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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mackenzie Theory..Out of the Blue..1973..a unique style of progressive rock

Prior to forming Mackenzie Theory, Melbourne-born Rob Mackenzie had played as a guest guitarist with a number of bands, including Friends and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. Rob was a natural and gifted musician. He came from a musical family, and had been brought up playing a wide variety of musical styles. Cleis Pearce, who was born in Sydney, moved around Australia widely with her family as a child. She went through a very intensive and conventional regime of classical music training on violin, and as the eldest in the family, she says she bore the brunt of her parents’ high expectations.

One fateful night in September 1971, Cleis attended an Arts Factory performance by a trio from Melbourne. She was immediately enthralled with the music and playing style of the young guitarist, Rob Mackenzie, and when she introduced herself Rob invited her to join them in a jam at the following night's performance. This she did, and on the strength of that one evening’s jamming, Rob obviously realised that he had found a kindred spirit. He invited Cleis to come to Melbourne and form a band with him. After arriving in Melbourne, Rob recruited bassist Mike Leadabrand and drummer Andy Majewski and Mackenzie Theory was born. The name, says Cleis, was simply the expression of Rob’s outlook. He lived for music, constantly talking and theorizing about music and its relationship to life, and putting the band together was the embodiment of his philosophies.

Mackenzie Theory's unique style and presentation quickly established them as a major presence on the flourishing early ‘70s Melbourne scene, playing at venues like the TF Much Ballroom, Sebastians and Berties. It's safe to say that there were few, if any rock bands following anything like the same path in Australia.

As their popularity grew, Mackenzie Theory made regular appearances alongside the likes of Spectrum, Madder Lake, Chain, The Aztecs and Band of Light. The first MacKenzie Theory recording to be released was the eight-minute "New Song and", which was included on Mushroom's inaugural release, the live triple album The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973, issued in April.

Cleis recalled the Sunbury performance as a memorable experience. Mackenzie Theory were scheduled to go on at midnight, immediately after a blistering two-hour set by The Aztecs, and it's hard to think of two more wildly contrasting acts. (Cleis says she suspects that some expected Theory's set to be a flop). But in fact, Mackenzie Theory proved to be the perfect “chill out” music to follow the Aztecs' sonic assault and they were warmly received.

The band attempted some studio recordings, but, according to Cleis, her complete lack of studio experience combined with what she felt was the unsympathetic attitudes of the studio staff, she does not have happy memories of the experience. Whatever results there might have been were deemed unusable, so Mushroom opted for a compromise and recorded a live-in-the-studio set, which was released as their debut album, the highly-regarded Out of the Blue in July 1973. Cleis concurs with Ian McFarlane's observation that it “did not do justice to the band's powerful stage presence” but it is invaluable as a snapshot of the band in performance and as a document of at least some of what they were capable of.

text courtesy of Milesago

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