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2006/157/1 Speaker box, wood / leatherette / synthetic mesh / metal / electronic components, made by Wasp Industries, used by Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1974-1976. Click to enlarge.

Wasp speaker box used by Radio Birdman

Made
This speaker box has significance as an original piece of 1970s stage equipment used by the Australian band Radio Birdman.

Although they disliked the term, Radio Birdman was in the vanguard of what became known as 'punk rock', paving the way for its acceptance in Australia. Together for only three years (although they reformed many years later), they continue to attract fans. To many rock fans and historians, Radio Birdman's importance has grown retrospectively since their initial demise in 1978.

The band was formed in late 1974 from members of TV Jones (Deniz Tek, Pip Hoyle) and the Rats (Rob Younger, Ron Keeley, Warwick Gilbert). From 1975 to 1978 Radio Birdman established a reputation for ferocious live performances. They played a fast and furious brand of rock 'n' roll. The cover versions they chose to perform revealed their influences: US proto-punk bands MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls -- bands seldom heard on Australian radio - as well as the Rolling Stones. Deniz Tek's original songs such as 'Man with a Golden Helmet' and 'Murder City Nights' revealed inventive lyrics and strong hooks. In December 1975 Radio Birdman won a RAM magazine 'Punk band thriller' competition. Their reputation grew with a residency at the Oxford Tavern in Sydney's Taylor Square.

The band's first record, a private pressing of the 'Burn My Eye' EP, sold out following an advertisement in RAM magazine. In June 1977 their album 'Radios Appear' was released, with Tek's anthemic single 'New Race' becoming the band's signature tune. In February 1978 Radio Birdman ventured to the UK for gigs and recording. However Tek and Hoyle had to return for medical internships and the band broke up. There have been various incarnations and reunions since.

Adopting a do-it-yourself approach to their creative and business affairs, the band members involved themselves in their fan club, fostering a support network for their musical enterprises. They developed a cult 'brand' with an arcane mythology that drew the fans and the band together. Crucial to this was the establishment of a strong visual identity. The graphics of the band's bass guitarist Warwick Gilbert were an essential part of Radio Birdman. 'He was able to translate band ideals and mythology into powerful visual images which are the equal of the sound of the band in impact' (Deniz Tek in Vivien Johnson, 'Radio Birdman', Sheldon Booth, 1992, p5). It was Deniz Tek who designed the band's symbol, which was placed on their guitar amplifiers, on badges, t-shirts, stampers and other paraphernalia. Radio Birdman's graphics were feared and misunderstood by some who saw sinister political overtones that bore no relation to the band and their music. The band's quest was artistic rather than political.

Scorned, feared, vilified and otherwise unrecognised in their day, Radio Birdman have influenced aspiring musicians and acquired an lasting cult status.

Summary

Object No.

2006/157/1

Object Statement

Speaker box, wood / leatherette / synthetic mesh / metal / electronic components, made by Wasp Industries, used by Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1974-1976

Physical Description

Speaker box, wood / leatherette / synthetic mesh / metal / electronic components, made by Wasp Industries, used by Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1974-1976

Speaker box for an electric guitar amplifier with wooden casing which is covered in white coloured leatherette. The speaker box shows signs of heavy use in live performances as the leatherette is worn, chipped and stained. The Radio Birdman symbol is stencilled in black paint on either side of the box. An adhesive label with the company logo is adhered to the centre front of the black mesh front.

Marks

Company logo, printed on label adhered at centre front, 'WASP'.
Hand written in black ink on masking tape attached to reverse side, 'RADIO BIRDMAN / FAR STAGE RIGHT'.

Dimensions

Height

755 mm

Width

760 mm

Depth

355 mm

Production

Notes

The speaker box was made by Wasp Industries in Sydney, New South Wales. Ian Johnstone arrived in Australia in 1967 as a roadie from New Zealand and stayed to form Wasp Industries with Doug Henderson, making valve amplifiers under the name of 'Holden' which was a New Zealand company owned by Ron Holden. Ian bought Doug out in 1968. The WASP 200 watt bass amp became an Australian industry standard for many years, being used by bands such as Sherbet, Hush, Flying Circus, Blackfeather and Jeff St. John's Copperwine.

History

Notes

The speaker box was used by guitarist Deniz Tek with Radio Birdman in the mid 1970s. Tek used the speaker box with a Phoenix amplifier head. For many years he played an Epiphone electric guitar that had belonged to Fred 'Sonic' Smith of the Detroit proto-punk band MC5. Tek purchased the Epiphone guitar from a shop in an arcade in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The band's other guitarist Chris Masuak also used a Phoenix amp and a Wasp speaker box. The bass guitarist Warwick Gilbert used a Wasp bass amp and speaker box.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Vivien Johnson, Deniz Tek and Radio Birdman, 2006

Acquisition Date

22 November 2006

Cite this Object

Harvard

Wasp speaker box used by Radio Birdman 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 February 2021, <https://ma.as/363115>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/363115 |title=Wasp speaker box used by Radio Birdman |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 February 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}