Band formed by youth from Wellington, capital of New Zealand, in 1969 . In 1972 the poet Sam Hunt began playing gigs with the group reciting some poems during the songs. The experiment was so successful that the Mammal, along with Sam Hunt recorded an album in 1972 the only one of them. After fights and several lineup changes the band ended in 1974. The album Beware the Man brings 11 tracks of psychedelic rock, most of the time acoustic and soft style, with passages of folk and country. Some songs begin with poems spoken by Hunt, the songs are well played , with interesting mixes of electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, sax, harmonica and violin. A beautiful album, Pearl recommended for fans of acid folk and psychedelic rock............
In December 1969, after Original Sin had folded, Simon Morris and Bill Lake, from that group, teamed up with Tony Backhouse to form an acoustic trio called Mammal. Early in 1970, with Backhouse playing bass guitar, Mark Hansen, who had previously played with Abdullah's Regime, was added to the line-up to play drums, and the group turned electric. Bill Lake, who liked acoustic and had set up a part-time acoustic group, the Windy City Strugglers, while playing with Original Sin, now used this group as his outlet to continue his acoustic activities, while continuing to play with Mammal.
When Gutbucket folded in mid-1970, Rick Bryant, who had also been with Original Sin, joined the group on saxophone and vocals, bringing Mike Fullerton, the Gutbucket drummer with him to replace Mark Hansen.
All the members were students at Victoria University. Up until this time, there had been very little effort to present rock music on campus. While playing as Original Sin, they never actually played on campus. Graeme Nesbitt, another student at the University had a lot to do with changing that situation. He was actually a folkie who later gained national exposure as a member of Country Deal, who were finalists in the 1971 Studio One Series. He formed the Blues-Rock Society at the University and playing at this was regarded an important gig by most of Wellington's bands.
Even while Rick was a member of Mammal, he also ventured out periodically up until 1973 with another band he put together called Rick and the Rockets. Their most stable line-up included Graeme Nesbitt and Peter Kennedy on guitars, Rick on vocals, Kris Smith on bass and Jeff Kennedy on drums.
During most of 1971, Mammal didn't do many gigs as its members were trying to concentrate on studies. This soon changed in 1972 when Graeme Nesbitt took over management of the group. This brought about a line-up change with Simon Morris leaving to form a soft-rock band called Tamburlaine. Simon was replaced by Robert Taylor on lead guitar. He was from Waipukurau and had also been a Victoria University student, but had dropped out. He had been occupying himself doing some solo gigs, occasionally playing with the Windy City Strugglers and fronting a country rock band called Chum. With Morris's departure, Tony Backhouse moved to keyboards, allowing another of the old Gutbucket group, Steve Hemmens, to join the group on bass.
While playing more gigs than they used to, they still concentrated on studies, but when opportunities allowed, they did manage to play on campus at New Zealand's other main Universities at Auckland, Massey and Canterbury. The group boasted three songwriters, so this gave them quite a wide diverse range of music for their repertoire. Although playing basically dance-orientated music they soon got a reputation for being an arty band. It was not often that New Zealand rock bands comprised of members holding University degrees. In mid 1972, Mammal's arty reputation saw them getting involved with poet Sam Hunt. He was a poet who was beginning to reach a wider audience, selling his books in numbers not previously heard of for a New Zealand poet. He has befriended Backhouse and he introduced Sam to the other members of Mammal. The result of this meeting led to a series of varsity concerts featuring Mammal with Sam Hunt as guest. Initially Sam would read poems between sets, but this evolved into concerts with poetry with musical accompaniment. These concerts were so successful that the concept was captured on record and an album was released before the end of 1972. The album was called "Beware The Man" and released as Sam Hunt and Mammal. Also an EP came out called "Sandshoe Shuffle (Selections From Beware The Man)". At this time Hemmens left and he was replaced by Patrick Bleakley on bass. In January 1973, Mammal appeared at the Ngaruawahia Music Festival and gave one of their better performances. After this they went on a North Island tour. When the tour was over, Bill Lake called it a day. In June 1973 there were further line-up changes, Bleakley left and was replaced by Mark Hornibrook on bass, Mike Fullerton was replaced by a young 18 year old drummer Kerry Jacobsen, and Julie Needham was added to the line-up on electric violin. This new line-up, along with Lake's Windy City Strugglers, Sam Hunt and Tamburlaine, took off on a very successful Universities tour. Mammal also invested in an old bus and in December 1973, hit the road for a mammoth four month tour, taking them from Kerikeri in the north, right through to Westport in the south. Although the idea of self-promoted tours had been pioneered by Blerta, it was Mammal manager Graeme Nesbitt who brought a professional approach to the practice. Nesbitt would arrive in town two or three weeks before the band, hire suitable premises, place newspaper ads, distribute posters, and organise publicity.
