“Quaintly bizarre notions with a refreshing outlook”
By Ian McFarlane
This record is a typically unassuming artefact from the early 1970s Aussie rock scene that seems to want to hide its light under a bushel. It doesn’t jump up and scream out “Look at me! Play me!”. On the surface, it seems to go about its business like a kindly old uncle sitting down to a nice cuppa tea but when you finally lift the lid on its contents you find that there’s a sly and demented sense of humour going on. It’s actually more like a naughty school boy enjoying a giggle at everyone else’s expense than any kind of avuncular persona you first thought.
Of course the giveaway is when you take a closer look at the front cover line drawing – a seedy flasher in flat cap, half-sized overcoat and rancid sneakers with a big nose, wide arse and hairy legs – which suggests sheer entertainment and more to be had inside. And then what of the song titles on the back cover – ‘Be My Honey’, ‘Pie in the Sky’, ‘Blue Movies Made Me Cry’, ‘We are Indelible’, ‘In the Bog’, ‘Esmeralda’, ‘Some Good Advice’ – surely enough enticement to give it a decent listen. Frank Zappa asked the question “does humour belong in music?” and clearly guitarist / singer / song writer Mike Rudd and The Indelible Murtceps agreed.
Since 1969 Rudd had been steering his band Spectrum with a steely resolve, to a great deal of success on the local scene. The group had gone to #1 in early 1971 with the enduring ‘I’ll Be Gone’ single but Rudd was still intent on presenting Spectrum as a “concert” attraction. In general the music was full-blown progressive rock with psychedelic and space-rock touches; audiences could sit cross-legged on the floor, soak up the vibes and let the expansive musical textures waft over them like great clouds of intoxicating marijuana smoke.
Not long after Spectrum’s chart success, Ross Wilson’s new band Daddy Cool went to #1 with ‘Eagle Rock’. The two bands embarked on the joint national Aquarius tour, and Rudd noticed how Daddy Cool encouraged their audiences to dance around and join in the fun. Rudd decided to forego Spectrum’s complex material for a much simpler, more danceable sound in order to work the lucrative discotheque / dance circuit.
In October 1971, he created a new band called The Indelible Murtceps utilising the same musicians (bassist Bill Putt, drummer Ray Arnott and organist Lee Neale) but with a different outlook. This allowed Spectrum to continue as a creative unit while the alter-ego Murtceps simply played for fun and profit. In addition to the more energetic, danceable sound, the basic difference musically was Neale playing the electric piano instead of Hammond organ. Mike Rudd was also billing himself now as My Crudd. The band enjoyed a minor hit single with the jaunty ‘Esmeralda’ b/w ‘We Are Indelible’ (#36 in May 1972) and issued the entertaining Warts Up Your Nose album (#19 in December 1972).
Prior to that, as well as featuring some astonishingly imaginative material Spectrum’s legendary double album Milesago (December 1971) also incorporated elements of Rudd’s new approach to dance moves with the likes of ‘Play a Song That I Know’, ‘But That’s Alright’ and ‘Virgin’s Tale’ being suited to the Indelible Murtceps gambit. It was as if one entity had already started to assimilate the other.
When the band appeared at the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival, held over the Australia Day weekend at the end of January 1972, they were able to appear as both Spectrum and The Indelible Murtceps, yet each set incorporated elements of the other. The subsequent Various Artists double live album Sunbury issued by EMI later in the year featured Spectrum doing ‘Some Good Advice’ and ‘I’ll Be Gone’, while the Murtceps did ‘We Are Indelible’, ‘Be My Honey’ and ‘But That’s Alright’.
One of the great things about Warts Up Your Nose is that eight of the eleven tracks run for less than three minutes; only ‘Esmeralda’ and ‘Excuse Me Just One Moment’ go slightly over that mark while even the 12 minute 45 second ‘Some Good Advice’, which retains the Spectrum musical stamp, is deceptively simple in execution and outcome. The addition of a four-piece horn section on ‘Excuse Me Just One Moment’ and ‘Stay Another Day’ lends a jazzy swing to proceedings. All up, some of the quaintly bizarre notions expressed in ‘Pie in the Sky’, ‘Blue Movies Made Me Cry’, ‘Hand Jive’, ‘Stay Another Day’, ‘Some Good Advice’ and ‘Esmeralda’ retain a refreshing outlook to this day.
While Warts Up Your Nose is kinda rootsy in its own way, it’s clearly not one of those “heavy monster psych” records that collectors of arcane 1970s pieces go nuts over. The sad things is that it has yet to be reissued on CD; Aztec had started the Spectrum CD reissues project some years ago, releasing Spectrum Part One and Milesago but various unforeseen circumstances conspired to prevent things from moving ahead. The Spectrum / Murtceps albums Testimonial and Terminal Buzz are likewise waiting in the wings for a second chance on CD.
I still believe that these are the kinds of records that people need to hear again in the advancing digital age. Mike Rudd is still (occasionally) hitting the stage with Spectrum, despite the death last year of his musical partner of 44 years Bill Putt, so it would suggest that fans still appreciate this guy’s musical integrity. Let’s hope Warts Up Your Nose appears on CD sometime in the near future.
THE INDELIBLE MURTCEPS – ‘Warts Up Your Nose’ (His Master’s Voice / EMI OCSD 7697) issued in 1972
1. Be My Honey
2. Pie In The Sky
3. Blue Movies Made Me Cry
4. We Are Indelible
5. In The Bog
6. Excuse Me Just One Moment
7. Hand Jive
2. Stay Another Day
3. Some Good Advice
4. Snap, Crackle And
Produced by Howard Gable