Fricke's Picks: Lobby Loyde

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When Australian guitarist Lobby Loyde died of lung cancer on April 21st at age sixty-five, that country lost its first homegrown guitar hero. Born John Baslington Lyde in Queensland in 1941, he was a founding architect and guardian spirit of Aussie garage rock and heavy music for more than three decades. Loyde's playing -- direct, muscular, frenzied -- on Sixties hand-grenade singles by the Purple Hearts and the Wild Cherries and his bruising early-Seventies LPs with Coloured Balls also made him a long-distance inspiration to American fans such as Henry Rollins and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus. None of those records were originally issued here, and Loyde never performed in the U.S. A recent series of deluxe import reissues will leave you wondering why.

The '65-'67 singles and woodshed-fidelity demos on Benzedrine Beat! (Half a Cow) are everything Loyde cut with the Purple Hearts, a furious mod-R&B band modeled on the Yardbirds and the Pretty Things. But the Hearts' distinguishing intensity was Loyde's combination of terse, rhythmic attack and dynamic-swordplay leads, like Eric Clapton dogfighting with Jimmy Page. Loyde's driving strum and flourishes, heightened with high-speed tremolo, is a big reason why the Hearts' '66 single "Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones" is an Aussie-garage landmark. Loyde is on only eight tracks of a new Wild Cherries anthology, That's Life (Half a Cow). But those '67 and '68 A and B sides are all explosive, freak-beat soul. Loyde doesn't solo at length, but the dirty boom of his outbursts in "That's Life" and his echo-drenched screams in "Krome Plated Yabby" blow through the lumpy production with psychedelic vengeance. (The rest of That's Life is demos, etc., by earlier lineups -- and no minor rave-up.)

Loyde disciples AC/DC took Aussie power boogie to the world in the Seventies -- but only after Loyde set the high bar at home with the bludgeoning majesty of Coloured Balls, on 1973's Ball Power and 1974's Heavy Metal Kid (both Aztec Music). You especially need the former for the bonus track "G.O.D." (short for "Guitar Over Dose"), a legendary epic of speed-blues improvisation taped live in '73. Loyde later channeled that wildness into a more composed blend of arcing space-rock solos and bar-fight riffing in the seventeen-minute title suite of Obsecration (Aztec Music), a 1976 solo album. There is another entire history in Loyde's production for Eighties Australian bands such as the Sunnyboys and Machinations, and he was still playing live as late as last December. But if you are new to Loyde's long, rich, loud life, start here. Start now.

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