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Spectrum (Excuse Me Just One Moment While I.....)

By Ray Hogan

The refurbished turntable has now proved to have magical properties. No sooner had I completed a play through of the Spectrum/Indelible Murtceps catalogue than up pops an email message from Mike Rudd himself advising of a gig to be played by Spectrum Plays The Blues at 5.30. pm on Friday 19.5.06 at the famous Broadbeach Blues Festival. Less than  two day's notice to find the blue suede shoes.  Click here to read more on this great gig!
 

 

 

 

 


Spectrum was an Australian progressive rock band which formed in Melbourne in 1969 and remained in existence until 1973. Its members also performed under the alter-ego Indelible Murtceps.

The central figure in the band was singer-songwriter-guitarist Mike Rudd, a New Zealand born singer, songwriter and guitarist from Christchurch. Mike arrived in Australia in 1966 as rhythm guitarist for the NZ group Chants R&B. That band only lasted a short time after they arrived in Australia, but Rudd remained in Melbourne, teaming up with singer/songwriter Ross Wilson and guitarist Ross Hannaford
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Wilson and Hannaford's first band The Pink Finks (which had also just broken up) worked in a similar vein to Chants, and had already had some local chart success in Melbourne. Mike was invited to be the bass player in a later lineup of their next band, The Party Machine (1967-69)

Rudd, Wilson and Hannaford then formed the more experimentally-oriented Sons of The Vegetal Mother (1969-71), which was an occasional event-based project rather than a full-time band. When that band split, Rudd formed his own band, Spectrum. This marked the beginning of his partnership with bassist Bill Putt, formerly of Melbourne bands Gallery and The Lost Souls; they formed a lasting friendship and musical partnership, and have worked together ever since. Organist Lee Neale came from pop band Nineteen 87, and drummer Mark Kennedy had already worked with Putt in Gallery. Kennedy's considerable skill helped carry the band through a difficult first year, during which time the band honed their skills and found their sound.

Initially, Spectrum drew on the work of contemporary bands like Traffic, Soft Machine and Pink Floyd and they played covers of music by these groups in the early days, but they soon developed their own style. Alongside Putt's solid bass playing and Neale's inventive keyboard work, a key feature of Spectrum's sound was Rudd's guitar playing -- he was one of the few rock guitar players at that time who eschewed the near-universal use of the guitar pick, preferring to play electric guitar with a finger-picking style. Combined with contemporary imrovements in amplification and recording, his playing technique and his use of a vintage Fender Stratocaster guitar allowed Rudd to develop a highly characteristic sound.
Twelve months of performing allowed them to develop their sound and write and refine a substantial set of original material, which became the basis for their first LP. They were regulars at the concerts events held at the various "head" venues around Melbourne like the T.F. Much Ballroom, Garrison and Sebastian's, and they appeared with other leading progressive bands like Tully, Tamam Shud and Sons Of The Vegetal Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

Rudd had conceived Spectrum as a concert band, and they generally performed with an elaborate concert set-up that included a large PA and a full multi-media light show; at one stage the band also supplemented their act with contributions from members of the Melbourne performance troupe Tribe. They played at all the major Australian rock festivals of the period, including Wallacia, Myponga, Mulwalla, Rosebud and Sunbury. However, their national success was limited by a lack of radio airplay in other capitals, and the fact that they rarely ventured outside Victoria, visiting other cities only intermittently.
Just prior to being signed up by EMI, Spectrum cut a demo single which they hawked around to record companies as a 7" acetate. One side was an early, folky version of one of the newer songs in their set, "I'll Be Gone"; the flip was another original, "You Just Can't Win". According to rock historian Ian McFarlane, these acetates are now "impossibly rare" and only two or three copies are known to have survived.

 

Once signed to EMI, the band went into the studio to make their first official recordings, under producer Howard Gable, who had recently re-located from New Zealand and had established himself as one Australia's leading producers with his work for bands including The Masters Apprentices.
Despite a loyal following and much praise from the music press (notably Australia's pop 'bible' Go-Set) the band were virtually broke by mid-1970, when a measure of salvation came in the form of a contract with to the new EMI progressive imprint Harvest. They were signed to a recording contract and soon after they scored a surprise #1 Australian hit with their first single, "I'll Be Gone", which has become one of the most enduring Australian rock songs of that era.

They released their debut LP Spectrum Part One in late 1970. Drummer Mark Kennedy left just after it was recorded, and he was replaced by Ray Arnott. Kennedy later worked with a number of important Australian acts including Ayers Rock.

Spectrum's second album, released in early 1972, was an ambitious 2LP set called Milesago, notable as the first Australian rock double album, and is still regarded as a landmark of Australian progressive music; it was also the first Australian rock album to be recorded using the newly-installed 16-track recorder at Amstrong's Studios in Melbourne, the first studio in Australia to acquire one of these machines.
Unfortunately for Spectrum, the nature of the Melbourne music scene was undergoing a profound change at this time. This was partly due to legislative changes to the age of majority (which had been recently lowered in many Australian states from 21 to 18) and to the licensing laws governing entertainment in hotels in Victoria. These legislative changes coincided with demographic changes -- the young audiences who had patronized the unlicensed dances and discos of the mid-to-late Sixties were now ageing into their late teens and early twenties, and could now be legally admitted into licensed premises.

