Rude started it all with his record, dubbed by the press as 'garage professional'. oday 'The Borders of Disgrace' is a rare collectors item, when rare copies become available through the international networks of collectors. It fetches upward of $39 US a copy, considered a high price for a vinyl LP. In 1980 Rude made another album at home, "the Vorpal Blade", and to promote it, he went on a hunger strike in the window of Missing Link, an alternative record shop. His slogan, "XY or I Die" was intended to show that the major mainstream rock station of the day, would be unlikely to give a small-time independent artist a go. TV Channel 10 covered the story, and Rude had the momentum that he wanted.
His next move was to make good a threat to drown himself on Hans Christian and Barry Bissel's morning 3XY program. The DJ's relented, and played excerpts of the album as Rude bubbled away with his head in a bucket of water. Buoyed by this minor victory, Rude took on ABC TV's 'Countdown' host, Ian "Molly" Meldrum, chaining himself to Meldrum's fence to try to gain a spot on the show. Meldrum acted swiftly. He bolted before the TV news crews arrived. Rude's live debut was a masterpiece of comic punk showmanship.
Supporting a well attended conventional rock band, Rude took to the stage clad in greasepaint and leather and charged into the audience playing echo driven guitar solos, and singing "Violence! It's the only way!" His other guitar player, Geoff Martin, played guitar with his teeth, a la Hendrix, but without the tunes, and the drummer, clad in full Darth Vader regalia eventually knocked over all the drums because the mask obscured his vision. Three amply endowed girl backup singers bounced their breasts in time to the music, to roars of applause from the audience. The show was a triumph, but Rude was naive about publicity. The Melbourne rock paper at the time, Juke Magazine, asked Rude what was interesting or unusual about his band.
"I couldn't think of anything!" admits Rude. "I was up to the armpits in material, and hell, I was dry!" It didn't take long for Rude to learn the ropes as far as publicity is concerned, as this incredible 1980 article from Melbourne's Virgin Press shows. Spanning four pages with one full page photo and two half-pagers, Rude was obtaining the sort of publicity that would normally be reserved for international artists. Through the early 1980s, Rude performed some even wilder shows including a prime time TV appearance on Peter Couchman's Melbourne, where he performed a song "Sixteen in Melbourne" with the Unforgettables, and then proceeded to criticise the host's dress sense and told colourful anecdotes about the extreme lifestyles of his players. Viewers flooded the switchboard with complaints that he was disgusting and appalling. In front of a packed Hotel Lonsdale, Rude performed with spiked orange hair, black pants made entirely of PVC electrical tape wrapped around his abdomen and legs.
Was it painful to remove? "Sure was", says Rude, "But you have to suffer for your art!" But a more painful moment was when Rude, barefooted, stood on a broken beer glass whilst ascending the steps to the stage for the encore song. In these pre-HIV days, blood had some entertainment value, and so with blood pouring from his foot, Rude sang the encore, and proceeded to use the blood to fingerpaint crosses on the foreheads of all the punters in the front row. Rude's backup singers were always prepared to augment the shows with some sexual titillation. When Melbourne cartoonist/singer Fred Negro called from the audience "Show us some tit!", one of the backup singers fixed him with an ominous gaze, then deftly tore open the left side of her T-shirt and pointed a breast at him. Then, both of the leotard clad backup singers turned and bent over, revealing the words "F--K...YOU" printed on their respective posteriors. In the mid-eighties, Rude adopted a more macabre image, 'the Sinister Minister', landing on the front page of one of the first editions of the Age's EG Entertainment Guide, along with Sylvester Stallone and Isabella Rosselini.
Rude began performing again with only backing singers and taped music. Rude joined an avant garde theatre troupe known as the 38th Parallel, receiving enthusiastic responses at Melbourne's Chasers nightclub. The songs were an odd mixture of eighties pop and macabre dirges. As grand Gustav Dore illustrations from Milton's Paradise Lost were projected onto the backdrop, Rude danced around the audience tables, singing, and snatching chips from peoples dining tables! Melbourne's Age newspaper described Rude's dancing as that of a schizophrenic tadpole. In the nineties, Rude continued the Sinister Minister image as an MC for power-pop act "Nursery Crimes".
Waving flaming torches, Rude recited his macabre poetry bringing on the band with as much hoopla as he could muster, then remained onstage to read tarot cards for the stage diving punters, or drink wine and play chess. The opponent could never concentrate during all the mayhem, so Rude would physically throw them off the stage. "Normally I would never dream of picking up a big guy like DJ Kevin Lobotomy!" says Rude. "But when you're doing a rock'n'roll show, God grants you extra powers!" Rude also performed regularly with a new band "Edie Sedgewick's Overdose", a tribute to the Velvet Underground, to small but enthusiastic audiences. 2001 was the twentieth anniversary of Rude's 1981 hunger strike, and with came a flurry of unforeseen attention.
Platinum award winning rock producer Lindsay Gravina began producing a documentary about Rude's noteworthy but unheralded rock career. Kieran Carroll (poet, playwright and singer with "The Beautiful Few") ran a solo acted play about Ron Rude, which focused on the hunger strike and the early years. The play , essentially a comedy, starred Mark E. Lawrence as Ron Rude, and featured a stage band "Ron Rude and the Unforgettables" performing early Ron Rude songs between acts. In 2001, Chapter Records released a compilation album of Australian Punk/Alternative artists from the late 70s/early eighties.
Rude's 1981 single, Piano Piano was included and the album was a moderate international success. Rude headlined the launch, and Neil Wedd reviewed it. This confluence of events has led Ron Rude to decide to start writing, painting and performing again. A recent art exhibition of 16 of Rude's digital artworks resulted in 8 works being sold. Rude has written a batch of new songs and formed a new lineup: "Ron Rude and the Resurrection".
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