ABC Studios, Ripponlea, 27th April, 4th May, 11th May & 18th May 1975.
Listen to Stephen narrate this story (and play parts of Summer Love) via Soundcloud.
Never underestimate the power of fandom to bring together and to divide. Border disputes, religious differences and political skirmishes are not much different to the passionate positioning of a pop music fan.
When I was a spotty, suburban teenager, you had just two choices. You either loved Skyhooks and hated Sherbet, or, you loved Sherbet and hated Skyhooks. No grey areas here. Although both tribes of fans would proselytise pointlessly at each other, allegiances were fixed and final. In the end you were either living in the Slipstream or Living in the Seventies. Period.
I found the music of Daryl, Tony, Clive, Alan and Garth irresistible. I didn’t listen to Skyhooks. On principle. And if I did, it was accidental. Their first single got into my ears, under my guard. Then they were all over 3XY. Couldn’t avoid them. And I might have secretly loved their blistering take on Chuck Berry’s Let It Rock. But I deliberately turned away from their musical horseplay.
These two opposing musical factions attempted to add weight to their aesthetic arguments by quoting sales figures and chart positions of their favourite group. Countdown’s weekly Top 10 was viewed by us in the same way sports-mad supporters pore over league ladders. Through late April and most of May of 1975, Sherbet’s Summer Love spent four weeks at the coveted No.1 spot, which meant that four consecutive Countdown episodes ended with the velvet tones of Gavin Wood declaring that our boys were the biggest and best in the land. For one whole month we had statistical proof that our love for Sherbet was like no other love.
(We chose to overlook the inconvenient fact that Skyhooks’ first two albums spent a total of more than six months at No.1. This annoying detail would not, and could not, impinge on our victory celebrations).
Later that year, at the TV Week King of Pop awards, Summer Love was the Most Popular Australian Single, Sherbet, Australia’s Most Popular Group, and Daryl Braithwaite was crowned King of Pop. Take that, Skyhooks.
Summer Love is a glorious example of perfect power pop. It opens with a crunching, declarative C major chord. This is what a breaking ocean wave sounds like when represented musically. Tethering the opening chord progression is a C pedal note that roars out of Clive Shakespeare’s overdriven guitar and acts like a gravitational force field that holds the shifting blasts of the band’s sound in place. Twice through this sequence, then, in true power pop fashion, the vocals enter via a heralding chorus.
Summer love is like no other love.
Three times, building, building. Then a key change to the verse.
And when that sun shines, life comes easy.
And when that sun shines, I’ll be there with you.
These lyrics contain the key to the heart of the highest of teenage hopes. Longed-for love, like no other, will appear when the breeze blows away the clouds and the summer sun shines through. Such a simple, beatific, redemptive image. No wonder these boys were exalted and deified. No wonder we were faithful disciples.
Sometime, not long after the end of high school, I sheepishly bought a ticket to one of the Skyhooks reunion shows. I was shocked: They were very, very good. I left the performance with a lesson learned. Due to my pigheaded parochialism, I’d missed out on the career of one of the truly great and important bands in Australia and I resolved never to repeat this sort of mistake.
I’m sure I still miss out on heaps of great music, but nowadays it’s down to bad luck, lack of time or opportunity. Never prejudice.
Sherbet’s sage advice: Let your love come easy and free.
My attempt at wisdom: If it sounds good, it sounds good.