Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Gary Twinn - Forming The International Swingers

When I recently asked Gary Twinn how The international Swingers had formed and who had bought who into the band he decided he had the perfect answer - his diary!

So here it is, with many, many thanks to Gary - the diary he kept while the band formed and played it's first gigs down in Australia!

The International Swingers (Forming the band)

Saturday 19th of November, 2011.

James and Glen flew into Los Angeles tonight. I drove over to James' North
Hollywood flat, then we went to meet Clem at The Fox and Hounds. The pub was
packed and the band playing was great. Clem explained that two of the guys were
from The Cowsills, the band that 1970‘s TV show The Partridge Family was based
on. Anyway, they were doing loads of 60's classics, Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys,
Hollies, and the vocals were spot on. A few beers were shared and plans made to
meet at a North Hollywood rehearsal studio next afternoon. We were creating a new
band that, up until now, had been just an idea, a theory.

About a year before I'd had a call from, Australian tour promoter, Bicci Henderson
who suggested I put together a new group for a tour later in the year. James was in
LA at the time and we got to talking about doing something where we could play
some of our old songs, plus punk and rock and roll classics just for fun. He called
Glen, who liked the idea if he could fit it into his schedule. As well as touring under
his own steam with The Philistines, Glen is performing bass duties with The Faces.
Our first choice for drums was Clem. He'd played with Glen many times and been
part of the Honey-dippers rockabilly outfit with me. Months of planning and schedule
juggling had taken place and now we were all in the same place and ready to see if
we could make a theoretical band "The International Swingers" a reality. We had
booked a warm up show at Skinny's Lounge, a local bar, for next Sunday. We were
to fly to Melbourne the following day.

Sunday 20th

We all arrived around 1.30pm and, with the assistance of studio manager Mark
Christian, set up our gear, instruments and the PA to our liking. A few weeks before
James and I had made a list of possible songs and the plan for today was to run
through it quietly and figure out chords and arrangements. Well that was the plan,
but as soon as I heard James checking his amp by way of a crunching version of
Cracked Actor I knew that quiet was out the window with this line-up.

There were about 30 songs on the list and we ran through almost all of them and
discussed which ones sounded right for us and which didn't. Some, such as Ooh La
La, got chucked immediately. Then we added some, like Friday On My Mind. I think it
was James's idea because of the Easy Beat's Australian connection. After all we
were rehearsing for an Australian tour that was little more than a week away. Clem
suggested The Romantic's What I Like About You, and said he'd sing it.

We played, drank coffee, and played more into the night, finally ending around 11pm.
Over drinks and food at The Federal Bar, we discussed the upcoming tour, the song
list, and plans for Monday's rehearsal. Thursday was Thanksgiving and Clem's
birthday, there'd be no practice that day, so we had to start nailing the songs by

Monday 21st

Monday was another intense work out. After 10 hours of singing the day before my
voice was more than a little raw and my mind was awash with chords and words but
on we went. Beginnings, endings, solos, backing vocals, arrangements, Glen and
Clem both had a great sense of how all the parts should fit together and by the end
of the night it seemed we were getting somewhere.

Tuesday 22nd

LA traffic can be a nightmare so by the time I arrived at the studio the other guys had
been hard at it for a couple of hours and as I walked up the stairs I was blown away
at how great they were sounding. This morning I'd printed out the tour itinerary, which
was sent to me by Bicci, It was looking good.10 dates across the country, the last
three in Perth, Western Australia. I'd lived in Perth, my Mum and family are there as
well as some of my best friends. I handed out copies of the new set list and some
lyrics we needed, grabbed my guitar and joined the band. Another long
afternoon/evening was capped off by a well deserved visit to the Fox for a beer.

Wednesday 23rd

I had a bunch of things to get done today before practice. Pick up dry cleaning, get
my leather pants from the menders, pick up wine for tomorrow's festivities. The sun
was shinning, and I was walking along 3rd Street when my phone rang. It was Bicci.
'Hey' I said, 'I'm on my way to meet the guys. How's it going?'
"Not great' he replied. 'The tour is cancelled'. He started to explain, but the shock,
mixed in with loud traffic was making everything he said into a babble.
Call me back in five minutes, I told him, so I could get to my car and head over the
hill to our rehearsal studio. When Bicci eventually called again I got the story. The
Perth shows were booked through an agent out there who had become concerned
that advanced ticket sales were slow. Most club shows are walk up rather than
advance sales but this guy wouldn’t take the chance. Without the Perth guarantee
Bicci wasn't sure he could pay the tour costs, band, crew, equipment,
accommodation, airfares, etc, etc.

