In the late 1970s Th’ Dudes lived out their fantasy of being Glendowie’s Rolling Stones. Or at least, its Hello Sailor. They were arrogant, they were snotty, and to many rock fans – especially those in the burgeoning punk scene – they were prats. Their most devoted champions sometimes seemed to be schoolgirls and their svengali manager Charley Gray..
The attitude of Th’ Dudes alienated some. But the band had many supporters who got past the posing and saw the potential. When Radio With Pictures and Rip It Upannounced their demise in May 1980, both expressed regrets that the band’s posturing prevented them from getting the cred they deserved.
Years later – and tonight – that would come. Those who threw eggs during Th’ Dudes’ set at Sweetwaters were obliged to suck them, and many disdainful rock fans realised it was they who had taken rock’n’roll too seriously. Meanwhile, Th’ Dudes were having all the fun.
Named after a New Musical Express cartoon character and Mott the Hoople’s biggest hit, all the young Dudes gelled as if it was destiny. Peter Urlich was the perfect frontman: confident, good-looking, and a natural showman in any era. Bruce Hambling and Les White were one of New Zealand’s most idiosyncratic rhythm sections: Bruce’s solidity balanced Les’s flamboyance. (Original bass player Peter Coleman left early for the sake of his health, and others’ – he became a doctor.)
The guitarists and songwriters Dave Dobbyn and Ian Morris did their homework, flicking through their favourite albums: the Stones, the Beatles, Iggy, Mott the Hoople, Bowie, the Velvets, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello.
They combined their influences, served as apprentices crafting their showmanship and songwriting, and stayed alert to the revitalising energy of punk. At countless live gigs and with unlimited studio time at Stebbing’s, they emulated their heroes, recreating familiar riffs and hooklines until they came up with their own classic originals.
Songs such as ‘Be Mine Tonight’ and ‘Bliss’ became national anthems, and many others were almost as popular: ‘Walking in Light’, ‘Right First Time’, ‘That Look in Your Eyes’. On the albums were surprises such as the manic ‘Something I Don’t Need’, the poignant ‘Lonely Man’, and the epic ‘There You Are’. They called their debut album Right First Time – and hit the bullseye.
Th’ Dudes’ second and final album Where Are the Boys? took its title from a song called ‘The Modern Choice’. It’s a weary reflection on growing up in public, with Peter Urlich singing: “Back in the old years / my children would never understand / I’d do it all again.”
Forty years on, the legacy of Th’ Dudes is significant. The band set a standard in original songwriting, in stage and album production, and in management. Th’ Dudes’approach would eventually become an industry norm. The band was more than just a launching pad for its stellar frontline, Peter Urlich, Ian Morris and Dave Dobbyn.
The songs have lasted decades longer than the Bremworth carpet we once danced on. To this day, classic-rock radio playlists, and singalongs from here to Twickenham, confirm that Th’ Dudes’ great supporters – the schoolgirls and Charley Gray – were great talent spotters. Like the band, they got it right first time.
Watch Th’ Dudes’ induction:
Watch the induction performance: