Fraternity

Biography by

Once over-hyped as potential superstars of Aussie progressive rock, early-'70s hippie collective Fraternity utterly failed to live up to expectations and might have been entirely forgotten to history…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Once over-hyped as potential superstars of Aussie progressive rock, early-'70s hippie collective Fraternity utterly failed to live up to expectations and might have been entirely forgotten to history had their singer not been one Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott -- future legendary frontman for AC/DC. Formed in 1970 by bassist and de facto bandleader Bruce Howe, guitarist Mick Jurd, keyboardist John Bisset, and drummer Tony Buettel, all of the recently disbanded Levi Smith's Clefs, Fraternity were conceived to be Australia's answer to the Band, and, as such, they initially didn't even feel the need to draft a true lead singer for their first trip into the studio to record a single ("Why Did It Have to Be Me?") financed by local independent label Sweet Peach. But they soon changed their minds when Bon Scott became available following the demise of his popular bubblegum group, the Valentines, inviting him to join them at their communal house in Sydney, along with drummer John Freeman (another Levi Smith's Clefs alum), who replaced Buettel. Interestingly, although their lineup was just coalescing at home and on-stage, Fraternity were already seen as a hot commodity based solely on the reputation and experience of the bandmembers, and as they shifted out of blues-rock into art rock, under the influence of groundbreaking foreign bands like King Crimson, the Moody Blues, and Deep Purple (plus countless mind-altering substances, besides), their shows began drawing rave reviews from the excitable Aussie press.

The band was soon ushered into the studio to record the songs for its debut album, Livestock, and though Sweet Peach wouldn't get around to releasing it until nearly a year later, the hype surrounding Fraternity continued to grow unabated as they scored repeat TV appearances throughout late '70, and even toured the country behind American rock & roll godfather Jerry Lee Lewis. That tour took them through the south central town of Adelaide, where they were welcomed like returning prodigal sons by fans and press alike, and quickly taken under the wing of one Hamish Henry. The scion of a well-to-do local family and a self-appointed patron of the arts, Henry offered Fraternity unqualified financial support if they only agreed to set down roots in Adelaide permanently, and local boys Howe and Freeman, at least, were more than happy to oblige. This decision altered the course of Fraternity's career forever and for the worse, unfortunately, as they would become increasingly isolated from the Aussie music business hotbeds of Melbourne and Sydney in what was then still a pretty sleepy and geographically remote outpost.

Nevertheless, after performing at Sydney's Odyssey and Adelaide's own Myponga festivals (two of the largest Australian festivals in the post-Woodstock era), the members of Fraternity settled into a sheltered property outside of Adelaide named Hemmings Farm, which they intended to make into their own "Big Pink," diving headlong into their music and mounds of magic mushrooms. The group also recorded a new single entitled "Seasons of Change" in April of 1971, then welcomed harmonica player "Uncle" John Ayers, who, in the true spirit of the Age of Aquarius, stopped by for a visit and simply never left. Their long-awaited first album, the aforementioned Livestock, would finally emerge that June but impressed few with its bloated art rock meanderings -- even after Fraternity hit the road for a series of gigs across Australia. Even more worrisome, the reality was that, despite this show of activity, Fraternity's members -- now augmented with erstwhile Flying Circus guitarist/keyboardist Sam See -- had frankly grown lazy and unfocused in their entitled seclusion, spending more time communing with the trees in the idyllic surroundings of their Adelaide fiefdom than composing new material or performing local gigs.

In the end, all this was more peace and quiet than even Bon, Howe, and Bisset could stand, and they duly vacated the farm for downtown Adelaide in late 1971, where they attempted to rekindle Fraternity's fires after being dropped by Sweet Peach. Naturally, it was Hamish Henry who would come to the rescue, dipping once again into his bottomless pockets to finance the recording of a second Fraternity album, named Flaming Galah (that being the aboriginal name for the rose-breasted cockatoo), eventually released through RCA in April of 1972. Now mostly cured of their ponderous proggyness, the band seemed bent on exploring a bluesier, more boogie-oriented direction, but many of the songs featured were in fact quite old, or re-recorded fare, leaving room for just a handful of new compositions. Meanwhile, Fraternity had tellingly been shunned by Australia's biggest festival ever, Sunbury, so, as a last-ditch effort to make something of their ailing career, they were packed off to England by the ever-faithful Hamish (wives and dog in tow!), where their unshakable self-confidence would finally be put to the ultimate test.

However, 18 tortuous months later, that test had resoundingly failed. Fraternity had to wait nearly six months before scoring the first of several two-bit gigs, lost Sam See to his old band, Flying Circus, and even changed their name to Fang during the desperate winter of 1972-1973 -- all to no avail. At the last, even Hamish decided that time had come to cash out, and by the early months of 1974, most of the bandmembers had also limped home to Australia, each in his own time, signaling Fraternity's probable demise. Shortly after his return, Bon Scott miraculously survived a motorcycle accident and then expeditiously joined AC/DC, thus sparing himself involvement in Fraternity's unexpected (and largely unheralded) reunion in early 1975. This produced no further recordings but ironically served to kick-start the career of future Cold Chisel singer Jimmy Barnes, during his lone year with the group as Bon's replacement. By 1976, Barnes was gone and Fraternity had changed their name to Some Dream, then morphed into Mickey Finn between 1978 and 1981, at which time they released a pair of singles before vanishing for good.