ICEHOUSE: Crossing Borders
You don’t care about how a band is formed, how it starts, you just hear the music. You don’t know how long a band has been around for before you hear the music, how hard they’ve worked to get an audience and a record deal. You can however hear their influences and in Iva Davies initially with Flowers and thence ICEHOUSE these are ringing loud and clear; sometimes in a good way and sometimes not.
FORMING FLOWERS AND EXTERIOR INFLUENCES
The role and power of influence can be difficult to cast aside once a particular set of faves have manifested themselves on our brains. For many of the bands arriving from the winter of discontent, punk and post-punk the UK’s David Bowie and Bryan Ferry reign heavily on both their music and style (see the Sweet Dreams blog for more on that). Loosely speaking anyone from Ultravox to Japan.
But Australia (and New Zealand) had no Bowie or Ferry of their own. The closest in terms of quirkiness would most likely be Split Enz. Themselves evolved from a folky-prog band (similar to Peter Gabriel era-Genesis) before embracing the impassioned fizz of punk (I See Red) and then extracting elements of Eno and Roxy. Though credit to Tim Finn, he never tried to sound like them.
So to the rather unusual settings of the Chatswood tennis club in northern Sydney. Not likely a place to form a band but with his bridges burnt from an unhappy spell in one of Sydney’s orchestras, the oboe playing Iva Davies took a cleaning job and through that met bass player Keith Welsh. A nucleus was now in place.
As normal with ICEHOUSE the band line up would change before a single was released and so John Lloyd replaced Don Brown on Drums. Lloyd was important for a couple of reasons, not just being a great drummer but for illustrating the first album’s cover image. In addition to that and unknown to many he also co-wrote the title song though was never credited by management.
I am informed Iva was ok with him receiving credit where it was obviously due shaping that icy snare sound, in effect putting the ice in icehouse. For whatever reason Lloyd found himself sidelined. Rounding off the quartet was keyboardist Anthony Smith who passed in 2019.
Calling a band FLOWERS in Australia might seem namby pamby or foolhardy but for a while it worked – until the much documented case of the ‘other’ Flowers which I’m rather grateful existed. Let’s face it, ICEHOUSE is a much better name, and tailor made for the cool of eighties new wave.
For a brief moment in the Antipodes we (you and me – the listener) finally got to hear the work via that most marvellous invention, the radio and that meant Can’t Help Myself, We Can Get Together and Walls.
They were new, they were cool – check out Iva’s performance at Sweetwaters music festival (kind of the Kiwi Glastonbury) – they were arty, they were hot, they were grouce, they were choice mate and we in the southern hemisphere loved them. It is however, looking back, difficult to believe it’s him.
FROZEN FLOWERS AND THE DEBUT OF AUSSIE COOL
The first album (called ICEHOUSE) had been produced by the late Cameron Allan. Co-founder of Regular Records and a similar age to Iva. As producer he might seem a strange choice, given that he is mostly known for producing indie talent (The Lime Spiders and such like).
The album, which still has a spring in its step, buoyant and fresh, was hugely successful and drew not just from Bowie and Ferry but also – unknown to me at the time – Lou Reed (Nothing to Do – omitted from international editions of the album).
In the spirit of progress they didn’t go back into the studio with Allan, they went in with Steve Nye (who had just produced Japan’s masterpiece Tin Drum – though some might opt for the John Punter productions of Polaroids or Quiet Life).
First was the small matter of changing the band name (for legal reasons) so the first album anywhere other than the Antipodes carried the ICEHOUSE name with markedly different artwork and running order. Only the title song and Not My Kind are in the same positions as the opening and closing songs that they are on the original Aussie and Kiwi editions.
The first single under the ICEHOUSE name in Aus and NZ was the stop gap and ultra cool Nye produced Love in Motion (in particular the latter ‘quiet’ minute with the Fairlight and some deft playing from the boys). The name change hadn’t done them any harm but it would be their final outing with that line up. Welsh eventually became Iva’s manager.
As far as I know that single was not issued in the UK or Europe but lord knows why not, as to my humble ears it would have been huge!! But wait… there is another part of the equation, the record label. Getting this right can be the makings of a band. Get it wrong and it can be equally divisive. Unfortunately in Iva’s case it was the latter.
ICEHOUSE are a fantastic candidate for ‘what if’ band. What if they had been signed to Virgin in the UK, what if they had supported Bowie and Gabriel in America, what if Measure for Measure had been the third album. In reality only a smattering of the success they might have had actually happened. That said they did tour with Bowie and I’m sure Iva isn’t complaining – have you seen his house!?
NEW WAVE? IT’S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME
So let’s back up a bit. Cuba Street in New Zealand’s capital Wellington is long and narrow. In the early eighties, it had three record stores on it. The EMI shop (in all but name HMV), adjacent to that was the more dimly lit Vanvi (where I saw QUEEN’s Hot Space and many other items of the day including Can’t Help Myself and We Can Get Together).
Further up was SILVIO’s. If you think of second hand record store’s this place was it. A dusty haven with racks of records some at half the price of a new release, some scratched beyond repair merely a dollar. Of my purchases there Phil Collins Face Value and Genesis Abacab come to mind. The latter not long released and only $4! Though I later find the inner info sheet is missing.
One sunny morning I am standing behind two women – I’d guess they were about 20-25 – in front of the NEW ARRIVALS rack. One has long curly wet hair either sand or dark blonde coloured, the other a brunette. In the rack and on my radar for some time was the album FLOWERS which being hot (or indeed cool) one of them picks up.
At that moment in time I am somewhat shitting bricks because it looks like they’re going to buy it. But… it’s one of those weird moments where they end up putting it down and making off with the Stones Black and Blue. With the girls out of the way I am ready to pounce on my purchase! One copy of FLOWERS for $5.50 – that day it’s all I want and I make my way home.
Despite my excitement and it being in good condition I am only part pleased. The title track (the song) ICEHOUSE is amazing as are the singles, though Can’t Help Myself is way too long at 4.41. Boulevarde and Fatman are also songs I quite like though I’m less fussed on Sister or Sons. So it’s a good debut but there was room for improvement and that came in the magical year of 1982.
MAGIC AND LOSS
Magical in terms of record releases: Roxy’s Avalon, Duran’s Rio, Simple Minds New Gold Dream, Jarre’s Concerts in China but less so in other areas. I can tell something at home is not right and not to go into details here but the family is disintegrating around me. Hence 1982 would be my last Christmas in NZ but Iva would ensure I went out with something to cherish.
The Primitive Man album had been out a couple of months and both Great Southern Land and Hey Little Girl were known to me and these are the songs – along with Love in Motion – that really got me hooked on ICEHOUSE. Primitive Man is of its time now (due largely to the dated LINN drum) but at the time it was a revelation!
When Great Southern Land came on the radio I like many of my generation would tape things off the radio (kind of Spotify of the time). At first I think I’ve made a mistake as the beginning sounds identical to Paul McCartney’s My Love. Then as I’m about to hit the pause button those synthetic shakers appear and the LINN drum revs into gear.
The video with Iva in the arid heat of the Australian outback and the night for the chorus illustrated the song perfectly. Trojan Blue conjured up images of medieval Europe and Mysterious Thing was smooth ICEHOUSE with a funk element.
The whole thing wraps up with a re-worked Goodnight Mr Matthews about an encounter with a gent suffering some form of schizophrenia. This would in time not be the final fling detailing accounts of the strange or crazy more on which coming up.
Glam meanwhile was one of the infectiously catchy tunes with Adam and the Ants percussive elements during the chorus ‘dedicated to glam – do do do dah dah yeah.’ A non-single with its own video – a neat promo trick at the time – Duran Duran also did it a few times.
EARLY EIGHTIES CHIC AND ROMANTISCM
The girl with the short hair playing the main part of the ballerina in the Hey Little Girl video I thought had something of Brideshead Revisited character Julia Flyte about her and for Street Cafe, a visit to North Africa was required. I think Iva might have felt a bit like Sebastian Flyte in North Africa for those that know the show. In other words it wasn’t one of his favourite locations.
The cover art (directed by Janet Levinson) was rejected from another project but Iva liked the simplicity of it and voila! The second album cover is born and goes quite nicely with Lloyd’s illustration on the first. It was also refreshing to have an album in tan rather than the usual white or black of many new artists though pastel crimsons and maroon shades were in vogue (New Gold Dream/Rio) and this was before Miami Vice.
I was a lucky kid, but not for much longer. A few more months and I was on a plane bound for the UK and the beginnings of several seasons in hell. Much to my surprise Iva is waiting courtesy of the one guy fighting his corner at Chrysalis London – Mike Joyce. Hey Little Girl is where it should be; in the UK top 20 after Joyce championed the song for European releases!
Next week he’s down to 33, the next he’s gone. And that would be it for ICEHOUSE for what seemed an eternity, barely any media coverage, or radio play. Street Cafe got a release but stalled at 62. Great Southern Land fared even worse, coupled with Uniform and even with a bonus live single thrown in, could only manage #83.
As spoken of in the INXS blog, the UK music media was not in the mood for acts from Australia so Primitive Man received short shrift; some calling it inane drivel and only the more liberal Melody Maker gave it any shred of credibility ‘a carefully worked collection waiting to invade your imagination.’
