Skyhooks was an Australian rock band of the 1970s, sometimes classified as a glam rock band, although this is mainly the result of the band's flamboyant costumes and makeup.
The band shocked conservative middle Australia with their outrageous (for the time) costumes, lyrics, and on-stage activities, leading to seven of the ten tracks on their first album being banned from commercial radio. Much of the group's success derived from its distinctive repertoire, most of which was penned by bassist Macainsh.
Although Skyhooks was not the first Australian rock band to write songs in Australia, about Australians, for Australians (rather than ditties about love or songs about New York or other foreign lands), they were the first band to do so and be commercially successful, and the songs were set apart from much of the pop fare of the time thanks to Macainish's mordant humour.
The 'Hooks were the Australian pop success story of their era. Their first album, Living in the Seventies, rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for so long that it became the best selling Australian album ever up to that time, with the follow-up, Ego is not a Dirty Word, coming a close second. The band's success was also widely credited with saving the struggling Mushroom record label and enabling it to develop into the most successful independent Australian label of its time.
Both these LPs were produced by Ross Wilson, former lead singer of Daddy Cool, which had been the most successful Australian rock group of the early 1970s. Wilson championed the group, signing them to a publishing contract and convincing Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski to give them a recording contract.
Remarkably, the success of Living in the Seventies was mainly due to the enormous support the band were given by the TV pop show Countdown, rather than support from radio — in fact, most of the tracks on the LP had been banned by commercial radio because of their sex and drug references. Despite the ban, and as a deliberate act of provocation to commercial radio, the ABC's newly established 24-hour rock music station Double Jay chose the album's first track, the provocatively titled "You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good In Bed" as the first track played on air on its first day of broadcasting on January 19, 1975.
Over the next few years, Skyhooks gradually faded from the public eye with the departure of key members, and in 1980 the band announced its break-up in controversial circumstances. The demands for the band to reform were successful in 1983, with a record sum of money being paid for each of the original members to play a series of concerts. Further reformations took place in 1984 and then in 1990 the band finally recorded new material, "Jukebox in Siberia", which shot to the top of the charts.
"Shirley" Strachan and Red Symons both went on to successful careers in Australian commercial television. Symons was for many years a villain-cum-guitarist on the long-running TV show 'Hey Hey It's Saturday.' He was especially known for wielding the gong on the 'Red Faces' talent segment. He now works on ABC radio and writes humorous columns for the press. After the demise of Skyhooks, Starkie still plays locally, Freddie became the drummer in the later lineup of noted Melbourne rock band The Sports, and other acts such as The Bushwackers and the "Old Skydaddys". Greg Macainsh played with John Farnham, and in recent years has been a board member of both APRA and PPCA, and is currently completing a Law Degree. Strachan hosted a popular children's TV show 'Shirl's Neighbourhood' in the early 80s and went on to use his carpentry trade skills on air in various home improvement TV shows. He was also a familiar face at Hawthorn Football Club functions, of which he was a passionate supporter. Sadly, Strachan was killed in an air crash on August 29th, 2001, when the helicopter he was learning to fly crashed into Mount Alexander near Kilcoy, northwest of Brisbane. Strachan died instantly.
A Memorial was held to pay Tribute to Strachan at the Palais Theatre shortly after. Tribute were paid and Guest Vocalist and Producer Ross Wilson assisted on the night.
A Night to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the release of the Living in the 70s album was held in 2004. It was a historic night with several different incarnations of the band performing. The only absences were Graham Strachan and Steve Hill.
The Skyhooks and Steve Hill then reformed in 2005 in Sydney for a One-Off gig. Hill had been diagnosed with Cancer and the Original Skyhooks, Peter Inglis, Peter Starkie, Fred Strauks and Greg Macainsh joined with Hill to show their support.
The name "Skyhooks" comes from an imaginary device created in the book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator used to hold the elevator up in mid-air.
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