In Mid 80s Melbourne, the Blues and Punk Rock had a baby and they named it Harem Scarem – long since gone, but never forgotten, Harem Scarem reappears from the ether. Way back in the dim mists of time, 1986 to be precise, Melbourne Independent label Au-go-go records released Pilgrim’s Progress by Harem Scarem, following on from the band’s 1984 debut EP Dogman. In this year of shoulder pads, Dancing on the Ceiling and the total world domination of the gated reverb drum, Pilgrim’s Progress stood out a mile for its stripped back, raw emphasis and its ability to provide listeners with a double punch of pure aggression combined with buckets of soul and emotion. Imagine Wilson Pickett singing on the Velvet Underground’s White Light White Heat or Iggy Pop jamming with Booker T and the MGs, and you get a sense of what was happening – all a full decade before the birth of the White Stripes and the so-called Garage Rock revival. Dubbed an instant classic by Ian McFarlane, and described in Mess and Noise as “a steaming chunk of urban blues from the Yarra delta,” the album went on to win the 3RRR single of the year award for its lead single Hard Rain (beating off Hunters and Collectors Say Goodbye among other competitors).
Harem Scarem were also cementing their status during this period for the take no prisoners ferocity and intensity of their live gigs – as McFarlane also commented “Few alternative bands of the day could ever hope to match that line-up for muscular bravado and sheer instrumental firepower". As a result of all of this, Harem Scarem became dubbed ‘the new Cold Chisel’ – they were the next big thing - they were going to rule the world. Blah, blah blah. But then all of a sudden they were gone. Lead singer Christopher Marshall left to join the ivory towers of academia, Harmonica player Chris Wilson struck out on his own, Barry Palmer and Peter Jones went on to play in Hunters and Collectors and Crowded House respectively, and Charlie Marshall kept the Harem Scarem moniker flying for one more album before pressing reboot with the Body Electric. Like all the best things in life it seems, Harem Scarem were long gone before they got stale.
“I remember seeing Harem Scarem live and they used to sweep you up in a ferocious momentum. Blissfully, they’re back now: a great lost band flying high!”
Clinton Walker, rock scribe