Blow Your Speakers!
The origins of BUFFALO began in Brisbane, Queensland in 1966 when mates, Dave Tice (vocals) & Pete Wells (bass) played in a band called THE ODD COLOURS. When this band dissolved, Dave & Pete had a brief stint in STRANGE BREW (66/67) and then formed THE CAPITOL SHOW BAND later in ’67 which became highly successful in the local market.
In 1969, Dave & Pete formed the (pre-BUFFALO) band HEAD. After outgrowing their home city, the band, consisting of Dave Tice (vocals), Pete Wells (bass), Neil Jensen (guitar) and Steve Jones (drums), moved to Sydney early in 1970 where HEAD soon began to make a name for themselves. HEAD secured a residency at Sydney’s Groovey Room, but life in the city wasn’t easy which led to Neil Jensen and Steve Jones leaving the band only after a few months. They were replaced by John Baxter, (guitar, ex-MANDALA) and Peter Leighton (drums, ex-AFTERMATH).
HEAD joined Dal Myles booking agency (DME), and their reputation as a no-nonsense heavy rock band continued to grow which led to their first recording break, a deal with Phonogram Records. The single ‘Hobo’ was released shortly after but received little airplay. This single is now a very hard to find collector's item, but is a must for all die-hard fans to have.
Shortly after the single was released, Peter Leighton left, much to the disappointment of the band. Paul Balbi replaced Peter on drums and Allan Milano (ex- MANDALA) was also recruited for the added dimension of an additional vocalist.
The band could see that they had something unique to offer, so with the encouragement of their management they decided to up the anti. The name HEAD got the chop (excuse the pun) and was changed to BUFFALO with the music becoming heavier.
Why the name change to BUFFALO? There were a couple of reasons, mainly the name ‘HEAD’, suggested certain sexual connotations and according to their management was too controversial to market. Another issue was at the time, there was a South Australian band called HEADBAND and this caused some confusion. The band also wanted a name which was better suited to their style of music.
The new name of the band was always going to begin with B. Why? Because in the opinion of their agent, Dal Myles, ‘B’ was the most pronounced letter of the alphabet to begin a band name ie BEATLES, BEACH BOYS etc and they were successful. There are differing stories on how the name came about as the years have taken their toll on the bands memory. Allan Milano said that one day at work (yes he had a regular day job driving a desk), he was looking at a map of Australia and there was a picture of a water buffalo on it over the Northern Territory and he thought Buffalo would be a good name. At a later meeting with the band, he suggested BUFFALO and everyone thought that was it. John Baxter recalls the same storey. Dave Tice has a similar version, he remembers a pin being randomly stuck in a map of Australia and the closest place/thing that began with ‘B’ was BUFFALO. Grahame ‘Yogi’ Harrison, the band's Road Manager remembers a different version with the name being drawn out of a hat at John Baxter's Kings Cross home.
The band's major recording break came in March 1972 with BUFFALO signing to the prestigious UK label, Vertigo. This was very significant at the time because BUFFALO were the first band to sign with the label outside of the UK. Their ’stablemates’ included BLACK SABBATH and URIAH HEEP. The band immediately went into the United Sounds studios to record their first album with producer, Spencer Lee.
Prior to the
album being released, their first single
backed with the
non album track, Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place To Go” was released early in
April to wet fans appetites. The single received little airplay with the radio
station programmers virtually ignoring it, much to the annoyance of the record
company, the band and their management. In order to gain more airplay,
Phonogram put on a bash for the media at the Paddington Town Hall on 28/5/72
performing live as well as
(Lobby Loyde’s band – check out the ‘Ball Power‘ album which I recommend as a
In May, the album “Dead Forever” (Phonogram/Vertigo 6357 007) was released and received good reviews (check out the press clippings), although the cover caused quiet a stir, setting the scene for even more controversy on later albums. BUFFALO liked their music loud and this was imparted to fans on the back cover by stating “play this album LOUD!“ Live the BUFFALO volume was loud like a huge stampede and they soon had the reputation as being Australia’s loudest band. Check out their equipment list, then the gear was state of the art, however compared to now days you’d wonder what all the fuss was about!
Later the band released the non-album track “Just A Little Rock’N’Roll” b/w “Barberhop Rock” (1972 Philips 6037 020) as a single.