The repackaged Primitive Man was issued as Love in Motion and featured the reworked version of the title track in place of the rocky Break These Chains. In addition was the usage of very eighties Microgamma type for the album titling; black against a stone coloured backdrop.
SIDEWALK: FROM LUXURY TO HEARTACHE
Fast forward to April of ’84. Now in the depths of despair at the local school (actually that might be stretching it as schools are centres of learning) which has murdered me academically and socially, the only thing keeping me alive is music and comedy.
The radio is on and I catch the last few strains of Taking The Town playing through the upstairs window while I am in the front lawn below. Oh my god, that was definitely Iva, no doubt about it – something new at last!
My excitement is accentuated by the arrival of SIDEWALK in Newport’s legendary Roxcene Records. It’s more expensive as ICEHOUSE are not considered chart worthy (or no one is expecting it to and it doesn’t). *Unfortunately there was no Our Price in Newport at the time and it cost me £5.49!
The cover is period eighties with bells on and a lovely shot of Iva against all manner of graphic strips and a neat paint splatter effect. This time (no pun as it’s the second track) there is again a band. Andy Qunta (Koonta not Qantas apparently), a then unknown Guy Pratt on bass – and wow! What a find!
Though I’m still not sure how a bass player on the dole in London’s salubrious Notting Hill can find a job in a band 12,000 miles away; truly a west eleven genius. Bob who!!? How in christ name do you pronounce that!? And John Lloyd, the only other remaining member on drums.
To say SIDEWALK is a disappointment is an understatement. Compared to Primitive Man it’s a bit like flying from Changi in Singapore and ending up in Luton. What we don’t hear so often is what led to it. Remember that Iva was signed by the American arm of Chrysalis. My guess is after the very European sounding Primitive Man the record company wanted something they could market to Americans.
If this was the plan it backfired badly; the American’s were no more inspired by SIDEWALK than European audiences save perhaps the Germans. In my mind I ponder the possibility of a re-imagined SIDEWALK – kind of like The Beatles Let it Be Naked.
If the Cafe latte version of Don’t Believe Anymore (found years later on remix disc Meltdown) opened the third album and if the other tracks could be successfully reinterpreted, then I would be interested to hear the results.
As is there’s only a glimmer of the ICEHOUSE we know and that comes right at the end (The Mountain) and from the tracks which didn’t make it (Dance On and Java which I’ve made no secret is my fave from this era). Shot Down and the striking title track are a band on a similar wavelength to Scotland’s Simple Minds and Lloyd’s drumming is fabulous.
Around this time Iva wrote and sang on Walking to the Beat for Yukihiro Takahashi’s 1984 Wild and Moody album. As mentioned above he declined the chance to tour America with David Bowie and Peter Gabriel due to scheduling conflicts with the film score below.
There was talk of Gabriel producing ICEHOUSE though this never eventuated. Nevertheless, you can’t help but admire Iva’s integrity here as he was already committed to the soundtrack of Russell Mulcahy’s RAZORBACK and stuck to his word.
The theme is a darker slowed down take on what became The Mountain. The three note keyboard refrain is said to be based on a similar motif used by Peter Gabriel. Likewise Saltlake Walk is a prototype of Shot Down.
Sarah’s Theme is very ICEHOUSE but has dated badly (could be a twin of Just a Word). Kangaroo Shoot, the album’s longest piece, is an atmospheric highlight. The Desert is another semi-demo that went into the making of Shot Down.
But as Guy Pratt says in his book My Bass and Other Animals ‘it could have all been very different’ and as I said earlier if the next album Measure for Measure had been released ahead of or instead of SIDEWALK, then ICEHOUSE would have been massive in Europe – or would they? There is of course no way of knowing but one can imagine.
NO PROMISES AND CROSSING THE BORDER
What it did do was dent the American top 60 and all with no major singles. The presence of Brian Eno and ex-Japan drummer Steve Jansen wouldn’t have gone amiss within the arthouse fraternity. In Australia the band were rising once again and the song remained more or less the same in the UK with No Promises (or as I call it No Promo-sis) crawling to a lowly 72.
It’s fair to say its similarity with Bowie and Pat Metheny’s This is Not America didn’t go unnoticed by DJ’s and those assembled on the radio’s weekly singles review show Pop Panel. It got duly beaten into submission bay WHAM’s Edge of Heaven.
But what I didn’t notice was it’s similarity to the smooth California groove conjured up by Fleetwood Mac! For me as always it was just good to know something new was around. Years later on his Sleepyard blog, Jansen referred to Iva as ‘a lovely chap and a consummate professional.’
