Sydney band The Sunnyboys remain one of the most highly regarded and best-loved bands of the Australian ‘post-punk’ era.
Led by 18-year-old singer/lead guitarist/songwriter Jeremy Oxley, The Sunnyboys debuted in August 1980 and within a matter of months had enraptured the inner-city scene in Sydney, and were well on their way to national chart success.
Essentially The Sunnyboys wore their influences on their sleeve; The Remains, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Kinks and The Beatles with a dash of Detroit muscle thrown in for good measure. They produced melodic power pop classics and were rewarded with an immediate positive response.
Things happened very quickly for The Sunnyboys, who went from playing inner-city venues to scoring hit singles for the prestigious Mushroom label all within a year of formation. What set the band apart in many ways was Oxley’s songwriting ability. The chemistry between the four members was perfect too.
The Oxley brothers and Bill Bilson hailed from the northern NSW town of Kingscliff where they played in a garage band called Wooden Horse. Richard Burgman came from Wagga, and they all met in Sydney in 1979, forming The Sunnyboys in 1980.
In October of that year, the band recorded four songs with Lobby Lloyd. The tracks – Love To Rule, The Seeker, What You Need and the mighty Alone With You – all appeared on the band’s self-titled and independently released 4-track EP. The initial pressing of 1,000 copies sold out in two weeks.
The Sunnyboys signed to Mushroom records early in 1981 and by July that year had cracked the mainstream charts with the single Happy Man. The same month they released their own independent EP which was given away at gigs, entitled Happy Birthday containing the tracks What You Need, Why Do I Cry?, I Want To Be Alone and Let You Go.
Their eponymous debut LP reached #13 on the national charts in October and remains an Australian classic.
The album produced a second hit single, a new version of Alone With You which established The Sunnyboys as a bona fide headline attraction.
In the midst of their heavy touring schedule, the band recorded their second album, Individuals (issued May 1982). The album peaked at #19 and two singles from the record charted briefly; You Need A Friend and This Is Real.
Their fifth single, Show Me Some Discipline charted in Sydney only. The band meanwhile travelled to the UK where they played two sold-out shows at the famous Marquee Club before recording their third album at Ridgefarm Studios, Surrey.
The resultant album, Get Some Fun displayed a greater diversity and more confident musicianship.
To coincide with the album’s release, the band embarked on their first national Australian tour since May 1983. Unfortunately, neither the LP or the singles from the album (Love In A Box and Comes As No Surprise) charted strongly enough.
Internal dissent also plagued the band and The Sunnyboys announced their break-up in June 1984.
Their farewell tour produced the album Real Live which was recorded over two nights in Sydney (29th and 30th June).
In 1985, the French label Closer combined The Sunnyboys’ first two albums as a double set entitled Days Are Gone for the European market.
Following the demise of The Sunnyboys, Jeremy Oxley launched a new band called Chinless Elite. Shortly thereafter he formed another (and more successful) group, called The Fishermen. This band released one brilliant pop single entitled Can’t You Stop? on the independent Waterfront label before calling it a day.
Richard Burgman meanwhile joined The Saints and ultimately Weddings Parties Anything. He later emigrated to Canada. Peter Oxley and Bill Bilson formed the soul band The Sparklers with another Oxley sibling, Melanie.
In late 1987, Jeremy Oxley attempted to revive The Sunnyboys with a new line-up. The new band signed a deal with RCA and released an album entitled Wildcat (produced by ex-Sherbet keyboard player, Garth Porter).
The album failed to convince old Sunnyboys fans and the band broke up again in 1990.
In July 1991, Mushroom released the compilation album Plays The Best and the original line-up reunited for a national tour.
I was fortunate enough to catch this reunion at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney in 1991 and I’m here to tell you that despite the extra weight, a few wrinkles and some wedding rings, this band still had IT in bucket loads.