Dave Miller Set
Dave Miller Set 1967 L to R: Bob Thompson, Dave Miller (seated), John Robinson & Ray Mulholland.
Dave Miller (Vocals)
John Robinson (Lead Guitar)
Harry Brus (Bass)
Ray Mulholland (Drums)
After the disbanding of Dave Miller and the Byrds, Dave Miller moved to Australia, at the beginning of April, 1966, in tow with fellow Christchurch singer/guitarist, Dave Henderson. After checking out clubs, pubs, and other venues, the pair decided to put together a club act based around the styling's of the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers. After an intensified few weeks of rehearsals the pair landed a handful of club gigs and the prospects looked good. Then, out of the blue, Dave Henderson received a telegram from home, conveying the message that some urgent family crisis had occurred, and within 24 hours he was gone, and that ended that! Not a very auspicious start, which, consequently, left Dave Miller having to rethink his situation.
Dave met with ex-patriot Kiwi, Graham Dent, a man schooled in artist management and PR, who was managing The Bowl Disco, in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The Bowl was a popular venue especially set up to promote Ivan Dayman's Sunshine stable of artists, headed by Normie Rowe. Although the pair had not previously met, Graham Dent said to Dave: "I know who you are, and what you have achieved. You can sing, and you can compeer, and I'm sure you can spin records. We could use you right here at The Bowl." For the remainder of the year that became Dave's role.
Dave introduced live, to The Bowl stage, a 'who's who' of top artists which included Normie & The Playboys, Mike Furber, Peter Doyle, Tony Worsley & The Blue Jays, The Purple Hearts, Marcie Jones, and a host of others, including top names beyond the Sunshine group as well. Dave's experience had him fill another important function which went a long way in establishing his own name and identity. Best described as a 'back stop', Dave stepped in where artists were flight delayed, sick or unable to keep their bookings due to unforeseen circumstances. As a consequence, Dave made many personal appearances on stage and on television as a last minute replacement, even to the point of being flown to places like Adelaide, Newcastle, and Brisbane so that shows were not left in the lurch.
Within a short time Dave's own identity created a demand, and he was booked in his own right. He even ended up with minor acting roles on light-weight ABC Television programmes, built around a loose musical premise, playing second string to the likes of Lorraine Bailey and Jackie Weaver. Apart from building a healthy fan following, during his tenure at The Bowl, he also established a good rapport with Record Companies who provided promotional discs for 'plays' during the 'turntable' periods. With the changing accents in 'pop' directions, in late 1966, it gave Dave a good insight into the styles that were becoming popular, and which could be called the 'new emphasis'. A situation that was used effectively by The Dave Miller Set when it ultimately emerged.
Early December, 1966, Dave was asked by The Bowl hierarchy to put together a 'house' band. It was felt that the venue needed to move in the direction of the likes of The Whisky A Go Go, The Latin Quarter, and The Hawaiian Eye. Dave set about assembling a group which included Mick Gibbons (ex Blue Beats) on guitar; Harry Brus (The Amazons) on bass; Greg Hooke on keyboards; and former New Zealand 'Rayders' stalwart, Ray Mulholland on drums.Ray had previously been with Gene and the Dynamites, the Seakers and the Rayders. As the band went into rehearsal mode Dave was informed that there had been changes in plans and that the decision had been taken to briefly close The Bowl, give it a facelift, and revert to the previous 'teen-styled' format. The 'house' band idea had been dropped! In essence Dave acquired the band by default.
All members, of the fledgling Dave Miller Set, insisted on carrying on regardless and wanted Dave to front the unit -- hence the birth of The Dave Miller Set. Dave procured the prestige gig of appearing alongside Johnny Young & Kompany and Ronnie Burns in a housed concert pavilion at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, March 1967. It turned out to be a highly beneficial 'launching pad' as the group was seen by many thousands of people over the Show's ten day duration. There was a concert on the hour, every hour. The Dave Miller Set played every show while Johnny Young and Ronnie Burns headlined alternately -- each sitting one out and getting a real breather. The Dave Miller Set were the 'workhorses'. Dave also linked the band to the Amco Jeans Company in a deal with a prominent Newtown menswear outfitter which saw the band decked out in the latest Amco gear for the entire period of the Show. The bonus was getting to keep the 'spoils' after it was all over.
