Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shane Howard Goanna (Band)

Shane Howard was the middle child and enjoyed singing at church with his mum playing the organ. His sister Marcia joined the family troop and they played and sang at weddings, parties, kitchen teas, and celebrations. Shane was drawn to the spiritual centre of Australia and as a student spent time at Uluru where he was overcome with the plight of indigenous Australians. He formed The Goanna Band whilst still at university in 1977. The original line-up was Mike Biscan (guitar), Richard Griffiths (bass guitar) and Rod Hoe (drums). The line-up changed many times but Shane Howard remained the mainstay. In 1979, the group signed to Custom Press (a subsidiary of EMI) and recorded ‘Livin' on the Razor's Edge’, a four track EP. It met with some local interest.

In 1981 they shortened their name to Goanna and with a changed line-up of Shane Howard (keyboardist and vocalist), Rose Bygrave (drummer), Gary Crothall (lead guitarist and vocalist), Warwick Harwood (vocalist and harmonica-player) Ian Morrison and Carl Smith (bass) they signed for signing for WEA Australia in 1982. The company reluctantly released the single, "Solid Rock." This was one of the first pop songs to broach the subject of Aboriginal rights in Australia and the first charting rock record to feature extensive use of the didgeridoo. WEA were fearful it would be lost, receiving no airplay but instead "Solid Rock" caught the mood of the country perfectly and peaked at No. 3 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart. Also as a surprise it reached No. 31 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and appeared on the US Hot 100.

Their debut album, Spirit of Place was produced by Trevor Lucas, (Fairport Convention,) and became a chart topper in Australia and sold well in the US.

Howard was a prolific songwriter and wrote their second single "Let the Franklin Flow.”

The band were confirmed environmentalists and the royalties went to supported the Tasmanian Wilderness Society's campaign against the proposed damming of Tasmania's Gordon and Franklin Rivers for a hydroelectricity project. A reworked version of "Razor’s Edge" was released in 1983 as a single. This was followed by "That Day (Is Coming Sooner)".

Despite respectable sales WEA dropped the band from the label. Eventually Warners in Australia did re-sign them and they released their second album, Oceania, produced by Billy Payne (Little Feat) in 1985. The single "Common Ground", peaked at No. 42, and "Dangerous dancing" made it to the top 100.

To promote the album, the band toured constantly but by now the pressure of fame and failure to maintain their initial success took its toll. Shane Howard dropped out and went walkabout. Meantime Goanna could not function without him and effectively broke up. Howard relocated from the city and lived in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Out of the blue an Irish singer, called Mary Black, invited him to open her show on the Australian tour. Shane accepted and wrote 'Flesh and Blood' which Mary later recorded and it topped the Irish charts.

Mary and Shane became friends and she invited him to Dublin. The songwriter wrote more song for her and eventually he started to perform in Ireland. He continued to record albums: Back to the Track in 1988, River (1990), Time Will Tell (1993) and Clan (1996).

In 1998, Shane with his sister (Marica Howard) and Rose Bygrave reformed Goanna for the album, Spirit Returns. Shane Howard continues to work and regularly tours both Australia and Ireland.

Worth a listen
Solid Rock (1982)
Razor's Edge (1983)
That Day is Comin' Sooner (1983)
Let the Franklin Flow (1983)
Common Ground (1984) Sorry (1998)

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