Convention was never an ideology that Le Hoodoo Gurus ever believed in. They wholeheartedly rejected the mainstream philosophy that made rock and roll boring, stale, and predictable and instead chose to follow their own eclectic and eccentric vision.
Their stubborn refusal to adhere to any of the musical rules that govern the disparate scenes that bands are casually tossed into by critics and journalists made their odd journey through life interesting, and at times difficult, but always ensured that it was interesting and fun.
Like Sid Vicious before them, the Gurus have always done things their way, and when they do eventually bow out after their curtain call, they’re one of the few bands who’ll be able to look back and know that they followed their hearts right up until the end.
The fact that the Hoodoo Gurus never followed the typical blueprint that bands cling to when they’re trying to establish themselves and attract an audience shouldn’t really be a surprise.
A collective of musicians who originally found their inspiration and raison d’etre in Sydney’s post-punk and punk scenes, all of the band’s members were used to being ignored and ostracized by the mainstream. That was just the way things were, and always had been for the Gurus, and when they started playing, they just assumed that nothing would change, and that was the way that things always would be.
Having cut their teeth in The Scientists, The Victims, and the XL Capris, the Guru’s were drawn together by their founding member and mainstay, Dave Faulker, at a slightly rambunctious New Year’s Party that kissed goodbye to nineteen eighty in grand fashion.
Fueled by a desire to do something different and a shared, if somewhat left of the dial idea of what music was, and could be, James Baker, Kimble Rendell, and Roddy Radalj, along with the aforementioned Faulkner plugged in, tuned up, and set sail on a forty-year musical odyssey.
Taking their name from the evil wizard and chief architect of mayhem in Sid and Marty Croft’s Lidsville, Le Hoodoo Gurus hit the ground running in Sydney, and their high energy fusion of sixties garage and surf rock that was liberally sprinkled with a dose of psychedelia, immediately made them stand out from the other bands in the underground scene.
They were outsiders in an outsider scene, and they rebelled and rejoiced in the creative freedom and energy it imbued them with.
After a year of playing every club that would book them and gathering a devoted legion of fans who followed the same no scene and no rules policy as they did, Le Hoodoo Gurus released their first single, Leilani.
It was a guitar-driven appetizer that compressed everything that the band was, and would continue to be into four minutes and fifty-two seconds of jangly, anthemic surf-driven new wave that told the tale of a young girl being sacrificed to a volcano while her boyfriend watched, and accepted her fate. Inspired by the fifties B-movie Birds Of Paradise, it laid the foundation for the Guru’s desire to write songs that drew their inspiration from the weird annals of counter culture, instead of banal, trite love songs.
In the run-up to the release of their debut single, Kimble decided that he’d had enough of being a Guru and left the band to pursue other avenues of interest, which ultimately led to him becoming a music video director and later on, the second unit director on The Matrix and Ghost Rider. He swapped his guitar for a camera and never looked back.
Deciding that simplicity was something that they should embrace rather than dismiss out of hand, following the release of Leilani the Guru’s decided to drop the Le part of their name and chose to make their debut, in typically unorthodox fashion, as the Hoodoo Gurus on the popular children’s show, Simon Townsend’s Wonder World.
All wasn’t well in the Guru’s world though, and disappointed by Kimble’s exit from the band and what he perceived as Faulkner’s increasing control over the direction of the Guru’s, Ronny Radalj chose to follow his friend’s example and leave Hoodoo Gurus. Recording Leilani was the last time that the original line-up of Hoodoo Gurus would ever play together.
Larry, Curly, Moe and the Gurus
After replacing their former comrades with Clyde Bramley and Brad Shepherd,Hoodoo Gurus were once again operating at full capacity, and in nineteen eighty-four, they entered their studio to record their debut album, Stoneage Romeos.
Named after the Three Stooges one hundred and sixty-third film, Stone Age Romeos, the Gurus first full-length record stuck to the formula that they’d created with their first single and was filled with catchy, anthemic new wave classics that celebrated the oddball culture that the band loved and adored.
It was an immediate success and was hailed by Countdown as the best debut album of nineteen eighty-four and helped the band to establish itself halfway around the world in the home of the television shows, comics, films, and books that helped to fire the band’s imagination, America.
College radio stations from coast to coast picked up on and began to play Stoneage Romeos and it soon became a staple of higher education airwaves everywhere.
The college radio connection sent Hoodoo Gurus debut album soaring to the number one position in the Alternative charts where it remained for an unprecedented seven weeks.
Hoodoo Gurus had become major players in the American underground and they hadn’t even had to leave their home country to make it in the Land of the Free. And they weren’t just being lauded in America, as the Countdown award that the band had won began to pay off in Australia as well, and slowly but surely, Hoodoo Gurus, that strange little band from Sydney, was suddenly the name on every indie kid from Canberra to Melbourne’s lips.