At the eleventh hour, two days before the Show's start date, Greg Hooke pulled out because he could not get a release of absence from his day job, so guitarist John Robinson was recruited post haste and was dropped 'right into it' -- learning and performing at an almost impossible pace!John had previously been with the Lonely Ones and Monday's Children.
Dave flew out to Christchurch the day after the closure of the Easter Show to be married and to have a well earned break. His life had been a hectic 'roller coaster ride' ever since mid 1963 when he joined The Playboys (to become The [NZ] Byrds), in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Bowl Disco, in Sydney, had been a whirlwind as well. It operated five nights a week -- Wednesday through Sunday -- with Saturday and Sunday afternoons on top. In addition it operated midday to 2:00 pm, every working day lunchtime, Monday through Friday. Dave worked every session, unless he was 'out on the boards' in the 'back stop' role. Working alongside Lonnie Lee, the principal booking agent for Sunshine artists, at The Bowl, Dave was only too aware how poorly paid bands really were. It was cheaper and easier to favour solo artists. As a consequence, a number of the roster's names had been encouraged to divest themselves of their bands. With only themselves to think of they could get better fees, could be moved around the country much more easily, and accommodated more satisfactorily and economically. Aware of all this, and taking into account his own burgeoning solo career, Dave arrived back in Sydney harbouring a fair degree of trepidation. So much so, that before leaving Christchurch, he had propositioned Brian Ringrose (formerly of The [NZ] Byrds) to consider a musical director's role within a solo career structure. With a family, on the way, Brian had declined.
In a three week period, while Dave was in New Zealand, the members of The Dave Miller Set had decided, amongst themselves, to talk Dave into pursuing a band career and had completely restructured themselves. Ray Mulholland was the only original member to stay on board while John Robinson had claimed the guitarists role and had brought in his long time musical ally, Bob Thompson, on bass. Pretty much a case of 'while the cat's away'…
The group, in that configuration, 'clicked' really well and the John and Bob combination worked from experience. Thanks to the Easter Show The Dave Miller Set was a 'buzz' word and the 'leg up' had them gigging pretty much from the inception - albeit, slowly at first. Thanks to the likes of The Who, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, the three piece 'power trio' instrumentation saw The Dave Miller Set 'sitting pretty', but there were 'dues to pay' before branching out in those directions. Sydney was in the grip of Soul music, in early 1967, due principally to the fact that it was the R & R port of call for American Servicemen, from Vietnam, and their music of choice was Soul music. The 'new-to-the-scene' The Dave Miller Set performed a select range of soul classics from the likes of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Arthur Conley, and Eddie Floyd, but as the band's reputation blossomed, the musical emphasis shifted and the group began carving a niche in a 'Zeppelin' direction before the 'Brit' super-group had become a reality.
The Bowl became the 'Op Pop' and was in decline. Dave decided to link with the Spin Records Booking Agency under the watchful eye of creative 'whizz', Nat Kipner. As a spin-off from The Easter Show, the Amco Clothing Company approached Dave to continue the association as part of their in-store promotions built around fashion shows, featuring a troupe of young, fit, mixed dancers dressed in the company's latest styles, 'serving it up' to the music of The Dave Miller Set, and presented by 2UW's Ward 'Pally' Austin. The entire ensemble 'turned it on' in all the principal shopping centres around the metropolitan area. The Amco parades came at the right time and helped establish The Dave Miller Set. As personal appearance demands picked up, so too was there a demand for TV appearances on the likes of Channel Nine's 'Saturday Date' program. Without a recording contract The Dave Miller Set decided to lay down a handful of 'one-shot' takes of some of their most popular live performance numbers, especially to accommodate those occasions. After just three months the band was standing out significantly on the Sydney scene, and was also figuring prominently in other regions as well.
In May, 1967, The Dave Miller Set were thrust even further into the limelight when they were chosen to feature on the Sydney leg of The Easybeats' national 'return home' tour while riding the crest of the wave created by the international success of 'Friday On My Mind'. The performances were at the old Rushcutters Bay 'Stadium' with its revolving stage, and its unmatched history of great shows, and great artists.