I called James, told him the news, and said I was on my way. Once again LA traffic
was not helping. Glen phoned and said to meet at Starbucks. When I got there the
first thing Glen said was 'Don't worry, it's not your fault'. Clem was equally gracious
saying how this kind of thing happens all the time. James, the ultimate pragmatist,
said ‘Let's get Bicci on the phone and sort something out’. On the speaker phone
Bicci explained the situation to us all and we bombarded the poor guy with questions.
What about one date in Perth or just the east coast?
He promised to look at the options and get back to us.

"Well" said James "we're still doing the gig on Sunday, right?" We all agreed, and off
we went to the studio. By now the set was shaping up but we decided to cut a few
numbers because it was running a bit long, especially if we were not heading for
Australia any more.

A friend of Clem's dropped by the studio and after we'd finished we all set off to
Clem's local sushi restaurant. James and and I stopped off on the way and picked
up a bottle of champagne and a card for Clem's birthday. The conversation was a
mix of disappointment, positive ideas and discussion about what to do with what was
starting to sound like a pretty good band. Everyone had planned to be away for
almost four weeks so we had time on our hands. After dinner the waitress bought out
some green ice cream with a single candle on top. We sang happy birthday to Clem
and declared we'd stay upbeat and enjoy a day off for Thanksgiving.

Thursday 24th

Thanksgiving. I cooked and we opened a bottle of champagne, both as a gesture to
keeping positive in the face of disappointment, and in my case to wash away the

James and Glen came over and other friends, Uschi, Stash, and Tressa, joined us
for dinner. Afterwards, at Stash's request, we picked up the guitars and banged out a
few of the numbers we'd been working on all week. Stash has been on the scene
since the swinging sixties in London and was even in Vince Taylor's band. He loved
what we played and said he would definitely be at the gig on Sunday.

Bicci called, he was working on something, maybe just Melbourne.

Friday 25th

Feeling the effects of the red wine from last night I met Clem, James and Glen at the
studio. Before we quit on Wednesday we'd figured out the set list, where each
number should go, so the show would have some dynamics. Now we started to play
the songs in that order and with minimum use of cheat sheets.

Another friend of Clem's showed up. Merwin is a great guy; funny, amiable and full of
rock and roll stories. He was critical and encouraging about the tunes we were
playing and it was great to get another point of view of what we were up to. That
being said, we still didn't really know what we were going to do after Sunday's show.
By nine o'clock we were done and decided to eat Indian food. The restaurant was the
closest to a British Indian place I've been to in LA. The food was delicious, and we
ordered way too much. About half way in my phone buzzed and I opened my email.

It was Bicci.

Hi Gary,
Talk this over with the guys and let me know your thoughts
Fly into Melbourne as scheduled and we play the two shows there and then do the
Sydney show making it a three show run.
We all looked at each other. ‘You know Bicci best, Clem said to me, is he just doing
this out of guilt or can he really pull it together?’
Let's call him. So there we were with my phone on speaker chatting with a guy on the
opposite side of the world about whether or not we should take a 14 hour plane trip
in less than 72 hours.

Ok, that was it. We all agreed to give it a shot. The International Swingers were going
to Australia.

Saturday 26th

I hooked up with Glen and James at the Guitar Center to buy strings, picks, etc. An
hour later we arrived at our studio where we were greeted by Clem and Robert
Matheu, one of rock and roll's finest photographers. I'd met Rob before but it had
been a while since I'd seen him last. Clem had invited him down to take some photos
of the band. The studio is in an industrial area and we posed around the street
outside the ware houses, next to Clem's car, then on the stairs and eventually inside.
In no time Rob said he had what he wanted and so once again we set to work on the

The week had flown by but at last it all seemed to be gelling. Two or three runs
through the set, a couple of tweaks and it was time to pack up and get ready for
tomorrow's debut gig at Skinny's.

Sunday 27th

Skinny's Lounge is on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. Owned by Jeremy
Thomas, it has a fantastic vibe, great staff and the sound system is top-notch. During
the week they feature DJs and indie bands. Saturday night is all about burlesque,
with all the trimmings. Needless to say, we had visited Skinny's on Saturday night,
just to check on the stage, and lighting of course.

The International Swingers debut was to be a Sunday show, a matinee gig, opening
with local band, The Chequers. Within seconds singer Julie Green, and her boys,
blew away any sense of a lazy Sunday afternoon playing a set of full on power pop
rock and roll. Next was Patrolled By Radar, another LA based band, who are gaining
notice across the United States. Their authentic mix of American roots music, with a
splash of sixties Brit pop, sets them apart from other local bands, and this evening
they had the crowd begging for more.

