Performance costume, jeans and jacket, denim / mixed materials, various makers, worn by Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1974-1976
This costume has significance as an original 1970s outfit worn by a key member of the rock band Radio Birdman.
Although they disliked the term, the Australian band Radio Birdman was in the vanguard of what became known as 'punk rock', paving the way for its acceptance in Australia. Together for only three years (although they reformed many years later), they continue to attract fans. To many rock fans and historians, Radio Birdman's importance has grown retrospectively since their initial demise in 1978.
The band was formed in late 1974 from members of TV Jones (Deniz Tek, Pip Hoyle) and the Rats (Rob Younger, Ron Keeley, Warwick Gilbert). From 1975 to 1978 Radio Birdman established a reputation for ferocious live performances. They played a fast and furious brand of rock 'n' roll. The cover versions they chose to perform revealed their influences: US proto-punk bands MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls -- bands seldom heard on Australian radio - as well as the Rolling Stones. Deniz Tek's original songs such as 'Man with a Golden Helmet' and 'Murder City Nights' revealed inventive lyrics and strong hooks. In December 1975 Radio Birdman won a RAM magazine 'Punk band thriller' competition. Their reputation grew with a residency at the Oxford Tavern in Sydney's Taylor Square.
The band's first record, a private pressing of the 'Burn My Eye' EP, sold out following an advertisement in RAM magazine. In June 1977 their album 'Radios Appear' was released, with Tek's anthemic single 'New Race' becoming the band's signature tune. In February 1978 Radio Birdman ventured to the UK for gigs and recording. However Tek and Hoyle had to return for medical internships and the band broke up. There have been various incarnations and reunions since.
Adopting a do-it-yourself approach to their creative and business affairs, the band members involved themselves in their fan club, fostering a support network for their musical enterprises. They developed a cult 'brand' with an arcane mythology that drew the fans and the band together. Crucial to this was the establishment of a strong visual identity. The graphics of the band's bass guitarist Warwick Gilbert were an essential part of Radio Birdman. 'He was able to translate band ideals and mythology into powerful visual images which are the equal of the sound of the band in impact' (Deniz Tek in Vivien Johnson, 'Radio Birdman', Sheldon Booth, 1992, p5). It was Deniz Tek who designed the band's symbol, which was placed on their guitar amplifiers, on badges, t-shirts, stampers and other paraphernalia. Radio Birdman's graphics were feared and misunderstood by some who saw sinister political overtones that bore no relation to the band and their music. The band's quest was artistic rather than political.
Scorned, feared, vilified and otherwise unrecognised in their day, Radio Birdman have influenced aspiring musicians and acquired an lasting cult status.
The jacket was made by Lee Jeans and the jeans were made by Levi Strauss & Co. The patches were applied by 'various girlfriends' of Deniz Tek.
Deniz Tek wore the jacket and jeans while performing with Radio Birdman and on the street, walking around Darlinghurst. Deniz has stated that while wearing these clothes he was often stopped by police in the street and questioned in the back of a police car.