Cross the Border (a single in Australia, the US and some parts of Europe but not the UK) really furthered the musical vocabulary shared with Simple Minds. Also the subject matter speaking of the Berlin Wall while The Flame spoke about events in South Africa (then under Apartheid). It was rare for Iva to mix politics with his music in the way that fellow Aussies Midnight Oil did theirs.
Both No Promises and Regular Boys were reworked from their original versions as part of the BOXES ballet. Meanwhile Angel Street is (along with the aforementioned Flame) an underrated deep cut inspired by a commuter girl on a Sydney railway platform. The whole set is rounded off by Baby, You’re So Strange – not a fave but it returned them to the Aussie top 20.
If working with Brian Eno wasn’t enough, at the suggestion of producer Rhett Davies Iva got to write a guide lyric for Bryan Ferry’s Is Your Love Strong Enough. Another cameo occurs on Nik Kershaw’s Radio Musicola album with Iva on backing vocals on the title track and Nobody Knows – both singles in the UK and both falling short of the top 40. (Kershaw himself on the wane by this point).
Measure for Measure is also unique in that it’s one of the first digital recordings; half produced by David Lord and half by Rhett Davies but also unusual is that it has different running orders and different cover designs.
The black design with pink Measure for Measure titling and yellow text for the track list and album credits for Australia and the UK. America opted for a white sleeve by Norman Moore with a different band shot and ice blue band and album titling. In terms of design, Moore is the biggest ‘name’ ICEHOUSE would work with.
This would also be the last time they used different typographic ideas before returning to the formulaic logo for Man of Colours (the cover image drawn by Iva’s own hand!) The first taste of the colours came one summer (July in the UK) with its lead off single Crazy.
The Chart Show run the video with its intro – Iva acting as the DJ – cut off, though paradoxically the radio gave it ample airplay. Even so, it only makes it to 74! Because of this the album is shelved. It took six months and a reissue of Crazy (in January ’88) to get it to the stores in my kingdom.
Still a teenager, I’ve managed to procure a couple of posters from various stores; a square one for Crazy and a full on poster sized work for Measure for Measure, one of the corners is torn so I lovingly repair it as best I can.
The reissue makes it to #38 – the second and final time to date they would ever trouble the UK top 40. Usually when a song makes the top 40 it receives an injection if you like which propels it higher. But not so for Crazy and it’s gone the following week. Across the North Sea in the Netherlands it’s a very different story with Crazy reaching number 9, their highest in that territory.
To put things into perspective ICEHOUSE were the only Aussie band I can think of most suitable to the UK market and again with the right label and promo they might have been more of a force. Yet Men at Work, Mental as Anything, INXS, Pseudo Echo and bizarrely Midnight Oil all achieved what was beyond ICEHOUSE, a British top 10 (albeit one apiece).
In America Crazy reaches the more sensible heights of 14, but the album stalls at 43 – strange when you consider it had two top 20 Billboard hits, one of which was top 10 – Electric Blue. At home a worse fate awaited Man of Colours – no.93!!! The mind boggles! Electric Blue got as far as 54. Once again the video with the band atop a Sydney skyscraper was aired on The Chart Show.
On playing Hey Little Girl one morning, the likeable and fair minded DJ Peter Powell, praised Man of Colours thus… ‘dead Roxy in ’83 weren’t they? And a good album they have out at the moment!’ he said but such praise was as rare as airplay and media coverage.
In a rare UK interview with Record Mirror (if memory serves) Iva himself said he wanted the title track to be a single in Britain and he was probably right. He was also right about being panned purely on the basis of being Australian. Look at the future success of SUEDE (the music press suddenly loved a band to an extent doing what ICEHOUSE had, following Bowie, Roxy and T-Rex). But SUEDE were and are British.
I AM A MAN OF COLOURS
One of my fave DJ’s Johnnie Walker gave the song Man of Colours a spin ahead of the album coming out as part of a half hour suite of Aussie music (it was 1988) in his words ‘that moody one that you liked.’ And it was.
It had drama, elegance, space, I could see a male voice choir doing it beneath a deep grey valley sky. It was completely unexpected and bang on time as I escaped the hellhole of school and enlisted in art college, strangely enough often beneath a deep grey valley sky.
In Australia the album sells by the bucket load and had five singles – another kick in the teeth for British fans or Aussies based in Britain. The album was as Powell suggested another winner, the best since Primitive Man. Heartbreak Kid definitive ICEHOUSE, Girl in the Moon perhaps a touch of 10cc?
There were growing voices in the UK media in support of the band. Again in Record Mirror a female journalist whose name escapes me said she was sick of them being labelled imitators and it was time for them to come in from the cold; a statement also thrown into Q Magazine’s advert for Man of Colours.