Earlier in the afternoon Glen, James, Clem, Merwin and I had set up and checked
our gear. At 7pm it was time to hit the stage and find out if the labors of our weeks'
rehearsal would bare any fruits. We came on, the lights went up, the place was
packed, and as Clem counted us into the first song, Out Of Control, the audience
surged forward and the sparks flew. Three minutes later Out of Control's last chord,
C, clang, then bam, E minor and we're into Hanging on The Telephone. The surge
from the front was huge, the whole joint was dancing, shaking all over, rocking and

Friday On My Mind, I'm Not your Stepping Stone, Fall in Love With You, I Like It Both
Ways, all thundered along. Next up Glen took over lead vocals for Burning Sounds,
and the crowed loved it. James introduced Jealous and the goths in the audience
pushed forward. What I Like About You featured Clem on lead vocal, with the rest of
us on back ups, and me playing the harmonica solo. By the time we went into Stay
With Me everyone in Skinny's was singing along. All The Young Dudes showed off
our four part vocals, then Call Me turned the room even crazier. The first notes of
Pretty Vacant sent them right over the edge, with a massive spill of punters onto our
stage. Glen and I traded off on lead vocal with an extended sing along at the end.
We said goodbye, but came back on to finish them off with Come On Everybody,
God save The Queen and No Fun.

Thank you and good night.

Just over an hour, and The International Swingers had played our first ever gig. You
couldn't ask for a better audience reaction. When we came out of the dressing room
Skinny's was still full of friends, fans and fellow rockers, including Stone Roses' Mani,
and Blondie bass player Nigel Harrison.

Amazingly it was still pretty early on a Sunday night, so it was off to The Federal Bar
for some dinner and a quiet celebration before flying to Australia the next day.
Monday 28th; 11.45pm, LAX, Qantas Flight 11 to Melbourne, Australia.

Yeah it's a long flight. In fact, come to think of it, if you go any further you're actually
coming back. But, Qantas treat you well and after a decent meal and a couple of
glasses of wine I got my head down and slept for a good amount of the way.
Because of the time and season differences 13 hours after leaving Los Angeles on a
Monday night in winter we arrived in Melbourne on a Wednesday morning ( Tuesday
had completely vanished) and it was summer. We were picked up, along with guitars,
and driven to the Medina Hotel in St Kilda. In the past St Kilda had a reputation as a
rough, bohemian part of town, full of hookers and skinheads. Located by the beach
in the Port Arthur Bay it has now become gentrified and groovy, with lots of cafe's
and trendy bars. Right next door to the hotel was, appropriately, the Next Door Cafe
and that is where the four of us spent our first afternoon. It may have been summer,
but in Melbourne that doesn't mean it's going to be sunny, and it wasn't. It was
pouring cats and dogs so we decided to chill and enjoy a relaxing day off with some
Aussie beers.

Thursday was equally chilled out. I try to go for a run every morning, as does Clem,
so I was really digging pounding the pavement of a new town, running along the
waterfront, taking in the fresh air and sights, working up a sweat and all around
feeling great.

Even better, when I returned to the Medina Bicci called to say that pre-sales tickets in
Adelaide were so good that we'd be going there between Melbourne and Sydney.

Friday, December 2nd

Bicci drove us to Geelong, about 100 miles outside Melbourne, for our first Aussie
show. It may be a country town but the punters were 100% Rock and Rollers. They
gave us an enthusiastic welcome and we gave them our best in return.
After the show we stayed and chatted for a bit, took some photos then headed back
to Melbourne.

Saturday 3rd

Saturday night's gig was at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. A pretty large club, we
could have done with a few more bodies in there. But, the audience were nothing if
not loud and raucous. There were a couple of guys in front who where obviously very
dedicated Twenty Flight Rockers fans. I've gotta admit it felt a little weird singing Fall
in Love With You, as they looked back at me, pointing, and enthusiastically singing
along with every word. And remember this is coming from a guy who wrote a song
called I Like It Both Ways.

There were a couple of problems tonight; Glen's amp died, but there was a spare,
and I broke a string (with no spare guitar). But as Clem jokingly poked fun at us for
our lack of professionalism I started to see that we were becoming a true band of
entertainers, warts and all. With great playing, good ideas, talent, humor and,
actually, a real professional attitude. By now we pretty much knew all the songs
inside out and the stage banter had become a part of the show. In my other bands
I'd always been lead singer, therefore spokesman. But here, there were four people,
with plenty to say, and stories to keep all the fans happy. In fact, one writer
suggested that we didn't need to play but just tell tales of yore. What-ever.
For this show we added a second encore, but we didn't leave the stage, just put
down the instruments, Clem came out front and we asked if they wanted another
song? Seemed fair to us. Less pretentious than walking off and expecting applause
and also a bit more interactive with the fans. If they really want it then we do too.
So, Zowie, Bam "Born To Lose", one of my all time favorite songs. I'd played that
Heartbreakers EP 'til it wore out.

Sunday 4th

Needless to say; everyone slept in.

