’The Jack Roars Back’ by Michael Smith
Published in the Drum Media, 8 August 1995.
The 80s saw not only rock and pop revitalised by the shock waves created by the punk revolution, but also the previously esoteric folk rock genre, with tougher, more street wise outfits like The Pogues, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and, moving into the 90s, The Levellers, among many bands blowing away the faerie dust.
In Sydney, it was a raggle taggle band of larrikins called Roaring Jack that led the charge, fronted by Scots expatriate Alistair Hulett ably assisted by accordionist Steph Miller, drummer Steve Thompson, guitarist Bob Mannell and bass player Dave Williams. Together they whipped up a Celtic-flavoured storm with their biting lyrics and charming wit, Rolling Stone going so far as to predict they could be the Next Big Thing in 1987. They released a mini-album, Street Celtabillity, and two albums, Cat Among the Pigeons and Through the Smoke of Innocence, with Mighty Boy Records and then it was all over.
This weekend, however, they’re back, for two shows anyway, and I caught up with Alistair Hulett to discover why.
’I got a phone call out of the blue. I’d forgotten all about Roaring Jack for the time being and lo and behold I got a call from our ex-manager Andrew Thomas asking if I’d be in it and I said yeah, because it had never been an acrimonious parting, I’d always been very happy to get together with the guys. It hadn’t happened before because there was always somebody unable to do it at that time. This time we were all available and keen to do it and two rehearsals and it’s like we’ve never been apart’.
Just why they never really broke out of Newtown and the Sandringham, despite great reviews and a couple of successful low key tours is one of those questions no one will ever be able to answer. The fact they were signed to a label that ultimately hadn’t the finances of the clout didn’t help.
’No regrets. It was great fun. We were released in Germany and Canada and available as an import in Britain. We still get letters asking what we’re doing. But the music we played I don’t think was ever going to make us a household name. That was never the intention. Too much politics. Our not becoming the Next Big Thing had more than a little to do with the content of the songs. They may have played Midnight Oil [on commercial radio] but there’s a lot of ideological difference between a conservationist and a revolutionary Marxist!’
Steph is playing with Eva Trout, Alistair has his career with The Hooligans and has another solo album in the works so this is definitely just a one-off reunion, a bit of nostalgia.
Roaring Jack play the Annandale Thursday 10 August and the Sandringham Hotel Newtown Saturday 12.
Back to Roaring Jack Articles
Roaring Jack Archives - Home