The Eastern Dark is one of the best respected Australian rock bands of the Eighties. With a mix of Sixties-via-Ramones pop smarts, hard rock crunch and punkish energy, their slim output has produced a world-wide cult awareness. If they're not quite as well known as other Sydney groups of the period like the Hard-Ons or Beasts Of Bourbon, it's because a tragic, on-tour road accident claimed the life of singer/songwriter/guitarist James Darroch.
In early 1984 Darroch's bass playing role with the Celibate Rifles wasn't working out. It was obvious to all that the time had come for James to lead his own band. Switching from bass to guitar, Darroch enlisted drummer Geoff Milne, who he'd jammed with at a party, and Bill Gibson, best known at the time as sometime MC and backing vocalist for the Lime Spiders. After a couple of rehearsals the three piece was christened the Eastern Dark, after the locale where the baddies come from in long running comic The Phantom. They started gigging that May.
The group achieved early notoriety for their habit of opening their sets with a Ramones song; in fact playing each Ramones song once only in chronological/album listing order. A growing audience followed them as much for heir on stage goofiness and strong harmonies as their no nonsense rock. By early '85 the group was ready to record a single. Released in July and produced by Rob Younger, 'Julie Is A Junkie/Johnny And Dee Dee' was hailed as a power pop classic in underground press the world over. An inspired homage to the Ramones, it even got the group some mail from da Brudders.
With Rob Younger again at the helm, the band put to tape the mini-album Long Live The New Flesh, with which their scope was widened without losing any power or immediacy. With a cassette of the freshly mixed record with them, the band routinely set off for the 900km drive to Melbourne for some shows when tragedy struck. The EP was released soon after to a mixture of wonder at its contents and renewed grief for such potential cut short.
After lengthy convalescences, both Geoff Milne and Bill Gibson resumed their performing and recording careers. Milne can be heard on releases by the Plunderers and Red Planet Rocketts, while Gibson recorded for releases by Smelly Tongues, Hellmen, New Christs, Hey! Charger and the Lemonheads. In 1990, Gibson also hand picked the best available performances, from live cassette recordings, of previously unreleased Dark tunes for the Girls On The Beach (With Cars) double album. The forthcoming Half A Cow compilation makes the original single and EP available on CD for the first time while adding all the original tunes and studio outtakes from Girls On The Beach (With Cars).
Where Are All The Single Girls? (hac75) has been three years in the making (well, make that fourteen for those of us who have been waiting for these songs to appear on cd!) and includes a "definitive article" written by John Encarnacao. (this blurb from 2000)
The only known live footage of The Eastern Dark, at the Caringbah Inn in Sydney on November 2nd, 1985, performing their single Julie Is A Junkie. Thanks to Gerard Saliba for the footage.