Around the same time, in 1967, Channel Nine TV decided a new teen styled 'pop' show was worthy of consideration and narrowed the presenters down to either Jon Blanchfield or Dave Miller. Before a format, and a decision had been finalised, it was dropped like a 'hot potato' when The Monkees took off and pointed 'pop TV' in a whole new direction.
In a year of firsts for The Dave Miller Set, one of the great novelties was pioneering a disco train 'to the snow'. On board a packed train, an entertainment carriage had been stripped of all furniture and set up to become a dance floor and bandstand for the 'snow people' to 'party on' all through the night from Sydney's Central Station to the southern highlands town of Cooma. It was presented by Saturday Date TV's Tony Murphy, with live music by The Dave Miller Set. After a night of 'rail motion and sway', the bleary-eyed party goers were then transported, by buses, right at the chilly point of daybreak, to The Lodge at Thredbo to continue a big weekend of non-stop partying. The Dave Miller Set were the star attraction at The Lodge over two consecutive nights, while enjoying the comforts of accommodation in The Lodge, itself. The popularity of the event paved the way for other bands to also 'rock on rails'. The Dave Miller Set had delivered.
Dave Miller was probably one of the few artists that did not audition for Spin Records. Nat Kipner was happy with Dave's front-man part on The [NZ] Byrds releases and completely comfortable with his 'back stop' appearances connected to The Bowl, but he wanted to check out the group in a studio situation. With Ray Mulholland's [NZ] Rayders long time experience, there was no need for concern. In a low budget, limited time session at a North Sydney studio, generally used for commercials and 'voice-overs', the band laid down The Hollies song, 'A Hard Hard Year'. Everyone was sufficiently happy with the result and, subsequently, that track would eventually become the B-side of 'Why Why Why', the only recording not produced by multi-faceted, Pat Aulton.
In September the band went into Festival's Studio at Ultimo and laid down 'Why Why Why'. Written by Phillip Volk of Paul Revere and the Raiders prominence, it was the A-side choice. All conceded that the original version was 'a bit pale and wimpish', but there was a form, to the song, that was liked. Dave's concept was to treat it in an Eric Burdon and the Animals way. Given that licence, the band went to town to turn the song into something with dynamics and a heavier character, changing the 3/4 time signature to 4/4. Back to back the two versions are hardly comparable.
"Why Why Why b/w A Hard Hard Year" was released in the Spring of 1967 and coincided with a huge inner-city rock concert staged in Hyde Park, as part of the Waratah Spring Festival. The Dave Miller Set was one of the headlining acts.
In the first week of December, 1967, The Dave Miller Set embarked on another first and, without doubt, it was a real trail blazer for the times. After consultations with Dave Miller, the P & O Shipping Company decided to 'bite the bullet' and take a risk using The Dave Miller Set to provide pop/rock music for their younger passengers on their South Pacific cruise liners. Taking in places like Noumea, in French Caledonia, and Suva, in Fiji, it turned out to be a staggering and unexpected success and The Dave Miller Set was lauded by the P & O 'top brass' for, not only fitting in, but for being a popular adjunct to their cruise itineraries. Long held fears were put to rest and The Dave Miller Set paved the way for others to follow. The real purpose for the arrangement was to get The Dave Miller Set to New Zealand where, thanks to Dave Miller & The Byrds, a record buying market had already been established. The band still had to breakthrough in Australia but the 'back-up' was all about re-activating the NZ market place and, with that as an objective, the group spent nearly two months working from Auckland to Christchurch before joining another P & O liner, out of Wellington, for the cruise home to Sydney. It all coincided with Why Why Why's release, in NZ, and, as a consequence, the song made it into the Radio Hauraki Top 50 and other North Island regional Top 40's. It is interesting to understand that the 'Pirate' radio station, 'Radio Hauraki' recorded all programmes in studios, on shore, in Auckland, but, in typical British 'pirate' style, had to broadcast, towards the mainland, from a ship anchored three miles out into international waters. As the 'pirates' had shaken up the staid BBC, so too did Radio Hauraki shake up the NZBC.
Dave Miller Set 1968 publicity shot for the launch of "Hope" L to R: John Robinson, Ray Mulholland, Dave Miller & Bob Thompson.
