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Sunnyboys On Their Final Tour: “We Have To Draw A Line”

More than 40 years since they formed, seminal Australian power-pop band the Sunnyboys are calling it quits with one final tour.

Emerging out of the Sydney music scene in 1979, the band amassed a devoted fanbase through their live shows and acclaimed self-titled debut album. Their initial run was short and sweet, with the group splitting in 1984 after the release of their third album. Though some incarnations of the band performed in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until 2012 that the original lineup took to the stage once again.

Sunnyboys – ‘Alone With You’

Over the last decade, live shows have remained somewhat consistent and in 2019 they celebrated 40 years with new recordings of old material. However, all good things must come to an end, and last year the Sunnyboys revealed they would pack it in after a final tour in 2023.

To celebrate their last run of shows, guitarist Richard Burgman spoke to Music Feeds to discuss the band’s early days, their legacy and the decision to finally call it quits.

Music Feeds: When the Sunnyboys first got together, what was the plan? Was the goal just to have a bit of fun playing live, or was it in the hope of recording, releasing an album?

Richard Burgman: I’d been in a couple of bands before the Sunnyboys, and I’d been in one with Peter [Oxley] called Shy Imposters. Peter, Bill [Bilson] and Jeremy [Oxley] all grew up in Kingscliff in north New South Wales, and they’d been in high school bands together. 

But we were interested in seeing if we could get a single out; just a piece of vinyl. We didn’t ever suspect we’d be tracked down and snapped up by any sort of major label or even a big independent, we just wanted to see if we could get a single out. That was the plan: play some gigs, get good, have some fun and see what happened.

MF: The band split after the third album in 1984. What led to that situation?

RB: We were contractually obligated with a four year contract with Mushroom; to provide them with one album a year. As with every band, you have 20 years to write the first album, and six months to write the second one.

So the first album was all these really bouncy, lovely pop songs, and the second album was much more introspective, inward-looking and with thoughtful, slower-paced songs.

The third album, which we did in England, was better than the second one ‘cause we had more time. But Jeremy was starting to… his wheels were starting to spin. Schizophrenia was starting to show and his behaviour was becoming erratic and we didn’t know why. We had no idea, we just thought he was losing the plot. 

So by the time the band ended in 1984, we were all agreed that it was the right thing to do. So it was our choice, and it was collaborative.

Sunnyboys – ‘Happy Man’

MF: There were various reunions over the years, but it wasn’t until 2012 that we got the real deal once again. What was it that led to this reformation?

RB: The big thing was that Jeremy was finally correctly diagnosed and medicated for schizophrenia. He managed to marry a woman, who was a nurse, who understood his condition and was more than happy to see him succeed as a musician. That’s the only thing he’s ever really been any good at. 

With Mary in his life, he’s able to be stable, and he’s got all sorts of good support for him to get out and play. And we were willing to do it, because we remembered the good days. We remembered how good it could be and how good it was. So when we had the opportunity to do it, we crossed our fingers, crossed our toes, crossed everything in sight and went, “Okay, let’s give it a go.” And it worked.

MF: When the band got back up there in 2012, did it feel like those good days again?

RB: Straight away. It was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday at the Enmore Theatre. The place was packed, there were 2,000 people in the room. 

We were standing at the side of stage waiting to go on and we’d had no soundcheck. So Jeremy just picked his guitar up, walked out on stage plugged in and started getting his amp settings. And the crowd just went wild. So we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went, “Okay”.

We played the songs for 45 minutes and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It sounded good and the response was wonderful, so we knew we had something. From every time there on, it’s been one show or one set of shows at a time. “Can we do it?” Yeah, we think we can. “Can Jeremy do it?” Yeah, we think he can. 

Sunnyboys – ‘My Only Friend’

MF: I assume then there were no real plans in place for the reunion shows, just whatever felt comfortable to you all?

RB: As long as we’re comfortable, as long as it’s on our terms, as long as the enjoyment is there, the fun is there and if it’s not going be too hard or too much trouble, then we’ll say yes to it. And we do it in small batches because it makes it easier for everyone.

MF: Fast-forward to now, the burning question is, “Why have you decided to pack it in now?”

RB: Each time we go out, we think, “Can we do this?” And until now we’ve said yes, but right now we’re getting to the point in our lives collectively where things are getting harder. It’s more time-consuming, it’s harder work physically and our dear, loveable, beautiful, fantastic Jeremy is not getting better. And it’s just getting to the point where we want to go out, where we know we’re still at the top of our game, given our age, given the circumstances. 

We don’t want to get to the point where we think, “Oh, that was embarrassing,” or, “We shouldn’t do that”, or “No, we can only do a 45 minute set.” We don’t want to get to the point where it’s embarrassing for us or our audience. So therefore, we have to draw a line. 

Sunnyboys – ‘Tunnel Of Love’

MF: How do you end a legacy like this? How do you wrap things up in a way that leaves both you and the fans feeling satisfied?

RB: We’ve been rehearsing all week and there were some moments during practice in some of the songs we played where the hairs were sounding up at the back of my neck and I was just like, “Oh, my god.” Some of these shows are going to be stellar.

It happens every now and again where the stars align, the gods collude, everybody’s in the right place and magic happens. The best gigs in the world are like that, and to be on stage when you’re in the band that’s doing it… there’s nothing like it.

We’re comfortable with where we’re going, what we’re doing and why. So we’re gonna walk away shaking each other’s hands and holding each other in high esteem, which I think is incredibly important.

Sunnyboys – The Last Dance 2023 Australian Tour

  • Friday, 20th January, 2023 – Dee Why RSL, Dee Why, NSW
  • Saturday, 21st January, 2023 – Anitas, Thirroul, NSW
  • Wednesday, 25th January, 2023 – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
  • Saturday, 28th January, 2023 – Northcote Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
  • Friday, 10th February, 2023 – The Nightquarter, Sunshine Coast, QLD
  • Saturday, 11th February, 2023 – The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD
  • Saturday, 18th February, 2023 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Tickets on sale now.

Further Reading

Watch Clowns’ Ripping Cover Of Sunnyboys’ ‘Alone With You’ For ‘Like A Version’

Aussie Garage Rock Legend & Founder Of The Stems, Richard Lane, Has Passed Away

Bad//Dreems Team Up With Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett To Cover ‘Blackfella/Whitefella’ For Like A Version

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