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Surprise

Alternative Rock
Sydney, Australia

Formed out of Sydney’s neo-psychadelic ‘Surprise Surprise’ in the mid 1980’s in Sydney, The Surprise played 1960’s British Invasion pop covers, as well as quirky originals in a Christian vein.

Formed in 1983, Surprise Surprise was a mod-pop-ska band and were sometimes referred to as ‘The Surprise’.


Information below is mostly from: https://christiannewwave.wordpress.com/2007/09/04/detholz/


Surprise is group full of surprises (no pun intended). Hailing from the shores of Australia back in the 80’s started a group called “Surprise Surprise” and later shortened their name to “Surprise”. The band consisted of Alexander Mcdonald, David Welch, Allan Dowthwaite, Malcolm Kiely and Lisa Parson. Locally managed by David Smallbone who is the father of the CCM renowned artist Rebecca St. James who narrates a line or two in a track in one of the albums.

Releasing a custom made demo called Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White which was only released locally. The group progressed with two other releases which were made both under Refuge records during the 90’s. The sophomore album Fish mixed the influences of New Wave, Heavy Metal, Country and folk and created a sound that is hard to explain. Alex Mcdonald vocally resembles Moe Berg from The Pursuit of Happiness fame does a pretty good job in delivering the songs.

A clever play of lyrics makes The last album called Reformation worth a listen with lyrics like “No condemnation in the Him of Hymns, when life ends is when it all begins.” Alex Mcdonald may be likened to Terry Taylor when he does spiritually thought provoking lyrics like in a song called “The Sixty Six”:

I know 66 reasons for these feelings inside my Head. I’ve seen 39 old ones full of bold ones and what you said. Be still and Know I am God. I know that 27 speak of heaven and how you bled.

The group Surprise may have not reach mainstream appreciation but it sure did with me and I believe that others might have as well. Don’t miss out on these rare gems and I am sure that if Surprise won’t surprise you at all (no pun intended again). God will surely will!

Our most interesting years were probably 1984-9 when we courted the indie pub and club scene as Surprise Surprise, we got to play at a lot of seedy dives and had a fiercely devoted following of disaffected Christian kids and numerous 60’s Psych/Mod loving aficionados who had no ‘religious’ connections. We used to play a few times a week, writing songs on Monday rehearsing them on Tuesday, and playing them on Wed, Fri and Sat. We got to play with some of the more interesting Australian alternative (hate that term) groups such as The Church, Hoodoo Gurus, Lime Spiders, The Hitmen and many others.

Lyrically the band, well me really as I wrote the songs, tried to say as much as possible about our ideology without naming names. This probably changed somewhat by the time Surprise recorded Fish and Reformation. I have always liked quirky wordplay and vivid imagery in my lyrics, I like to let the listener come to their own conclusion as to meanings within a song. By the latter two recordings the message had become ‘in your face’.

It’s probably no surprise some people, well ‘churchie’ people I guess, were always a bit wary of us, the right wing pentecostals derided us as evil, satanic etc (‘66 reason’s was regarded as a nasty apparently). It made us laugh (a bit) but galvanized us in our plan to be what we thought we should be. It’s a pleasure to be disliked by some people. The Evangelicals, however, generally liked us as another part of the puzzle working towards the same end. There was always great support from people who we admired in the industry, but of course it was the others that became our undoing in the end, but that’s another tale.

We looked a bit seedy, sounded pretty raw and brash. We pretended we were rock stars a bit, we were pretty energetic and funny, we used slide projectors, oil projectors, authentic instruments and we always liked to speak to audiences (after the gig). On stage chat was minimal. We had ‘Christian’ songs that included images of Zombies, Werewolves, Snake Villages and Spiders, we mercilessly stole 60’s riffs, themes and added pre-grunge, grunge to what we did. We covered songs like ‘Wild Thing’, ‘Born to be Wild’, ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Lucy in the Sky’. We were atypical of the time, Christian wise, but not so of the underground

We chugged along merrily as the same line up from 1983-1987: Alexander Macdonald (Guit Vox), David Welch (Keys), Lance Muir (Drums Vox), Glenn Blackley (Bass).

Surprise Surprise appeared on and won an episode of TEN’s TV show; Star Search in 1984 performing ‘’Walking with a Zombie.’ It paid for the Snake Village recording sessions.

Lance and Glenn left in 87, no dramas they just moved on. We then became Surprise because half of the band had gone; well it seemed like a good reason at the time.

Over the next few years the dynamic of the band changed, we seemed to grow biggish in the ‘Christian Scene’ and we drifted from our underground roots. We had a succession of bass players finally ending up with Mal Kiely who was suitably deranged enough to fit in, and a new drummer in Allan Dowthwaite, who once in an argument spoke in favor of apartheid (he was born in South Africa, is white and was never allowed to say anything publicly again) as well as two hot girl singer/dancers Cathy Ryan and Lisa Parsons.

