Biography

There are two bands named The Reels.

1. The Reels was an Australian rock music group which performed and recorded between 1978 and 1991. Best known for the song “Quasimodo’s Dream”, they reformed in 2008.

2. The Reels are a Scorching Blues Trio From USA.

Early Days
The Reels originated with the group Native Son (Mason, Hooper, Bliss and Newham), which was formed in the country town of Dubbo, New South Wales and played in the area for about three years, mainly playing cover versions of current and classic hits. After moving to Sydney in 1978 they added Abrahams and changed the band’s name to The Brucelanders. They gradually developed an original repertoire of fast-paced, quirky pop and ska music, and their energetic performances gained them a strong following on the thriving east coast live music scene at that time. They were also given enormous support in Sydney by the ABC’s rock radio station Double J (which moved to the FM band and became Triple J in 1980).

In 1979 they secured a recording contract with the Australian branch of the Mercury Records label, changed their name to The Reels and released their debut single, “Love Will Find A Way”. This, and its follow-up “Prefab Heart”, combined with the band’s distinctive image, gained increasing attention with their music videos featured on the influential national TV pop show Countdown. These were followed by their self-titled debut album with producer Mark Opitz (The Angels, Cold Chisel).

In 1980 the Reels added second keyboardist Karen Ansell and released their third single, ‘After The News’. It marked an important transition in their music — their songs began to take on a more serious lyrical tone, and (like Devo) they dispensed with guitars, began using synthesizers as their main instruments, and were one of the first groups to use wireless headsets instead of traditional microphones.

In mid-1980 the group undertook the innovative “Reels By Rail” tour, which saw them using rail transport to travel to all the destinations on their tour. At the end of the year, returning to their roots as a covers band, they released a five track Christmas EP, Five Great Gift Ideas From The Reels, produced by Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop, which included versions of Jim Reeves’ “According To My Heart”, and Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold”. “According To My Heart” was very successful and featured a folksy music video filmed at the ranch of Australian country music star Smokey Dawson.

Quasimodo’s Dream

In early 1981 they released the album considered by many to be their best work, Quasimodo’s Dream, which saw the band displaying an impressive maturity in songwriting, backed with strong performances, inventive arrangements and top-class production. The LP’s classic title track was released as a single, and although widely considered to be among the best Australian singles and albums of that period, neither it nor the album was a major commercial or chart success, although it did succeed in reaching #31 in June that year. The band undertook the “Kitchen Man Tour”, which saw the stage dressed as a fully-equipped Australian kitchen.

The Reels’ lack of mainstream commercial success was at odds with their strong live following, but it was due in part to the restrictive programming on commercial radio at that time, which gave little exposure to local “new wave” acts. The group’s deteriorating relationship with Mercury was also a factor, as evidenced by the LP’s track listing — it included the earlier hit “According To My Heart”, but a disclaimer printed on the LP sleeve noted that the track had been included at the insistence of the record company (i.e against the band’s wishes).

Bliss left just after the recording of the album, and Newham had also quit by the time the LP was released. The new five-piece lineup (with Fidock) cut a new single, “No.3”, which was not successful; soon after this, both Abrahams and Ansell left. Now reduced to a trio (Mason, Hooper and Fidock) they continued performing by augmenting their live sound with taped backing tracks, and used the new Fairlight synthesizer for studio recordings.

K-Tel

In late 1982, having signed a new contract with the RCA Records label, The Reels scored an unexpected hit with a wry cover of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic “This Guy’s In Love With You”, which reached #7. They followed this with a highly unusual tactic — they recorded a one-off album for the K-tel company, which was best known for its licenced pop hit compilations and budget ‘golden oldie’ LPs. Although the tracks on Beautiful walked a fine line between sincere tribute and gentle parody, it proved to be the biggest success of their career, selling in excess of 40,000 copies and reaching #29 in the LP chart - this chart position would presumably have been much higher if the album had been sold through ‘chart’ shops.

