Lobby Loyde is a name many people may not know of beyond Australian shores, but for any fan of rock and roll throughout the 1960’s and ‘70’s there would have been very few fans of rock under the age of thirty who had not heard of him, or at least heard his music. Lobby was a guitar legend extraordinaire, a man who looked as rough as he lived, and who recorded a series of ground-breaking albums, full of heavy chords and flame-on riffage of such skill and imagination to make many other guitarists scratch their temples and send them back to musical kindergarten. Billy Thorpe may have been the King of pub rock, but Lobby was no doubt the innovator, and the thinking man’s instrumentalist.
However, by the late 1970’s, elongated and intelligent guitar solos were no longer what most people wanted to hear. The new wave was in, where bands such as The Sports, Mi-Sex, INXS, and Australian Crawl were the dominating forces re-shaping popular culture. Many people were more interested in sharp, punchy pop songs instead of loose, extended jam-oriented material, a style which was considered somewhat passé by the time this obscure diamond was put to tape. Loyde had spent three years in London, not only touring but also mixing for bands such as Doll by Doll and Devo. When he arrived back in Australia he teamed up with drummer Gil Matthews, Gavin Carroll, and Mandu, a singer who released one classic album before disappearing into the forest of obscurity.
The album kicks off with “Crazy as a Loon”, a high-intensity rocker, where everyone plays with the sort of power that could launch a missile into outer space. However due to a faulty microphone on the night, Mandu had to re-record his vocals, but not that you’d notice, as the sound itself is perfect in every way. The only downside is that it fades out, leaving the listener to wonder what may have followed. Next is the guitar intensive “Weekend Paradise (Part 2)”, a song which pre-dates the grunge movement by about twenty years (no wonder Kurt Cobain had his albums in his collection). And at 13 minutes it’s a high-octane expression of electric sophistication, almost symphonic in places. “Media re-make” is a bit of a toss off, song-wise, however there are some wonderful prog-rock moments here and there, which makes the whole experience worthwhile. And speaking of prog-rock, “Sympathy in D” is like Billy Cobham meets heavy metal, albeit with a psychedelic undercurrent. Gil Matthews’ drumming is absolutely stellar. Obviously some thought went into the arrangement, which is precisely what it is; a thinking man’s workout with some David Gilmour inspired flourishes, albeit in a hard rock working man’s sort of way. And at thirteen minutes, it certainly takes it out on you.
“Gypsy in my Soul” is another galactic hard-rocker, with impassioned vocals by Mandu, taking you into the outer regions of the Milky Way and probably even as far as Andromeda. The LP ends with the instrumental “Flying Scotsman”, an experimental piece, which contains a recording of a steam train, and is a somewhat unusual way to round-up what is overall an extremely invigorating experience.
The performance itself wouldn’t even exist without the interest of Sydney radio station 2-JJ, who approached Loyde stating that they wanted to record his gig at Manly Flicks for a live-to-air-broadcast. However it wasn’t until about a year or so later that Mushroom Records would release it on vinyl. Now whether it sold at all, I have no idea. Except what I do know is that copies of the original album sell for rather large sums, so a big thank you to Aztec Music for reissuing this obscure classic. And in true Aztec tradition, we have four bonus tracks taken from a live performance in 2000, which sees Loyde and Co. rip it up just like he did in the old days, proving that he hadn’t lost his mojo in the slightest (his reinterpretation of “Heartbreak Hotel” is especially radical).
Why Lobby Loyde’s music has never received the proper recognition it deserves outside Australia remains something of a mystery. Geographical distance has always been the enemy for many an Australian artist, for sure, but perhaps it also comes down to timing. Loyde was a pioneer, a musical maverick, and someone who was his own animal, and a spirit which couldn’t be tamed. However unless you were Pink Floyd, by the late 1970’s, and early ‘80’s, long, extended guitar solos were out of fashion with the majority of youth. Even the sharpies and skinheads, many of whom were both fervent followers of Loyde, had become extinct (probably not a bad thing in the eyes of some people). Still, we the modern-day listeners should be thankful that this music is being preserved and presented to us in such a thoughtful and respectful manner. For any lover of the electric guitar, especially of the Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, and Tony Iommi variety, one can’t go past a little Lobby Loyde on occasion.