(as told by Wol)
Moving Pictures came about as a result of Alex Smith’s quest for a band that could play the sounds in his head!
Formed in late 1979/early 1980 in Sydney Australia; Alex had known and played in bands with Andy Thompson since high school, he had played in a band with Ian Lees for a couple of years, and was now looking for a keyboard player. A night out with a girlfriend and some others, led him to “the Great Dividing Band”and keyboard player Charlie Cole. He poached him that night! Taking him to “the Sad Clown Cafe” in Kings Cross, plying him with coffee and lyrics….and then moving in to his house.
Ian, Charlie and Alex started wood shedding the songs and learning to play together. Bon Accord! Ian knew drummer Paul Freeland, and he started coming to the rehearsals. Hating his own guitar playing it was obvious they needed a real player. Ian had gone to school with and played with Garry Frost. Alex knew Garry through a girlfriend. Alex was working as a (singing) waiter at the restaurant venue in Chatswood called “And Now for Something Completely Different” the owner Simon said they could rehearse during the day. Cool! They had various ideas for guitarists but Garry heard about it and turned up! That was it!!!! Andy meantime was playing with other people. They rehearsed on and off for about 2-3 months playing Alex’s songs and a few covers… Van Morrison, the band, Graham Parker, Garland Jeffries.
They played one friend’s party, then one night (covering a cancellation at Mona Vale hotel) Then played the first official gig on the Fourth of July 1980 at Now for Something Completely Different! Andy had heard about the gig, turned up for a blow, and never left! They were now a six piece band! The next day a guy offered them a meeting to talk about a record contract! A bit early!!!!
They played around Sydney non stop! Soon gathering a manager, Ric Sutton, an agency, Harbour, and a loyal following who seemed to come to every gig (the San Mig Mob).
By early 1981 they had started negotiations with Glenn Wheatley to sign to his new label! During this period the band started working interstate, and then just never stopped travelling. Wheatley managed “Australian Crawl” a very successful band at the time and Moving Pictures opened for them on many occasions including the Ports of Crawl tour in support of the Sirocco album.
By this time, the band was recording their first album, with producer Charles Fisher at the helm. Recorded at “the Music Farm” in northern NSW, EMI’s Studio 301 in sydney and Charle’s own studio Trafalgar in Sydney, the album was recorded on the run, in between gigs tours, sleep or the lack of and all the general insanity of the road!
The album Days of Innocence….the first single was Bustin’ Loose. They made a first appearance on COUNTDOWN. The album was released on October 30 1981, by Christmas it was gold. In February 1982 they released the second single “What About Me?” and appeared for a second time on COUNTDOWN. The day after that broadcast everything changed!!!!!!!!! Whoops!!!!
Moving Pictures had already been booked as the support for Elton John’s “Jump Up” tour. Having the number one single and album in the country for what seemed to be weeks on end. And opening for Elton was just way beyond crazy!!!! During this period the band played and filmed two shows in one day at Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion for a television special!
1982 was just a blur……work work work work and more work! Nice if you can get it! The statistics of distance travelled and the number of gigs (just within Australia) for that year are staggering! During this period of time Paul Freeland left the band and was replaced by Mark Meyer!
A single “Winners” was released as the band continued to tour and tour! In early 1983 the band was one of the acts on high rotation on the brand new station MTV! They then signed a deal with the American label Network, and the album and single of What About Me began to climb the American charts!
They were offered the chance to record the song “Never” for the film Footloose and went to the USA to record it! Then toured Japan where “Sweet Cherie” the third single from Days of Innocence was a big hit!
It was a co-headline campus tour with the U.S. Group Scandal! So far…….so good………….The world is your oyster………. sometimes oysters give you food poisoning! The band exhausted regrouped to record the second album “Matinee” several false starts with different producers and then a return to Charles Fisher.
Of this time Alex Smith says “This was when it started to go wrong and it was all my fault! I fucked up, I took my eye off the game and let everyone down”.
U.S. record company problems, never really being paid for the Footloose soundtrack, internal pressures, It was around this time that Garry Frost left the band. (the usual musical differences……and Alex fucking up).
Joey Amenta joined as guitar player ….but the band was shackled, hamstrung by an international deal they could not get out of! Money was flying out the door to lawyers and companies the band was working endlessly and getting nowhere! After a year Joey moved on and Kevin Bennett joined the ranks. Kevin was an old friend of the band and a much admired singer, writer guitarist and musician. Around this time Stephen White became manager and friend to the band!
New blood, new beginnings ….. some fans see this time as another high point in the saga. They fly to Japan as Australia’s representatives at Expo! The mutual love and respect on the stage was evident and even in the face of diminishing returns. The band played with a passion and fire that was awesome and moving.
By 1987 it had become evident that the legal problems could not be resolved …..in the pre Internet world it was all too easy for people to ignore your calls, telegrams or telexes!
Alex was in a bad way …drink and drugs were clouding his life and the pressure was killing everybody. It was decided to call it quits and get on with their own lives! A final tour “The Last Picture Show” and a live album of the same name! A fantastic final snapshot of what that band at that time sounded like and a sad teaser of what a studio album of new material might have sounded like. Alex wanted to call it “kiss your pass goodbye” but for some reason …..oh well! All members moved on….all stayed in music ….Alex moved to England and works in special needs education.
Time passes…….years pass.
In 2005 Alex and Charlie do a small acoustic tour (with friend Dave Carter)
In 2006 Alex is asked to do the Countdown Reunion Tour
People start to talk…..
The Internet starts to change everything!
In 2011 Marc Christowski from Empire Touring organises a tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Days of Innocence…..and the fun begins again! Television, crowds, gigs, talk of new albums…..etc. But …..this is a much changed world, a much changed industry!
Let’s wait and see what the future holds……..