The members of Australian Crawl all hailed from the Mount Eliza area on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. The band came together in 1978 after James Reyne and Simon Binks’ first band (called ‘Spliff Roach’) broke up.
Australian Crawl’s accessible sound bore a particular Melbourne resonance, with its fresh and appealing combination of wry social observation, bright guitar licks and vital energy all welded to a sweaty backbeat.
After playing their first live gig in October 1978, Australian Crawl ventured onto the Melbourne pub circuit, initially gaining popularity with university students and inner-city audiences.
It was their repertoire of intrinsically Australian songs that brought the band to the attention of producer David Briggs (also the guitarist for Little River Band). Briggs was looking for opportunities to expand his interests outside LRB.
Prior to recording, disaster intervened. Reyne was returning from Tullamarine Airport after a meeting with EMI in Sydney when he was struck by a car in Swanston Street, Melbourne. For several weeks, Reyne’s two broken arms prevented the band from working.
Undeterred and in plaster, Reyne and the Crawl went ahead with their first sessions and came up with Beautiful People. The band went on tour with The Knack and appeared on Countdown (still with Reyne in plaster). Countdown also featured the group in a documentary called “How to make a record”.
Beautiful People became an instant hit, followed up by the LP The Boys Light Up which reached #4 on the national album chart and produced the singles The Boys Light Up and Downhearted. The band went on to sell over 250,000 albums – Australian Crawl was on the way.
Their Next Album, Sirocco, went straight to #1 and stayed in the Top 20 for over eight months, producing the hit singles Things Don’t Seem, Errol and Oh No, Not You Again.
On the wave of this popularity and with two #1 Albums they toured extensively playing to huge crowds at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl (100,000), Sydney’s Domain (90,000), the Narara Rock festival (70,000), plus attendance records were smashed at indoor venues in Brisbane and Perth.
After a short break, the band travelled to Hawaii where they recorded the Sons of Beaches album (with producer Mike Chapman) which again went to #1 and established them as one of Australia’s biggest acts. The band was propelled into the spotlight again with the release of an EP called Semantics which also shot to #1 and boasted a great song called Reckless (Don’t Be So).
In 1982/83, James Reyne tried his hand at an acting career. His less-than-Academy-Award-performance in uber-soap Return to Eden was proof enough that his forte was singing (although even his vocal style and enunciation have been much lampooned).
The live mini-album Phalanx was little more than a stop-gap between studio albums, but it reached #4 nevertheless. The band’s biggest break came when Duran Duran took them out as support on a UK tour.
In early 1984, prestigious US label Geffen signed the band and released Semantics (a compilation of tracks from their past records) for the American market.
The band was forced off the road when guitarist Guy McDonough was admitted to a Melbourne hospital. He died in 1984 of viral pneumonia.
Australian Crawl re-grouped, adding Mark Greig on guitar for live dates in late 1984. The band recorded Between A Rock And A Hard Place with English producer Adam Kidron.
As well as costing just under half a million dollars to produce, the album was a commercial disaster. The band had to tour constantly for most of 1985 simply to pay off the debt.
Unsurprisingly disillusioned, the band had run its course by the end of ’85, and called it a day at the beginning of 1986. Their final concert on 27 January was recorded and released in October as an album called The Final Wave.
James Reyne went on to pursue a successful solo career while Brad Robinson moved into television. Robinson died on 13 October 1996 – only weeks after Australian Crawl were inducted into the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame – after a three-year battle with lymphoma.