Banner, Radio Birdman, cotton, motif designed by Deniz Tek, made by Deniz Tek and Rob Younger, used by Radio Birdman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1975-1977
This banner has significance as an original piece of stage iconography used by the Australian band Radio Birdman. 'The band's visual representations, disseminated initially through the fan club, were a highly effective means of spreading the word about the band outside the normal media channels' (Vivien Johnson, 'Radio Birdman', Sheldon Booth, 1992, p83).
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 flag and symbol 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. At a Paddington Town Hall gig on 3 April 1977 Radio Birdman put up a large red banner bearing the band's symbol. After the show a woman tore the banner down and stomped on it, screaming that the band were Nazis (Johnson, p97).
Scorned, feared, vilified and otherwise unrecognised in their day, Radio Birdman have influenced aspiring musicians and acquired an lasting cult status.
The banner was made by Deniz Tek and Rob Younger in Sydney, New South Wales, during 1975-1977. A medical student at the time, Tek obtained the bedsheet from a hospital and had it dyed red and the symbol applied. Tek and Younger made the earlier Radio Birdman flags and banners from tablecloths. Tek described the creation of the Radio Birdman symbol in Vivien Johnson's book 'Radio Birdman: 'The symbol came through me. I had that symbol before, when I was in TV Jones. I wanted to have a symbol, and I tried to design one, but I couldn't get a good one. Then one day I was thinking about some other problem and I just drew the thing on a piece of paper and I said 'That's it! That's the symbol!' I immediately went out and bought a red tablecloth and spray-painted in on to see how it looked. So that's how the symbol came about -- and when Radio Birdman started I just brought the symbol with me' (quoted in Vivien Johnson, 'Radio Birdman', Sheldon Booth, 1992, page 7).
Displayed at performances by Radio Birdman 1975-1977. There were a number of Radio Birdman banners used at various performances. This is an early example. It is not known if this is the same red banner bearing the band's symbol that was displayed at a Radio Birdman gig at Paddington Town Hall, 3 April 1977. After the show a woman tore the banner down and stomped on it, screaming that the band were Nazis (Vivien Johnson, 'Radio Birdman', Sheldon Booth, 1992, p97). The banner was kept by the band until donating it to the Museum.