The Dave Miller Set arrived back, in Sydney, at the end of January, 1968, and Why Why Why had not set the 'world alight'. Overall it made a mark as a 'first timer'. Pat Aulton suggested to Dave that a song called 'Hope' could be a good prospect for the next single. He had discovered it on an album by The Candymen who were originally Roy Orbison's backing group. Dave concurred and promptly learned the song. He decided to re-visit Sam Cooke's 'Having A Party' for the B-side, with a few song titles changed in the lyric structure, to give it an 'update'. The release of 'Hope', in March 1968, coincided with another round of Amco Fashion Shows and, as luck would have it, Ward Austin really liked the song, and made sure it was on his playlist. 'Hope' made the Sydney charts on all stations and peaked at place 21.
Single EP including first & second singles
The success of 'Hope' created a popularity 'territory', outside of Sydney, from Canberra, through Woolongong and Port Kembla, to Newcastle, then up the eastern seaboard to Coffs Harbour, and on to the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Referred to, by the band, as 'the territory', it stayed faithful to The Dave Miller Set for the duration. It meant, of course, that the band was constantly on the road and the live work load was considerable, due to the persistent demand. 'Hope' brought about mainstream changes like newspaper and magazine interviews, and guest 'shots' on radio and television shows, often figuring in 'chat' segments. The Dave Miller Set started becoming 'media savvy'. Apart from the 'teen' gigs, licensed clubs opened up for the band for guest appearances, and Universities in NSW and Queensland added the group to their respective gig calendars.
With popular music now into the 'guitar hero' phase it was in this period, between the latter part of 1967 and the end of 1968, that John Robinson's development, as a skilful and fluent player, came to the fore. His progress in that twelve month period was staggering, and on the local scene he stepped right up and 'grabbed' it. The personal appearance demand for the band had intensified to the point that it was not until September, 1968, that they returned to the studio to record a follow up to 'Hope'. In the interim John had commissioned a sitar from one of India's oldest and most renowned families of instrument manufacturers. It turned out to be a magnificent artefact and as soon as it arrived, in Australia, John, in typical fashion, set about mastering all the basics. When Pat Aulton suggested The Youngbloods' 'Get Together', as the next single A-side, John's skills had him able to devise complimentary sitar phrases and fills to give the song a new and different character. The band was going through a very creative patch, at that time, and Dave penned the B-side, 'A Bread and Butter Day'. The group, collectively, structured an arrangement most suited to the band's style.
"Get Together b/w A Bread And Butter Day" was released in October, 1968, and was immediately picked up by radio. It ultimately peaked at place 27 in the NSW charts. The label department, of Festival Records, had clumsily prefaced the title with 'Lets' and caused annoying confusion as that had formerly been the title of a Hayley Mills hit. To this day it is still constantly mis-printed.
The release of 'Get Together' timed out nicely to coincide with the annual Waratah Spring Festival, and once again The Dave Miller Set were headliners at another Hyde Park inner-city rock concert. 'Hope' and 'Get Together' were really well received, along with a Dave Miller Set 'nod' to Jimi Hendrix with a bracket of some of his most acknowledged favourites. On the day, The Dave Miller Set were 'cooking' and security personnel had to prop up the stage safety fencing because of a mass surge during 'Purple Haze'!
On the first cruise to Fiji, in 1967, Dave had been sought out by an enthusiastic Suva night club operator, who was also a dealer and musical instrument importer. He pointed out to Dave that should the band return on a subsequent occasion, that he would happily order in any instruments that the group would like, provided he was given sufficient time. Suva, being a duty free port, made that offer very attractive. Further-more, he travelled to Sydney a couple of times a year and, as a consequence of that, he knew of The Dave Miller Set and had seen the group on television. His fervent hope was that he could get the band to make a guest appearance at his night club. Both he, and Dave, kept in touch and when the band decided to tour New Zealand again, in the summer of 1968 into 1969, he arranged guitars for both Dave and John and pencilled in the proposed night club appearance. Because the initial Pacific Islands cruise, to feature 'rock' music, had been a great working holiday experience for the band, along with the fact that the NZ tour had been well received and had proved considerably beneficial, The Dave Miller Set collective decided to do it all again, in the summer of '68 into '69, when 'Get Together' started 'taking off' with a lot of 'press' and a lot of 'plays', setting up a new boost in popularity as a result. The P & O Company was more than happy to work the same arrangement, and the itinerary was a repeat of the first time, taking in Noumea and Suva. The only difference being that the cruise liners kept changing. At the 'eleventh hour', before joining the cruise in Sydney, Dave was contacted by his entrepreneurial friend in Fiji and asked if the group would consider making a special afternoon concert appearance in Suva on the day of arrival. The band was happy to oblige and when the windfall, from the combined concert and night club fees was shared out, it made for very indulgent duty free shopping before leaving the Island for Auckland. Unbeknown to The Dave Miller Set, the concert was the very first, by any international act, and it was staged in Suva's brand new Civic Auditorium. It was a totally packed sell-out, filled with many local dignitaries along with hundreds of 'Get Together' fans, thanks to repeated plays by Radio Fiji.