RED HOT AND BLUE
But it wasn’t enough, and after Colours failed to paint the UK chart red, blue or yellow things would go from bad to worse. Touch the Fire became their final British release from a best of called Great Southern Land. Fire was aired by (whispering) Bob Harris (like Iva with Welsh ancestry) at approx 2am one morning. I waited up all night hoping it would be the next record but it was the last song of Harris’s shift.
Once again that horrible ‘SIDEWALK’ feeling knotted in my stomach, was this really ICEHOUSE? Nowadays it’s somewhat a guilty pleasure but it’s hardly their best. Jimmy Dean, the other new track, was far better but only became a single in Australia.
Even the American’s had cooled to ICEHOUSE with the Sam Cooke inspired My Obsession and Touch the Fire dropping by the lowly levels of the Billboard chart around the same time as Wang Chung’s Praying to a New God – also their commercial death knoll.
And then there is the project with drummer Pat Mastelotto that never was. The most I know is that it wasn’t going to be ICEHOUSE! Intriguing to say the least. Whether anything was laid down and is in the can who knows.
Then something weird happened. Thumbing through the ads in the Record Collector magazine I see: ICEHOUSE – CODE BLUE (x amount of money). Huh! What’s this, surely not a new album? I ask one of the guys at the short lived CD store in Cardiff’s Globe Centre if Chrysalis had dropped them.
He said Code Blue was a new album, it was on order and yes it looked liked they’d been dropped. This meant it would be coming in on import from Australia and would cost a small fortune (as had some of the INXS items).
According to Iva (speaking on the Hustle podcast in Jan 2021), the label refused to issue Code Blue overseas believing it was solely about Australia. Clearly they hadn’t heard of Midnight Oil. This meant the end of ICEHOUSE as an international entity and left Iva over a million in debt to Chrysalis.
The band itself had seen several changes since the more or less ‘classic’ line up of Davies-Kretschmer-Qunta-Pratt and Lloyd. Around Measure for Measure time a new rhythm section was ‘on boarded.’ Drummer Paul Wheeler and bassist Glenn Krawczyk. Pratt had as I rightly guessed moved on to Bryan Ferry, Robert Palmer and then Pink Floyd. No wonder Iva was miffed! Simon Lloyd on keys n’ reeds plus Stephen Morgan replacing Pratt and the short lived Krawczyk.
Code Blue frequently showed up in Record Collector ads but it would be 1993 before I chanced on it in London at the Oxford St/Tottenham Court Road Virgin store. It cost £14.99, then the most expensive CD I had ever bought and like SIDEWALK was a bit of a disappointment. The band downsized again with the departure of Qunta and Kretschmer who apparently was a dab hand at doing comedian Billy Crystal’s hair!
Completing his collectors set of big name Aussie acts, producer Nick Launay confidently crafted the songs. Though created with the best intentions, the songs fell short of public expectations, especially after Man of Colours! Code Blue is an oddity; it’s the only ICEHOUSE album that doesn’t begin with a single. It’s also the only one that would run to 12 tracks.
I like the Braque-esque cover design, I like the opener Mercy on the Boy with it’s abstract intro and Sean Kelly’s harmony vocal. I like Harbour Town’s lead in, it’s definitely a track 2 but with lyrics like ‘honey you can reach me anytime’ it sounds like something David Hasselhoff or indeed his character Michael Knight would have on his car stereo system: ‘KITT I NEED ICEHOUSE, SELECT HARBOUR TOWN NOW!’ ‘- Michael are you sure that’s wise?’
And speaking of Michael, what on earth possessed Iva to imitate Michael Hutchence in the hair department or was it just a co-incidence? Mind you even Simon LeBon tried that one and also looked odd. The album continues with Where the River Meets the Sea which is almost there. The verses are ICEHOUSE, the bridge is ICEHOUSE but the chorus? Hasselhoff Baywatch-tastic! ‘You’ve got to reach out’ just kidding 😉
There are however highlights. Anything is Possible sounds nothing like ICEHOUSE and for this reason is a resounding plus, pushing the band into new areas the way The Perfect Crime had during the Measure for Measure era. Jericho Bay was stark, detailing domestic abuse another brave step over the Great Divide for Iva.
Charlie’s Sky, recalling his uncle’s last mission in Indonesia, along with the imagery of Iva on the bed, was an obvious ode to Pink Floyd and more so guitar legend David Gilmour. No sooner had the guitars of Sky faded out did I again see in the pages of Record Collector: ICEHOUSE – BIG WHEEL. Because of SIDEWALK and Code Blue even I, a long term and loyal devotee was apprehensive of purchase.
BIG WHEELS: SGT IVA’S MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
It turns up with a computer floppy disc attached in Cardiff’s Spillers Records (for many years) located on The Hayes. An Aussie import and is thus expensive, more than Code Blue. It is also produced by Iva another sign giving me cause for concern (SIDEWALK again) and I pass.
