The Radio Birdman saga began in Sydney, Australia, in 1973 with The Rats – a band comprising Mick Lynne on bass, Rob Younger on vocals, Warwick Gilbert on guitar and Ron Keeley on drums.
At the same time, Deniz Tek – raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan – had left the frigid North to attend medical school in sunny Sydney and was playing with a band called TV Jones.
In November 1974, Tek, Gilbert, Keeley, Younger and keyboard player Pip Hoyle (a classmate of Tek’s at med school) joined forces as Radio Birdman. Hoyle left and was replaced by Chris Masuak.
They won the RAM magazine ‘Sydney Punk Band Thriller’ and became locally established as the loudest and most menacing band in Sydney. Fitting for a band that included a former paratrooper on bass, a drummer who used to be in the Australian Navy and a future jet-fighter pilot on guitar . . .
After an independent EP called Burn My Eye and an independent album called Radio’s Appear the band went to England, with Hoyle rejoining.
Aloha Steve & Danno (which incorporated one of the greatest riffs ever written – the theme to the Hawaii Five-O TV show) was one of a small cache of tracks recorded for inclusion on the overseas version of Radios Appear: a new, improved edition of the album completed at the behest of Sire Records boss Seymour Stein, who’d signed the band to an international deal whilst in town signing The Saints.
In addition to updated versions of some tracks, these sessions also produced a murderous take of The 13th Floor Elevators‘ You’re Gonna Miss Me, a cool number co-written by Tek and Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton called Hit Them Again, and prime Birdman jams What Gives and Non-Stop Girls.
Sire took the band to London, with a pummelling farewell show in Sydney recorded for posterity.
Hard rockers with a keyboard, Radio Birdman struggled in a punk-obsessed UK and went down badly with critics and audiences alike. One review ended; “They should pack their Qantas kit bags and head back to Kangaroo-land”.
While recording the lean Living Eyes LP in Wales, Sire ran into financial troubles and had to drop most of their acts, including Radio Birdman. The album wasn’t released until 1981, by which time the band had broken up.
Tek and Hoyle resumed their medical residencies, playing occasionally. Keeley stayed in the UK and entered advertising. Gilbert became a leading illustrator for Disney studios. Masuak formed a full-time band, The Hitmen. Younger formed a series of bands including The New Christs and became an independent record producer.
In 1981, with Birdman records still percolating through a vibrant independent music scene, Tek asked Younger, Gilbert, former MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson and Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton to join him for ‘little quickie’ tour of Australia. They named themselves New Race, the title of Birdman’s final single, played 14 shows and drew 12,000 people – one of the most successful pub tours of the year.