'Get Together' went to number one, in Suva, and stayed there for quite a few weeks. The Dave Miller Set were 'wined, dined, and feted', within Suva's night life, after the runaway successes of both the concert and night club appearances, and the band most certainly left an indelible imprint on friendly and hospitable Fiji. It dawned on the band, in New Zealand, that with a significant portion of Fiji's population being of Indian descent, the sitar, on Get Together, probably found additional favour in those quarters as well, resulting in that extra push to 'the top'. Whatever it was, the group was happy, and so were the organisers and the people.
The Dave Miller Set started the New Zealand tour with ten days of intensified gigging around the Auckland scene, centred on The Galaxie night-spot. In addition they were added to an outdoor concert bill at a North Shore sporting facility which drew considerable crowds, especially as the weather was 'perfection'. While stationed, in Auckland, the group made arrangements with the Jansen musical instrument and amplification company for all new gear which elevated the group into the 'bigger league', especially as outdoor events were becoming more in vogue - the start of the 'festival era'.
As a consequence of the 'new gear' Dave joined into the group as rhythm guitarist on selected songs, to 'fatten' the sound, especially on heavy 'rockers' like Jeff Beck's treatment of the old Yardbirds' classic, 'Shapes Of Things'. The band started taking on a whole new character with a 'bigger' and more powerful sound. Entrepreneur, Phil Warren, gifted Dave the keys to the dance hall section of Rotorua's Soundshell complex, and said: "This hasn't worked for us this summer. It's all paid for, you know how to run shows, it's yours - break a leg"! The Dave Miller Set followed in the footsteps of 'The Byrds', of 1965, and ran a week of appearances in Rotorua which turned out to be profitable and fun, mainly because the Maori kids loved Jimi Hendrix, and that was right up The Dave Miller Set street. From Rotorua the group trained to Wellington and worked around a rather vibrant scene, centred on a venue known as 'The Cave'. The Dave Miller Set drew a really healthy fan base in Wellington and Bob Thompson was singled out as a favourite. Being English It reminded him 'of home' and the first pangs of home-sickness appeared.
In the early new year, of 1969, The Dave Miller Set were in Dave's hometown of Christchurch and, in a similar manner to previous occasions with The [NZ] Byrds, Dave master-minded and ran four consecutive packed-out nights of appearances at The Mecca night spot. In the second week of January The Dave Miller Set trained from Christchurch to Dunedin, and played a series of club gigs from Thursday through Sunday. Although Dunedin is a University and college city, and January is part of the 'shut down' period, the venues, like the nights in Christchurch, were packed sell outs. In the third week of January The Dave Miller Set was back in Christchurch for two final appearances, and then the band set forth on one of the wildest and roughest overnight ferry crossings, of all time, for Wellington, and a full weekend of gigs before boarding the 'Arcadia' back to Sydney.
On the first cruise voyages, in 1967 into 1968, Dave, in consultation with various captains, made offers for the band to perform for all off-duty crew members. It was a precedent that other entertainers had not taken up, and it was considered a generous gesture. The Dave Miller Set became somewhat the 'toast of the fleet' and hundreds of crew members embraced it as a 'Vegas' styled occasion for dressing up and partying. In fact, for the band, those outings turned out to be some of the most enjoyable of their career even though they were simply staged in the crew's 'mess' quarters. Based on the overwhelming success of the 'private party' aspect of those nights Dave adopted the same procedure on the second year of 'cruising' and the rapport between crew members and the band was second to none, so much so, that the band did not have to lift a finger to move equipment anywhere on board, any of the vessels, and received wonderful attention in the dining rooms. A genuine case of mutual fairplay and respect.
