What’s the greatest rock song by an Australian band? Is it something by the Easybeats? AC/DC? Radio Birdman? The Saints? Birthday Party? The Moodists? The Go-Betweens? feedtime? The Church? The Scientists? Dead Can Dance? Tame Impala? Little River Band? Or is it “That’s What Mama Said” by Coloured Balls? This is a question that weighs heavily on the minds of some of the world’s least-respected thinkers.
At one time, I may have answered the Easybeats’ “Sorry,” the Saints’ “Know Your Product,” Birthday Party’s “Zoo Music Girl,” feedtime’s “Arse,” the Go-Betweens’ “On My Block,” or the Moodists’ “That’s Frankie’s Negative.” Now, thanks to a tip from a friend who recommended Coloured Balls’ 1973 album Ball Power (which Sing Sing Records has recently reissued), I’m inclined to go with “That’s What Mama Said.”
The song starts with power chords from leader/guitarist Lobby Loyde that loiter with malicious intent while a special foot-powered Theremin wails crazily, then things gradually accelerate to a purposeful chug, creating a sensation akin to the greatest tension-building scene from the best movie Quentin Tarantino never made. Imagine Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” retooled by artfully brutish Aussies who've eaten fistfuls of magic mushrooms and then thought it would be cool to combine the best traits of Hawkwind and Canned Heat. When they finally come, the unison chants of “That’s what mama said, mama said” are utterly uplifting, and the tune proceeds to blaze toward the horizon line with Theremin squeals Silly Stringing all over the stereo field. The coda sounds like the band’s entering a supremely nasty hard-rock vortex in the dustiest Down Under dive bar in existence. You stagger away from the nearly 11-minute track as if you’ve guzzled a keg of Foster’s. BRAAAAP! The end.