One of my favourite pieces of flat black plastic, otherwise known as vinyl, is a much-played copy of All Sports, a compilation of some of The Sports best tracks and released in 1982. (And even after all this time, this album still sounds as good as it did back then - I bet the same can't be said for a CD of the same age).
This, The Definitive Collection, with two CDs, obviously has a lot more songs than that old vinyl album and covers the entire period the band were together from 1976 to 1981, including both inspired and dubious selections for cover songs (I still can't believe they even bothered with Donovan's Sunshine Superman but love their versions of both Wedding Ring and Walk In The Room). Given the short period the band were together, their output and, more importantly, the influence they had on other artists, defines them as one of the best bands of their time.
Defined as a new wave band, an amazingly thin definition, The Sports were so much more. Smarter than the average punk rocker, more intelligent then most other bands and defiantly original, they wrote songs with enough twists and turns to mark them uniquely their own. They also knew how to write a great hook. Stephen Cummings voice is unmistakably his own (although James Reyne made a successful career out of copying his style) and the band comprised of some of the best musicians of the time. That they were signed to the same British label as Elvis Costello - Stiff Records - probably says more about them than anything else.
In the six years they were together, they gave Australian and world audiences such classic tracks as Who Listens To The Radio, Reckless, Strangers On A Train, How Come and Don't Throw Stones as well as lesser known but equally as fine tracks such as Suddenly, Black Stockings (For Chelsea) and Live Work And Play among many others. It goes without saying that if this band were British or American, particularly at the time they were performing, they would have been huge. In my mind, they still are...
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
So, I guess it's time for me to trot out my Sports story. Or really it's a Stephen Cummings story - he's the lead singer. Anyway, I worked in a bar on New Year's Eve in 1983. And anyone will tell you, it's a bummer working NYE and even more so if the people you're serving are getting legless while you stay resolutely sober. Of course, all the waitresses had begun the night sampling a little weed, as we did, but that wore off pretty quickly once we'd served our third round of cocktails.
I was keen to wrap things up pretty quickly once it hit 1984 and head off across town, where my future husband (the first one, not YourZ) was having fun at a party in the very decorative Victoria Barracks. Have I mentioned he was an Army officer? They threw great parties. So I've walked and I've walked and I've walked across town, with not a taxi in sight, when on the back streets of King's Cross I manage to hail one by leaping across the road, heedless of life or limb. To steal the cab from Stephen Cummings. And let me tell you, even though I was in awe of the man, I had no regrets, having been on my feet for hours beforehand and walking half way across the city before finding the cab. However, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry, Stephen. Hey, we bought this CD... hope you got a royalty or two. And I really, really like it!
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
For more information: http://lovetown.net/discog/sports.html (scraping the bottom of the barrel for this one)