At 5:00am on the morning that the Arcadia was to dock at Circular Quay, in Sydney Harbour, Dave was in the ship's ballroom numbering and labelling the group's equipment prior to lugging it through Customs. Kneeling down attaching labels and making notes a voice from behind said: "You fellows played a very good concert in here last night. I thought you performed very well, and you were certainly liked." Dave turned around and there, in tow with four security personnel, was (Sir) John Gorton, the Prime Minister, of Australia. Dave replied: "Thank you sir, I was unaware that you were on board." They both engaged in conversation for around four minutes, then shook hands, while the Prime Minister wished the band well for the future.
Bass player, Bob Thompson, was very unsettled when the band arrived back in Sydney, towards the end of January, 1969. He had felt really at home in the Englishness of Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and, as a consequence of that, was hankering for his own homeland. After about six weeks of being unsettled he dropped his 'bombshell' on the band - he had sold all his new Jansen bass gear, while it was still in pristine condition, and, in so doing, realised the funds necessary for his return home. With an intensified workload of gigs, because of the two months out of the country, it could not have happened at a worse time for the other members of The Dave Miller Set. The decision Bob had taken really unsettled John Robinson. Both he, and Bob were close friends and rather inseparable musical 'soul mates'. Apart from technique and skill it had all the hallmarks of being a daunting task to find a bass player that John could feel comfortable with. Both Bob and John had worked together for some considerable time and the closeness was almost telepathic.
Dave received a phone call from one of Sydney's top 'roadies' who told him that Leith Corbett was looking for a bass playing gig. He had recently left the Sydney 'big band', 'Heart & Soul' and was available to start almost immediately. The Dave Miller Set had a workout with Leith, and Ray and Dave believed he would fit the bill quite comfortably. Certainly his brazen, out going personality and his sense of 'theatre' was considered to be a real attribute, and that is exactly how it turned out to be. Thanks to all the airtime on both 'Hope' and 'Get Together' The Dave Miller Set fan 'territory' expanded substantially. With Leith on board it broke new ground across the west of NSW in places like Bathurst, Orange, Parkes, Forbes and Young and, in the southwest, in towns like Griffith and Hay. That led the band to Melbourne for club appearances and TV, and ultimately to Adelaide. More than ever the band was out on the road and away from Sydney, and, as a consequence, out of the recording studio as well. It was not until June of 1969, that the band set out to follow up the previous year's hit, 'Get Together'.
With Dave's good reputation amongst the local record companies, a somewhat 'career changing' event occurred around the end of May. Dave was asked by one of the Phonogram reps to give an opinion on the market possibilities, in Australia, of an album by an unknown Irish group, named Eire Apparent. The only real claim to fame attached to it was that it had been produced by Jimi Hendrix - the most heralded of the 'guitar heroes' in that period of the 1960's. There was an urgency, and all that Phonogram had to go on was a 'white labelled' test pressing with no other information, other than the track titles. They needed Dave's opinion, within 48 hours, so that it would coincide with a meeting for the company's forward projections for product marketing. Dave did that, but in the meantime, he was taken with the chart possibilities of two tracks on the disc, namely 'Mr. Guy Fawkes' and 'Someone Is Sure To'. Dave borrowed his mother-in-law's old National reel-to-reel tape recorder and made a copy of both songs. He had a vision for Mr. Guy Fawkes, specifically, and, with scissors and sticky tape, cut sections out of the original to fit the concept he visualised. At that point Leith Corbett arrived in the middle of it and got caught up in Dave's enthusiasm. The pair worked up the ideas ready for presentation to the band and Dave ultimately explained, in lengthy detail, to Pat Aulton, what he envisioned and the effects he considered imperative. Pat, to his credit, listened intently and took it all on board. He said to Dave: "It's a big call, but I think we can do it." He did, with panache, class, and brilliance and, to this day, it is a testament to his skills, especially as it was recorded on just four tracks! A fact, not generally known, is that The Dave Miller Set, when they laid down the 'Guy Fawkes' and 'Someone Is Sure To' tracks, also laid down, in the same session, tracks for the Frank Lewis single, 'Year Of War' and 'Indianapolis'. As an amusing adjunct, and this is not generally known, Leith was the bass player on Heart & Soul's 'Lazy Life' as well as the bass player on 'Year Of War' and 'Mr. Guy Fawkes'. He featured on three Top 20 chart hits simultaneously that year. Not bad for someone outside of the 'session' ranks.
