The Thought Criminals were one of those unique bands whose popularity was based on their quirkiness as well as having great songs. Emerging from Sydney in late 1977 they found themselves wrapped up in the burgeoning Punk Rock scene, not a bad thing if you wanted to be part of it …… and luckily they did.
The first time I saw them was also their first gig, at the latest venue opening their doors to Punk Rock, Blondies at Bondi Junction in early 1978. Four young guys rocking it out with the best of their peers but with an individuality I had not seen yet from the other bands around.
The Thought Criminals had taken their name from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and based some of their songs on the ideals from the book so you would think it was going to be a darker concept. But they also had songs Like Hilton Bomber, I Won’t Pay (For Punk Records) and Fuck The Neighbours (which I’m sure we have all thought at times!!) and it was all done with a quirky twist in the tale. Jangly guitars rather than full on distortion, drums that seemed to be played with a lighter touch and a lead singer with an amazing presence on stage. All this was achieved with another thing not always associated with Punk Rock – a sense of humour, having fun was what they were about. This could be summed up in one of their song, the appropriately titled “Fun” “Don’t want no top ten hit / Don’t want no disco shit / Just wanna have fun”.
Their popularity took off and they soon became the band to see. Playing predominantly around the inner city venues of the time but they were also known to venture out into the suburbs where Punk Rock was less known.
Recording and selling independent records was part of the Punk Rock psyche and the Thought Criminals went one better, they started their own record label, Doublethink. Releasing not only their own music but that of many other bands including Sekret Sekret, Popular Mechanics and Tactics.
Although they felt that in fact people shouldn’t pay for Punk Records the practicalities of doing that were obviously impossible to achieve. But, wanting to be as independent as possible when they could they would do as much themselves to keep the costs down and also help other bands do the same. This was one of the magical sides of Punk Rock, helping each other out. Because nobody in the music industry was interested in the bands, it was left to the bands to do it all themselves, Punk Rock at the time was looked upon as unsaleable by the major record labels and basically ignored.
The members had made a pact within the band that when it wasn’t fun anymore they would call it a day and that’s what happened on 29th August 1980 when they played their last gig at Chequers, or was it?
Although not playing live anymore, The Thought Criminals were still recording and were working on a new album, You Only Think Twice. When it was finished they did a gig at Chequers in late 1981 to promote it but unfortunately the band finally realised the fun had most definitely gone and they split soon after.
February 2006 saw the boys re-form to promote the double CD release of their anthology album, Chrono-Logical. Also in the same year they supported the U.K. band the Buzzcocks at Sydney’s Metro Theatre which was known as the Century Theatre at the time. In February 2007 they once again re-formed to support T.V. Smith of U.K. band The Adverts at the Annandale Hotel.
So all in all, 3 Singles, 2 EP’s, 3 Albums and a bunch of memorable gigs, not a bad legacy to have.
- Roger Grierson – Guitar then Bass
- Bruce Warner – Lead Vocals
- Mark Kingsmill – Drums
- Rique Lee Kendall – Bass
- Ken Doyle – Drums/Vocals
- John Hoey – Piano/Organ
- Stephen Philip – Guitar
More details on The Thought Criminals members at the Australian Music Database
Edge Of Time/Equidistance (Doublethink DTDT10 August 1980)
Land Of The Living Room/Oceania Oceania (gig giveaway – 29 August 1980)
Hilton Bomber (Doublethink DTDT1 June 1978)
Food For Thoughtcrimes (Doublethink DTDT2 July 1979)
Speed. Madness.. Flying Saucers… (Doublethink DTDT8 February 1980)
You Only Think Twice (Green / Larrikin LRG-082 October 1981)
Single – Peace, Love And Under Surveillance (reformation gig giveaway; 2006)
Double CD – Chrono-Logical (Ascension Records, July 2005)
- 22/10/78 – Garibaldi’s Darlinghurst, NSW
- 26/05/80 – Paddington Green Hotel Paddington, NSW
- 14/07/80 – Australian Heritage Hotel Kings Cross, NSW
- 18/07/80 – Chequers Sydney, NSW
- 29/08/80 – Chequers Sydney, NSW