The sign of a great song isn’t the chord sequence, the lyrics or the performance it’s the way that it seeps into your subconscious without you realising. The Australian band Sherbet’s one UK hit is one of those songs…………………
In the mid-70s I tried to be ‘cool’ when it came to music, I’d worked through Glam Rock and moved onto Queen, Thin Lizzy and Hawkwind. With the exception of John Peel and ‘Fluff’ Freeman I didn’t really listen to Radio 1 (OK I did go to a few of their roadshows but it was just so my sister had someone to go with – honest) so how did ‘Howzat’ by Sherbet get lodged into my brain? I haven’t heard the song for years but every time I hear the cry ‘Howzat!” when watching cricket the voice in my head automatically replies “You messed around I caught you out”. Should I worry about the song or the fact that I’ve got a voice in my head?
Sherbet were formed in 1969 by the merger of two Sydney bands, Clapham Junction and Downtown Roll Band, and while in the UK they may be remembered as ‘one hit wonders’ in Australia they were one of the most successful pop groups of the 70s. Before recording they honed their stage craft for 8 months during a 7 hours a night, 4 days a week stint at a Sydney disco. While this was followed by local chart success it wasn’t until 1972 that their big break came when they supported Creedence Clearwater Revival touring Australia. With a subsequent poll voting Sherbet the Top Australian Group of 1972 they had arrived.
While their first single release of 1973 was a cover (“Hound Dog” by Leiber and Stoller) it was the follow up “Cassandra” that highlighted the group’s major asset – the songwriting partnership of Clive Shakespeare (lead guitar, vocals) and Garth Porter (keyboards). During the next three years they notched up a number of chart hits in Australia and their album “Slipstream” sold in excess of 100,000 copies.
Ironically, it was only after founder member Clive Shakespeare left the group in 1976 that they hit the charts in the Northern Hemisphere with “Howzat”. Supported by an extensive tour the single made number 4 in the UK as well as making the charts across Europe and South East Asia and hitting the number 1 spot in Australia. The associated album meanwhile did even better going double platinum. Despite being followed by more success in Australia this was realistically the peak of their commercial success. The group split in the early 80s and, while they only managed the one UK hit, they left a formidable legacy in Australia – 20 consecutive hit singles and 17 albums (10 platinum).