In April 1974, just one month after completing their tour, Nesbitt sent the band on the road again. This was too much for Needham and she called it a day. Her place was taken by adding another guitarist, Peter Kennedy, who had played part time with Rick and the Rockets.
Halfway through their North Island tour, the bus died an overworked death and all their subsequent bookings were cancelled. Instead they took up a residency at Wellington's Speakeasy Bar. This was a different audience to what they had been used to and it didn't prove very successful. Unrest grew strong within the group and the end was near. They played a farewell concert at the Wellington Opera House in September 1974.
Apart from their output with Sam Hunt, the group only ever released one single in 1973 called "Wait"/"Whisper".
Peter Bleakley and Rick Bryant both made appearances with one of the many combinations of Blerta. Tony Backhouse and Peter Bleakley were later to appear in Spats. Both Taylor and Jacobsen went on to play with Dragon. This came about because Graeme Nesbitt became Dragon's manager.
Rick Bryant had been juggling his time between academia and rock and roll since 1966. In 1974 he made a decision that rock and roll was his calling, and he has remained a professional singer ever since. After Blerta, he went on to Rough Justice, Top Scientists, the Neighbours, and the Jive Bombers.....New Zealand music................
In the early 70s, Mammal were an important New Zealand band: original, ambitious and talented. The paucity of their recordings means their significance has sometimes been overlooked. At a time when New Zealand’s musical landscape was dominated by pop acts and covers bands, Mammal were pioneers of an uncompromising experimental rock. They travelled the country in a psychedelic-painted bus, boasting an eye-opening light show and challenging audiences with their often-lengthy original songs, extended instrumentals and elaborate harmonies. They were one of the first NZ bands to use a synthesiser on stage. A showpiece of their set was ‘Play Nasty For Me’, an epic original that could last upwards of half an hour and ran the gamut of musical styles, from country and western to heavy metal. They would also pepper their sets with a smattering of unexpected covers, such as The Temptations’ ‘Cloud Nine’ complete with five-part harmonies and Motown funk arrangement.
Mammal was known as a university band. This referred in part to their academic accomplishments: in addition to Rick Bryant, there was pianist/guitarist Tony Backhouse with a degree in composition, and guitarist/mandolin player Bill Lake, who was working towards a doctorate in philosophy. But the university tag also indicated that it was student audiences who were most receptive to the group’s unconventional mix of acid rock and sophisticated soul.
Their tours, which frequently but not exclusively took them to campuses, were organised by the group’s manager, Graeme Nesbitt. A counter-cultural entrepreneur, he pioneered a local touring circuit for what at the time were referred to as “underground” bands. (Today such bands would be classified as “alternative”). Groups that sometimes performed with Mammal included Tamburlaine, Billy TK and Powerhouse, Butler, The 1953 Memorial Society Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, Dragon and Split Ends. Mammal also played at festivals, including the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival in 1973, where they took the stage in the early hours of the morning, some time after Black Sabbath.
Mammal was formed in Wellington in 1971 from the remnants of several other capital city bands. Vocalist Bryant previously sang with Lake in the acoustic Windy City Strugglers and electric Original Sin. Backhouse had been involved in rock operas and staged happenings (Jenifer, Santa’s Liquid Dream), had written songs for 60s pop act The Avengers and studied classical composition. He and Lake had also played together in Simon and the Mammals, a short-lived precursor of Mammal (other members of this group, Simon Morris and Mark Hansen, went on to play in Tamburlaine). Lead guitarist Robert Taylor had moved to Wellington from Waipukurau, ostensibly to go to university but in fact to make music with Bryant, with whom he shared a love of blues and funk.
Mammal’s original rhythm section of Steve Hemmens (bass) and Mike Fullerton (drums) were both with the blues band Gutbucket, with whom Bryant sometimes sang. When Hemmens left in 1972 to study art in England he was replaced by Patrick Bleakley. When Bleakley left a year later to join BLERTA, he was succeeded by Mark Hornibrook, and when Fullerton departed the drum seat he was replaced by Kerry Jacobson. In 1972 Mammal recorded what was intended to be a trilogy of albums with poet Sam Hunt, for Red Rat, an independent record label set up by alternative book publisher Alastair Taylor (who found success with several counter-cultural publications including Tim Shadbolt’s Bullshit and Jellybeans, the controversial Little Red Schoolbook and a New Zealand edition of Rolling Stone magazine, as well as several volumes of Hunt’s poetry). Backhouse and composer Ian McDonald set Hunt’s poems to music, which Mammal performed while Hunt recited the occasional verse. Only an EP and one album of the proposed series were ever released. Titled Beware The Man, the album did not really represent Mammal’s live sound. The group toured with Hunt while the title track became a staple of their live repertoire.
In 1973 they released a double-A-sided single, ‘Wait’/‘Whisper’, which was more representative of their complex, harmony-rich sound. A follow-up single (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman’/‘Solo’) was recorded at Wellington’s HMV studios, but remained unissued.
After Lake’s departure in mid-73, Backhouse moved to guitar, sharing occasional keyboard duties with Taylor, while Julie Needham was added on violin and vocals. This incarnation of Mammal made a promotional film of the song ‘Beware The Man’ under the direction of Roger Donaldson (who would later find fame with New Zealand features such as Smash Palace and Hollywood hits No Way Out and The World’s Fastest Indian). But like many of Mammal’s pioneering projects, this early music video never reached the public.
Mammal’s performances were characterised by a DIY element. Once, at a concert in St Matthew’s cathedral in Auckland, Nesbitt – hoping to enhance the group’s light show with special effects – ordered a roadie to procure a smoke machine. The roadie returned with a portable stove and a flammable powder. In a pre-Spinal Tap moment, the band became engulfed in black clouds as the cathedral filled with acrid fumes while the hapless roadie could be seen side-stage, attempting to put out the blaze with a tea towel.
A drug bust while on tour in 1974 helped to cement their counter-cultural credentials, but scotched their hopes of breaking into the burgeoning pub circuit.
Mammal broke up at the end of 1974 when they were unable to find a suitable replacement for Hornibrook, who was leaving to concentrate on his electronics business. Taylor and Jacobson subsequently joined Dragon and found fame in Australia. Bryant became a featured vocalist in BLERTA before going on to lead his own rhythm and blues-based bands, including Rough Justice and the Jive Bombers. Backhouse went on to play in art-pop groups Spats and The Crocodiles and lead a gospel choir.
Mammal lives on in a handful of recordings, but mostly in the memories of those who saw them live. It’s hard to imagine anyone who experienced the group in full effect – rake-thin Robert Taylor contorted over his guitar, Bryant beating hell out of his tambourines, and a film depicting the life-cycle of the blowfly flickering on the screen behind them – was not in some way changed by the experience........by..Nick Bollinger 3 Aug 2013 ...from Audio Culture......
Line-Up: Bill Lake (Guitar / Harmonica / Vocals) Tony Backhouse (Bass Guitar / Keyboards) Simon Morris (Guitar / Vocals) Mark Hansen (Drums)
Tracklist A1 A Valley Called Moonshine A2 Beware The Man A3 A Wind Of Wolves A4 Walking The Morning City A5 Hot Water Bottle Baby Blues B1 Sandshoe Shuffle B2 When Morning Comes B3 Lyn B4 Collision B5 Con The Man And Melissa B6 Bracken Country