Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Numbers

In the early 1980s, Australia was home to a host of excellent pop and new wave bands such as The Reels, The Dugites, Eurogliders, and Flaming Hands, and Sydney’s The Numbers were no doubt one of the finest. The band went through many lineup changes in their existence from 1978 to 1984, but the one constant was brother and sister duo Chris and Annalisse Morrow. Throughout the group’s existence, Chris shined as a talented songwriter and guitarist, while Annalisse was a strong bassist and gave the material a distinct personality with her hard-edged, commanding vocals.

The group’s first release was a 3-track EP, Govt. Boy, in 1979, which took a louder, faster and overall more punk approach than what was to come. At this point, Chris was the focal point of the band, singing lead on two of the three tracks on the EP. By the time the band signed to the Deluxe label that same year, they had begun moving in a more accessible power pop direction, a shift evident on their first single for the label, 1980’s “The Modern Song.” Along with the cleaner sound came a decision to put Annalisse at the forefront. In a 2008 Mess+Noise interview, Annalisse explained of the decision, “You’re young and you’re taking advice from other people. And by that stage we were with a major label and we had a manager and we were with an agency and those people have a very large influence on how you think, because you’re taking advice from people you believe have the experience. And also personally I always thought I was a much better singer than I was a bass player.” This change in direction proved successful for the band, with the single cracking the Australian Top 50 and the band scoring an appearance on the TV show Countdown. Their next single, “Five Letter Word,” was another national radio hit and brought them further into the spotlight.

Once the band released their debut, self-titled LP in late 1980, they seemed poise to break out internationally. “The feeling I got then was the record company’s expectation was we were going to go absolutely ballistic,” explained Chris in the same Mess+Noise interview. “We were going to go from suburban Thornleigh to Madison Square Garden, we were going to be amazingly huge.” While the debut record included highlights in the form of the previous singles and select album tracks such as the melodic “I Don’t Know” (which found Chris back on lead vocals) and the punky “Hello,” third single “Mr. President” failed to chart and the album - while regionally successful - didn’t break the band as expected.

After a series of lineup changes, the band issued a new single, “Jericho,” and returned to the studio to record their sophomore release, 1982’s 39-51. Armed with more memorable songs and more confident vocals from Annalisse, things looked promising for The Numbers. The album's singles “Big Beat” and “Dreams From Yesterday” as well as standout album tracks such as “Day to Day,” “Blacktown” and “Dancer” sounded a bit like a rougher-around-the edges version of The Go-Go’s and deserved widespread chart success. Unfortunately, by this point interest in the band had waned and the record went largely unnoticed.

After two albums and years of hard work on the road and in the studio with little commercial success to show for it, The Numbers soon called it quits. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Chris and Annalisse released more music together, this time as Maybe Dolls. While this incarnation of the band gave the duo their biggest success to date in the form of the catchy pop singles “Nervous Kid” and “Cool Jesus,” the band once again faced record label difficulties, grew disillusioned, and a recorded second album was never released.

The Numbers and the Maybe Dolls never achieved international commercial success, but they created a canon of strong power pop songs worth discovering. In 2007, Australian label Aztec Music brought the band to attention once again by releasing a compilation of Numbers material, including highlights from both EPs, rare B-sides and the complete Government Boy EP. The disc is titled Numerology 1979-1982 and is available via the label’s site. In addition, the Blue Pie label recently released the band’s output digitally, and it can be downloaded on Amazon MP3 and iTunes (but beware, many of the tracks are mislabeled in these releases).

The Numbers band members:

Annalisse Morrow - Bass, Vocals
Chris Morrow - Guitar, Vocals
Simon Vidale - Drums
Graham Bidstrup - Drums
John Bliss - Drums
Craig Bloxom - Bass
Russell Handley - Keyboard, Guitar
Marty Newcombe - Drums
Collin Newham - Keyboard, Bass
Marcus Phelan - Guitar
Garry Roberts - Bass

The Numbers discography:

- Govt. Boy (EP, 1979): Government Boy, Private Eyes, Guerilla

- The Modern Song (single, 1980): The Modern Song, Take Me Away

- Five Letter Word (single, 1980): Five Letter Word, Alone

- The Numbers (self-titled LP, 1980): Five Letter Word, I Don’t Know, Mr. President, Hello, When I Get Older, The Modern Song, Partys, Talk to Me, OK, Teenage Wonderland, Wind

- Mr. President (single, 1981): Mr. President, Private Eyes, Guerilla

- Jericho (single, 1981): Jericho (original version), Turn Back (original version)

- 39-51 (LP, 1982): Big Beat, Secrets, Day to Day, Somedays, Again, Dreams from Yesterday, Blacktown, Dancer, Turn Back, Telephone, Jericho

- Big Beat (single, 1982): Big Beat, Telephone

- Dreams From Yesterday (single, 1982): Dreams From Yesterday, Again

- Numerology: 1979-1982 (compilation CD, 2007): The Modern Song, Five Letter Word, Mr. President, Jericho, Big Beat, Turn Back, Dreams From Yesterday, Alone, Partys, Dancer, Secrets, Day to Day, Again, Take Me Away, Blacktown, When I Get Older, Hello, Govt. Boy, Private Eyes, Guerilla


- The Numbers on MySpace

- 2008 Sydney Morning Herald interview with Annalisse Morrow

- 2008 Mess+Noise interview with Chris and Annalisse Morrow

- Maybe Dolls promo video for "Nervous Kid"


korralhex said...

great job ,thanks .

Paul said...

That second album was an absolute gem. The Numbers re-emerged in the early 90s as the Maybe Dolls and mangaed one more charting record, also a pop classic, called Nervous Kid.