Shows became more and more about numbers through the door, bigger and bigger PA systems, selling product, commissions, and of course David Smallbone (who was a very savvy businessman who made a lot of money out of other people’s efforts) (as most clever entrepreneurs do, mind you.), David Smallbone had become our erstwhile manger and he had a plan….

Discography

1983 Surprise Surprise Sounds of Now (single) secret CHIHUAHUA records
1984 Surprise Surprise Anguished Heart (single) Method Records
1985 Surprise Surprise Welcome to the Snake Village
1986 Surprise Surprise Cried All My Tears (single) Method Records
1987 Surprise Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White
1989 Surprise Surprise Alive
1990 Surprise Fish!!! Refuge Records
1990 Surprise Reformation Refuge Records

Sounds of Now

1983 secret CHIHUAHUA records (SCR 1)

Alexander MacDonald - Vocals, guitar
David Welch - Keyboards, backing vocals
Glenn Blackley - Bass, backing vocals
Lance Muir - Drums, backing vocals

Produced by Surprise Surprise
Engineered by David Cooper
Recorded at Honey Farm April 1983

  1. Sounds of Now (2:13)
  2. Classification Needed (2:43)
  3. Runaway (3:50)

Anguished Heart

1984 Method Records (MR18)

Alexander MacDonald - Guitar, vocals
David Welch - Keyboards
Glenn Blackley - Bass
Lance Muir - Drums, vocals

Produced by Clive Shakespeare

Special thanx to: Amanda, Phil Lake, Ian Richardson

  1. Anguished Heart (2:50)
  2. Walking With a Zombie (2:41)

Welcome to the Snake Village

1985 Independent

Glenn Paisely – Bass
David Foodstuffs – Keyboards
Lance Link – Drums, Vocals
Alexander Macartney – Vocals and Guitar

Produced by Christopher Soulos
Engineered by Gary Kins

  1. Telefone (2:38) (MacDonald)
  2. I Once Loved This Girl (2:28) (Welch, Muir, Blackley, MacDonald)
  3. Zombie (2:54) (Welch, Muir, Blackley, MacDonald)
  4. Colours (2:58) (Welch, Muir, Blackley, MacDonald)
  5. Heaven (3:46) (MacDonald)
  6. For Once (2:55) (MacDonald)
  7. Sounds (2:49) (MacDonald)
  8. Savior (2:38) (MacDonald)
  9. Out of Her Mind (3:02) (MacDonald)
  10. Pictures (2:48) (Staus Quo)
  11. Cried (3:49) (Welch, Muir, Blackley, MacDonald)
  12. Snake Village (5:36) (Welch, Muir, Blackley, MacDonald)

Cried All My Tears

1986 Method Records (K-9915)

Alexander MacDonald - Vocals, guitar
David Welch - Keyboards
Glenn Blackley - Bass
Lance Muir - Drums, vocals

Special thanks to Prue & Tracey (backing vocals) & Christopher Soulos (quality control)

  1. Cried All My Tears
  2. Telefone

Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White

1987 Independent

Alex MacDonald
Others?

  1. Can’t See your Eyes
  2. Cartoon Spiders
  3. Fantasy
  4. Anyday
  5. Cried All My Tears
  6. The Cowboy Song
  7. Drums and Sitars
  8. Lucy in the Sky
  9. Acid Visions
  10. Happy Together
  11. Lord’s Prayer

Surprise Alive

1989 Independent


Fish!!!

1990 Refuge Records (7900602836)

Alexander MacDonald - Vocals, guitar
Catherine Ryan - Vocals
Lisa Parsons - Vocals
David Welch - Keyboards, backing vocals
Malcolm Kiely - Bass, backing vocals
Allan Dowthwaite - Drums, backing vocals

  1. Waits for Me (3:44)
  2. Captains of Industry (3:33)
  3. Take This Hand (2:53)
  4. Wastin' Time (3:31)
  5. Do You Believe? (2:57)
  6. Omo Bob (3:07)
  7. This Generation (2:53)
  8. Head in the Clouds (2:09)
  9. Better Days (3:58)
  10. Ignorance (2:55)
  11. Freedom (2:10)
  12. Think About That (1:34)

Reformation

1990 Refuge Records (7900605118)

Alexander MacDonald - Vocals, guitar
Lisa Parsons - Vocals
David Welch - Keyboards, backing vocals
Malcolm Kiely - Bass, backing vocals
Allan Dowthwaite - Drums, backing vocals

  1. A - Z (2:31)
  2. Living is Easy (3:23)
  3. Madder Than Me (3:58)
  4. Destroy All Monsters / Carnaval Freakout / Onward (3:35)
  5. Into the Light (2:32)
  6. Jack the Ripper (2:29)
  7. Slash 'N' Burn (2:41)
  8. Voice Inside (3:15)
  9. Victim of Love (1:50)
  10. Look Inside Your Heart (3:15)
  11. The Sixty-Six (2:15)
  12. Come Back Today (2:58)