Let’s take a look at the legacy of one of Australia’s most empowering pop bands
Throughout the ’80s, one of the most intriguing and consistently brilliant bands was none other than Do Re Mi. One of the most celebrated Australian groups of the decade, their 1988 breakup left fans wanting so much more, but also cemented an enviable legacy.
With the iconic outfit recently reforming for the first time in 30 years, and an appearance at Sydney’s American Express Twilight at Taronga on the cards, we’re taking a look back at the empowering legacy of Do Re Mi.
Following the dissolution of a handful of bands at the turn of the ’80s, Do Re Mi was formed by Dorland Bray, Deborah Conway, and Helen Carter in 1981. Within a year, this new band had managed to record a self-titled EP, all while relentlessly gigging around Australia’s pub-rock scene.
With Deborah Conway taking on lead vocals for the band, she quickly set herself aside as one of the most notable frontwomen on the Aussie rock scene. Considering this was a time when the rock scene was even more overwhelmingly-masculine than it is today, Do Re Mi found themselves – along with the likes of fellow Sydney rockers Divinyls – blazing a trail for future female rockers to follow.
Watch: Do Re Mi – Man Overboard
Another EP followed in 1983, and the band had soon signed with Virgin Records, with their hard work finally being recognised by a major label. With Virgin behind them, the group continued touring for a period of time, before laying down the tracks for their debut album in 1985.
Titled Domestic Harmony, Do Re Mi’s first LP was a surprise hit. Releasing a re-recorded version of ‘Man Overboard’ as their lead single, the group not only shot to the upper reaches of the charts, but also managed to shock both the general public and the censors in the meantime.
While the structure of ‘Man Overboard’ was somewhat odd due to its lack of a chorus, its lyrical content was even more shocking at the time: pubic hair, penis envy, and anal humour. With Conway’s vocals front-and-centre, outrage from Australia’s conservative public focused on the fact that a female vocalist was singing such lewd lyrics.
Thankfully, by not buying into the controversy and continuing to tour and record, the band soon found themselves one of the year’s success stories, with ‘Man Overboard’ going on to become one of the biggest-selling singles for 1985, and Domestic Harmony scoring the band three Countdown Awards.
As the years continued, Do Re Mi served up a performance for Australia’s Oz For Africa concert, and released their second and final album, The Happiest Place In Town, in early 1988. Sadly, the band would fold not long after, with Deborah Conway embarking on a solo career in the following years.
Watch: Do Re Mi – Idiot Grin
Over the next three decades, though, the music scene would lament the loss of one of their most exciting and ferocious acts. With their hard-working nature, relentless touring, and drive to write and record some truly pioneering tracks, Do Re Mi set themselves apart from other bands of the era by providing a template for Australia’s young rockers.
Aspiring musicians aimed to possess the attitude, charisma, and raw talent of a frontwoman like Deborah Conway, while the band’s devoted audiences couldn’t get enough of their raucous shows that continuously defied expectations.
Thankfully, 2018 saw Do Re Mi announce a long-awaited return – 30 years after they had first split.
Initially reforming for an appearance at the Women In Music Awards in Brisbane last month, the band’s reunion ended up being something a little more long-lasting, announcing a series of headline performances for 2019.
“Playing those songs again and listening to the words, I’m struck by how danceable they are and sadly, how the forces we railed against persist,” explained bassist Helen Carter. “Those songs are still relevant and it goes to show how long it takes for real social change to happen.”
With drummer Julia Day and keyboardist Clio Rener in the mix, this revived, all-female lineup of Do Re Mi are set to breathe life into the Australian music scene again.
The band are now set to perform a headline slot at Taronga Zoo in March for Sydney’s American Express Twilight At Taronga concert series. With fans waiting 30 years for this opportunity to come around, it might be wise not to miss out on this one, because there’s no telling when your next chance might be.
Check out Do Re Mi’s ‘Adultery’:
Do Re Mi at Sydney’s Twilight At Taronga
Friday, March 1st, 2019
Taronga Zoo, Sydney, NSW
Tickets: American Express Twilight At Taronga