Mental As Anything
A popular urban myth concerns a group of art students who passed themselves off as a band in order to con the local publican into giving them a gig in exchange for free beer. The deception worked better than intended, and the group came to be known as Mental as Anything. Over 35 years later, they are still irritating the public with their highly listenable, idiosyncratic brand of garage pop.
A self-explanatory single to reflect their success, 'The Nips Are Getting Bigger' rose through the charts as did their fundamental understanding of the old adage that 'for every action there is a reaction'. Ahead lay a very lengthy pub crawl which only the accomplished could survive.
1977 - It's the 16th August, the night Elvis died. Mental as Anything (Reg Mombassa, Greedy Smith, Martin Plaza, Wayne 'Bird' Delisle and Peter O'Doherty) perform together for the first time at the Cellblock Theatre, East Sydney Tech. They start a year long residency at the Unicorn Hotel, Sydney (using the pool table as their stage).
1978 - The Mentals move to the Civic Hotel, Sydney for another year long residency on a larger stage.
1979 - 'The Nips Are Getting Bigger' and the album Get Wet hit Top 20 in Australia. 'Nips' is released in the UK and reaches indy Top 40.
1980 - 'Come Around' off the album Espresso Bongo hits Top 20, and '(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet' is released in December.
1981 - 'If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?' and 'Too Many Times' are two of the year's biggest singles off the Platinum album Cats And Dogs, and 'Too Many Times' goes to number 19 in Canada.
1982 - The Mentals tour the USA. They release single 'I Didn't Mean To Be Mean' (produced by Elvis Costello). 'Close Again' is the first single from the album Creatures Of Leisure, and the album tours the US and Canada.
1983 - 'Spirit Got Lost' and 'Brain, Brain' released off Top 10 album Creatures Of Leisure, and the Mentals release cover of Roy Orbison's 'Working For The Man'. 'Too Many Times' hits Top 20 in Canada as the band tours Canada and USA, and the Mentals stage their first group art exhibition, with works by each of the band members, held at Watters Gallery, Darlinghurst. Buyers included Elton John and Patrick White, who later bequeathed one of Reg's works to The Art Gallery of NSW.
1984 - 'Apocalypso (Wiping The Smile Off Santa's Face)' becomes the band's only Christmas single.
1985 - Fundamental As Anything is a Platinum best-selling Australian album, best-selling Australia single 'Live It Up' receives APRA Award for most performed work and Countdown award for best single and songwriter, singles 'You're So Strong' and 'Date With Destiny' hit #8 and #18 respectively, and multi-Platinum Greatest Hits Vol I goes to #2 on the charts.
1986 - 'Live It Up' goes to #1 in Scandinavia, #2 in Germany and #3 in the UK, and the band tours UK, Holland, Spain and Italy, where they win a coveted Telegatto Award.
1987 - The Mentals release Top 20 album Mouth To Mouth, with singles 'Let's Go To Paradise' and 'He's Just No Good For You' also entering the Top 20. They release a Top 40 cover of Elvis Presley's 'Love Me Tender' and again tours the UK and then the north-east United States and Canada with Robert Palmer.
1988 - 'Rock 'N Roll Music' from the film soundtrack Young Einstein reaches #6 on the charts.
1989 - Another Top 40 album - Cyclone Raymond - is released featuring #15 single 'World Seems Difficult' and Top 5 hit 'Rock 'N Roll Music'.
1990 - Then deputy Prime Minister Paul Keating opens second Mental As Anything art exhibition with works by all five Mentals, attracting huge critical acclaim. It tours Tamworth at the Country Music Festival, travelling on to Melbourne, Lismore, Campbelltown and back to Sydney.
1993 - The Mentals release b-sides and rarities album Chemical Travel.
1994 - The band tour Australia with the Bicycle EP Tour, giving away limited copies of the EP to loyal fans around the country, and 'Mr Natural' receiving widespread airplay.
1995 - The album Liar, Liar Pants on Fire enters the Top 40 to glowing reviews, and the single 'Mr Natural' hits Top 30. Two other singles are released - 'Nigel', an instant radio hit, and 'Whole Wide World', a cover originally written and recorded by Reckless Eric.