What Does Mars Need?
With Stoneage Romeos riding high and the band’s popularity increasing on an almost daily basis, they decided it was time to capitalize on the success of their debut in America, and packed their bags, and headed Stateside. But when they did, they were short one original member and had one new member in tow.
In August of nineteen eighty four, drummer James Baker was fired and replaced by Mark Kingswell, who had previously occupied the throne behind the kit for The Hitmen and The New Christs.
It was a decision that made fans question whether or not Ronny Radalj might have been right about Dave Faulkner, and the guitarist and singer was quick to deny the speculation and pointed out that the decision was nothing to do with the band, but was based on the fact that sometimes, things just don’t work out between people and some relationships aren’t meant to last.
His answer to the fans about what had happened formed the basis for the single Poison Pen, which the band released in nineteen eighty six, and was meant, at least partially, to lay the issue to rest once and for all.
After they returned from their US tour, the band began work on their second album, Mars Needs Guitars! Which drew inspiration from the fifties drive-in schlock classic, Mars Needs Women.
It was pure Gurus and helped to further cement their popularity both at home and in the States, and led to them being taken out on the road by The Bangles and playing a succession of sold-out shows in Europe, including a number of dates at London’s world-famous Hammersmith Odeon. The thunder that the Gurus whipped up continued to rattle and roll and guide them down the unlikely road to rock and success.
Don’t Blow Your Cool If You’re Going To (Magnum) Cum Louder
Everyone has to grow up eventually, and by the time they released their third record, Blow Your Cool the Gurus had traded some of their initial eccentricity for pop power and focused on writing the sort of songs that Faulkner had always been capable of creating.
The record helped to forge their reputation as power pop royalty, and the grueling tour that they undertook to support the record took them to nineteen different countries and saw the band play more than two hundred shows. Every second that they spent on the road was worth it, and their third album eventually climbed to one hundred and twenty in the Billboard Top Two Hundred.
Magnum Cum Louder the band’s fourth album, proved to be their most popular to date, and made it all the way to one hundred and one in the Top Two Hundred, and almost nudged its way into the Top One Hundred. The hard work and diligence were beginning to pay off, and the more shows they played, the more popular they became.
Some of the band’s peers and a brace of noted music critics have gone on record as saying that the Gurus reached the peak of their popularity with Magnum Cum Louder, but their best was yet to come.
By the time they released their fifth album Kinky in nineteen ninety one, Hoodoo Gurus were on a creative drive that seemed to be impossible to stop. The album produced the single 1000 Miles Away which saw them become bona fide rockstars and chart toppers in their own country as it scored them their first Top Forty Hit, and reached number thirty three on the charts.
During the next seven years, the Gurus released two more studio albums, Crank and Blue Cave, and while their fan base remained undiminished and both records sold in similar quantities to their previous output, like so many other bands had helped to pave the way for it, and fashioned the circumstances that made it possible, Hoodoo Gurus found themselves battling against the tsunami that was Grunge, which in turn was quickly followed by the one two sucker punch of pop punk.
The musical world was changing, but the Gurus plowed on and did what they did best. They wrote and played flawless power pop anthems.
Nineteen ninety eight saw the release of the band’s first live album, Bite the Bullet, the title of which, in hindsight, was slightly prophetic and an omen for what the immediate future held in store for them.
After fifteen years of relentless touring and recording, Hoodoo Gurus simply ceased to be. The band, doubtless weary of each other and worn out by their punishing schedule, handed in their rock and roll notice and parted ways.
It Isn’t Over Until The B-Movie Actress Sings
Whether they missed each other, making music together, or simply the act of playing shows as Hoodoo Gurus, in two thousand and three, following a five year break in which all of the members had flexed their musical muscles in a number of different projects, the Gurus reformed and went straight back to work.
Unlike a lot of older bands who just get back together to play and collect a cheque, they refused to rest on their laurels and after slotting straight back into a touring schedule that would have killed off most of the bands half of their age, Hoodoo Gurus started writing a brace of new material.
While they weren’t as prolific as they once were, in the intervening decade and some change since they’ve started playing again, they’ve released two critically lauded albums, Mach Schau in two thousand and six and Purity of Essence in two thousand and ten. And it wasn’t just the critics that loved the records, their fans did too.
After twenty seven years, off and on, as an active band, in two thousand and seven Hoodoo Gurus were inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall Of Fame, and proved that success wasn’t dependent on anyone else, and that like Fleetwood Mac, they could Go Their Own Way and still do what they loved to do, play and make music, and get paid rather well to do it.
With a new album due to be released in two thousand and twenty one, the future is looking brighter and brighter for the Hoodoo Gurus with each and every passing moment.