Australian television has delivered its audiences some absolute doozies over the years. Amid the slosh, the predictable repartee of failed sitcom after failed sitcom, the sleazy guise of “current affairs” shows that are actually more tabloid, trashy and irrelevant to the state of the world than Kim Kardashian’s latest arse selfie, and the poorly plotted, first draft scripted soap operas that for some bizarre reason reach stratospheric proportions in the United Kingdom, is an entire archive of random, spontaneous or just downright batshit crazy moments of viewing bliss and hilarity.
*Fade in/fade out shimmery dream sequence number one…
Ah, yes. Remember the time that Iggy Pop all but got himself a restraining order after haranguing, corralling and hounding poor old Aussie music svengali Molly Meldrum during an interview prior to a fittingly disinterested mime performance of ‘I’m Bored’ on hit TV show, Countdown? Remember?
*Fade in/fade out shimmery dream sequence number two…
Or, there was the time when retro-theremin pioneers the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion obliterated the set belonging to low budget weekend morning music show, Recovery, into smithereens. That performance sure snapped me out of my semi-comatose acid-fried Saturday morning lethargy.
But -and here’s the big one- the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme, the performance with the je ne se quois to end all other performances with that certain je ne se quois’ came schlonging through my parents television set during the innocence of November 1988 on a late night television show called ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’.
For it was that night, fateful perhaps, as I was sitting in my freshly pressed summer pyjamas at the family tv tray schlooping my Kraft macaroni & cheese, when a band of hairy, unsettling and naked men took centre stage, an off-the-cuff live television performance that would set church congregations, old folks homes and concerned ‘PMRC‘ type parents groups collective tongues wagging to the point of blister.
Forming in 1986 out of the pus-bubbles of wild ‘n’ psychotic avant-nouveau acts like Sydney’s Salamander Jim and Adelaide’s Bloodloss, Lubricated Goat -thanks to the unstable yet imaginative mind of frontman Stu Spasm- set about not only to raise the stakes of an already artfully vital Sydney music scene, they thought that it might be nice to completely obliterate it.
After signing to iconic local label Black Eye records -a subsidiary of the hugely successful Red Eye records- “The Goat” set about recording and releasing a debut masterpiece. And that’s what is was. ‘Play the Devil’s Music’ -a swampy twenty-eight minute homage to all that is Beefheart with the world- was released in mid-1987 to a few tone deaf ears and a plague of chirping crickets. The album was just that brilliant in its inaccessibility! Tracks like opener ‘Jason the Unpopular’ ‘Frotting With Ennio’ and the Ornette Coleman/Edgard Varese/Hanna Barbera inspired instrumental ‘Anal Injury’ all poke fun at the wishy-washy, repulse with a vehement potty-mouthed spew and incite and revive a once dying art form, a sort of dadaist slap in the face with a wet fish.
But it was the band’s 1988 magnum opus ‘Paddock of Love’ that took hold of the collective consciousness of the disillusioned, inebriated and wholly unwell underground population of Australia’s east coast. Here we have a more sophisticated -for want of a better term- slowed down succession of psychotropic laden soundscapes filled to the brim with down-in-the-mud wordsmithery like…
“You come in my room, when I’m not home
And you take off your clothes, and you drip on the floor
In The Raw… Raaaaw!”
-Lubricated Goat “In the Raw” (1988, Black Eye Records)
“My dead but tender body, for dining shall be fit,
To send to Kampuchea, for a Funeral on a Spit”
-Lubricated Goat “Funeral on a Spit” (1988, Black Eye Records)
Which segues us back seamlessly and oh-so-professionally to the whimsical spontaneity of Australian television.
November 1988 and ABC TV’s ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ is rating through the roof providing the government funded network with a much needed bolster. The show’s host, Andrew Denton, is relatively new to the scene but already he has shown that he is a unique individual, smart, cuttingly witty and a personable commodity that the ABC can wheel out on a semi-regular basis whenever the proverbial ratings shit hits the fan. Everybody loved him.
Enter The Goat!
With strategically placed guitars acting as vine leaf, the band kick it off, miming and lip-syncing their way through a sludgy, uncoiling intro. But frontman Stu Spasm had other ideas. Cradling his guitar like a baby, he proceeds to nonchalantly, yet somewhat violently, lullaby the instrument (his guitar, not his… ahem… organ) into submission, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. This of course repeatedly exposed his genitals to a live nationwide audience who for the most part were aghast, flustered and on the warpath.
There was no censor sign. That was attached to the clip later.
For four-and-a-half minutes, Lubricated Goat gyrated, thrusted and wormed their way around the soundstage, Spasm adorned in only a devil horns top hat, drummer Brett Ford sheepishly grinning to himself, with bassist and future Mudhoney superstar Guy Maddison and guitarist Pete Hartley exposing perhaps a little more than intended with each awkward squat. *You know that wasted space that lays between the balls and sphincter? That made it to TV. Hurray!
The lyrics didn’t much please the culturally boring baby boomers who ruled the country at that time, but thirty years later, one particular lyric became the inspiration for this very series…
“You’ve been touching all of my own personal things again, going through my sock drawer
Sniffing my dirty washing, all this and more you do
In The Raw… Raaaaw!”
The panicky aftermath meant that of course the band gained a cult following. Do the do-gooders never learn?
1989 saw the release of the ‘Schadenfreude’ EP, a permissible yet less impressive collection of tracks that went largely unnoticed. But the die had been cast. The Goat’s sound had evolved. Nothing had been shed from the previous two albums, the rawness, the harsh guitars, the thumpity-thump drums and drone bass were all still very much front and centre, yet a sticky snowball of a more advanced experimentation and a drug-addled whimsy of disturbance had announced not only their presence, but their intentions.
By 1990’s ‘Psychedelicatessen’, Lubricated Goat had honed their craft to the point of sonically-warped Beefheartian perfection. So-much-so that the band’s wild, jittery screechings, dystopian lyrics and humorous outlook had them being compared to acid-baked dog lovers, Butthole Surfers.
In actual fact, it was songs like ‘Stroke’ ‘Give Chance a Piece’ and the unforgettable rock-tease of ‘Never Know What Hit You’ that helped shape the template of future Butthole Surfers recordings such as ‘Goofy’s Concern’ and ‘Alcohol’.
Make no mistake, despite the obligatory one-too-many releases, 1994’s ‘Forces You Don’t Understand’, Lubricated Goat were a misunderstood force and a key contributor and founding member of Sydney’s crucially influential Black Eye scene, which together with the Sydney/Adelaide crossover between Aberrant Records bands such as King Snake Roost and in particular on-again-off-again Goat member Martin Bland’s Bloodloss, formed one of the most underrated, overlooked yet highly influential scenes of the late eighties/early nineties.
With a list of bands and artists consisting of Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner, Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne, Tom Hazelmeyer of Amphetamine Reptile records, the Butthole Surfers and many more too numerous to mention all singing the praises and admitting inspiration from Lubricated Goat and Black Eye bands of a similar ilk, it’s little wonder that this Sydney-centric clique will go down in history as a vitally important, unbearably ruthless and absurdly influential scene not only in the land down under, but indeed right across the globe.