Sorrows and Joe to smoke the Hoey
THEY say passion keeps you youthful.
For the truth of that statement, look no further than Joe Camilleri.
Leader of The Black Sorrows, and before that Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, the man is Aussie rock royalty, but doesn't have much of an interest in titles - just tunes.
"For me, it's always about the freedom," Joe said.
"If I'm making music I'm not thinking about anything else. I can actually get lost in it."
Growing up in Port Melbourne as the third of 10 kids, born in Malta, Joe first heard rock and roll on the radio in the late 1950s.
In those early days, Joe never thought his love for music would lead to being a musician.
His first experience in a band was as a result of a joke.
"I fell into being in a band - literally," he said.
"We went to see a band called The Drollies and my friends, wanting a bit of a laugh, threw me up on stage. Suddenly, I was in the band as their lead singer."
A little less than 10 years of crazy experience later, Joe joined The Falcons as lead singer, and something very big was born.
"My mum always called me Zep , so I was calling myself Jo Zep," he said of the birth of the band.
A blistering live set slowly translated into record sales, which in turn scored coveted gigs in the USA, playing on bills with Journey, Black Sabbath and Cheap Trick, but it wasn't all fun and games.
"By the end of the Falcons, I was losing my grip," Joe said.
"It was fun when we were playing, but not when we weren't. There was so much administration. I think the Falcons made more than $1 million in 1979, of which I got $15,000. I needed a break.
"In those days, there were no comebacks. I thought I was done. I was working at the fruit market in Footscray, wondering what was next.
"Then I started working at a cafe pouring coffees. My friend, Chris, who owned the place, said: Why don't you come and play on a Sunday afternoon?
"We shared the same taste in music and The Black Sorrows were born."
Joe, along with Steve McTaggart on violin, George Butrumlis on piano accordion, Paul Williamson on clarinet, Wayne Burt on guitar, Wayne Duncan on bass, and Gary Young on drums, decided very quickly to make a record.
"I'd recommend that any band do things themselves," Joe said of the process..
"Making a record can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want. You can make a record on a credit card, if you want. We made the first Black Sorrows album, Sonola, for $1300.
"I just wanted to have some sort of documentation that we existed.
"They're the things you cherish - waiting for the record to be pressed and then having a lounge-room full of records and freaking out because you want to get rid of them."
For The Black Sorrows, the giant leap came when English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello was in town.
He got hold of a copy of Sonola and started talking up the band at his many press appearances.
By 1988, the Black Sorrows were huge.
"All of a sudden, it was today we're in Norway, tomorrow Paris, next day back in Scandinavia," Joe said.
"It was outrageous for a band that had been playing in cafes."
From those heady days until now, the line-up has changed too many times to count, as Joe holds court over a loose association of like-minded musos.
"I haven't counted them, but I know there have been more than 40 people in The Black Sorrows," he said.
"I like playing with other people. I'm not an island. If you have different people in the band it always gives you something. Change. That's where I believe you have to be."
The newest line-up of the Black Sorrows is Joe Creighton on bass, Tony Floyd on drums, Claude Carranza on guitar and Atlanta Coogan on vocals - and they're coming to the Hoey Moey on August 24.
For more information, check out theblacksorrows.com.au