Taming The Outback
Taming the Outback hanging around with each other. Photograph by Steve O’Connell
Taming the Outback playing live somewhere in 1986
Taming the Outback hanging around with each other
Taming the Outback live - 1986
...The Story...

Band promo shot taken by photographer Jane Hill – Jason Sherwin (sitting), Daryl Amos (standing) and Tony Sampson (on the floor)Taming the Outback were a three-piece Southend band typical of the post-punk and indie music circulating in the late 70s and early 80s. While they spent most of their time playing outside of the town itself and bemoaning the R&B traditions of the area, they were very much a Southend band. The three members of the original line up formed in early 1986 after crisscrossing each other’s musical paths in South East Essex in the early 1980s. Melbourne born drummer Daryl Amos and Bass player Jason Sherwin played in Wreath for Brezhnev. Jason moved on to Stax Century and the Shrew Kings and Daryl joined guitarist/singer Tony Sampson in Playground. Before Playground, Tony had played in The Frame, who recorded at the same studio as Brezhnev. He admits being a big fan of the rhythm section at the time. It reminded him of what Joy Division might sound like if they’d overindulged on speed rather than heroin. It was an aggressive, driven sound, which would go on to complement the echo saturated power guitar Tony was developing in Playground.

Following a somewhat turbulent stint with Stax Century, Jason found some success with the Shrew Kings. Their single, much played by Janis Long, contrasted greatly with the psychedelic experimentations of Playground, who were stuttering to a halt in late 1985. The band variously included Liz Bently on an old Vox Continental, former Le Matt keyboard player Rob Hollyoak and Rick Maczka on Bass. Despite a few appearances up in the Big Smoke and at the Toothbrush (of course), the band rarely managed to emerge from its regular slot at the Swag Club in Westcliff – affectionately referred to as the Scag Club by Liz in her recent return to Southend as a successful comedian. The hedonistic excesses certainly took precedence over any concrete musical output. Indeed, Tony managed the alternative music/comedy nights there (remember Kevin the Elephant anyone!) until the authorities shut it down in early 1986. Anyhow, soon after Playground fell apart, Daryl convinced both Jason and Tony to form the Outback.

The debut single – Blue Heart / Fire & Smoke The single is currently listed on the vtmusic record mart website with an asking price of £45!!! It cost £1.50p in 1986The Outback began working with the engineer Chris Mandridge in the now defunct Elephant Studios in Wapping, East London. There they recorded a debut independent single and a number of other tracks. The Single – Blue Heart / Fire and Smoke was cut at Abbey Road and gained some radio play. It was also favourably reviewed in the local press. The Outback’s management company at the time promoted the single in the nation music press, but it was a fairly obscure record that never charted. It did nevertheless sell well at gigs.

The band attracted more national press attention when they infamously crucified themselves on Hadleigh Downs in a protest over the ‘obscene’ ownership of property in the area by the Salvation Army – and of course to promote the planned release of a second single - Eight-Hour King/Crack in Your Brain. The image was initially splashed over the Evening Echo, accompanied by accusations of “blasphemy” and “outrage” from local Christian groups, before Record Mirror, Melody Maker and a certain tabloid picked up the story. Whether or not it was a cheap publicity stunt, atheistic protest or work of art is still a subject of debate among those who remember it. Nevertheless, the punk and post-punk generation always regarded religious, political and royal mainstream institutions as potential targets. In fact, the local papers have recently reported that the Sally Army appears to be selling up some this green belt land to Thames Gateway developers. Any one for crucifixion, on the right please…

How the crucifixion protest was covered in the Echo and Melody MakerRecovering from the “outrage”, the Outback embarked on what seemed like an endless tour. Beginning with a string of London club and pub gigs, including the Fulham Greyhound, Sir George Robey, Soho’s Le Beat Route Club, Dingwalls, Hammersmith Clarendon and Kennington Cricketers. The band played return gigs at a number of venues outside London including memorable visits to Hastings and Brighton. Eventually, through an agency, they went on the university circuit, which took them across the country, playing threshers balls from Sheffield to Poole in Dorset.

The Outback’s early tour schedule reported in the national music weekly SoundsThe Outback’s early tour schedule reported in the national music weekly Sounds Playing live became a main focus of the band. Milton Keynes provided the band with its biggest fan-base and at one point they spent more time in the land of concrete cows than in their seaside hometown. They supported Fields of the Nephilim and Stump and for a brief period they added a second guitarist – Kevin Sands – before returning to a three piece.

The endless gigging, drinking and failure to finalize the release of the second single probably marked the beginning of the end of the band. Tony began singing for another band (North Point Park) and Jason and Daryl teamed up with the gothic performer The Man in Black. The three Outbackers reunited for a brief time as the gothic singer’s backing group and did a few punk covers gigs. Taming the Outback itself played their last gigs in the late 1980s. However, by now the aggression had turned inward and the instruments began to suffer. These last gigs, one at an open-air concert in Gloucester Park in Basildon and the other at The Esplanade on the seafront lasted only a few songs. The latter lasted exactly 2½ songs before the guitar came off and that was it. The End.

The Outback gigging in the Milton Keynes areaTony played on for a few more years, finishing up with the equally anarchic Creed, alongside bassist Tim Vogt (Le Matt, Skinny and Smarty) and John Dutton (now a successful TV and film score composer). However, when the UK's Ambassador of Afro-Cuban Jazz, and the most unlikely Outback fan of all, Snowboy approached Tony in 2007, suggesting the re-release of the Elephant Studio sessions through the Equation Label based in the US, Tony, Jason and Daryl met up after 20 years for drink. The CD is currently being remastered and will be released in the early part of 2008. They have no plans to play live, but might crucify themselves again… with real nails this time.

Tony and Daryl live in the Southend area still. Jason sadly died in 2010.

Visit the Links page to see Playground, Outback members and related stuff

Profile by Devil John

* Special Southend Punk Feature*
'1986-1989' CD - Detailed Information
Taming The Outback- 'Videos'
Taming The Outback- 'Southend Rock' Video


Taming the Outback - 'Blue Heart' c/w 'Fire and Smoke' - 7" Single - Black Sun Records - 1986

'Blue Heart' c/w 'Fire & Smoke' - 7" Single (Black Sun Records 1986)

Taming The Outback - '1986-1989' - CD

'1986 - 1989' - Compilation - CD (Equation - E=mc24)

Taming The Outback - '1986-1989' - CD + 7" Single in Embossed Box

'1986 - 1989' - Compilation - CD + 7" Single in Embossed Box (Equation - E=mc24)


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