The Cruel Sea are an Australian indie rock band from Sydney formed in late 1987. Originally an instrumental-only band, they became more popular when fronted by vocalist Tex Perkins (Beasts of Bourbon and solo) in addition to Jim Elliott on drums, Ken Gormly on bass guitar, Dan Rumour on guitar and James Cruickshank on guitar and keyboards. Their popular albums are The Honeymoon Is Over (1993), Three Legged Dog (1995) and Over Easy (1998). Their best-known songs are "Better Get a Lawyer", "Takin' All Day", "The Honeymoon Is Over" and "Reckless Eyeballin'" – an instrumental track from their debut album Down Below that became the theme of Australian TV police drama, Blue Heelers. The band has won five ARIA Music Awards including four in 1994 for work associated with The Honeymoon Is Over.
Formation and early years
Danny Rumour (aka Daniel John Atkins) was a member of punk rock bands Blackrunner, Urban Guerrillas, Friction, Ugly Mirrors and Bedhogs in Sydney from the mid-1970s to 1980. In 1980 he formed Sekret Sekret which played a "sprightly brand of punky power pop with psychedelic overtones". Sekret Sekret would often play at Sydney pub, The Grand, with Rumour assembling an ad hoc line-up of musicians using instruments housed at the venue. With lead vocalist David Virgin (ex-Ugly Mirrors), they released four independent singles by 1984. When they broke-up in 1987, the line-up included Rumour, Virgin, James Elliot on drums and Ken Gormly on bass guitar.
After Sekret Sekret disbanded, The Cruel Sea was formed in late 1987 by Elliot on drums and Rumour on guitar. They enlisted Dee Corben on bass guitar and his brother, Gerard "Ged" Corben (also in Lime Spiders), on guitar. The name was from a 1964 surf instrumental, "Cruel Sea", by United States group The Ventures (a cover of The Dakotas' 1963 single, which was in turn inspired by the novel and film of the same name). Early gigs in 1988 were played at the Harold Park Hotel, behind a pool table where space was so tight that the guitarists had to move out of the way when pool players took a shot. The original line-up played about 20 shows and parties, then Dee Corben left, he was replaced by former Sekret Sekret band mate, Gormly. Barry Turnbull (ex-John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong, The Widdershins) briefly substituted for Gormly on bass guitar. James Cruickshank (The Widdershins) joined on keyboards and guitars.
Early albums: Down Below and This Is Not the Way Home
In 1989, The Cruel Sea invited vocalist Tex Perkins, their lighting technician and member of Beasts of Bourbon, to join them on-stage. Perkins had written lyrics for some of their instrumentals. The band was signed by Red Eye Records and released a 12" extended play (EP), Down Below, in September. It contained nine tracks and was produced by Phil Punch (The Mexican Spitfires) and The Cruel Sea. It was followed by an eleven-track album of the same name, Down Below in December, both releases featured Perkins on vocals. "Reckless Eyeballin'" – an instrumental track on the album – later became the theme song of Australian TV police drama, Blue Heelers (1994–2006). Although Perkins was also performing with Beasts of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea built a following on the inner-city pub rock circuit with "atmospheric music [that] evoked the feel of wide open spaces". During 1990, Ged Corben left to focus on his work with Lime Spiders.
A single, "I Feel" was released in September 1991 ahead of their second album, This Is Not the Way Home issued in December. It was produced by Tony Cohen (The Birthday Party, Beasts of Bourbon) and The Cruel Sea. The album provided a range of music "from funky Louisiana swamp blues to sweet soul". Vocals by Perkins were compared with Captain Beefheart, John Lee Hooker and Tony Joe White. An EP, 4 x 4, followed in March 1992 with "This Is Not the Way Home" released as a single in August. After the album's release, the band toured Europe in support of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In December they released, "Black Stick" as a single, which peaked at No. 25 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Singles Chart.This Is Not the Way received a nomination for 'Best Group' at the ARIA Music Awards of 1993.
Mainstream success: The Honeymoon Is Over and Three Legged Dog
In early 1993, The Cruel Sea had Perkins on-board full-time with his commitment to Beasts of Bourbon on hold. The Cruel Sea's third album, The Honeymoon Is Over was produced by the band, Cohen and Mick Harvey (Robert Forster, Anita Lane) of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Released in May, it peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart, and sold over 140,000 copies. The title song, "The Honeymoon Is Over" reached the Top 50 in August. It was followed by a cover of White's 1969 song, "Woman with Soul", which did not chart. Perkins also performed as a member in the country-blues trio, Tex, Don and Charlie and released Sad But True (1993).
At the ARIA Music Awards of 1994, The Cruel Sea won 'Single of the Year' and 'Song of the Year' for "The Honeymoon is Over", 'Album of the Year' and 'Best Group' for The Honeymoon is Over and received three further nominations including 'Best Cover Art' by Kristyna Higgins and Jan Manby. At an after-party, a drunken guest attacked Higgins, a professional photographer, and a fracas ensued with Perkins defending his partner. Also that night, two of their ARIA trophies were stolen. Late in 1994, the group toured Europe, again supporting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. They followed with a headlining tour across Europe and to Canada.
The next album, Three Legged Dog, was produced by Cohen, the group and Paul McKercher (Clouds). It was released in April 1995 and peaked at No. 1. The Cruel Sea toured Canada, United States and Europe, followed by a support slot for The Rolling Stones on the Australian leg of their Voodoo Lounge Tour. Top 50 singles from Three Legged Dog were "Better Get a Lawyer" (November 1994), "Just a Man" (April 1995) and "Anybody But You" (July). The album won an ARIA in 1995 for 'Best Group' and two nominations, 'Album of the Year', and 'Best Cover Art' for Higgins and Jim Paton.
