(Exciting updates: Have heard from Tony Duggan-Smith [see comments] – he and Neil Chapman are performing with Steve Heathcote, Matt Horner, Glenn Olive, and Russell Walker in a band called Autocondo. Check out the YouTube link below and look for their new CD!
Also, Tony added this historical fact: “As a historical note: The Pukka’s received the 1985 CASBY Award for ‘Most Promising Group’ but for some reason this seems to have slipped through the cracks of internet history.
Neil and I were both at the awards and Graeme had just fallen ill in Scotland. We were shocked when we won and In classic canadian style, the night ended with my walking home in the rain with the CASBY under my coat. The limo’s parked outside the Hall were for the record execs only! Funny old world isn’t it!”)
This entry is a delight to write – not only does it entail the description of a criminally underrated-yet-gifted 80’s band, they are also from Toronto which is where much of my favorite 80’s music originated.
Pukka Orchestra – now that’s a mouthful! All of the visions the name conjures up – exotic, big sound, foreign rhythms and influences – simply are not true. Just a superbly talented trio that had the capability of making their mark in a burgeoning world of music, but couldn’t due to mitigating outside forces.
The mainstay core of the short-lived group was made up of Tony Duggan-Smith (guitar), Neil Chapman (guitar), and Graeme Williamson (singer/songwriter). The band originally formed in Toronto in 1979, releasing “Rubber Girl” in 1981, and their one and only album, “Self-Titled,” in 1984. This collection is a brilliant assembly of tunes that include critically acclaimed “Cherry Beach Express,” “Rubber Girl,” “Listen to the Radio,” and “Your Secret Is Safe With Me.”
After releasing the album, Williamson became ill with kidney problems and the group disbanded. After about a year, Williamson was able to recover from his ailment and move back to Toronto from Scotland by receiving a kidney transplant. He briefly rejoined Pukka Orchestra in an attempt to release a second LP in 1988. For whatever reasons, the reunion failed and the album was scrapped.
Neil Chapman continues to perform to this day in and around the TO area. DJ David Marsden frequently gives Pukka Orchestra songs airplay on his weekly show (Thurs. and Fri. nights, 7 pm-midnight Eastern) from 94.9 The Rock out of Oshawa, ON. Whenever I hear “Might As Well Be On Mars,” I have to stop what I am doing to become completely absorbed emotionally into it. Don’t let the cheesy video fool you – this is one very powerful song, both musically and lyrically.
Unfortunately, even finding information on them is a challenge. Wikipedia has a short blurb along with a discography. And then there’s the Official Pukka Orchestra (http://pukkaorchestra.com/) web page that brings the reader a bit more insight into this enormously gifted band. I was able to dig up only two examples of their music on video:
“Listen to the Radio” via YouTube user kurdtss:
“Might As Well Be On Mars” via YouTube user kurdtss:
If you care to experience an important part of the Canadian post-punk scene, download what’s available from Pukka Orchestra at Amazon for a reasonable cost. It’s definitely worth it.
Update: New video from Autocondo consisting of Tony Duggan-Smith, Neil Chapman, Steve Heathcote, Matt Horner, Glenn Olive, and Russell Walker. Purchase Autocondo here.
“Paralyzed” by Autocondo via YouTube user autocondo:
Self-Titled (released in 1984)
The Place of Memory (EP released 1986)
Dear Harry (released in 1992)