Spectrum was an Australian rustic-rock/jam band from Melbourne that debuted with the popular single “I’ll Be Gone” and the album Spectrum Part One on Harvest in 1971, followed by the double-album Milesago in 1972. A pair of live and studio releases on EMI in 1973 were co-credited to the band and their alter-ego the Incredible Murtceps.
Members: Mike Rudd (vocals, guitar, recorder, harmonica), Bill Putt (bass), Mark Kennedy (drums, percussion, 1969-70), Lee Neale (keyboards, vocals, 1969-72), Ray Arnott (drums, percussion, vocals, 1970-73), John Mills (keyboards, 1972-73)
Spectrum formed in April 1969 when Kiwi guitarist and singer Mike Rudd teamed with keyboardist Lee Neale and the rhythm section of unrecorded Melbourne popsters Gallery: bassist Bill Putt and drummer Mark Kennedy.
Rudd (b. 1945) originated in Christchurch garage rockers Chants R&B, which issued two 1966 singles on the New Zealand Action label: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (b/w “I Want Her”) and the much-comped “I’m Your Witchdoctor” (b/w “Neighbour Neighbour”). After settling in Melbourne, they disbanded over musical differences in 1967. He then did a stint in Party Machine, a precursor to Daddy Cool.
Neale hailed from the band Nineteen 87, which issued the 1968 Parlophone string-psych single “Engagement Party” (b/w “Mr. John”).
Spectrum hit the live circuit with a setlist comprised of numbers by UK contemporaries Traffic, Soft Machine, and Pink Floyd. Rudd, who developed a distinct fingerpicking style on his vintage Fender Stratocaster, added original pieces to the repertoire. They performed regularly at Melbourne’s underground venues (T.F. Much Ballroom, Garrison and Sebastian’s) with fellow up-and-comers Tamam Shud and Tully. Spectrum’s live act featured multi-media lighting and dance accompaniment by a troupe called Tribe.
In early 1970, Spectrum cut an acetate of the Rudd original “I’ll Be Gone” (b/w “You Just Can’t Win”). This impressed EMI, which signed Spectrum to the label’s post-psych imprint Harvest Records. That August, the band recorded their debut album with producer Howard Gable (Masters Apprentices, Zoot). As sessions commenced, Kennedy cleared out for ex-Cam-Pact drummer Ray Arnott.
“I’ll Be Gone” and Spectrum Part One
Spectrum made their proper vinyl debut with the January 1971 Harvest single “I’ll Be Gone,” which hit #1 on the Australian chart that May. The b-side, “Launching Place, Part II,” was recorded as a tie-in for Spectrum’s slot at the Launching Place Festival, which occurred at the Launching Place, Victoria, on New Year’s Eve 1970 with sets by Healing Force, Wendy Saddington, and Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs.
Their debut album, Spectrum Part One, appeared in March 1971 on Harvest (Australia, Germany). It contains five numbers, including three Rudd originals: “Drifting,” and the lengthy epics “Fiddling Fool,” and “Super Body.” The opening track, “Make Your Stash,” was written by Rudd’s erstwhile Party Machine bandmate, singer Ross Wilson. Part One wraps with “Mumbles I Wonder Why,” co-written by Russ and another Party Machine alumnus, guitarist Ross Hannaford.
Spectrum Part One was engineered by Ern Rose (Mississippi, Sherbet) and Roger Savage (Kush, Daly-Wilson Big Band). Rudd withheld “I’ll Be Gone” from the tracklist for conceptual reasons despite the song’s popularity. Subsequent CD reissues amend the album with “I’ll Be Gone” and both parts of “Launching Place.” In 2007, archivists Aztec Music reissued Part One with mono and stereo versions of the single, plus both sides of the 1970 acetate.
In June 1971, Spectrum issued the single “Trust Me,” an Arnott composition backed with Rudd’s “Going Home.” The Rudd-penned followup, “But That’s Alright” (b/w “Play a Song That I Know”), appeared that November.
One month later, Spectrum released Milesago, a double-album that contains the recent single and 13 further numbers. Rudd composed everything aside from the rerecorded “Trust Me” and the Arnott co-write “Your Friend and Mine,” the seven-minute centerpiece of side one. Another lengthy number, “What the World Needs (Is a New Pair of Socks),” graces side two.
The first record also features seven shorter numbers, including “But That’s All Right,” “Love’s My Bag,” “Play a Song That I Know,” and “A Fate Worse Than Death.” A four-part suite, “The Sideways Saga,” consumes the bulk of side three. Two further opuses, “Fly Without Its Wings” and “Milesago,” frame side four.
Gable produced Milesago with engineer John Sayers and arranger Jeremy Noone. Sessions took place during September 1971 at Bob Armstrong’s Studio, which had just been equipped with Australia’s first 16-track recorder. The album reached #9 on the national chart.
The Incredible Murtceps
Between the recording and release date of Milesago, Spectrum developed an alter ago: The Incredible Murtceps, a vehicle for dance-hall shows with humorous, pop-oriented material.
For the first 11 months, both projects maintained the lineup of Rudd, Neale, Putt, and Arnott. In September 1972, Neale made way for keyboardist John Mills.
Kennedy later worked with Leo de Castro, Ayers Rock and then Marcia Hines.
Spectrum’s third studio album, Testimonial, was co-credited to Indelible Murtceps. It appeared in July 1973, which reached No. 12. In March, before its release, Arnott announced he was going to join Mighty Kong. Putt and Rudd decided to end both bands; each played their farewell gig at the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne on 15 April 1973. It was recorded and released in December 1973 as a double live album, Terminal Buzz. Both of these releases were produced by Peter Dawkins.
Spectrum had toured other Australian rock festivals, including, Wallacia (January 1971), Myponga (February), Sunbury (January 1972, January 1973), Mulwala (April 1972), and Rosebud. Their national profile was limited by a lack of radio airplay in other capitals and, other than festivals, they rarely toured outside Victoria. Ian McFarlane opined that the group were “one of the first underground bands of the early 1970s to gain mainstream acceptance. [Their] brand of progressive rock was often built around long, complex musical passages, very much in the vein of UK bands… Yet the band did embrace a commercial aesthetic at times.”
Following the disbandment of Spectrum and Indelible Murtceps, Rudd, Putt and Mills formed Ariel in mid-1973. The other members were Tim Gaze on guitar and Nigel Macara on drums (both ex-Tamam Shud). After Ariel disbanded in 1977, Rudd and Putt continued their musical collaborations in a series of groups: Instant Replay, Mike Rudd and the Heaters, W.H.Y., No. 9 and The Burwood Blues Band. After Mighty Kong disbanded at the end of 1973, Ray Arnott was a member of The Dingoes (1974–76), Ray Arnott Band (1978–80), Cold Chisel 1983–84) and Jimmy Barnes Band (1984–85).
- “I’ll Be Gone” / “Launching Place Part II” (1971)
- Spectrum Part One (1971)
- Milesago (2LP, 1972)
- Testimonial (1973 • Spectrum / The Indelible Murtceps)
- Terminal Buzz (1973 • Spectrum / Murtceps)
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