Seminal Aussie punks The Hard Ons are back, paying homage to Australia's most notorious compilation series with Ripper 23. We take a trip back and pay tribute to the original albums to see if they hold up.
Hard Ons are an Australian rock institution, celebrating 41 years of chaos and this year's new release Ripper 23 is a genius homage to the 70s compilation series we've all raised an eyebrow to in our parents record collection.
The second album with You Am I singer Tim Rogers out front, the record is an incredible number fourteen for the band. Anyone concerned about whether nodding back to Ripper is PC enough for 2023 might get stuck on the band's albums Dickcheese and Smell My Finger and should probably avoid their greatest hits sets Eat Shit Listen To Horrible Music and Suck And Swallow: 25 Years 25 Songs. It took thirty-nine years for the band to enter the ARIA albums chart, a feat they pulled off with 2021's I'm Sorry Sir, That Riff's Been Taken.
The band drop the first single from the new record Apartment For Two today, with Ripper 23 going on pre-order across vinyl, CD and cassette. They will also be taking it on the road with dates at the end of this article, but to celebrate, we thought we'd take a trip back to see just how well the original 70s Ripper vinyls have aged musically.
The Ripper compilation series was an annual event, spanning 1975-1977, arguably spurring on the hits collection craze that peaked in the 90s and 2000s with 100% Hits and Hit Machine. Ripper was best known, however for it's risque album covers, with the artist listing appearing tattooed on a female posterior. How much of the series success was due to the covers and how much was the music? Let's find out.
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The record store-stopper that started it all, Ripper came along at a time when Australian music was starting to come into its own. A quick look down the very Aussie-heavy track listing shows the time we were in, with the record opening with Skyhooks' classic Horror Movie and heading straight into Sherbet's Freedom. Our own Olivia Newton John, and Johnny O'Keefe also feature along with global superstars. The record has held up remarkably well (anyone with an old Hit Machine in the cupboard knows that isn't always the case with compilations), with Richard Clapton's Girls on the Avenue, Bachman Turner Overdrive's You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet and Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye still pretty darn good almost five decades later. Daryl Braithwaite proved that his best solo years were still ahead of him and Donny and Marie Osmond probably aren't getting spun much in Australia these days, but in all a pretty solid set.
RIPPER 76 (1976)
With the original Ripper still playing at house parties across Australia, the formula was used again for Ripper '76. In another display of how big Sherbet were at the time, once again Ripper trotted out both a band AND a solo track for Daryl Braithwaite, this time opening with Sherbet's Howzat, undoubtedly an Aussie classic. Skyhooks gave us Million Dollar Riff, Ol' 55 were On The Prowl and even an early Split Enz came to the party. On the international side Roxy Music's Love Is The Drug, 10CC's I'm Not In Love, Maxine Nightingale's Right Back Where We Started From and Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town have aged rather well, while Fox's SSS Single Bed.... well it was there too. In all, if it's possible, this one has aged almost better than its predecessor.
RIPPER 77 (1977)
Ripper was back for its third edition. Opening with Bryan Ferry's Is This Tomorrow, it was the first one not to lead with an Australian, possibly the beginning of the end. Steve Miller Band's Rock n Me and Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill almost saved this compilation. But not quite. In what was clearly one of the weakest of the four collections, this one simply doesn't stand up. Marcia Hines, The Bee Gees and Jon English tried their darndest to wave the Australian flag, but Polystar got the geography out of whack, with way too much international trash instead of homegrown hits. Ripper 77 was the beginning of the end for the series, but Polystar gave it one last try.
The Ripper train just kept rolling down the tracks and what does any good record company do when they're on a good thing? Flog it to death! So they decided to bring in Scorcher, an excuse for a second compilation in one year. By this time sales weren't quite at the heights of the first two. Could it be because people only needed one titilating cover in their record collection and by this time almost everyone in Australia already had one of its predecessors? This time they decided perhaps a sexy stomach might resurrect the brand. It surely wasn't Bryan Ferry's fault- Let's Stick Together is a certified banger. Our old favourites Sherbet and Skyhooks were back again, albeit this time relegated to side B while Shirley's solo single Every Little Bit Hurts got a gurnsey up at track three on side A. Where it goes off the rails are stinkers like Rick Dees' Disco Duck and Silver Studs Dance With A Dolly (With A Hole In Here Stockin'). Disco was in full swing and there were some bona fide bangers in The Bee Gees You Should Be Dancing, Ike and Tina Turner's Nutbush City Limits and Fatback Band's Do The Bus Stop, but it was certainly a far cry from the Richard Clapton, Skyhooks festival that was the earlier Ripper years.
That was the end of the Ripper series. Why did it end? We'd love to think that it was because society finally realised that a track listing tattooed on a female's figure was pretty distasteful and wanted to move on to celebrating the music. But it was still 1977, so we're pretty sure it was about the sales.
So how will Hard Ons' Ripper 23 compare? I guess we'll have to wait until June 2 to find out.
HARD-ONS RIPPER '23 TOUR
22/6 - Ballarat, Volta
23/6 - Torquay, Torquay Hotel
24/6 - Melbourne, Brunswick Ballroom
25/6 - Castlemaine, The Bridge Hotel (matinee)
30/6 - Wollongong, La La La’s
1/7 - Sydney, Crowbar
6/7 - Maroochydore, Sol Bar
7/7 - Brisbane, Brightside
8/7 - Gold Coast, Vinnie’s Dive