1996 - 'Marianne', the final single from Liar, Liar... is released and the band retreat into the studio to work extensively on their new album. The band appear at the Mountain Rock Festival in New Zealand, followed by the Australian Tour with Chris Isaak and a tour of New Zealand with The Exponents.
1997 - The Mentals release Garage LP, and their third art exhibition is opened in Sydney by former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The exhibition then tours Australia continuously till late 2002.
1998 - The band tour the UK.
1999 - Bass player and songwriter Peter O'Doherty leaves the band to become a full-time painter. He goes on to win numerous art prizes and continues to this day to enjoy very successful exhibitions around Australia and abroad. He is replaced by Rockhampton raised David Barraclough who had spent the previous seven years as guitarist for New Zealand pop rock idols The Exponents. He decides to switch to bass for The Mentals.
2000 - The Mentals play Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam on Australia day. Soon after, Reg Mombassa leaves the band to concentrate on his art, becoming a major designer for the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. He also continues as a major designer for Mambo Surfwear and continues to sell-out exhibitions of his painting, drawing and print making, both in Australia and overseas. Both Peter and Reg continue to successfully perform and record as Reg and Pete's Dog Trumpet. Meanwhile back in the Mentals, Reg is replaced on guitar by Murray Cook, a gifted multi-instrumentalist who has played with Midnight Oil, Warumpi Band, Mixed Relations, Marlene Cummings, Leah Purcell and Lock, Stock and Darryl. The Recorded Beetroot Stains album is produced by the band, recorded by David Barraclough and mixed by John Haeny, Andrew Beck and Jonathon Burnside.
2001 - Video clip for 'Stretchmarks' directed by Mark Hartley, and shows at the Walkabout Club in Shepherd's Bush, London, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, and Whelan's Pub in Dublin are memorable highlights of a short but successful tour of Ireland and the UK, followed by further touring around Australia.
2002 - Murray Cook is replaced on guitar by Mike Caen in March. Originally a New Zealander, Mike is a most talented guitarist, songwriter and composer (recorded by Darryl Braithwaite, Dragon and Marc Hunter among others) and has played with Dragon, Jenny Morris, Margaret Uhrlich, Pink Slips and Street Talk. He keeps in the band that bit of Kiwi sensibility from Reg and Pete. The Roadcase album is recorded and the band tour the country.
2003 - Roadcase, recorded and mixed by David Barraclough and the band, is released. The band continue their Australian tour and appoint Grant Bartlett as touring manager.
2004 - Further touring, and David Twohil is replaced by the charming and talented Robbie Souter, drummer with the Dynamic Hepnotics and then Slim Dusty for the last 15 years of Slim's career.
2005 - Plucked, an album of acoustic recordings of familiar Mentals tunes, is released for Liberation Blue, showcasing the band's classic repertoire in a thoughtful mood. Produced by the band, mixed by John Haeny (Linda Ronstadt, Little Feat and The Doors), the album gives the new line-up a taste for recording to be realised with the sessions for a new original studio album.
2006, 2007, 2008 - The Mentals head into Electric Avenue Studios in Sydney to lay down tracks for Tents Up, the most satisfying recording experience for the band in a long time. Due to legal issues, however, it will be a long time before it will be released. Most of the tracks are mixed at Rocking Horse Studios, Federal in northern NSW, by 'Rock 'N Roll Music' producer Steve Jame and mastered by Aussie Leon Zervos at Stirling Sound, New York. The band is constantly touring Australia with detours to Shanghai and Macau and a short tour of Port Moresby in early 2007.
2009 - Warner Music Australia discover they have Mentals on their roster and plan to relaunch the greatest hits. The revamped collection called Essential As Anything contains 'Close Again' and Martin Plaza's solo monster 'Concrete n' Clay', and as a bonus, 37 of the Mentals video clips are available on DVD for the first time ever as Monumental 1 & 2. The band's back catalogue is now made available for digital download on iTunes. And on June 12, Tents Up - representing the culmination of the effort, blood, sweat and tears of the five most tempestuous years in the life of Mental As Anything - is released by Warner Australia.
Mental As Anything travels from New South Wales Australia