DADDY COOL: NOW LISTEN
"Well, I think it’s probably record company indifference,” laughs Ross Wilson down the phone, when TMN asks why it has taken so long for his seminal Daddy Who? Daddy Cool record to receive a CD reissue.
The album came out in 1971, and was the first local release to hit the #1 spot on the charts, eventually selling more than 100,000 copies. Yet, for all its groundbreaking commercial success, it has been overlooked time and time again for re-release, despite Wilson’s best efforts. A limp, non- gatefold vinyl version was reissued in 1982, but despite Eagle Rock being basically heritage listed (it was added National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia Registry), or perhaps because of it, the album that spawned the single is yet to be issued on compact disc. Until now.
“The album originally came out on an independent label called Sparmac, which became Wizard which got bought by BMG, which got absorbed by Sony, and they were happy to just keep bringing out compilations,” sighs Wilson, of the album’s tangled history. “I would keep getting asked by fans over and over ‘Why can’t you get the -as they call it- The Pink Album in its original form, on CD?’ When I recently brought up the subject again they [Sony Music] said ‘well, the 40th anniversary is coming up, let’s do it.’
“I think it’s going to please a lot of people, because it actually meant something to people who lived back then; they remember where they were, and what they were doing when they were listening to that album.”
Far from a mere nostalgia trip, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool is one of the earliest local sales successes, and paved the way for other Australian acts. Record labels soon discovered that local artists weren’t just the weaker alternative to overseas acts, and begun treating them as commodities - a situation Wilson rightly takes credit for.
“We were one of the first local groups to go straight in and cut an album, rather than a single and another single and another single and then put them together, which was the way things were done up until that point. I mean, we were the first, but we were the first successful group; we sold over 100,000 albums at a time when Gold was 10,000 so it’s the equivalent of a million seller now. It was quite a sensation and smashed a lot of records at the time, and I guess we kind initiated the next wave of Australian groups; we’d proven that an Australian group could sell a lot of albums and become nationally popular, which hadn’t happened that much at the time.
Despite this success, Daddy Cool were, at the time, anything but.
“We were sort of the antidote to what was popular. Everyone was into ‘progressive rock’” he states, mockingly drawing out the genre name. “I guess Australians were trying emulate people like Jethro Tull or whatever, but Daddy Cool- we just wanted to play simple songs and I was interested at looking at doo-wop music and that whole era of rhythm and blues that hadn’t really been in Australia ‘cos Australia didn’t really get rock and roll ‘til ‘57 or ’58 and we didn’t really get it in a big way. So there was a whole area of music that I discovered that really excited me and they fuelled the whole thing with Daddy Cool.
“Daddy Cool got together to have a bit of fun and for all the purest reasons, it wasn’t concocted in a way to be successful, it just was successful. From our very first gig, people loved it. We had a very fast trajectory: we formed in October 1970, recorded the album March ’71, and by April the single Eagle Rock was number one and the album followed pretty hard on the heels of that. If you look back at the charts you’ll probably find exactly 40 years ago that we were still top of the charts.
“Forty years ago,” he marvels. “It’s quite a neat number.”
DOING THE CROCODILE ROCK….
Ross Wilson on how he turned Elton John into… Elton John
“Elton John is a big music fan. He came out to Australia on his first tour, and he heard Daddy Cool tracks, and he would go on the radio and go ‘don’t listen to me, listen to this, this is fantastic,’ he just loved it. And if you cast your mind back to that stage, he used to wear grey suits and go onstage as the ponderous piano man with an orchestra, then suddenly he was out. Elton was out and he was starting to write happy, exciting music, one example of which was Crocodile Rock, which was Bernie’s lyrical nod in our direction, singing about an old dance named after an animal and plundering some of the same kind of influences. There’s no doubt in my mind and many other people’s minds that – just as we were influenced by many others – we were, what I think, was a positive influence on Elton John.”