Re-Living In The Seventies; Glam Interview The Skyhooks’ Bob Starkie

Check out our interview with the guitarist from one of Australia’s most iconic bands, the Skyhooks…

One of the great bands of the Australian pantheon, Skyhooks, has released a remastered compilation of some of their best work. “Don’t You Believe What You’ve Seen Or You’ve Heard”, was released on October 30th, and debuted at #40 on the ARIA 100 Best Albums chart.

We spoke to guitarist Bob “Bongo” Starkie.

So how did this album come about? Was it nagging from management, or something the band felt they wanted to do?

It came about at the instigation of David Lang from Warners. He started thinking about it last year, which was the 40th anniversary of “Livin’ in the Seventies”. But then time ran out, and it got into THIS year, which is the 40th anniversary of “Ego (is not a dirty word)”. Dave thought that those two years were the golden years of Skyhooks: that’s when we was king!. I just got a copy of the album today, and I think it’s one of the best packagings we’ve ever had. It’s a three disc set, and what’s really interesting is that it contains some of the demos from before we made the actual records. So you get the before and the after. And then there are some demos of songs that we used to do in our live set, that didn’t actually get onto the records. And then there is the live record, which is various performances of us playing, all over the country. That’s really good, because I think Skyhooks were best live.

So how much input did the members of the band have into this set? Did you have the chance to say “don’t put that song on…it’s crap.”?

Greg Macainsh looks after all that: they’re his tunes, basically, and he likes to be in charge of mastering. It was the work of Dave Lang and Greg Macainsh, and also, Peter Green from the fan-club had a thing or two to say. If anyone was going to say “no, don’t put that on”, it would have been HIM! Then Anthony O’Grady, ex-editor of RAM magazine, did the liner notes, which is a nice, historic piece.

So if you had to choose one song, which you think defines Skyhooks, what would that be?

Wow…definitive number…I think “Horror Movie” is the king tune, really. It’s a good signature tune, and still relevant to this day, and in terms of a Skyhooks sound, you can really swing every tune off that one. But then in terms of guitar playing, I really like playing Red [Symons]’s songs. They have interesting structures and they’re really smart-arse!

What do you think is Skyhooks’ legacy to Australian music?

I think we paved the way for Australian musicians to be Australian musicians: to be proud and loud Australian bands. Prior to us coming out, bands were just copying the British sound, or the American boogie bands. I think Skyhooks were the first seriously Australian band, singing about Australian things and Australian attitudes and looking at the Australian way-of-life, and taking the piss out of it.

Can you tell us a bit about your other, musical projects such as the Purple Gang?

Well with Skyhooks, we just made it up as we went along. And I’m basically an untrained guitarist: I never learnt to play. Then after Skyhooks, I gave it up for a while and was doing other things. At one stage, I was living in Brazil, and I got a copy of a Chuck Berry album. I just thought “wow! I’m going to learn how to play this.” And that’s when I picked up the guitar again. So that’s what the Purple Gang is: 50s rock’n’roll. And now I can play Chuck Berry just like ringin’ a bell! Then the other band I have is a Skyhooks-legends band, which I call “Million Dollar Riff”, where I use a female vocalist instead of Shirl [“Shirley” Graham Strachan].

What took you to Brazil?

I’d been working for a long time, and I sold a night-club that I had. I decided I would start my life again at the carnival in Rio. And I ended up meeting Ronnie Biggs, and we bought a house together, on an island south of Rio. So I spent a lot of time renovating this house with Ron. And then I bought a guitar for the island, and ended up playing again, down there. But that’s another part of my life…and why I need to write a book!

While we’re waiting for that book, we can all enjoy the glory days of Skyhooks through this deluxe, compilation release.

Interviewed by Tracey Korsten

“Don’t You Believe What You’ve Seen Or You’ve Heard” from Festival/Warner, released October 30th


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