Melbourne (Australia) band Madder Lake are best remembered for their infectious single 12lb Toothbrush.
Formed in 1970, their brand of prog rock/psychedelic blues quickly became extremely popular on the local pub circuity and Madder lake appeared as an opening act at the inaugural Sunbury festival in January 1972. A year later, they were one of the headlining acts at Sunbury 1973.
One of the first bands signed to the fledgeling Mushroom label, they issued their debut single Goodbye Lollypop in February 1973 and supported The Rolling Stones at their Melbourne concert.
Debut album Stillpoint (August 1963) was an adventurous work which reached #2 in Melbourne and #11 nationally.
The next single (the aforementioned 12lb Toothbrush) reached the Top 40 in Australia (Top 10 in Melbourne) – no doubt helped by the nagging vocal hook. Andy Cowan replaced John McKinnon on keyboards.
Their second album, Butterfly Farm (April 1974), lacked the focus of their debut although it sold well.
The two singles from the LP – Butterfly Farm (April) and Booze Blues (May) – were not successful. Follow-up single It’s All In Your Head also flopped
Leaving Mushroom in 1974, Madder Lake were commissioned to write, record and perform a concept piece based around Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The project was to be funded by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) but was shelved after two years of work.
Mick Fettes and Andy Cowan left the band, with Fettes resurfacing in Bandicoot.
The band carried on as a three-piece until John McKinnon returned in 1976. The group endured three further lineup changes over the next 12 months.
The single I Get High (July 1976) was not successful and Tony Lake left the band in May 1977.
Fettes rejoined in 1978 and the band undertook a successful Australian tour. He left again in 1979.
Madder Lake never officially split up – they just stopped playing gigs or recording. A rare live performance formed part of the ‘Mushroom Evolution Concert,’ held to celebrate the label’s 10th birthday in January 1982.
Sporadic reformations have occurred. Mick Fettes passed away in November 2016. He was 65.
Many of the original band members had art school/graphic design backgrounds – hence the name ‘Madder Lake’. It’s a pigment obtained when making dye from the root of the madder plant. It’s one of the oldest natural pigments in the world.