Stage costume, jumpsuit and jacket, men's, 'Sherbet', velvet / nylon, made by Polly, worn by Garth Porter, Sydney, Australia, 1974
This costume has significance because it was worn on stage by Garth Porter, keyboard player and principal songwriter for the 1970s Sydney band Sherbet.
A pop sensation of the mid 1970s, Sherbet's popularity was equalled only by their rivals Skyhooks. Where Skyhooks were bold and direct in their lyrics ('You just like me 'cos I'm good in bed'), Sherbet's songs dealt with innocent, romantic allusions to pubescent sexual experience with lyrics like 'Summer love is like no other love'. Good-looking and apparently well-behaved, Sherbet were 'spunks' in satin jackets to thousands of their teenage fans. This costume typifies the glamorous costumes that helped define the band's image.
Sherbet were also a hard-working, long-lasting band which dominated the Australian charts for almost a decade. Remarkably, they had 20 singles in the national Top 40 during the 1970s. Their years of success owed much to the smooth voice of Daryl Braithwaite and the songwriting talents of Garth Porter (keyboards) with Clive Shakespeare (guitar) and later Tony Mitchell (bass). Formed by Shakespeare in 1969, the band's first two years were inauspicious, with constant changes in personnel. Porter, a gifted keyboard player and songwriter from New Zealand, joined late in 1970. It was only at the beginning of 1972, when Tony Mitchell joined as bass guitarist, that Sherbet's line-up stabilised, remaining unchanged for four years.
Their first hit came in 1971 with 'Can You Feel It?'. The song's lyrics may have been nonsensical ('Love is desire for something that you feel is wrong') but they had captured an appealing sound in the studio, and Daryl's voice showed a remarkable ability to move effortlessly in and out of falsetto. More hits followed, including a Ted Mulry tune 'You're All Woman', and another called 'You've Got the Gun', which was the band's first self-penned single.
Sherbet initially attracted strong interest in their home-town of Sydney, but had to work hard to gain mass acceptance in Melbourne. They pioneered the practice of embarking on gruelling Australian tours, playing in town halls and school of arts halls in hundreds of country towns. These were the days before a national circuit of large pub venues had been established. Sherbet's heavy touring schedule saw the band develop into an accomplished, professional live act. As a result they won Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds in 1972 - the competition's final year. Sherbet went on to win just about every award the Australian music industry could offer. In 1972 they were voted Top Australian group in the Go-Set pop poll. For six consecutive years from 1973 they won the award for best Australian group at the TV Week King of Pop awards.
The hit singles kept coming: 'Cassandra', 'Slipstream', 'Silvery Moon' and others. 'Summer Love' was the biggest selling Australian single of 1975, reaching No 3 on the national charts. Roger Davies, Sherbet's astute manager, continued to keep the band on the road, organising marathon tours that took in areas like North Queensland and rural Western Australia. Exposure to a national television audience on Countdown increased their popularity across the country.
Sherbet avoided some of the excesses of glam, such as heavy make-up, but were partial to satin, velvet and custom-made bomber jackets. 'Musical and personal differences' caused the departure of Clive Shakespeare from the band in 1976, replaced by Harvey James, whose boyish good-looks only added to Sherbet's appeal to its teenage audience. That year also saw the release of the song 'Howzat'. With its distinctive introductory bass line and its simple 'love as a cricket match' metaphor, it was a well-crafted pop song that became their most memorable recording. 'Howzat' was Sherbet's only record to chart overseas, reaching the Top 10 in England in 1976. While Australian acts in the past had recorded hits overseas, 'Howzat' was the first rock single written and recorded locally to chart internationally. It was a significant achievement.
While remaining with Sherbet Daryl Braithwaite pursued a flourishing solo career. He sang the title role in an Australian production of the Who's rock opera Tommy in 1973. He also enjoyed chart success in Australia with middle-of-the-road ballads like 'You're My World', and was voted King of Pop in his own right for three consecutive years from 1975-77. Despite his achievements as a solo recording artist, Braithwaite remained loyal to the band through thick and thin.
Sherbet were able to sustain a longevity that is rare in the Australian music industry. But they were unable to crack overseas markets in any lasting way. Known as Highway in the USA, the band had a couple of minor hits there. Back in Australia at the end of the 1970s they changed their name to the Sherbs, trying to move away from their saccharine pop image. Despite their continuing prolific output and good material, the public had lost interest and the band suffered from being derisively labelled a teenybopper's band. Sherbet's decline in popularity after a decade of exposure was a gradual slide rather than sudden drop, allowing the band members to come to terms gradually with their loss of fame. Years later, Garth Porter reflected on the years of hard work that kept Sherbet at the top for so long:
"Always doing another album, hopefully another big hit. The prime concern was perpetuating it, rather than the integrity. Not that we were a band to be taken seriously, because we weren't ... As a musician I discourage anyone from being trapped in a pop career. There's only one way out. The big slide down" (quoted in Peter Wilmoth, Glad all over: the Countdown years, p 70).
Braithwaite went on to record the platinum albums Edge (1988) and Rise (1990). Keyboard player and principal songwriter Garth Porter developed a career as a producer and composer, achieving outstanding success, especially in the field of Australian country music.