Song Of The Day 7/8/2015: The Mixtures – “The Pushbike Song” + “Captain Zero”

Australian Pop with Colin Donald: It’s time for the Tour de France, so what better way to celebrate than with a song about bike riding? In this crowded genre, “The Pushbike Song” by The Mixtures is one which breaks away from the peloton. (Queen’s “Bicycle Race” will probably win the stage, however.)

The Mixtures (founded 1965) were a band that genuinely suffered from multiple personality disorder. Personnel, styles, record labels, success rates – all changed so constantly over 10 or so years that defining the band is like trying to nail jelly to a tree. And yet, for a brief time in the early 70’s, the planets aligned so perfectly they were able to fill a vacancy created for chart-toppers caused by the banning of music on Australian radio.

Let me explain: For six months in 1970 radio broadcasters were at war with major record labels over proposed fees for the airing of records. In that time major Australian and British recordings were banned from the airwaves. However, smaller labels went their own way and were desperately courted by radio stations for content, and The Mixtures had just joined Ron Tudor’s Fable roster. It was virtually a free ride to the top for lesser known acts. Some acts were canny enough to seize upon current overseas hits and release their own cover versions to a hungry audience. And so The Mixtures put out their version of Mungo Jerry’s English hit "In the Summertime" and spent 23 weeks in the charts. Lead vocalist at the time, Idris Jones, declined to sing on it, feeling it was too ‘poppy’, so bassist Mick Flinn took the lead.

Idris Jones had no such qualms on their next release when he and his brother, Evan, wrote “The Pushbike Song.” Is it a novelty song or a quirky love song? Probably a bit of both. (There will be more about Aussie novelty songs in upcoming posts.) The ode to pedaling not only did well in Australia; it spent 21 weeks in the UK charts of 1971. I guess the Brits forgave us for stealing their thunder in the previous year. It also made #44 on the Billboard charts and thus became the first record entirely written, performed and produced in Australia to become an international hit.

As The Mixtures went through their ever-morphing styles they were prone to put out releases that failed to attract interest. However, they did close 1971 with a cult favorite, “Captain Zero” / "I Wanna Go Home." Co-written by Peter Williams and Mick Flinn, this was their third and last big Australian hit, reaching #5 in December and charting for 19 weeks. They headed to the UK at the start of 1972, and although they made no further impression on the British charts, they did well on the club circuit.

And so The Mixtures rode their bicycle off into the sunset, shedding and gaining members along the way. They finally disbanded in 1976; no, it was 1979, 1976, 1979, 1976. No one seems sure, so take your pick.

If you want to know more about the six months the music died, check out good ‘ol Wikipedia. -- Colin Donald

Post a Comment

Popular Recent Posts