Back on the sunny side

The Sun­ny­boys re­unite for three shows – two of them on the Coast – against in­cred­i­ble odds, writes Kathy McCabe

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE ’N’ LOUD -

LIKE star­ing too long at the retina-fry­ing yel­low which was their trade­mark, look­ing too long at the Sun­ny­boys seemed des­tined to turn them to dust. For those whose youth was sound­tracked by the songs which made them burn so brightly on our air­waves 30 years ago – Happy Man, Alone With You, Show Me Some Dis­ci­pline, You Need A Friend, Love In A Box – would feel the same goose­bumps now.

That feel­ing of good­will is only height­ened in 2013 by the fact that Sun­ny­boys have man­aged to re­unite against unimag­in­able odds.

Af­ter four heady years in the early 1980s when they signed with Michael Gudin­ski’s Mushroom records only six months af­ter their first gig, the Gold Coas­treared Sun­ny­boys dis­in­te­grated.

The post-punk power pop band who had found suc­cess among their main­stream peers in­clud­ing Midnight Oil, INXS, Men­tal As Any­thing and The Mod­els, faded out too soon.

Sub­se­quent re­leases en­joyed less suc­cess af­ter their stel­lar de­but and the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health of front­man Jeremy Ox­ley ruled out a com­mit­ment to a full­time tour­ing and record­ing band.

It was later re­vealed that Ox­ley was suf­fer­ing schizophre­nia and while he reignited the band name at var­i­ous times in the in­ter­ven­ing years, it wasn’t un­til last year that a semi-reg­u­lar Sun­ny­boys fea­tur­ing its orig­i­nal mem­bers seemed at all vi­able.

His brother, Peter, re­calls the cat­a­lyst for their most un­ex­pected re­union. Their mates from those early days, The Hoodoo Gu­rus, de­cided to stage a mini in­ner-city fes­ti­val called Dig It Up! which cel­e­brated its sec­ond an­niver­sary last month, and con­tacted Peter sug­gest­ing he and his brother may want to do an acous­tic set un­der a pseu­do­nym. No pres­sure. Just if you want to.

For years, in­dus­try pro­mot­ers and agents had chased the band but they just couldn’t do it. There were no guar­an­tees when it came to Jeremy’s health.

‘‘Ini­tially, it was maybe an acous­tic set for me and Jeremy to play. I put it to him and Jeremy said ‘No. Let’s play elec­tric’ I asked him if he meant ev­ery­body, the band. He made the de­ci­sion to say he felt con­fi­dent enough to want to play,’’ Peter says.

So, orig­i­nal mem­bers Richard Burgman and Bill Bil­son, from Kingscliff, were sum­moned and un­der the pseu­do­nym Kids In Dust, Sun­ny­boys per­formed at Syd­ney’s En­more Theatre at the fes­ti­val and a le­gend was re­born. You could feel the good­will then and it has been ev­i­dent at the hand­ful of gigs since.

While peo­ple are aware of Jeremy’s con­di­tion, it doesn’t mat­ter when he is on­stage and in full front­man mode, per­form­ing the songs the au­di­ence love.

‘‘I think we feel very lucky and priv­i­leged to be able to play. We never thought we would be able to again be­cause of Jeremy’s ill­ness and him not be­ing in a good place and hav­ing enough con­fi­dence to ac­tu­ally per­form in front of peo­ple,’’ Peter says.

More one-offs were added. At the same time, a doc­u­men­tary was be­ing made about Jeremy’s life deal­ing with his ill­ness and his now-wife Mary and her in­flu­ence on his health. The plan­ets aligned for the film, which was two years in the mak­ing, and yet an­other gig – to be staged at the Syd­ney Opera House for the an­nual Vivid Fes­ti­val. Peter ad­mits that ev­ery time he is ap­proached to book a show he won­ders if the pres­sure will be too much for his brother.

The band will warm up for the film launch and Opera House show with two highly an­tic­i­pated, ex­clu­sive home-town gigs at the Coolan­gatta Ho­tel this month.

‘‘It’s very scary; we just want to be good. And we will be. We will have a good time,’’ Peter says.

‘‘For the peo­ple who see the doc­u­men­tary (at the Syd­ney pre­miere) and then see Jeremy walk on stage and per­form, they will have some in­sight into his pain and what he has to deal with.’’

The Sun­ny­boys, Not OK and Red­glo play the Coolan­gatta Ho­tel on May 24-25. Tick­ets are $45 + book­ing fee.

Above: The Sun­ny­boys (from left): Peter Ox­ley, Richard Burgman, Bill Bil­son and Jeremy Ox­ley. Be­low: The band in 1982 (from left): Burgman, Bil­son and Peter and Jeremy.

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