By the end of 1972, all was not well in the BUFFALO camp, musical differences basically led to the band breaking up. At the time, Dave Tice got involved with another band, MR MADNESS and was doing regular gigs with them. Allan Milano had departed the scene entirely, shortly followed by Paul Balbi who was replaced by ex-MANDALA drummer, Jimmy Economou. This completed what is to considered by most BUFFALO fans as the classic line-up of Dave Tice (vocals), John Baxter (guitar), Pete Wells (bass) and Jimmy Economou (drums).
January ’73, saw BLACK SABBATH tour Australia, and only through the persuasion of their record company, BUFFALO got back together to support their record label stable mates for the Sydney shows on the 16th & 17th. These shows were billed as ‘The Clash of The Titans’ and were packed to the rafters with heavy rock fans after an ear shattering experience. It was an awesome concert and is still the subject of great memories for fans who were there. BUFFALO’s reputation as a heavy duty live act was strengthened on this tour while SABBATH received some negative press.
BUFFALO never met BLACK SABBATH during these shows, even though they were the support band! John Baxter recalls sneaking into the Sab's dressing room to check out Tommy Iommi's guitar before getting sprung by one of their roadies. John was amazed how loose the stings were strung. Dave Tice never even saw SABBATH play live, straight after BUFFALO finished their set he left to do another gig with MR MADNESS.
Two weeks after the BLACK SABBATH gigs, BUFFALO travelled to Melbourne where they supported the SLADE, STATUS QUO, CARAVAN & LINDERSFARNE gig on 28/1/73. The band’s live reviews were again positive and further enhanced their reputation as a great live act.
After successful gigs as support for the two tours, the band decided to record a new album with a change to an even heavier musical direction. The band once again entered the United Sounds Recording Studios with producer Spencer Lee and the finished product, titled ‘Volcanic Rock’, was to be one the all time great albums of Australian rock. This album just oozed molten metal and is one hellova heavy album from start to finish. All songs were written by Dave Tice and John Baxter, except for the instrumental “Pound Of Flesh” which is written by John Baxter and Pete Wells. In keeping with their first album, the cover again was the subject of a lot of controversy.
(Album review – Freedom Train Vol.1, Issue 3, 1996 by Ian McFarlane)
Buffalo had already earned a reputation as macho progressive heavies with the release of the Dead Forever lp, but it was to be Volcanic Rock that cemented that legend. With its full quota of scorching, molten heavy metal, Volcanic Rock sounds as sweet as a Mack truck driving through a china shop, with twice as much crunch to boot. Riff-heavy tracks like the single Sunrise (Come My Way), Shylock and 'Til My Death typified the band's attitude and approach; raw uncompromising riff rock, as dirty, loud and vicious as hell. Epic tracks like Freedom and The Prophet saw the band members stretching out and flexing their progressive muscle. These songs are essentially loose jams, but that doesn't detract from the overall impact.
Once again, John Baxter's savage guitar work and Peter Well's throbbing bass lines are highlights, while Dave Tice's vocals never sounded so demented. Likewise, when drummer Jimmy Economou really got going, there was basically no way of stopping him, short of a sharp blow to the head. The album initially came out with a fold-out illustrated lyric sheet, as well as featuring a controversial cover illustration: a graphic yet hilarious depiction of the female form as a menstruating volcano! Wonder what feminists of the day had to say about that little lot!
Cosmic Psychos acknowledged their forbearers by including a ripping version of Sunrise (Come My Way) on 1993's Palimo Pizza CD.
The album produced one single “Sunrise (Come My Way)” backed with “Pound Of Flesh” (1973 Philips 6037 035) but once again it was ignored by radio.
‘Volcanic Rock’ was very popular with fans, the band gigging constantly around NSW, Victoria and Queensland for the next few months into 1974 and even saw them playing at the opening of the Opera House.
Riding on the wave of ‘Volcanic Rock’, BUFFALO laid down some more molten tracks at the United Sounds Recording Studios, the result was another classic album ‘Only Want You For Your Body’.
REVIEW - (Freedom Train Vol.1, Issue 3, 1996 by Ian McFarlane)
Buffalo's third album, Only Want You For Your Body (Now blow your speakers out!), is the band's most full on release. The guys maintained the heavy metal mayhem on such Tice/Baxter penned tracks as the absurdly macho I'm A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser, What's Going On, Stay With Me, King's Cross Ladies, United Nations and a full throated treatment of Alvin Lee's I'm Coming On. This is big, dumb, ugly riff-rock, but the whole thing's a fuckin' riot from start to finish! Buffalo even outdid themselves with the wildly tasteless cover design which depicted an obese, screaming woman shackled to a torture rack. As shown on the back cover, the band revelled in their role as leering, lascivious Aussie yob rockers. And dig those wild stack heeled boots!
