Armageddon were arguably Newcastle's best and certainly most generally popular rock band of the early 70's. A household name back then, they were alternately adored and reviled. They were good looking, intelligent boys next door - but with attitude - and kept bad company - and played too loud.

Formed by Toronto High School students in 1968, they burst onto the Newcastle scene in 1971 with a controversial win in the local final of Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds as a 3 piece playing original material.

The trio had a strong, tight feel laid down by the rhythm section which allowed the lead guitar to shine. Attributes such as two lead vocalists, professional presentation, pop star good looks and audience interaction were also strong features that not many bands of the era could boast.

Armageddon's winning performance - 1971
Newcastle Zone Final - Hoadley's national battle of the Sounds - Hunter Theatre. L to R: Paul, Les, Peter

  • Peter De Jong: Guitar, vocals - Born of Dutch parentage on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a powerful tenor vocalist and stylish lead/rhythm guitarist. Could sing anything from McCartney to Gillan. The main songwriter in the band.
  • Paul Matters: Bass - Born in Toronto, NSW, a player with strong feel for blues and boogie and the girls' favourite.
  • Les Gully: Drums, vocals, guitar - Born in Manchester, England - A powerful yet stylish drummer. A strong baritone vocalist with ability to mimic many styles. Also a sometime guitarist and writer.

Steve Cowley joins - 1972. Photo from Newcastle Morning Herald article. L to R: Les, Steve, Pete, Paul.

Essentially a heavy blues band with commercial pop leanings, Armageddon covered most young tastes of the day. They were not only popular as a "boy's" rock band but also a musician's/audiophile band and a popular dance band for the girls.

Feeling limited as a trio the band tried out several 4th members, guitar, keyboards, vocal… even two drummers for a short period. Finally in early 1972, Steve Cowley joined on guitar and vocals and made them a quartet. They won the Hoadley's comp a 2nd year with similar controversy.

Lots of live work in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Sydney and up and down the coast gained them a statewide reputation. Still, a lack of strong direction based on an unwillingness to specialise combined with a lack of dedicated management to make a recording contract continually elusive. They were stuck between the likes of high-brow "Daniel" on one hand and teeny-glamrock "A Rabbit" on the other - two younger local acts that gained national recording success.

The mature Armageddon leaned towards a more mellow, Eagles-like country rock style but broke up before it became really popular.

Armageddon 1974 - NBN TV "Garden City" Concert.
L to R: Peter, Greg, Les, Steve.

After internal problems, Paul Matters left late in 1974. He was replaced by Greg Dawson, Newcastle's leading bass player of the time and a useful high harmony singer, but the band didn't recover from the internal stress and broke up in mid 1975.

Cowley, Dawson and Gully played together again for a year from late 1975 as "'Geddon" but despite some attempts, the band never reformed.

Aftermath…

  • De Jong had an acoustic duo with Peter Teague for a while then went on to form "The Heroes" with ex-members of "A Rabbit". Currently in "The Smarts" - http://www.thesmarts.com.au/
  • Gully toured Australia for a year with showband "The Troupadores" then formed "Ward 10" and later "Pandemonium" and "The Orphans". Currently in duo "Tucan" with wife Pam - http://www.tucanlive.com
  • Following a recommendation of Armageddon's (now separated) rhythm section by members of The Dingoes, Matters joined "AC/DC" for a short stint in their early "Bon Scott" stage, then came home to "The Locals".  Retired.  Recluse.
  • Cowley went back to study, got his letters and played with "Newcastle Worker's Club Band" and "Cowley, Neal & Hoffman" with ex-members of "Daniel". Currently in "Strikes Twice" - http://www.genr8ent.com.au/index.php?q=strikes-twice and at Foley's Music - http://www.foleysmusic.com.au/site/index.cfm 
  • Dawson played with "Heroes", then "Ward 10", "Pandemonium", "The Orphans" and is on an extended break after the folding of "Radio Ga Ga".
  • Other brief members included: Peter Teague, Pam Barnett (later Gully), Gary Wilson, Bob Mueller, Gil Mouat, Ian Mckinney.

Chris Spencer in his regional rock "who's who" for Newcastle, "Rockin' and Shakin' in Rock City", writes.....

ARMAGEDDON: 1968-75

Began as a heavy blues trio playing Savoy Brown, 10 Years After covers with original songs written by De Jong and Gully, and developed a powerful individual sound. Won the Newcastle heat of Hoadley's Battle of the Bands in 1971,1972. Played in the state finals, making the national final in 1971 (the year Sherbet won). Worked in Sydney and toured NSW for the last 18 months, failing to crack the barrier because of lack of a firm direction and consequential disillusionment.

Members 1968: De Jong, Peter (g, v); Gully, Les (d,v); Matters, Paul (b) > AC/DC

Later Members: Cowley, Steve (g, v) 1972; Dawson, Greg (b, v) 1974-75 x Mountain Jack; Teague, Peter (g, v) 1974

A note about John...

Pre-Armageddon as a trio, the band was a four-piece including John Greenhalgh on lead guitar in the traditional 'Shadows' style.  Originally using Les' old band name of 'Yesterdays Orphans', they wandered through names like The Pak, Frog Hollow and Gully Erosion and played the round of parties and school dances. 
As they got heavier and bluesier, Peter developed his renowned guitar lead style and John left to pursue his career and other interests.

Crew....

Road crew weren't something young rock bands imagined or afforded back then. Everyone turned up with their instruments and amp and the singer had a PA or used what was available - usually some atrocious 7 watt thing.
Les Gully had a job, and, as a singing drummer, needed a van to carry drums AND PA. As electrician he also built (+ carried and setup) a primitive light show. Stuff that for a joke!... a roadie was required!
Several school friends and surf buddies did the gig until it started to appear more like work than glory - Bruce Carrol, Bruce Field, Rod Burton,... Tom, Mick, Moe, Larry, ...etc...... (email me you guys!)
Along came Jacko and Carrots (RIP). Carrots did all the work. Jacko was trying to be band manager. They progressed to a position outside the band.... in the chemicals industry.
Peter's old school mate Jeff "Jaffa" Coulter was the longest running and most professional roadie. He was the whole crew for a couple of years - sound, lights, vehicle driver and maintenance, procurer, etc....
He left just before the very end and Joe Edmunds did the last few weeks.   Last gig (Taree karma) everyone left for Newie and the drummer came home in the transit with Joe.  Thunderstorm, broken windscreen... glorious... not such a whimper after all.  Thanks Huie.


Click here to see MORE photos and clippings of Armageddon


Click here to see lots of other Newcastle music on John's pages...Mata Hari, Rabbit, etc...



Click here for Les' Version.. "Armageddon - A potted history from a non-exploding drummer"

 

<----- Wrong Armageddon!!