Style: Progressive Psychedelic Blues
Lineup: Gulliver Smith (Vocals), Russell Smith (Guitar and Vocals) John McInerny (Drums), Tim Partridge (Bass) & Jeremy Noone (Sax)
In a period with its fair share of greats, the legendary Company Caine stands out as one of the most remarkable bands to emerge from the fertile early-70s Melbourne scene. During its all too brief career and through constantly changing line-ups, the group established itself as the cult band par excellence, renowned for their extraordinary and adventurous music, and for the magnetic stage presence and cosmic-comic lyrics of singer Gulliver (Gullifer) Smith. Although the group was short-lived, they lasted long enough to make one of the best records of the period, their extraordinary 1971 album A Product Of A Broken Reality.
Many Australians will be familiar with Gulliver's work thanks to his lyrics for the John Farnham hit "A Touch Of Paradise", (co-written with Daddy Cool's Ross Wilson), but Company Caine remains one of the most shamefully neglected and overlooked bands in Australian music History.
Gulliver (whose given name is Kevin) got his start in the mid-60s on Melbourne's booming dance/disco circuit; his first major group was the popular soul band Little Gulliver and the Children. They scored a local Top 40 hit in Melbourne with a reworking of Larry William's "Short Fat Fannie" which went to #29 locally in September 1965. They released a couple of singles and one self-titled EP on the W&G label in 1966.
In 1967 Gulliver moved to Sydney and formed Dr Kandy's Third Eye (1967-8). Reputed to be one of Australia's first psychedelic bands, they used films, slides and other psychedelic lighting effects during their performances. Besides Gulliver, the lineups of Dr Kandy during this period featured some very interesting names - two other future Co. Caine alumni, Mal Capewell (reeds) and Arthur Eizenburg (bass), famed vocalist Alison McCallum, drummer Daryl McKenzie (aka Lefty Zarsoff), later of Nutwood Rug, Jeannie Lewis Band and The Fabulous Zarsoff Bros, and organist Ian Walsh (Levi Smiths Clefs, Python Lee Jackson).
After Dr Kandy's broke up, Gulliver was involved in a series of intruigingly-named 'underground' bands from 1968-70: Time and the Forest Flower (described as playing "soul with a lot of underground things"); A Love Supreme, a jazz-oriented outfit, which included future Flying Circus bassist Terry Wilkins, and Ripped Family Marches, which, reportedly played "heavy versions of bubblegum music" and which changed its name to the even odder Ripped Family Rocket Machine Men in early 1970.
Gulliver returned to Melbourne. In March 1970 he and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Noone (ex-Lipp Arthur, Sons Of The Vegetal Mother) combined with the final four-piece lineup of Cam-Pact (Ray Arnott, Clif Edwards, Russell Smith and Greg Blissett) and the band was renamed Company Caine. Acccording to Clif Edwards, "Eli Klamm", whose name appears in listings of the band at this period, was a pseudonym for Jerry Noone.
Over the next 12 months the group's reputation grew, but there were more lineup changes, beginning with Ray Arnott. He left in July to join Matt Taylor's Genesis for two months, before replacing Mark Kennedy in Spectrum. Arnott was replaced by Eric Cairns (ex-Somebody's Image, Heart'n'Soul) who left around Sept. 1970 and was eventually replaced by John "Ernie" McInerny, from The Foreday Riders. About the same time Clif Edwards was replaced by Tim Partridge, who apparently stayed only a few months. Partridge went on to become one of the most in-demand bass players in the country during the late '70s and '80s, and now teaches bass at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music.
Gulliver's stage presence helped to earn Company Caine renown for their stage performances, and as the group came together they amassed a strong set of strikingly original material co-written by Gulliver, Russell Smith and Jerry Noone. They became established as one of the leading attractions on the Melbourne 'head' circuit, gigging alongside bands like Spectrum, Sons of the Vegetal Mother, Tully and the (new) Aztecs. In the words of Ian McFarlane, "... the band's music was more expansive, more 'out there' than just about every band of the day". But this should not be taken to mean that the music was wilfully obscure or 'difficult'. In fact, notwithstanding the 'freaky' and experimental elements, it was a unique amalgam of rock, pop, blues, soul, R&B, jazz and avant-garde that was both challenging and accessible. Another key feature was the surreal humour that pervaded their work. The fact remains that their music could - and should - have reached a far wider audience.
By mid-1971, the band had gelled into the "classic" lineup -- Gullifer, Russell Smith, Jerry Noone, Ian Mawson, Arthur Eizenberg and John "Ernie" McInerney.