Saturday, 9 April 2011

Henry Vyhnal - Punk Power 7" Corporate CHS 607, 1979

One micro-genre we're gonna cop to not knowing everything about is Melbourne pub rock. Too many pairs of ill-fitting jeans for us, not enough stomp or belligerence. All is not lost though - borntobepunched recently started his PhD on unstudied Wallaby Beat and the literature search has unearthed three or four pretty good tracks out of the scene which we intend to spotlight later this year. For now though here's a track from one of its protagonists who did cross over and put out a pretty fine pop punk record.

Henry Vyhnal (real name, it's Czech) learnt violin from his classical musician father. You can read his full CV in the insert reproduced below, but in short he played the traps in the Sharks, the Pelaco Brothers and Millionaires, where he performed as Jimi Tomorrow.
Jimi Tomorrow was a character I invented just for the band. Captain Sensible did a similar thing in The Damned. In my mind, Jimi was a futuristic young punk...never a part of the status quo because he was in another time zone (the immediate future). He knew what was going to happen but nobody else did - and that was his alienation. The sort of 'punk' that Jimi was based on was more the James Dean/Marlon Brando sort of punk rather than Johnny Rotten. To me at the time punk was an attitude not a sort of music of costume.
Fast forward to 1977 (Jimi was already there) and a new kind of punk was everywhere. Henry could be found playing guitar and violin in the Babeez, on the Boys Next Door's Door, Door LP and Shivers single, and even (uncredited) on the Desert Rat LP.

The Babeez gig, as detailed at the link above, went for a while through 1977 and 1978. Vyhnal's interest in punk was sincere.
I wanted to see the movement happen. I saw it as a way of being involved in the scene and helping it along the way.
During this time (the Babeez pages say early 1977 - see Extracurricular work), he recorded his own 7", backed by Jarryl Wirth from Babeez/News on guitar, and Ash Wednesday and Johnny Crash (Janis Freidenfelds), both from JAB, on bass/synth and drums respectively. The single wasn't released until mid 1979.

Leaving aside the ballad A-side, Punk Power is an infectious, energetic piece of poppy punk, driven along by some great News-esque guitar. The song was actually written while in the Millionaires, and performed by them:
Punk Power was Jimi's attempt to tell people living in the present what was going to happen next. As it happened, it was a song about punk that predated its introduction into the mainstream.
Henry/Jimi is glorifying youth, while also warning the know-it-all punk kids that life gets hard as "hair falling out, teeth falling out, friends falling out" take their toll. Giving the kids guns is duly noted as a good idea. There is an intentional nod to the new punks with "we really mean it, man" a direct reference to God Save The Queen. This gives us another clue to when it was recorded, the Sex Pistols track coming out in May 1977.

Punk Power

Eagle eyed readers of the Desert Rat post may notice that the label and catalogue number look familiar. The single was intended to come out on Champagne but that label went into liquidation so a little rejigging of the label design was in order.

An insert came with some copies.

Jesus Jones aside, we don't endorse much krautrocky activity from Australia (and no prog with saxes), but we thought you should see this suitably mad Cybotron video from the mid '70s. Henry Vyhnal also played on some sessions with the band (or more precisely drummer Steven Maxwell van Braund) but not on this.

5 comments:

John said...

Great memories!!I still remember Henry with the Millionaires, back in Melbourne...He used getting drunk every night of the week in Downtown.Lol. Great musician and better person. Those were the days, yeah! However, I never could get a copy of this single. Is there any chance for hearing the flipside here? Thanks!

All the best,

John

James Vyhnal said...

Thanks Wallaby Beat for the interest in my single. The information in this blog is mostly accurate and well researched but in the interest of 'keeping it real' I'd like to clarify a few things.
Firstly, I did not play with the Sharks. Somewhere down the line someone got this impression and published it and this reference was quoted. I was a huge fan of the Sharks and got to play with the guitarist Chris Worrall and the drummer Carl Segnit when we were all in the Pelaco Brothers together. Carl also played with me in Millionaires and in Teenbeat. The violinist in the Sharks was their singer and writer Eric Gradman -a huge talent who deserves more journalism than I do. When the Sharks were around, I was playing with a much less fashionable band (Poor Tom's Poetry Band) that was a wonderful bunch of eccentrics who allowed me to experiment with a huge range of styles from free jazz to C&W. Secondly, Steve Braund from Cybertron was a sax player and more importantly a synth player. As far as I know, Steve was streets ahead of anyone in the use of synths at the the time the album I did with him (Monster Planet) was released. The drummer on the album was Gil Matthews, the drummer from Billy Thorpe's band the Aztecs. Jim Keays from the Masters Apprentices sang on the album.
I have digitally remastered Punk Power as well as a whole album of tracks that plot my musical journey from pre to post Punk Power days. I'm still wondering what to do with the album so I'm reluctant to post anyone Punk Power yet.The bass player on Punk Power was Mark Ferrie (later of the Models, Sacred Cowboys, Autodrifters and heaps more). Mark, together with Ash Wednesday and Johnny Crash joined with Sean Kelly a few months after the PP sessions to form the Models. Jaryl Wirth was absolutely amazing: so fluent and creative.
Sorry to go on... but I thought your readers should know this. Thanks so much for the blog -it great to keep some of this information out there.

James Vyhnal said...

btw James Vyhnal is an alias for Henry Vyhnal. The blog used it before I could change it back. Sorry.

headcaver said...

In the early/mid eighties, I put together a comilation album of Melbourne punk bands called "EAT YOUR HEAD". It had bands like VICIOUS CIRCLE, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVY etc. One of the bands, called "SCUM" covered the HENRY VYHNAL track "PUNK POWER" under the name "GIVE THE KID A GUN".

I remember Fred Negro hearing the record for the first time saying "I know the guy who wrote that!

The album is available here:
http://systemsabotagechaos.blogspot.com/2008/07/va-eat-your-head-2x12.html

Henry Vyhnal said...

Yeah, I knew about the Scum thing. Some of my students had learnt Punk Power and I used to play it with them at parties. They told me about the Scum recording and eventually played it for me. They urged me to 'sue them for a million dollars'. I explained to them that it was unlikely Scum had anywhere near that amount. All I could get was probably a few bean bags, a fucked amp and a few chip wrappers. And anyway I was flattered that someone thought the song was important enough to cover. We all had a big laugh singing along with the Scum version....