As co-founder of The Saints, Ed Kuepper was the musical backbone of the group that was playing punk music in Brisbane, Australia, in 1975. Moving to London, The Saints were unsuccessful – while the punks wanted thrash, Kuepper and Chris Bailey were already delving into moodier, darker music.
Their last album together, Prehistoric Sounds, showed Kuepper’s songwriting heading in a direction that would be followed by the Laughing Clowns, formed when he returned to Australia in 1979.
The instrumental lineup of the Laughing Clowns, though, ensured they sounded very different from the more traditionally constructed Saints. Drummer Jeffrey Wegener’s style owed much to jazz and swing. Added to that were horns that moved from freeform wailing to ensemble riffing and, at various times, an acoustic bass, electric bass and piano.
Listening to Laughing Clowns albums such as Law Of Nature (1984), Mr Uddich Schmuddich Goes To Town (1982) or Reign Of Blood/Throne Of Terror (a 1981 release incorporating two earlier EPs), it’s hard to determine where the jazz influences stop and the post-punk rock begins.
Ed Kuepper was unquestionably the artistic core of the band, yet he always surrounded himself with talented musicians from widely varying backgrounds.
With the release of Law Of Nature in 1984 – critically acclaimed as the band’s best album to date – Kuepper seemed to have settled on a stable lineup of drummer Wegener, saxophonist Louise Elliot and bassist Peter Walsh.
It was this group that undertook a successful Australian tour early in 1984, once again proving that progressive music was acceptable to Australian live audiences, if only on a scale that allowed for a handful of 1,000-capacity shows in the larger capital cities.