Eventually though, I cave in and begin to seek it out. ‘Is that the one with the computer disc’ says one shop hand. ‘yeah’ I reply. ‘Nah, we won’t be stocking that, it won’t sell.’ And there is another thing that gets my goat with UK retailers, they’re full of shit!
Every time an ICEHOUSE CD appeared, it sold! I can’t tell you how many times I went to a store and saw nothing but the band name on a bit of plastic, no product – gone! I think it may have been late 1995 by the time I got Big Wheel.
My initial concerns were easily erased and it’s not only one of their strongest but a fave, up there with Primitive Man and Man of Colours. It was innovative with the interactive element and it was musically strong. The band by now were down to a trio of Iva Davies, Paul Wheeler and Ben Chapman. In addition, they were in that place only esteemed musicians reach… beyond the chart – even in Australia.
Still the Bowie influences were there (Satellite, Cadillac, Stolen Guitar) and Pink Floyd again on The System. More surprising was Feed the Machine with its Wayne Hussey and The Mission style guitars. If anything Iva had tuned into Planet Zep (evident on the album’s cover design). Invisible People – about the homeless was dressed in a 10cc Wall Street Shuffle seventies vibe.
Among my faves was Goodbye Valentine beginning with an Indian sitar (Wheeler doing a fine Pat Mastelotto on drums) and the song which follows it, Judas. The title track is great too if nothing else for the Eno styled backing vocals and Wheeler’s drumming.
The special ‘link’ music between ‘Judas and Invisible People’ and ‘Feed the Machine and Cadillac’ is also an essential ingredient, call it the icing on the cake. At last ICEHOUSE were a proper arty band and not a million miles away from being nouveau-prog. All in all it is not for nothing that I call Big Wheel Sgt Iva’s Magical Mystery Tour.
And it didn’t stop there, they were as creative as the next band of their era pushing forward with Shakin’ The Cage EP – a reinterpretation of an older track from remix project ‘Full Circle.’ Seen in the Virgin store in Paris for a whopping great 222FR (in 1995 ahead of the Euro) it was far beyond my economic reach (as was David Sylvian’s Weatherbox and the Cocteau Twins singles box).
Guest mixers included Cameron Allan – his first foray with ICEHOUSE since the first album, Manchester’s 808 State – interesting in that I thought their classic Pacific sounded like an acid jazz ICEHOUSE – and Bill Laswell. So again it was all about timing.
It still cost me a fortune – again in London – and while it was contemporary, it was hardly essential. Highlights? Colours (eg Man of), Desdemona (a spruced up Marc Bolan cover), and Blue Noise (Electric Blue).
SUBLIME BERLIN AND STILL BORN POEMS
And so to the covers project The Berlin Tapes which which marked the beginning of a hiatus. Iva decided to create something different – humans! Becoming a father to two kids – now adults, their infant artworks in turn inspired the song Circles in the Sky. Iva noticed that his kids’ pictures often have a circle in the sky; either a sun or a moon.
The Berlin Tapes firstly released as Iva Davies and Icehouse, then ICEHOUSE was later repackaged completely as HEROES. This album saw new terrain blurring the lines of high art (ballet, opera) with contemporary, mostly ‘new wave’ songs. Among them The Psychedelic Furs Sister Europe, The Cure’s At Night, and a fantastic version of PiL’s Disappointed. Sure Ferry and Bowie were there too; Really Good Time, Loving the Alien and Heroes.
Fast forward to the new millennium and Iva decided to rework Great Southern Land as a mini-suite; The Ghost of Time, with the alluring Walk Alone as dramatic as Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood and INXS’s The Gift – only without the bombastic punch of either. It’s a natural successor to The Berlin Tapes; a hybrid of orchestral and electronic performed at the Sydney Opera House on December 31st 1999.
A decade later, the same building’s famous exterior of beige tiles would be art-bombed by the dazzling luminous artworks of Brian Eno, who had years earlier worked with Iva on Measure for Measure. I wonder if the two met that evening and what the conversation may have been.
As sure as Berlin Tapes had lead to the Ghost of Time, this too would slide into the more compositional field of soundtrack work as Iva’s classical training made him a perfect choice for Peter Weir’s Master and Commander.
HAVING A MELTDOWN
In between all of this came a slew of compilations, the still born Bi-Polar Poems project and another remix album Meltdown – this time (again no pun) remixed by the cream of Australia’s DJ culture (endorphin – Great Southern Land and Man of Colours, Josh Abrahams – Crazy etc) and as with Full Circle the results were literally mixed.
The Cafe Latte Don’t Believe Anymore is a stand out, Skipraiders update of Electric Blue is nice, beXta’s Can’t Help Myself is like Desdemona; a kind of psychedelic dance work out which is really effective!
