by Neville Davies
BITS AND PIECES
About the Band Icehouse
In 1981, the band Flowers had to find a new name for use overseas. It is history that the name finally adopted was ICEHOUSE, taken from the title of the debut album, but this was only after quite a lot of mind searching and debate by a lot of people. Chrysalis Records, to whom the band was being signed, ran a name suggestion competition among staff members, and it was reported that the prize was given for a name which would rate at the opposite end of the temperature scale to the one actually adopted. This hottest candidate was .......INDUSTRIAL CHILLI.
About Icehouse Records
The first recording of Icehouse (or Flowers as it was then), the 1980 single, "Can't Help Myself" b.w. "Send Somebody," was produced as a 10" 45 r.p.m. disc in addition to the normal 7" disc. This was the first 10" disc produced in Australia since a release from Johnny O'Keefe back in the sixties.
In 1980, Countdown host and pop music guru, Molly Meldrum, offered to be the target for anyone to throw custard pies if the second Flowers single, "We Can Get Together," did not make number one on the singles chart. He added to his offer by agreeing to sit in Melbourne Square for an hour as a custard pie target if the album, Icehouse, did not reach number one. While the single and album were both very successful, neither reached number one nationally, but history does not record whether Molly's dare was ever called.
The album cover for the Flowers debut album, Icehouse, was designed by the band's drummer, John Lloyd. Before joining Flowers John had been an art student in Melbourne, and his rather eerie design based on a theme of interlocking bare tree branches so effectively reflected the spirit of the Icehouse songs that it was adopted for the cover for the Australasian releases of the album.
Another cover for an Icehouse album was also designed by a member of the band. The line drawing of a man clasping a bunch of coloured flowers, which provides the cover theme for the Man of Colours album was executed by none other than Iva Davies. Iva also was largely responsible for the concept of the artwork for the album cover for Code Blue, even though it was put together by design artist David Barnes.
About Icehouse Record Producers
Cameron Allen, who co-produced the Icehouse Album with Iva Davies, has devoted a great deal of his musical career since to composing soundtrack scores for television films. Nowadays, one often sees the credit, "Music by Cameron Allen" displayed, for example, at the beginning of an episode of the popular series "The Equalizer."
One of the producers for the Measure for Measure Album, Rhett Davies, has something more than just a surname in common with the leader of Icehouse. He originally came from a small village called Sketty near Swansea, Wales, the same village from which Iva Davies' great grandfather, William Davies, set forth as a young man to settle, marry and raise a family on the South Coast of New South Wales. However, a study of family trees has failed to establish any blood relationship between Rhett and Iva. Even though Sketty is a rather small community, it does not alter the fact that, in Wales, people with the name of Davies are more common even than coal or choirs.
About Icehouse People
Iva Davies performed for the first opera to be staged in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. The opera was Larry Sitsky's "House of Usher," and the performance was a trial production for the Opera Theatre. The orchestra was composed of students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Iva was then studying at the Conservatorium and played oboe with the orchestra for the trial opera production.
Icehouse saxophonist, keyboard player and general computer wiz, Simon Lloyd, once played in the same orchestra as the Prince of Wales. Simon, one of the English recruits to Icehouse, at one time attended Gordonstown Secondary School in Scotland, and played trombone in the school orchestra while Prince Charles did his musical bit on the cello.
In order to learn how to use the Fairlight computer, Iva Davies set himself the task of scoring the orchestral parts for a Bach concerto for oboe and orchestra. In his earlier career as a student of oboe, he had longed to perform the oboe solo of this concerto with an orchestra, but the opportunity had never occurred. Iva made his own opportunity. After three weeks of patient scoring into the computer, he had created his own chamber orchestra. He was, then, able to play back the orchestral accompaniment for the concerto from the computer and perform the oboe part with it.
When the Icehouse single "Electric Blue" was making its rise to the top of the charts, questions started flying as to the connection of the song with a series of soft porn films of the same title. Co-writers Iva Davies and John Oates naturally denied any connection at all, but it was later revealed that there was a slight Icehouse connection with the film series through one of their English band members. Keyboard player Andy Qunta had earned a few pounds by appearing in one of the series. However, his role enabled him to be quite respectably, if somewhat unrecognisably, clad - in a gorilla suit.
Before Flowers turned fully professional as a band, Iva Davies earned his living as a cleaner and, allegedly, he still reverts to his old occupation as a means of letting off steam. In periods of stress, such as when the first public reactions to a new album are anxiously awaited, Iva is reported to tear into a major spring cleaning of his house or studio, irrespective of what season it is.
Iva Davies attributes the origin of the name by which he is known to the popular music world to a misspelling of his real name, Ivor, on the label of one of his very first recordings. However, a programme (circa 1972) for an "All Mozart Concert" at the Conservatorium of Music lists, in the oboe section of the orchestra, one "Iva Davies" and demonstrates that the staff of R.C.A. Records were not first in the mispelling field.
The Icehouse record for keeping on the right side of the law is admirable, but keyboard player Roger Mason, quite inadvertently, came close to breaking it during the Code Blue Tour in 1990. While driving through the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo, Roger suddenly found himself cornered by no less than four police squad cars. Apparently, the licence plate number of the hire car he was driving resembled that attributed to someone wanted for questioning on fraud and embezzlement matters. To convince the police that he was, in truth, a key member of the band Icehouse and not the wanted man, Roger had to sing a few snatches of Icehouse songs. Whether, being held in the old stamping grounds of the notorious Tilly Devine prompted him to draw on the then current single Miss Divine, or whether he just suggested to the boys in (Electric) Blue that they were being Crazy is not recorded. However, whatever lyrics were used must have made the right point, as the Icehouse keyboardist turned vocalist was allowed to go free.
In the tough economic period between deserting the classical music arena and making good in the popular music field, Iva Davies grabbed what casual jobs he could to keep the wolf from the door. The only one of these having anything to do with music was lead line writing - the process of translating recorded songs into a written musical score, for publication as sheet music. His introduction to this type of work was through veteran popular vocalist, Col Joye, who handed out tapes of songs recorded at his studio for Iva to translate into sheet music form. This led on to him writing the sheet music for most Australian songs coming out around the mid-seventies. Check out any old songbooks from the days of Sherbet and such to confirm the story.
Iva Davies is a windsurfing fanatic and his enthusiasm for this activity
is shared by some of the other members of Icehouse. When touring in suitable
localities, windsurfing gear is transported with all the musical and sound
equipment and any spare time between performances is utilised by the band
in hoisting sail to try out the local conditions.
© 1992 Neville Davies