Waterfront Records (pic by Tom Takas)

The Eastern Dark

The Eastern Dark are one of the most respected Australian bands of the Eighties. With a mix of Sixties-via-Ramones pop smarts, hard rock crunch and punkish energy, their slim output has produced a world-wide cult awareness. If they’re not quite as well known as other Sydney groups of the period like the Hard-Ons or Beasts Of Bourbon, it’s because a tragic, on-tour road accident claimed the life of singer/songwriter/guitarist James Darroch.

In early 1984 Darroch’s bass playing role with the Celibate Rifles wasn’t working out. It was obvious to all that the time had come for James to lead his own band. Switching from bass to guitar, Darroch enlisted drummer Geoff Milne, who he’d jammed with at a party, and Bill Gibson, best known at the time as sometime MC and backing vocalist for the Lime Spiders. After a couple of rehearsals the three piece was christened The Eastern Dark, after the locale where the baddies come from, in long running comic The Phantom. They started gigging that May.

The group achieved early notoriety for their habit of opening their sets with a Ramones song; in fact playing each Ramones song once only in chronological/album listing order. A growing audience followed them as much for their on stage goofiness and strong harmonies as their no-nonsense rock. By early 85 the group was ready to record a single. Released in July and produced by Rob Younger, “Julie Is A Junkie”/”Johnny And Dee Dee” was hailed as a classic in underground press the world over. An inspired homage to the Ramones, it even got the group some mail from the Ramones themselves.

With Rob Younger again at the helm, the band put to tape the mini-album Long Live The New Flesh, with which their scope was widened without losing any power or immediacy. With a cassette of the freshly mixed record with them, the band routinely set off for the 900km drive to Melbourne for some shows when tragedy struck. The EP was released soon after to a mixture of wonder at its contents and renewed grief for such potential cut short.

After lengthy convalescences, both Geoff Milne and Bill Gibson resumed their performing and recording careers. Milne can be heard on releases by the Plunderers and Red Planet Rocketts, while Gibson recorded for releases by Smelly Tongues, Hellmenn, The New Christs, Hey! Charger and the Lemonheads. In 1990, Gibson also hand-picked the best available performances, from live cassette recordings, of previously unreleased Dark tunes for the Girls On The Beach (With Cars) double album. The forthcoming Half A Cow compilation makes the original single and EP available on cd for the first time while adding all the original tunes and studio outtakes from the Girls On The Beach album.

Where Are All The Single Girls? was  three years in the making (well, make that fourteen for those of us who have been waiting for these songs to appear on cd!) and includes a ‘definitive article’ written by John Encarnacao.

(this blurb from 2000)


The Australian The Eastern Dark Show – Saturday 15th May 2021 (Bill and Geoff with Stewart Cunningham) celebrating Bill’s 60th.

The only known live footage of The Eastern Dark, at the Caringbah Inn in Sydney on November 2nd, 1985, performing their single Julie Is A Junkie. Thanks to Gerard Saliba for the footage.

Made by https://www.youtube.com/scottishteevee

Buy Music

The Eastern Dark
Where Are All The Single Girls?

The Eastern Dark
Long Live The New Flesh!

The Eastern Dark
Johnny and Dee Dee/Julie Is A Junkie


Where Are All The Single Girls? (hac75)
Released February 2000

1.Julie Is A Junkie
2. Johnny And Dee Dee
3. Stay Alone
4. Mr. Clean
5. Walking
6. Over Now
7. I Don’t Need The Reasons
8. No Pictures
9. Julie Loves Johnny
10. C & W Metal
11. Swing
12. The President Is Dead
13. I Don’t Take LSD
14. Confrontation Time
15. Whore
16. Stay Sane Somehow
17. Used To Death
18. Superstition

A Half A Cow Classic Reissue.

Originally released in July 2000 on cd in a HAC-designed all cardboard gatefold sleeve with inserts and a 44-page booklet.