'Mr. Guy Fawkes' was released in July, 1969, amidst a fair degree of controversy. The managing director of Spin Records hated it and berated Dave for the worst load of rubbish the company had been involved in. He made it very clear that had he followed its progress through the studio he would have pulled the plug on it. He considered that Pat Aulton had also let the company down, and had it not been 'pressed' it would never have been released to the market place!
Single EP including third & fourth singles
When Mr. Guy Fawkes 'clicked' the manager of Spin Records was considered progressive, in a visionary way, mainly due to the song's production, and within a very short space of time he was promoted to managing director of TCN Channel Nine, in Sydney. Pat Aulton established his own production business, and that was due, in part, to his superlative work on 'Mr. Guy Fawkes'.
As Mr. Guy Fawkes started getting good airtime The Dave Miller Set, through the Nova Booking Agency, flew to Djakarta, in Indonesia, for a series of eight concerts in a ten day period. The Dave Miller Set were the first international rock vocal group to break into this brand new territory. It turned out to be a debacle that got clouded in a clumsy international intrigue, and The Dave Miller Set, as a consequence, had trouble getting out of the country before the expiration of their 10 day visa. After three big nights in Djakarta, itself, the tour came to a crashing halt because the stadiums planned for staging the next five concerts had not been booked and were being utilised for a series of international sporting events, and all the tickets for those shows had been pre-sold! The organisers tried to hold The Dave Miller Set, in Indonesia, until the venues were cleared but did not take into account the group's 10 day visa situation. It quickly became the biggest nightmare of Dave's entire career. A case of 'easy to get in, but hard to get out of'!
The Dave Miller Set 1969. Gathered at Djakarta International Airport after just landing in Indonesia.
L to R: Leith Corbett, Mike Furber, Dave Miller, Nicolette Bradley, John Robinson & Ray Mulholland.
Arriving back in Sydney, Mr. Guy Fawkes, was in the Top 10 keeping pace with Thunderclap Newman's 'Something In The Air'. The first major event, after the 'Indonesian affair', was Mad Mel's 'Giant Stir' under The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Mel was a disc jockey with radio 2SM and the 'one-day festival' outing saw crowds of 50 - 60,000 people all converge onto the sunny grassy spaces for a day of great Sydney music. Along with The Dave Miller Set, some of the other acts to 'grace the harbour space' were Tamam Shud, House Of Bricks, Frank Lewis, Heart and Soul, and American country singer/sometimes comedian, Ray Stevens. It all helped push Mr. Guy Fawkes inside the Top 10. At its best point it peaked at Number 2, for one week, behind Honky Tonk Women, by The Rolling Stones.
Almost immediately, after the 'Giant Stir', the band lost drummer, Ray Mulholland, due to family reasons and because of the spill over from the Indonesian mess! His contribution had been immense and he was sorely missed. The constant travelling had taken its toll! Mike McCormack came in to replace him, and he truly changed the shape of the band with his 'John Bonham' approach to drumming. By the end of the year (1969), he and Leith Corbett were probably the tightest heavy rock bass and drums combination in the country. Mike had previously been with Sect.
As Ray departed, the annual 'people's poll of popularity', conducted by Go Set magazine was published, and, for the second year in a row, The Dave Miller Set polled in the Top 10 of the 'Australian Groups' category. Dave also made it into the popular male vocalist division for the second time as well. Around the nation the band had many followers but did not 'fit the Melbourne click'. Mr Guy Fawkes was never played on Melbourne radio, but is acclaimed today.
Pat Aulton called Dave and told him that an industry ban was very imminent, and to sort out two songs as quickly as possible. The Mr. Guy Fawkes 'star' was on the wane and a follow up was essential, but there was next to no time to get it sorted. In a nutshell, record companies believed that radio stations should be paying for their product, and radio stations, who had always received free copies, were adamant that without their exposure, sales would plummet! They locked horns, and there was a stand-off. Spin Records got swept under the carpet and, so too The Dave Miller Set.
