Sydney 1984: Where it all began. From its birth in clubs and pubs to its first international steps, Australian music was really coming of age. Against this backdrop of increased confidence and global aspiration came GANGgajang. Formed when The Riptides singer Mark ‘Cal' Callaghan joined with The Angels rhythm section of Chris Bailey and Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup, The Aliens’ Geoff Stapleton, percussionist and backing singer Kayellen Bee and guitarist Robbie James. The name reflected a new attitude: music was all about ‘the song’; that any good song could be played solely on an acoustic guitar (‘gajang’: the sound of a guitar being strummed) and that they were a GANG (‘an informal body of friends’ – to quote the dictionary), rather than a capital ‘B’ Band.
So named, GANGgajang released their self-titled debut album in 1985, with the singles, Gimme Some Lovin’, Giver of Life and House of Cards quickly climbing the charts to become part of the music revolution reinventing the Australian sound: a sound based on our stories; our places. To The North, Ambulance Men and the perennial Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia) all echoed this new ethos, this new sense of place. GANGgajang is now regarded as one of the all-time classic Australian albums, while Sounds Of Then has reached near mythical status and continues to connect with new generations of Australian music fans to this day.
The albums that followed, gangAGAIN, Lingo and Oceans And Deserts, further defined GANGgajang’s unique Australian sound and won them global audiences, most notably in Brazil where the huge surfing community went crazy for the GANG. The band toured Brazil three times playing to packed venues up and down the east coast, with one of the highlights being an outdoor concert to 20,000 fans on Rio’s Copacabana Beach. Add to this GANGgajang’s soundtrack to Quiksilver’s cult surf movie Mad Wax and it’s no wonder the group was crowned ‘The World's Best Band’ for two years in a row by the World Pro Surfers Association!
True to their ‘GANG’ philosophy, this ‘informal body of friends’ has continued to work together for over 30 years, while also pursuing their myriad of separate interests: writing, recording and touring with other artists including the reformed original Angels line-up, a resurfaced Riptides, Yothu Yindi, Jimmy Little, Jimmy Barnes, The Stetsons, Absent Friends, The Dukes and Wendy Matthews, to name but a few. The branches of the GANGgajang family tree do indeed span far and wide.
And beyond even that the GANG’s activities continue, with Buzz as the CEO of Uncle Jimmy Thumbs up! (www.thumbsup.org.au); Cal as a board member of Support Act (www.supportact.org.au); Geoff as an artist and gallery owner (www.thegeoffstapletongallery.com) and Robbie as a key part of the Scattered People (www.scatteredpeople.com). And through it all, until his sad passing in April 2013 was Chris. Respected and admired by all he played with - and he played will all the greats - Chris Bailey was, and is, the soul of the GANGgajang and the GANG have carried him forward in their hearts to new chapters in the GANGgajang story.