1977 was one hell of a fuckin’ year. Sucks to you if you missed it, but even as a five year old, the Summer of ’77 was something to behold. I’m not talking about the birth of punk, Star Wars, or Hornby electric train sets. For me, this was the year I realised the weird looking things on the side of my head were called “ears,” and I started using them for other things than listening to the television or the sound of my mother’s voice. I became aware of music, and of what my mother listened to, and of the songs they played on the radio. Every song that made the charts in those days was so disarmingly catchy that it felt like every songwriter, every musician, had suddenly tapped a musical gold mine.
This was the era, the height maybe, of Glam Rock. The UK had Bowie and Bolan, the US (not counting the New York Dolls) hadn’t a fucking clue, and we had Hush, The Sweet and Sherbet. I don’t care much about the first two, I threw them in just to maintain my awareness of the Australian Glam scene, but Sherbet, Sherbet were the shit. I don’t know how, why, or where, a cassette of theirs ended up in my mother’s purple Torana, but I will forever be grateful. It was the soundtrack to nights out fishing for prawns by North Entrance bridge, driving to swimming lessons, or sitting inside the car while my mother washed it. I knew every song, every word, every nuance. I studied the album cover, marvelling in the way that I was holding the cover, that the girl on the cover was holding and how funny it all seemed. Everything’s a riot when you’re five years old.
“Magazine Madonna” was the second track on the album (the instant party starter “High Rollin,” had pole position), and the song that I loved the most. The plaintive intro lulls you into a ballad feel, right until the second that fantastic guitar riff bursts in and it all takes this urgent, dramatic edge. The song is so meticulously put together it almost feels like you’re listening to a rock opera about, well, this girl (maybe even the one on the album cover), I think her name is Madonna (which I thought at the time was a pretty silly name) and she’s really pretty, and I think the guy singing the song wants to meet her. That’s my five year old understanding of the lyrics. You can work the rest out yourself, it isn’t that hard. Daryl Braithwaite’s soaring vocals on the chorus, together with that fantastic guitar riff brought together what was one of the most intense musical experience of my single-figure years, and the album that it appeared on Photoplay, was as crucial to my development as Abba’s Arrival.
Sherbet were undeniably huge in Australia, and this single was by no means overlooked on release (both album and single went top 3), but in the name of preservation, this song has to be given its due. Photoplay would be the final album of theirs to meet with such critical acclaim. With this album they tried for a more international sound and bent over backwards to break America (even to go as far as changing their name to the incredibly ridiculous Highway and retitling the album Magazine) but the cloth-eared Yanks would have none of it. Success-wise, “Howzat,” the single released a year earlier, will always be their best known song, and in the land where the sport of cricket reigns, it’s hardly surprising, but in truth, “Magazine Madonna,” was Sherbet at their bombastic glam best.