Phil Judd was a founding member and major creative force
behind the early incarnation of Split Enz. Judd left the band in February of 1977, rejoining
a year later only to leave shortly after finding himself unable to fit into the new direction of
the band. In June of 1978, he joined the New Zealand punk band, Suburban Reptiles, as
a part-time member. When the band broke up a couple of months later, he had a short
stint with the legendary Enemy (who later became Toy Love).
Obviously inspired by the punk movement, Judd left behind all of the art excesses he had
become know for in Split Enz and formed Swingers in late-1978, a no-frills, no image,
straight-forward power trio, with Dwayne "Bones" Hillman (bass) and Buster Stiggs
(drums) -- both formerly of Suburban Reptiles. After five months of constant rehearsals
without gigs, the band made their live debut with an opening spot for Split Enz.
Afterwards, they switched to smaller venues as headliners, where they built a strong
following throughout 1979. In April of 1980, they recorded a single for Ripper Records,
"One Good Reason" -- the single eventually broke the NZ Top 20. The band set off for
Australia on an opening slot for The Sports. While in Australia, they teamed up with
David Tickle (who had just finished working with Split Enz) to re-record "One Good
Reason" as well as the infectious "Counting the Beat." Judd and Stiggs had a falling out
when Judd decided to take a stronger leadership of the band (previously the band was a
democracy with all songwriting credited to Swingers). Stiggs left to join The Models in
December of 1980 and was replaced by Ian "Killjoy" Gillroy. The new recording of
"Counting the Beat" was an instant smash in Australia, hitting number one in February of
1981. The follow-up, "It Ain't What You Dance" failed to chart though. In July, the band
recorded several songs for the soundtrack to the film Starstruck (Judd would also write
additional incidental music and the band made several appearances in the film). The
following month, their full-length debut, Practical Jokers, was released by Mushroom
Records. Resequenced and edited, the album saw an American release under the title
Counting the Beat in 1982 on Backstreet Records. The title track, "It Ain't What You
Dance," and the newly added single, "One Good Reason (Gimme Love)," seemed to fit
perfectly into the new wave and found a fair amount of exposure on the then-infant MTV.
Starstruck also found a cult following in the U.S., giving the band a real chance for a
breakthough in the States but momentum was running out for the band. Their Australian
following was dwindling and, in response, they added a new frontman, Andrew
McLennan, formerly of Pop Mechanix. The new line-up released one single, the
wonderfully catchy "Punch and Judy" in early 1982. The single failed and Judd dissolved
the unit in May the same year to pursue a solo career.
Hillman later found success as a member of Midnight Oil. Judd released one poorly
received solo album (1983's Private Lives) and two more with ex-Split Enz bandmates
as Schnell Fenster; he now keeps a low profile, dividing his time between artistic pursuits
and composing music for films.
-- Chris Woodstra
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