So too was the albums promo by Adelaide’s Voice Design who introduced the album via a neat animation of an ice cube melting over the vinyl record. One single came from Meltdown, Lay Your Hands On Me (Hmm, more Hasselhoff, I wonder what the cool Sweetwaters Iva would think).
The sad thing is that these days ICEHOUSE have been all but erased from international memory, no entries in Rock Encylopedia’s, only those old enough in either Europe or America can recall Crazy, Hey Little Girl or Electric Blue. Like Boom Crash Opera it is only in their native land (or occasionally New Zealand) that you stand any hope of seeing an ICEHOUSE gig.
Since 2011 a touring band of Iva-Wheeler-second guitarist Paul Gildea-bassist Steve Bull-the youthful Michael Paynter (Man of Colours coincidence?) on keys and guitar and a Glenn Reither in a cowboy hat for christ sakes!
As an aside Iva contributed to Easy Fever; a compilation celebrating the work of The Easybeats by many of Australasia’s top talents. Iva takes on Sad and Lonely and Blue. It’s an often overlooked song sneaking out during 2008.
HOMEBAKED: THE LIVE RECORDINGS
On December 3rd 2011, the band played the HOMEBAKE festival playing – as is common of the day – their first album plus other hits. Icehouse (the song) enthrallingly eerie like yesteryear when they performed it at Sweetwaters and given a lift from Paul Wheeler’s excellent opening drum improv and Paul Gildea backing Iva on the guitar refrain.
A bearded Keith Welsh comes out of management to play bass on a couple of tracks but no sign of Lloyd or Smith. This in turn paves the way for the dubHOUSE concerts (December 2013) ‘there is no love inside the icehouse, but there is love inside the dubHouse!’
Finally after 35 years their first proper live album with the rather banal title of ‘IN CONCERT,’ Steve Bull getting his first co-producer wings. In 2020 the album ICEHOUSE PLAYS FLOWERS is issued to mark the 40th anniversary of the first album and the Melbourne’s St Kilda Festival, adding to a growing catalogue of live work. Again the sleeve is carefully considered using Mark Salwowski’s original ‘flowers’ logo from an early poster.
In keeping with bands of his/their generation the ICEHOUSE catalogue has been lovingly restored with some dazzling work by debaser design agency and Next Episode (IN CONCERT, ICEHOUSE PLAYS FLOWERS) especially the discs themselves. However the content is a bit jumbled. Live in Germany at the time of SIDEWALK is added to Primitive Man and Live at the Ritz (Measure for Measure time) is added to Man of Colours.
In 2022, 40 years since the release of Great Southern Land and Primitive Man, ICEHOUSE will embark on a series of concerts around Australia with a varying line up of guests.
IVA AND THE JETS
And to really bring things full circle, the song Iva wrote when he was just 26, ‘Great Southern Land’ was adopted as the name of the first QANTAS Airways 787 Dreamliner, an accolade indeed. Carrying the reg VH-ZNA it was delivered to Sydney on the 20th of October 2017 – 31 years since the release of Cross the Border.
From the QANTAS press release (17th October 2017)…
The name Great Southern Land was chosen for the first aircraft out of 45,000 suggestions from the travelling public. Each Dreamliner will be named after something that is uniquely Australian, including animals, places and literature.
As part of the aircraft unveiling in Seattle, Australian band, Icehouse, performed its anthemic 1982 song Great Southern Land, the inspiration for which came to singer and songwriter, Iva Davies, as his Qantas flight crossed the country’s red centre.
The fact you can now do this in your own IVA-JET is even more astounding and the testament to the power of the song. ICEHOUSE are not only a band but a part of Australia’s cultural landscape (and airspace).
Besides music and traditional music merchandise the band has added coasters, tea towels and even their own shoe line! Designed by Josh Pell and his Nookiee brand. Now you can literally cross borders, buckle up shoes and pick up Iva’s steps in one cultural swoop.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…
Cross The Border (from Measure for Measure) – ICEHOUSE
Slow Motion (from Systems of Romance) – Ultravox!
