Arguably the ‘Greenest’ band in Australian history, Goanna seemed comprised solely of new wave hippies whose prime concerns were the environment and improved treatment of Aborigines . . .
Formed in 1976 around the Geelong area of Melbourne (where their manager Ian Lovell ran the Eureka Hotel), Goanna signed with WEA Records early in 1982.
The band’s debut single, Solid Rock, was written by singer Shane Howard following a trip through Central Australia. The song featured the didgeridoo player from Aboriginal band No Fixed Address, Billy Inda.
Their first album Spirit Of Place debuted on the Melbourne charts at #1. The first Aussie album to do so since Skyhooks‘ 1975 blockbuster Living In The Seventies.
Second single, Razor’s Edge, reached #30 in April 1983.
Ever the band with a social conscience, Goanna released Let The Franklin Flow in May 1983 under the pseudonym Gordon Franklin and The Wilderness Ensemble, referring to the dozen or so backing singers who joined the band onstage during the live recording of the single.
Going one step further, the B-side of the single featured a well-known environmental activist speaking about why the proposal to dam Tasmania’s Franklin River was a bad thing. Riveting listening . . .
Several line-up changes later, the album Oceania (April 1985), produced the singles Common Ground (December 1984), Dangerous Dancing (May 1985) and Song For Africa (September 1985).
Oceania managed a relatively disappointing #20 on the national Australian chart and, in 1985, while the band were touring in support of the album, frontman Shane Howard was reported missing and the band had to cancel $20,000 worth of bookings.
It was believed that Howard became disillusioned with the marathon touring schedules the band undertook in order to pay off debts caused by high overheads, to say nothing of the band’s fluid and unstable line-up.
It transpired that Howard had travelled to South Australia with didgeridoo player Bart Willoughby (ex-No Fixed Address). His departure naturally signalled the end of Goanna.
Mick ‘The Reverend’ O’Connor
Peter ‘Brolga’ Coughlan