Still a party in the Mentals rock club
THE nips may not be getting any bigger, but the good times keep flowing for Mental As Anything. They were famously paid with beer for their first pub gig – now they’re a hit on the club circuit.
It started in the Cellblock Theatre at East Sydney Tech on August 16, 1977 – the same night Midnight Oil and what was to become INXS made their debuts.
‘‘Our longest line-up started the day after Elvis died,’’ original Mentals member Greedy Smith says.
‘‘We had a gig that night at the art school, we did a few Elvis songs with a big backdrop of the face of The King.’’
It was the time when pub rock bands began to define the 1970s and ’80s.
‘‘It was fairly exciting for us,’’ Smith says. ‘‘There were no TV talent shows . . . if you had a few people who could play you just went to a pub and asked, ‘Can we play here?’
‘‘Video shops really hadn’t taken off at that stage, there was no internet, there were a couple of rock shows around. People felt really close to it, in relatively small pubs every night of the week.
‘‘We played six nights a week for years and years and we’ve slowed to 120 now, which is hardly playing, just to keep our memories going.’’
The band was formed by Reg Mombassa, Martin Plaza, Wayne ‘‘Bird’’ Delisle, Peter O’doherty and Smith – each an accomplished visual artist in his own right. But only Smith and Plaza remain on the circuit today.
After a recent change to its rhythm section, Mental As Anything have ‘‘let the records be musical director’’ to help recapture that original sound.
‘‘It’s up and down, up and down,’’ Smith says of the music industry.
‘‘We were constantly reminded of becoming nobodies all the time – any time you do get success or recognition you really do bask in it.
‘‘We’re lucky that we seem to have jumped a barrier. I don’t know what that barrier is but we seem to have people who know our songs.’’
Mental As Anything shows in 2012 are like ‘‘somebody in their mid-50s trying to tap into something from their mid-20s,’’ Smith says.
‘‘When you start they say: Don’t go into the clubs circuit because people don’t take you seriously,’’ he says.
‘‘When we were younger we thought all the old fogeys went to the club – but now we’re old. I think you have to bring your own party to these places.’’
Mental as Anything play Cudgen Leagues Club tomorrow and Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern on Saturday.
Enduring songs make Mental As Anything a hit on the club circuit.