Forty years have passed since The Radiators filled their tank and hit the road … literally. The group played around 320 shows in its first year and, in 1980, signed with Warner Bros Records. Pub rock favourites around the country, chart success soon followed with their debut single and album, Comin’ Home and Feel the Heat respectively.
Since those halcyon days, the group has performed before millions of people around Australia and recorded over 100 original songs: two albums selling ‘platinum’ and two achieving ‘gold’, with more than a million sales across the group’s catalogue.
On Saturday April 21, The Radiators play the Maclean Bowling Club. Geoff Helisma spoke with drummer Mark Lucas.
Geoff Helisma: Mark, you joined the group in 1989, is that right?
Mark Lucas: Yeah, sometime around then.
GH: Tell me about how that came about.
ML: Ironically, I was in another band playing around Sydney and I’d become friends with the Radiators’ drummer, Mick Buckley. Mick was leaving the band to do other things and he bumped into my manager, who said he reckoned I’d be good for the Radiators. I got a call from my manager at 2am and he gave me a number to call. The next night I met the band and they gave me a cassette with three songs on it … that I, kind of, didn’t learn. I went along and played a couple of songs – I was wearing a ‘Who’ singlet; it was a stinking hot day – and Brian [Nichol] says, ‘Unless Keith Moon walks in the door, you’ve got the gig!’
GH: It’s been some time since the group has released any new music, Smoke and Mirrors, in 2000 I think; any plans to record and release new material?
ML: One of the things that happens when you put out a new album, you play songs off it and people say you didn’t play any of your old stuff. You do the rounds of the radio stations and they play your new songs for two days, then they start playing your old stuff again. It frustrated the hell out of us. We realised that you’ve got to give the audience what they want, so we started down that road. We dug into our back catalogue during the ‘Noughties’; and that kept us going through that period. Then Fess [Stephen Parker] decided he wanted to retire and we we got the new guy [Brent Dehn] in the band [in 2013]. Who knows? It could happen, but there have been no secret rehearsals or anything at this point.
GH: So, what is the group’s motivation to continue performing?
ML: Well, playing live. You get to a certain point in your life where you don’t know how to do anything else. We had three of four weeks off over Christmas; still, every Friday, Saturday I want to play drums. I find it very difficult to not perform or not play. It’s part of our DNA; it’s part of what we do. I don’t know where the motivation comes from; it’s just what we do.
GH: What’s your most memorable moment during your time with the group?
ML: We did the Rock the Boat cruise late last year. The main act was Status Quo. We were fortunate to have played with Status Quo donkey’s years ago. On the first day there was a departure party. This guy came up to me, who looked vaguely familiar. ‘Radiators!’ he says. ‘Yeah man, that’s me.’ He was the bass player from Status Quo. He says, ‘Mate, I remember playing with you guys years ago; I’ve been looking forward to catching up with you guys.’ When that happens it blows you away. We were just the support band for them. He says, ‘We’ve had thousands of support bands. Occasionally one sticks out and you remember.’ We were lucky enough to stick out in their memory. That’s probably one of the great moments I can actually tell you about … that you can print (laughs).
GH: What can punters expect at the Maclean show?
ML: A mixture of the old songs from every album, the hits that people love and a few obscure ones.
GH: Do you all wear your sunglasses at night, like in your publicity shots?
ML: (laughs) They usually get done in the morning; I’ve got enough bags under my eyes from the worldwide trip. It ain’t pretty, these old eyes.