Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Reptile" by The Church - February 22nd 80's Quest Song/Band of the Day

Ohhhh how I love this song!  Isn't it amazing how serpentine The Church actually got this song to sound with the guitar and the rattling sound of the drums?  Brilliant!  The whole Starfish album (which this song appears on) was a great listen throughout and also included the hit song "Under the Milky Way".  It was a favorite of mine back when I was doing my radio show on 91.3 FM W.U.N.H - and I played tracks off it a lot.  Especially this lesser-known cut, "Antenna" which I quite liked. Whenever I hear it, I end up singing it all day (it's one of those kinds of songs).   Take a listen for yourself: 

I am a sucker for jangly guitars, though.  Johnny Marr's guitar work with The Smith and Electronic...forget about it!!!  I love it!!!  It's no wonder I also loved The Church as their guitarist Marty Wilson Piper was another one big on jangly guitar work.  I also loved his look, big ol' brown eyes, jet black flopsy mopsy hair all in his eyes, psychedelic print button down shirt and jeans.  I used to profess the crush I had for him on my radio show all the time, and I guess I am doing so now too!  Here's him then and now:

Umm....Wow! Right?  That's quite the style change!  He reminds me of my brother the biker now, which is not really a look I like.  I will have to love him for his guitar playing only now, and not exploit him for my gothic guitar god fantasies - ha-ha-haaaaaa!  Best to you Marty Wilson Piper !!!!

The Church were a 4 piece Australian rock band. The band formed in Sydney in 1980. According to Rolling Stone magazine, lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey "was a private man who grew up consumed by rock music, listening to rare import-only albums alone in his bedroom." Kilbey had been playing in Australian cover bands with Peter Koppes and started a 3-piece band with drummer Nick Ward. A month later guitarist Marty Wilson Piper (originally from Liverpool, England) joined the band which they dubbed The Church.

They created a demo of four songs in a studio Kilbey had created in his bedroom and sent it to Australian record label ATV Northern. A music publisher, Chris Gilbey heard the song "Chrome Injury" and signed the band to his record label, which was associated with EMI Records. Gilbey helped shape the band’s sound by buying Wilson Piper a 12 string Rickenbacker guitar and Koppes an Echolette tape delay.
In 1981 Ward was replaced on drums by Richard Ploog and The Church’s debut album, Of Skins and Heart, was released in Australia only. They went on their first national tour to promote the album. Their success in Australia prompted UK record label Carrere and U.S. label Capitol Records to release the album in 1982.

Their second album, 1982’s The Blurred Crusade" saw the band coming more into focus. The Church went on another Australia, and also toured Europe. The Church toured with Duran Duran for five gigs before quitting. Apparently their personalities and styles did not mesh. Capitol Records did not release the album in the U.S. I’ve read that the label did not feel the songs were radio friendly like fellow label-mates Little River Band’s songs were. This was said to horrify The Church.

This is how it went for The Church throughout the early eighties. With each album they progressed and honed their songs. They became more and more known in Australia and Europe but had not gained a foothold in the U.S. In 1987 they signed a four album record deal with Arista Records. They began recording their next album in Los Angeles with producer Waddy Wachtel (who had also worked with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, among others). It was tough going. Kilbey is quoted as saying, "It was Australian hippies versus West Coast guys who know the way they like to do things. We wee a bit more undisciplined than they would have liked". The recording sessions were plagued by bickering and personality clashes. The band also hated it in Los Angeles. Kilbey said, "The Church came to L.A. and really reacted against the place because none of us liked it. I hated where I was living. I hated driving this horrible little red car around on the wrong side of the road. I hate that there’s no one walking on the streets, and I missed my home. All the billboards, conversations I’d overhear, TV shows…everything that was happening to us was going into the music."

The result was 1988’s Starfish, the album that finally brought them success in the United States. It reached #11 on the Australian charts and was in the Top 50 in the U.S. "Under The Milky Way" became a hit in the U.S. , Australia and Europe, followed by "Reptile". The band went on a 9-month tour to support the album.

When the band returned to the studio they were very disappointed because they had wanted to have John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin’s keyboardist) produce their next album. The record label refused. They wanted to duplicate the success of Starfish and made the band work with Waddy Wachtel again. If working with Wachtel the first time was tough for the band, then you can only imagine how much worse it was the second time around. But it wasn’t all Wachtel. The members of The Church were doing drugs. As the pressure increased, drummer Ploog was doing more and more drugs and his playing suffered. His relationship with Kilbey was diminished. Ploog was kicked out of the band and drum machines were used for his parts.

The resulting album was 1990’s Gold Afternoon Fix. Arista records put up a lot of money to promote and market the album. The band hired Patti Smith’s former drummer, Jay Dee Daugherty, and went on tour for almost 2 years. The album spawned a hit song, "Metropolis", but reviews were mixed and the band acted aloof and incoherent during interviews, which did not help.

