When Prodigal Sons formed in Wollongong, Australia, in 1985, they were known as Instant Party (named after the flip side of The Who‘s Substitute single) and rehearsed in an old house surrounded by used-car dealerships, in a room with egg cartons stuck to every wall.
Establishing a strong local following under that name, they began to play regularly in Sydney (where they were known as Prodigal Sons) and for a while functioned with the dual identity.
Relocating to Sydney in 1986, the Instant Party moniker was discarded, as too was their original guitarist Ian Chafer. His replacement was Adam Knapp.
For the next 18 months they performed all over Sydney – even venturing as far afield as Bathurst on one memorable (for all the wrong reasons) occasion – and gained a strong following in the inner city area.
The Proddies were part of the new exciting reaction to an ageing “alternative” scene that stopped progressing with Joy Division. But the Prodigal Sons stood out from the crowd.
At long last here was a power-pop outfit not derived from the 1960s Merseybeat/paisley fallout. No, not a Lambretta or suede jacket in sight. The Proddies owed far more to the great masters of pop; people like Nick Lowe, Eric Carmen, The dB’s, The Shoes, The Rubinoos, Television and early Elvis Costello.
They are probably best remembered for the song Human Hamburger Madness which became their signature.
This song was composed as the theme to the local classic splatter film of the same name (directed by Cindy Mikul) which was screened as part of the Sydney Super-8 Film Festival in 1986, and in which the band made a cameo appearance.
Lead vocalist, bassist and chief songwriter, Dave Turner, was possessed of a powerfully emotive voice and had an ear for a melody that lingered in your head for days. The boy had no trouble penning catchy, quirky pop songs.
A number of originals stood out – Songs such as That Girl, No Secret Place, (I’m) Sorry But I’m Saved and the aforementioned paean to cannibalism and Mormonism, Human Hamburger Madness.
The Prodigal Sons understood melody, guitars, hooks, and middle-eights. Lead singer Dave Turner unashamedly wrote for teenagers – too young to remember punk let alone the 1960’s; kids for whom jangly guitars, energy, breakneck speed and manic dancing were new.
Their message rang loud in three-part harmony and power chords. Fast and tuneful music to complement the quest for fun and adventure. Prodigal Sons played music to dance, drink, live and fall in love to.
Naive and fresh, yes, but so was their audience. Their music wasn’t meant for tired old neo-hippies bogged down in the boring electro funk avant-garde of the early Eighties.
And praise be to God for a band with a sense of humour – that laughed at itself and the audience. No obsession with paisley mysticism or solemn streetwise. Instead of the serious young artist posturing of many young bands, these guys sang lyrics bristling with satire.
Their songs were punctuated with gags galore, and Dave Turner obviously revelled in his role as showman and master of ceremonies. Me, I laughed.
If, like me, you wanted to go out for a fast, sinful night and dance to a real song, you couldn’t go past the Prodigal Sons.
For a band that were together such a relatively short time, Prodigal Sons were exceptionally tight and confident.
An impressive string of support acts under their belts, they set about headlining their own gigs before sadly breaking up all too prematurely on Saturday 4 April 1987.
The band resurfaced briefly in 1989 with a new guitarist and a new name. Now known as Brigid Rang, Turner and Lane were joined by new guitarist and vocalist Shaun Wilson.
The band played a handful of concerts, unveiled a swag of terrific new songs (including Face Of The Nineties, Postcards Of London and You Haunt This Town), recorded two tracks, and then promptly broke up following a disastrous gig at the Revesby Roundhouse in Sydney’s outer West.
Following a number of solo performances (and a brief spell with Dave York’s Tractor Factory), Turner relocated to London where he formed a musical partnership with old school friend Lee Morley.
They added a token Londoner (drummer ‘Basher’ Marlow) to their Aussie/Yorkshire mix and formed Park Road Infants.
The Suede Messiah