solo tour of Europe.

They were officially pronounced dead on the 13th March 1983 closing transmission on Sunday night at 11:08pm precisely.

Harry was to later re-emerge in the Ramjets and the Marones with Newcastle fun king Pucko, finally becoming a school teacher. Curlee set about populating the earth with his seed and political science and Monkee became a Hipslinger, an Elvis impersonator, a Wooser Bottom, librarian and archivist. Donny is still performing from time to time with various punk acts such as Skazoo, Raw War and Cash From Chaos.

The Mansons finally received International recognition in 1997 with their inclusion in the punk exhibition "Punkulture" at the Australian Museum along with Sex Pistols and the Clash.

Salve Mansons.