The single ‘What’s Going On’ b/w ‘I’m Coming On’ was released prior to the album release and a short time later, the now impossibly rare 4 track ep ‘Buffalo’ was also released.
After the album had been recorded, BUFFALO flew to New Caledonia (now Noumea) in early July for a gig and were to also visit New Zealand but this tour fell through.
Towards the end of the year, slide guitarist Norman Roue (ex-BAND OF LIGHT) was eased into the line-up. BUFFALO only played a couple of shows as a 5 piece before John Baxter was unceremoniously sacked by their manager at the time, Sebastian Chase. Dave Tice has since reflected that the axing of JB was the worst decision the band made as John was an integral part of the BUFFALO sound. Dave explained that there was a big push from management for the band to have a more commercial sound and unfortunately John wasn’t part of that plan. Although BUFFALO went on to record another two albums, the real spirit of the band simply dwindled.
Not long after, Colin Stead (ex- Prologue/Lloyd’s World/Sweet Wine), was recruited by management to give the band more strength in the guitar department. Colin did one short tour with BUFFALO and wrote & co-wrote two songs which were included on the up-coming album before he departed the scene.
The band went into the studio to record the new album and just before it was finished, Norman Roue left. Norm was quickly replaced by Karl Taylor and the new album titled ‘Mother’s Choice’ was released in 1976. ‘Mother’s Choice’ was a major change in musical direction for BUFFALO with the ball tearing heavy metal riffs being replaced with a more traditional rock & roll sound. The band originally wanted to call the album either ‘Songs For The Frustrated Housewife’ or ‘Thieves, Punks, Rip-offs And Liars’ (a political concept), but Phonogram rejected the titles as being too sexual and too controversial respectively.
Prior to the album being released, two singles, ‘Little Queenie’ b/w ‘Girl Can’t Help It’ and ‘Lucky’ b/w ‘On My Way’ were released as a taster for the fans. ‘On My Way’ and ‘Girl Can’t Help It’ were non album tracks which later included on the Raven Records ‘Skirt Lifters (Highlights & Oversites 1972-1976)’ which was released in 1990.
A couple of months after the release of the album, Karl Taylor was sacked by the band & replaced by Chris Turner (ex- Consorts (UK)/The Action/Drain).
Pete Wells then decided to call it a day and left. In the process he hung up is bass, started playing slide guitar and went on to form the mighty ROSE TATTOO with Ian Rilen (ex-BAND OF LIGHT) and Angry Anderson (ex-BUSTER BROWN). Peter’s replacement was Ross Simms.
In November ‘76, BUFFALO supported RAINBOW on their Australian tour, although due to financial constraints, BUFFALO did not support them on the Perth or Adelaide gigs. Dates BUFFALO played –
MELBOURNE, Festival Hall, Tuesday 9th November
SYDNEY, Hordern Pavilion, Thursday 11th November
NEWCASTLE, Civic Theatre, Friday 12th November
BRISBANE, Festival Hall, Saturday 13th November
SYDNEY, Hordern Pavilion, Tuesday 16th November
Just prior to the tour, the band had decided to call it a day, so the boys wanted to make it a memorable one. And one it was, the tour wasn’t easy. Grahame ‘Yogi’ Harrison recalls that while RAINBOW and their crew flew everywhere, the BUFFALO ‘herd’ were relegated to driving between each gig, even doing over-nighters all the way with virtually no sleep. Still they had fun & played some great shows. The major highlight was the last show in Sydney where disgruntled “Rainbow” fans trashed several rows of the Hordern Pavilion seating after Ritchie Blackmore refused to return for an encore. Blackmore’s reputation as a difficult musician was well-known and his temper tantrums were as legendary as his playing. At the Hordern, Blackmore had a small, private dressing room directly next to the room occupied by BUFALLO. While BUFFALO were in party-mode, Blackmore was decidedly upset. He launched a telephone book over the wall separating the two rooms and it hit Yogi on the shoulder. The irate roadie pounded on the next room’s door which was opened by a surprisingly timid Blackmore. After getting his ears pinned back by a volley of abuse from Yogi, Blackmore meekly apologised and closed the door. It was only some time later that Yogi realised that he had abused one of the world’s most legendary guitarists and had gotten away with it!
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