Seeing the popularity of rock music and realising the financial potential, hoteliers wooed customers into the pubs by putting on popular bands, often free of charge. Consequently, while Spectrum worked to establish themselves as a concert group, the focus was beginning to shift away from the larger concert events and unlicensed city discotheques frequented by 'head' audiences -- whose main drug of choice was cannabis -- and towards the burgeoning pub circuit, where alcohol was cheap, plentiful and, above all, legal. While the smaller pub venues and their rowdy, combative atmosphere suited more 'aggressive' bands like Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, the erosion of the concert scene posed a major problem for Spectrum, whose complex music and upscale presentation demanded a sizeable venue, a large audience, and a reasonable degree of concentration from them.

Consequently, as the pub circuit began to boom, the bigger engagements that Spectrum needed to survive became fewer and less regular. Spectrum adapted to the changing situation in an unusual way -- they created an alter ego for the group (Indelible Murtceps) which performed at pubs, and local dances, playing a more pop-oriented repertoire and using a smaller equipment set-up than they used when performing as Spectrum.

Their next LP, Warts Up Your Nose (1972), was released under the Indelible Murtceps banner ('murtceps' is 'spectrum' spelled backwards) and contained songs of a more humourous and scatalogical nature. Lee Neale suffered a breakdown and left the band soon after its release, quitting the music scene permanently; he was replaced by Canberra musician John Mills.

Spectrum's final studio LP was Testimonial (1973). Soon after its release Spectrum announced their breakup, a move prompted by the departure of drummer Ray Arnott; Rudd and Putt reportedly felt that it would be impossible to re-create the special feeling of the group and wso decided to end the band. They played their farewell performance at the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne on 15 April 1973, and the show was recorded and subsequently released as the live LP Terminal Buzz
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Following the demise of Spectrum, Rudd, Putt and Mills joined forces with guitarist Tim Gaze and drummer Nigel Macara, ex-members of leading Sydney 'underground' band Tamam Shud, to form the group Ariel.


After Spectrum split in April 1973, Rudd and Putt formed a new group, Ariel. Along with keyboard player John Mills they joined forces with two leading Sydney musicians, guitarist Tim Gaze and drummer Nigel Macara from pioneering progressive band Tamam Shud. They released one successful LP, A Strange Fantastic Dream, in December 1973, but Gaze and Macara left the band soon after it was recorded.
In early 1974 Rudd and Putt and began work on an extended concept piece, The Jellabad Mutant, and began rehearsing the music with drummer John Lee, ex-The Dingoes. Lee then brought in a friend, lead guitarist Harvey James, and this arrangement eventually coalesced into the second lineup of Ariel. They recorded a full-length demo tape of the planned LP, called The Jellabad Mutant, and presented it to their record label EMI, but to their surprise it was rejected.

However, by this time the band had gained some critical praise in the United Kingdom, thanks in part to leading disc jockey John Peel, and this led EMI's parent office in London to invite the group to record their next album at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios. However the rejection of the Mutant album left the band with no new material, and when they arrived in London they discovered that EMI were expecting the lineup that had recorded the first LP. Rudd hastily wrote a number of new songs, but to complete the LP they were forced to fall back on Rudd's back-catalogue, recording new versions of several Spectrum/Murtceps songs. The resulting album, Rock'n'Roll Scars, was mixed by famous EMI recording engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked with The Beatles
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In January 1975 Ariel was expanded to a five-piece with the addition of respected singer-songwriter-guitarist Glyn Mason, who had previously been a member of the pioneering Australian country-rock group Axiom. This lineup recorded only one single and lasted until early 1976. lead guitarist Harvey James left to join chart-topping Australian pop band [[Sherbet (Band)|Sherbet] in March ( he was replaced by keyboardist Tony Slavich) and drummer John Lee quit to join English band Dirty Tricks during Ariel's second visit to the U.K. in April. He was briefly replaced by Nigel Macara, who quit again in October 1976 to be replaced by Iain McLennan.

Ariel continued to record and perform until July 1977, when they announced their break-up; they performed their farewell concert at the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne on 31 August 1977; the show was recorded a later released on LP.

After Ariel, Mike Rudd moved into in promotion and production for a time. He produced the debut album for Newcastle bands Daniel and Jab and demos for Jane Conway (ex-Melbourne band Stiletto).
Rudd and Putt later formed a succession of groups, in the 1980s -- Mike Rudd's Instant Replay, Mike Rudd & The Heaters (both also with Tony Slavich) and the more electronically oriented W.H.Y. -- but none achieved the same level of success as Spectrum or Ariel
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Although Rudd was forced to withdraw from performing for several years due to the illness and subsequent death of his wife Helen, Mike and Bill have sustained an enduring musical partnership, including reunions of Spectrum during the '80s, and a duo album in 1996, Living On A Volcano. A new 3-piece incarnation of Spectrum, with drummer Peter Robertson, debuted in the late 1990s with a CD Spectrum Plays The Blues, which took them back to their musical roots. Ariel also reformed for occasional gigs with varying lineups, including a final reunion of the 'Mark II' lineup with Harvey James and John Lee, which took place not long before Lee's untimely death in July 1998.

Rudd, Putt and Robertson continue to perform and record as Spectrum.

 
 

Excerpts from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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