Afterwards the band decided to record their next album in their hometown, Sydney. It’s been said they were doing a lot of opium at the time so the atmosphere was relaxed and ideas were flowing. Their sound became a bit more surreal and the lyrics more esoteric. The album, Priest=Aura, was released in 1992 but many reviewers didn’t know what to make of it, and reception was mixed. The record label did not put money behind the promotion of this album, sales were not good (even in Europe), Kilbey wanted to stay close to home because he had twin daughters on the way, so touring was limited. The stress level was again high. There were a lot of conflicts with Wilson Piper and the lack of success was grating on the band. Members took time off to work on other projects, but they were still under contract to record at least four albums with Arista Records.

Daugherty did not stay on as drummer for the next album. Kilbey and Wilson Piper worked together and began to experiment with what they were writing and bring in more electronica. The album they worked on, Sometime Anywhere was released in 1994, but the single they released did not chart, sales were bad, Arista was not impressed and did not promote the album or budget money for a tour, and in fact, chose not to renew the band’s contract.

From here on out the band released their recordings on their own Deep Karma label that they had created. There were financial constraints and infighting in the band. A United States distributor went bankrupt and 25,000 discs worth $250,000 were lost which stripped the band of those earnings. Everything was strained due to the problems. Just when it seemed the band would break up; the success of their farewell concert tour changed everyone’s minds. The band were rejuvenated and recorded more music and got to go on another full tour of the U.S., Australia, and Europe. In 1999 they released a collection of cover songs that had been influential to them (everything from Ultravox to the Monkees, Iggy Pop and Neil Young". The album was called A Box of Birds. While on tour for this album in the U.S., Kilbey was arrested in New York City for attempting to purchase heroin. He had to spend the night in jail and missed a performance. Wilson Piper filled in on vocals that night. Kilbey was sentenced to a day of community service as a result of the bust.

Into the 2000’s the band was still recording, touring, and releasing music, much if it more long-form and jam based by this time. They began tapping the power of the internet and promoting their music independently. Many albums from their old catalog were reissued. A book was written about The Church entitled, "No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church" by Robert Dean Lurie. In 2010 the band went on a 30th Anniversary tour in the U.S. during which they chose one song from each of their albums and performed them in reverse chronological order. Also in 2010, The Church was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. In 2011 they performed a special show dubbed "A Psychedelic Symphony" with the Symphony Orchestra of the University of Sydney at the Sydney Opera House. It was filmed for release on DVD.


Too dangerous to keep.
Too feeble to let go.
And you want to bite the hand.
Should have stopped this long ago.

Go now, you've been set free.
Another month or so you'll be poisoning me
With your lovely smile.
I see you slither away with your skin and your tail,
Your flickering tongue and your rattling scales
Like a real reptile.
Had you coiled around my arm.
How could you ever know
How I loved your diamomd eyes?
But that was long ago.


And I should have believed Eve.
She said we had to blow.
She was the apple of my eye.
It wasn't long ago.




    1.Its No Reason-from the album:Seance(1983)

    2.To Be In Your Eyes-from the album:The Blurred Crusade(1982)

    3.One Day-from the album:Seance(1983)

    4.Disenchanted-from the album:Heyday(1985)

    5.10,000 Miles Away-from the album:Remote Luxury(1984)

    6. Sparks-from the album:Starfish(1988)

    7.Ripple-from the album:Priest=Aura(1992)


    For me,My Favourite Album of The Church is"Heyday"(1985).It might not have the big hits like"Under The Milky Way","Metropolis"or"Unguarded Moment"but it loads a lot of great songs(Tristesse,Myrrh,and Columbus)plus in my book,2 of The Most Tender Church Songs which are"Disenchanted"and"Already Yesterday".I love the guitar textures of Marty Wilson Piper and the cold yet cool voice of Steve Kilbey.I also love the album cover...


    1.Almost With You-from the album:Blurred Crusade(1982)

    2.No Explanation-from the album:Remote Luxury(1984)

    3:Metropolis-from the album:Gold Afternoon Fix(1990)

    4.Tear It All Away-from the album:Of Skins and Hearts(1981)

    5.When You Were Mine-from the album:The Blurred Crusade(1982)

    6.Reptile-from the album:Starfish(1988)

    From:David"Dylan"Malana Puzon.1V
    New Waver,Indie Rocker and 90s Alternativist

  2. In my opinion,the whole album"Priest=Aura"is like listening to one long instrumental.Sure the album cover is really nice(dog+pyramid) but to listen to it as a whole it feels kinda dragging but all in all,I love The Church.Always have and always will...

    From:David"Dylan"Malana Puzon.1V
    New Waver,Indie Rocker and 90s Alternativist