Dave had been tossing around the possibility of Chicago's 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?' and decided to go with it, well before Chicago's own version was lifted. It was a departure but the 'charts' had a wide spread in those times. For the B-side he chose his own song, 'No Need To Cry' because it had been 'worked in' during live performances, and that seemed the most expedient thing in the urgent circumstances. The recording sessions for 'Does Anybody Really Know…' and 'No Need To Cry' were conducted in intense haste. The band's parts were all over in less than three hours, leaving just one brief session to overdub the brass section. The songs were pushed through all the clearance and copyright stages, with total urgency, and the disc was scheduled for immediate production and release. It made the market place with about two weeks to spare before the industry 'ban' came into effect. 'Does Anybody Really Know…' had the distinction of making the 4GG Gold Coast Top 40 at place 18 for the grand duration of one week. These days 'No Need To Cry' has taken on a new life, as a world wide favourite, out on the internet.
Because The Dave Miller Set was essentially a live performance band the demands, in the eastern states from Melbourne to Brisbane, kept the group on a hectic schedule. Dave's disappointment at not really having the chance to follow up on the Mr. Guy Fawkes success, due to the ban, allied to the absolute mess of the Indonesian debacle, saw him become rather disenchanted with a 'flagging' scene. John Robinson had, in spectacular fashion, grown and developed beyond the blueprint for The Dave Miller Set and he had found new interests in photography and other music forms. In March,1970, Dave decided to call it a day to concentrate on song writing, spurred on by a burning ambition to head to the UK.
Meanwhile Robinson, Corbett and McCormack formed Blackfeather with vocalist Neale Johns. Corbett and McCormack didn't stay long with Blackfeather.
In August, 1970, Dave, in tow with Dave Miller Set mate, Leith Corbett, recorded songs for the Spin LP, 'Reflections Of A Pioneer' in sessions at Natec's eight-track studio. All the compositions were originals and Dave and Leith handled all the parts, except drums. The chosen drummers were all friends, thus the identity tag, 'Dave Miller, Leith Corbett and Friends'. 'Reflections' was released in October, 1970.
As a means of 'road testing' his original songs, before heading to England, Dave joined up with Sydney group, Sunday Mourning, and with a new identity as 2000, committed himself to 12 months of testing and honing his repertoire of self-penned songs. Half the material was composed by Dave, and the other half by guitarist, vocalist, Alan Jones. The rest of the group comprised Kim Catherall, on drums, and Mick Lewis, on bass.
In 1972, Leith Corbett joined Island as lead guitarist.
In February 1973 Dave reunited briefly with John Robinson in a revived version of the Dave Miller Set, which also comprised Steve Hogg on bass and Steve Webb on drums. Hogg had been with Bakery, while Webb had come from Blackfeather.
Often asked about the reformation of The Dave Miller Set, in 1973, Dave has frequently pointed out that the musicians associated with the line-up all shared the desire to head to the UK. Because of the unprecedented success of The Dave Miller Set on the South Pacific cruises, in the late 1960's, all those, that had a part to play, were reliant on Dave procuring a 'playing passage' on one of P & O's liners to the 'old country'. As a means of working on the music and keeping 'body and soul' together The Dave Miller Set needed to perform publicly. The demand was beyond belief, and certainly beyond all expectations, and, in some quarters, the desire to head overseas quickly dissipated and it all became distinctly clouded. The plans were derailed. Dave left for the UK in August, 1973.
Leith Corbett eventually went to the UK, 6 months after Dave, arriving in February 1974. Over time he played in a band with some of the former members of Spooky Tooth. He then joined semi-punk band Kubie & The Rats. Eventually he formed his own band Killa Hz with New Zealander Shane Hales as vocalist. After that he spent the early part of the 80's playing the rock circuit in Spain, and on occasions supported Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, who coincidently recorded the original version of 'No Time', the third single byDave Miller & The Byrds.
In 1998, the original album was re-released on CD by Vicious Sloth Collectables.
Once again, I am truly grateful for all the above notes that have been supplied by Dave Miller. It has been a pleasure to be able to tell the real story of a great musician who has contributed much to the musical history of New Zealand and Australia.
The Dave Miller Set can also be found on the following compilations.
New Zealand Music