My New Career (from Gentlemen Take Polaroids) – Japan
Can’t Help Myself (single mix) – ICEHOUSE
We Can Get Together (from Flowers/Icehouse) – ICEHOUSE
Walls (from Flowers/Icehouse) – ICEHOUSE
Boulevarde (from Flowers/Icehouse) – ICEHOUSE
Icehouse (from Flowers/Icehouse) – ICEHOUSE
Love in Motion (single) – ICEHOUSE
Abacab (from Abacab) – Genesis
Take a Chance With Me (from Avalon) – Roxy Music
Glittering Prize (from New Gold Dream) – Simple Minds
Save a Prayer (from Rio) – Duran Duran
Great Southern Land (from Primitive Man) – ICEHOUSE
Hey Little Girl (from Primitive Man) – ICEHOUSE
Trojan Blue (from Primitive Man) – ICEHOUSE
Goodnight Mr Matthews (from Primitive Man) – ICEHOUSE
Glam (from Primitive Man) – ICEHOUSE
Taking the Town (Extended Mix) – ICEHOUSE
This Time (from SIDEWALK) – ICEHOUSE
Don’t Believe Anymore (Cafe Latte Mix)(from Meltdown) – ICEHOUSE
Walking to the Beat (from Wild and Moody) – Yukihiro Takahashi/Iva Davies
Sidewalk (from SIDEWALK) – ICEHOUSE
Shot Down (from SIDEWALK) – ICEHOUSE
The Mountain (from SIDEWALK) – ICEHOUSE
Theme from Razorback (from Razorback) – Iva Davies
Saltlake Walk (from Razorback) – Iva Davies
The Desert (from Razorback) – Iva Davies
This is Not America (single) – David Bowie and Pat Metheny
No Promises (from Measure for Measure) – ICEHOUSE
The Flame (from Measure for Measure) – ICEHOUSE
Angel Street (from Measure for Measure) – ICEHOUSE
Is Your Love Strong Enough? (single) – Bryan Ferry
Radio Musicola (from Radio Musicola) – Nik Kershaw
Crazy (from Man of Colours) – ICEHOUSE
Electric Blue (from Man of Colours) – ICEHOUSE
Man of Colours (from Man of Colours) – ICEHOUSE
Heartbreak Kid (from Man of Colours) – ICEHOUSE
Girl in the Moon (from Man of Colours) – ICEHOUSE
Touch the Fire (from Great Southern Land best of) – ICEHOUSE
Jimmy Dean (from Great Southern Land best of) – ICEHOUSE
Praying to a New God (from The Warmer Side of Cool) – Wang Chung
Mercy on the Boy (from Code Blue) – ICEHOUSE
Harbour Town (from Code Blue) – ICEHOUSE
Where the River Meets the Sea (from Code Blue) – ICEHOUSE
Anything is Possible (from Code Blue) – ICEHOUSE
Jericho Bay (from Code Blue) – ICEHOUSE
Satellite (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Cadillac (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Stolen Guitar (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
The System (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Feed the Machine (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Invisible People (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Wall Street Shuffle (from Sheet Music) – 10cc
Goodbye Valentine (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Judas (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Big Wheel (from Big Wheel) – ICEHOUSE
Shakin’ The Cage (from Spin One) – ICEHOUSE
Pacific (from 90) – 808 State
Colours (from Full Circle) – ICEHOUSE
Desdemona (from Full Circle) – ICEHOUSE
Blue Noise (from Full Circle) – ICEHOUSE
Sister Europe (from The Berlin Tapes) – Iva Davies & Icehouse
At Night (from The Berlin Tapes) – Iva Davies & Icehouse
Disappointed (from The Berlin Tapes) – Iva Davies & Icehouse
Really Good Time (from The Berlin Tapes) – Iva Davies & Icehouse
Walk Alone (from The Ghost of Time) – Iva Davies
Can’t Help Myself (beXta remix)(from Meltdown) – ICEHOUSE
Surgery (from Bi-Polar Poems) – ICEHOUSE
Sad and Lonely and Blue (from Easy Fever) – Iva Davies
Icehouse (from Homebake show) – ICEHOUSE
Fun Time (from Homebake show) – ICEHOUSE
No Promises (from dubHOUSE live) – ICEHOUSE
Electric Blue (cover) – The Killers
Pretty Vacant (from ICEHOUSE PLAYS FLOWERS) – ICEHOUSE
Cross The Border (from IN CONCERT) – ICEHOUSE
Album covers from discogs
Special ‘Crossing Borders’ art by KH.
Icehouse first album advert from the band’s Twitter feed, 2020.
ICEHOUSE first album posters and press pack imagery from Spellbound
Iva’s former ‘Icehouse’ from ICEHOUSE official Facebook page.
Love in Motion replica advert by KH.
We Can Get Together ad – thanks to aussie_band_lover on Instagram for that one.
Sidewalk advert from the internet.
Man of Colours UK Q advert from my personal archive.
Special Bi-Polar Poems art by KH.
Homebake image still from You Tube, photo by KH.
Great Southern Land concert images from ICEHOUSE official social channels.
Thanks Dave Gilbert for the ‘Australian Airliners’ Qantas link.
Nookiee (Iva and Josh) shoe shot from Bendigo Advertiser.
More ICEHOUSE? Visit the official site here.