Clem has some good friends in Melbourne and that afternoon we headed over to
theTote Hotel to meet them for a special 30th anniversary party. Apparently this place
has been hosting great rock and roll shows since 1981 and tonight's was no
exception. The first band, The Spazzys, blew me away. Three awesome girls, bass,
drums, guitar, playing full on power-pop-punk; like the Ramones meets the Surfing
GoGo's. Their songs are catchy, they look brilliant and I'm a fan.

The show was truly topped by Guitar Wolf, from Japan. I don't really know how to
describe their music. It's like the Stooges go Coltrane. I wanted to like it, but half the
time I didn't get it. Nevertheless, they give it everything they've got and the vibe is

During this whole event we were thoroughly entertained and hosted by Mary, Wally
and Amanda. They fed us, and bought us drinks, the entire time. But 11pm on
Sunday is closing time so let's head out. Mary and Wally suggested we attend a
house party, being thrown by the owner of the Dangerfield boutiques.
This guys house is actually a converted warehouse on the banks of the Yarra River.
The place is enormous. There were different themes on the various levels. For
example, one entire floor was a full on disco with a d.j and at least a hundred people

Another floor was for live music, and we caught a few numbers by the band. It turned
out the drummer was the host and he came over and graciously supplied us with
champagne and an invitation to enjoy his shindig. He explained that it was a holiday
party for his staff, a mixture of hot girls and gay men.

James and I explored the house some more and found a karaoke room, an out door
stage with another band, a swimming pool and a huge mirrored room with a bath in
the middle.

Tuesday 6th

We took a morning flight to Adelaide. Our hotel was right in the middle of town, so
perfect for exploring the locale. The weather was beautiful too. Sunny and warm,
Australian summer at last.

Wednesday 7th

Today was my birthday, so I celebrated by going for a run around the city's botanical
gardens and along the river, then breakfast.

In the afternoon we headed over to The Governor Hotel, tonight's venue, to check on
our gear and make sure everything was sounding right. It was. The Guv, is one of
Adelaide's main venues and when we returned that night for the gig the place was

Back stage it was the usual stuff of tuning, set lists, etc, but when the other three
guys and Bicci went into the next room and closed the door I couldn't help wondering
what they were up to. That old paranoia raises its ugly head. A minute later they
remerged and handed me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot
and a birthday card. Even though Glen had been calling me birthday boy all day, the
pre gig nerves had pushed it out of my thoughts.

It was a warm night so lots of folks were on the outdoor patio, but when we came on
there was a huge surge to the front of the stage and off we went with all pistons firing
for a brilliant rocking show. The crowd knew almost every word and were not shy
about singing along.

When we came back for an encore James announced that it was my birthday and
the lads led the audience in the inevitable chorus of happy birthday to you.
As we said thanks and walked of stage James turned to me. "Right lets open that

Thursday 8th

We were up early and on a flight to Sydney, where the stormy weather was causing
delays. When we finally landed it was a scramble to get to the venue and sound
check. Tonight's show at The Metro Theater was being filmed and recorded for a
webcast, so the pressure was on to get everything ship shape.

Bicci had been sure to hire professional road crew for all the shows, and the guys at
the Metro got things up and running in no time. The theater itself is split into two
venues and we were playing the smaller. Very industrial in feel with a really cool
facade made of old speakers, piled on top of each other.

The Lost Souls Club opened up the show and came off to polite applause.
As we walked on there was a bit of confusion from the lighting guy, but Clem soon
put him to rights.

1 2, 1 2 3 "BADAM"! Out Of Control. The lights were up and colored smoke was
pumped onto the stage. The International Swingers were up and rocking for our last
show of the tour. Hard to believe we'd only been playing together for just two weeks.
The crowd in front were very subdued, content to stare and take photos.
Five songs in and we still couldn't get them animated. Then I introduced I Like It Both
Ways as a song about a guy who can't make his mind up.
"What can't he make his mind up about?" asked Clem.
Vegemite or Marmite, I said.
"What about you guys?" said Clem.
That was it. Suddenly the whole place was yelling and cheering as James and Glen
pitted the Marmite fans against the Vegemite lovers. Bonkers, but it worked and for
the rest of the show they were enthusiastically singing, jumping and rocking out.
Stay With Me really had them going, with Glen leading the sing-a-long.
Too soon we ended with Born to Lose and the gig was over.
Check it out on; www.Moshcam.com

After a while we went out and chatted with the punters and friends, including my
mates Joe and Chris from Supernaut, and a very excited Blondie fan named Teena.
Bicci drove us to our hotel, in Sydney's Kings Cross. A little later we walked a few
blocks to Tattler's, a cool little club. The door-man was an expat English guy, sporting
a bleached mohawk hair-do. He buzzed us in, sorted us a table, and bought the
drinks too. Very nice.

The next day we were all heading in different directions. James to Melbourne, me to
Perth, Glen to London and Clem back to LA.

So, there it was. The International Swingers, a theoretical band that had become a
reality, played five shows and now it was over.

Or is it?

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