February 2010: The album was re-released in a standard jewel case with a reduced 40-page booklet (as the 44-page booklet wouldn’t fir in a jewel case, we shuffled the pages around so it’s all still there except the ‘Gear n Stuff’ page and the Julie 7″ drawing). Plus the same timeless music!


Review by The Barman I-94 Bar:

One of the great “what ifs?” in the history of rock and roll, we’ll never know how far and high the Eastern Dark would have reached in both musical accomplishments and fame and fortune. This compilation is a lasting testament to how incredible the Eastern Dark was in their short time on this Earth. Now Let Us Press Play. – Mojo

Finally, it’s here and yes, it’s been worth the wait.

So why the fuss about a Sydney group that was only around for less than two years in the first half of the 80s, played no shows outside of Australia and only released one single when it was still a going concern? Part of it is to do with the sense of loss when a road accident robbed us of guitarist-singer-songwriter James Darroch. More than enough has been written over the years about that event and the unrealised potential the Dark possessed, so I’m going to presume you know all about that (and if you don’t, you can read the impressive 44-page booklet that comes with the disc). For the benefit of the initiates, let’s focus on the music.

The first thing that must be said is that it rocks. Hard, especially the studio cuts. And it rocks with all the abandon and raw passion of youth in a way that wipes the floor with most anything else you could care to name. Liberally taking from venerable precursors like the Ramones and the NY Dolls (and some more surprising antecedents like the Dictators), the Eastern Dark were maybe the best blending of pop’s harmonies with (good) punk’s boundless energies that many of us saw in many a long time. The John Encarnacao liner notes (almost worth the price of admission themselves) draw a parallel with Husker Du – and there’s no argument from this quarter. Think “Candy Apple Grey”, rather than their hardcore efforts, and multiply it by a factor of two or three, to get a handle on the Dark’s best moments. But as Encarnacao points out, there was a blacker side to the Dark, too. Put on “Mr Clean” (a stupendous piece of guitar wash) or “Stay Alone” and you’ll understand.

This was a line-up that gravitated towards each other rather by virtue of being in the same place (the incestuous Sydney scene) at the same time. Geoff Milne’s powerhouse drumming, Bill Gibson’s fulsome and supple bass playing and on-the-money harmonising, plus (ex-Celibate Rifles bassist) James Darroch’s economical guitar playing and singing, were rock solid ingredients, but they had great songs and a no bullshit approach as well. The old cliché about the whole being the sum of its parts rings true.

Listening years later (and viewed against the template of the liner notes, which fill in a few gaps) it’s clear that, for James, the songs were also intensely personal. Most good music is, and if you can’t feel it from hearing this you need new ears.

There’s the Rob Younger-produced single, “Johnny & Dee Dee” b/w “Julie is a Junkie”. No mere Ramones homage (although its nods to the bruddas and James Darroch personal favorites are overt), it sounded awesome at the time and, to these ears at least, is even better now with some re-mastering tweaks and the passage of time. There’s everything from the (posthumous) “Long Live the New Flesh” mini-album (with the slightly more sparse version of “Mr Clean”, which appeared on Steven Danno’s hard-to-find Sydney compilation, “Swinging From the Trees”, winning a place ahead of the original.) Try and resist the sheer power of “Walking” or the shitstorm rhythms of “No Pictures” and the singalong harmonies of “I Don’t Need the Reasons”.

Wrapping it up is most of the live album, “Girls on the Beach with Cars”. Some take issue with the cover songs being omitted (and a couple were pretty good, like “I Wanna Destroy You”) but hearing originals like “The President is Dead” and “Whore” (a stop-start part-spoken word rave that makes perfect sense) in cleaned-up form blows those quibbles out the door.

As someone who caught them live too few times, I can say the Dark had a live presence and sense of humour that set them apart from many (most?) contemporaries. The Sydney scene was flowering and mutating into a slew of subsets, many of them incarnations of what had happened, or was happening, overseas. It was a great time and we were spoilt. It’s great being spoilt again. This release lets the rest of the world catch up. It’s essential. Recommended without reservations.