The Cruel Sea's next album, Rock 'n Roll Duds, was a compilation of b-sides and studio outtakes, released in November 1995. The group had a two-year hiatus in releases, Perkins issued his first solo album, Far Be it from Me (1996) and contributed to Beasts of Bourbon's Gone (1997). The Cruel Sea returned to their instrumental roots and embarked on a series of gigs without Perkins including the Big Day Out tour.
In February 1998, with Perkins returned, the group released a single, "Hard Times" ahead of its album Over Easy in August. The album was produced by Daniel Denholm (Frente!, Boom Crash Opera), Phil McKellar (Grinspoon, Frenzal Rhomb), the band and McKercher. It peaked at No. 13 and was followed by their Takin All Day national tour through most of 1998. Another compilation, The Most appeared in November 1999 and reached the Top 50. After the success of his first album, Perkins released his second solo album Dark Horses (2000).
In August 2001, ABC-TV broadcast the series, Long Way to the Top. Perkins featured on "Episode 6: Gathering of the Tribes 1984–2000" where he discussed his non-mainstream work with both Beasts of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea, which were "Providing the poor forgotten 5% with something – who like the really fucked up weird shit". In September their next album, Where There's Smoke, produced by Magoo (Regurgitator, Midnight Oil) and the band, appeared and reached the Top 30. It was followed by another compilation, We Don't Work, We Play Music in October 2002 with "Groovy Situation" issued as a single.
Individual members concentrated on side or solo projects. In early 2005, Perkins returned to Tex Don and Charlie and released All is Forgiven in March. Guitarist and main composer, Rumour began touring and recording with his own roots style instrumental band the Dan Rumour Band and Elliot joined on drums by mid-2006. In August, Perkins declared on ABC2's Dig radio program that The Cruel Sea were no more. Dan Rumour Band appeared on the Australian surf music project Delightful Rain released October, and a documentary film of the same name on Australian television in December. Rumour's first solo album was released in October 2007 as by Dan Rumour and The Drift.
In spite of his earlier statement, The Cruel Sea with Perkins toured Melbourne and Sydney in 2008 before their Blues & Roots Festival performances. They also toured Australia in 2010.
To the delight of fans the full band joined Bernard Fanning as support for his Day On The Green tour of Australia in October-November 2013.
- Jim Elliott – drums (1987–2003, 2008, 2010)
- Dan Rumour – guitar, clavinet (1987–2003, 2008, 2010)
- Gerard Corben – guitar (1987–1990)
- Dee Corben – bass guitar (1987–1988)
- James Cruickshank – keyboards, guitar, backing vocals (1988–2003, 2008, 2010)
- Ken Gormly – bass guitar (1988–1990, 1990–2003, 2008, 2010)
- Tex Perkins – vocals, harmonica, guitar (1989–2003, 2008, 2010)
- Barry Turnbull – bass guitar (1990)
- Down Below (December 1989)
- This Is Not The Way Home (December 1991)
- The Honeymoon is Over (May 1993)
- Three Legged Dog (April 1995)
- Over Easy (August 1998)
- Where There's Smoke (2001)
- Rock 'n Roll Duds (1994) – B-sides compilation
- The Most (1999) – Best of compilation
- We Don't Work, We Play Music (October 2002) – B-sides, rarities and covers; plus a live CD
- Down Below (September 1989)
- 4 x 4 (March 1992)
- "I Feel" (1990)
- "This Is Not the Way Home" (1992)
- "Black Stick" (1992) - #25 AUS
- "Delivery Man" (1993)
- "The Honeymoon Is Over" (1993) - #41 AUS
- "Woman with Soul" (1993)
- "Seems Twice" (1994)
- "Better Get a Lawyer" (1995) - #29 AUS
- "Cool It Down" (1995)
- "Just a Man" (1995) - #39 AUS
- "Anybody But You" (1995) - #49 AUS
- "Too Fast for Me" (1995)
- "Hard Times" (1998)
- "Takin' All Day" (1998)
- "You'll Do" (1998)
- "It Won't Last" (1999)
- "A Simple Goodbye" (2001)
- "No Choice" (2001)
- "Groovy Situation" (2002)
Awards and nominations
The ARIA Music Awards are presented annually from 1987 by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). The Cruel Sea has won six awards from sixteen nominations.
|1993||This Is Not the Way Home||Best Group||Nominated|
|1994||"The Honeymoon Is Over"||Song of the Year||Won|
|Single of the Year||Won|
|The Honeymoon Is Over||Album of the Year||Won|
|Best Alternative Release||Nominated|
|Best Cover Art||Nominated|
|Producer of the Year||Won|
|1995||Three Legged Dog||Best Group||Won|
|Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Cover Art||Nominated|
|1996||"Too Fast for Me"||Best Video||Nominated|
|1998||"Takin' All Day"||Best Video||Nominated|
|"Hard Times" – Daniel Denholm, Phil McKellar||Producer of the Year||Nominated|
|1999||"You'll Do"||Best Video||Nominated|
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). . Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 8 November 2010. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
- Spencer, Chris; Zbig Nowara, Paul McHenry with notes by Ed Nimmervoll (2002) . The Who's Who of Australian Rock. Noble Park, Vic: Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-891-1. Note: [on-line] version established at in 2007 and was expanded from the 2002 edition. As from September 2010, [on-line] version appears to have an Internal Service Error.
- , Dan Rumour and The Drift member Nick Larkins.
- , from Bombora record company.
- at Tex Perkins .net