In 1983 saw the band travel to the United States and Britain, released another five track EP, Pitt Street Farmers (the title is an old Australian satirical expression referring to wealthy rural landowners who never leave the city). This was followed by a new version of “Quasimodo’s Dream” in December 1983, which demonstrated the band’s faith in the song, although it failed to chart on its second release.

At this point Mason was forced to give up performing after contracting hepatitis, and this effectively ended the group. Hooper joined The Church as keyboard player, and then joined The Mullanes, which was the first incarnation of Crowded House.

By late 1985 Mason had recovered and The Reels was revived (with the original lineup of Mason, Hooper, Bliss and Newham) and completed their commitments to RCA with a single, an unsuccessful cover version of Etta James’s “It Must Be Love”.

Neighbors

They then signed with Regular Records and released a radically slowed-down, synthesiser-driven version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”. It proved to be another surprise hit, reaching #11 (October 1986); the arrangement featuring prominent use of the Vocoder voice synthesiser, which the band also used extensively on stage to augment Mason’s vocals. Bliss left the band again at the end of 1986.

Their next single (Jan. 1987) was a cover of the old Edison Lighthouse hit “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” . During the year they embarked on the popular “Reels By Request” tour, where the audience was allowed to call out for the songs they wanted to hear. This was followed by an ‘all Australian songs’ version of the same concept, and this in turn led to the Reels’ next studio album, Neighbors - the name of which, for reasons best known to the band, excluded the ‘u’ which would normally be contained in the Australian English spelling. This LP contained their idiosyncratic versions of thirteen Australian rock classics, including the singles “Are You Old Enough” (originally a hit for Dragon) and “Forever Now” (by Cold Chisel). Steve Prestwich, who wrote “Forever Now”, played on The Reels’ version.

The End

In 1989 Mason appeared in the acclaimed Australian feature film Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, in which he co-starred with Nick Cave. In September 1991 the Reels issued their first original single in five years, “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, followed by what proved to be their last single, a remix by Filthy Lucre of “Bad Moon Rising” . The group officially disbanded to coincide with the release of the compilation CD Requiem.

Nick Cave in 1994 and Warren Ellis from Dirty Three in 1998 as guest programmers selected Quasimodo’s Dream video for TV show Rage.

The song Quasimodo’s Dream is regarded as an Australian rock classic and has been covered by Kate Ceberano, The Blackeyed Susans, Mick Harvey and Jimmy Little. In 2001 it was voted one of the Top 10 Australian songs of all time by APRA.

The Comeback…

In May 2007, Dave Mason released his first album in more than 15 years, Reelsville, an acoustic celebration of The Reels hits re-recorded by the original artist. In August 2007 Reel To Reel was also released, a compilation of The Reels classic tracks with new liner notes as written by Mason.

David Mason appeared in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series in Australia between late-August and early-September 2007 as a solo performer. He sang the song “Quasimodo’s Dream” only.

Dave Mason, John Bliss and Colin ‘Polly’ Newham have resurrected themselves in their former guise ‘The Reels’ and played shows in May 2008. Bass player Paul Abrahams also rejoined in Nov 2008, Polly has since left.

In 2009 invited by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to play at their All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival. Unlike most music festivals, ATP lineups are chosen by a curator which is a band usually. In January 2009 the festival took place for the first time in Australia, with events in Mt Buller (in Victoria) and Cockatoo Island (in Sydney harbor) which was all curated by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. At Nick Cave request The Reels headlined in Sydney, their hometown, playing after Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a very emotional show to close the festival.

And Band 2:

A Blues Band called The Reels formed in 1976 out of USA. A trio that plays a Greasy Hard Hitting Blues. Lanny Ray, Guitar,Vocals and does the song writting,Pat Anthony on bass and vocals.Last is the heart of The Reels Dylan Sardo who is on the drums. The Reels Bare Bone & Reelin are Blues Rock.

Edited by the-reels on 2 May 2010, 07:18

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