By Glenn A Baker
September 24, 2021
PETER HOOD: 1943–2021
In 2013, a surging instrumental rock song was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry. It was named after an Aboriginal term for large waves breaking over submerged rock shelves and had what has been described as a “monstrous, pounding, driving sound”. Penned by drummer Peter Hood and guitarist Jim Skiathitis, Bombora went to No.1 in Sydney while the follow-up The Crusher was almost as successful, denied the summit by the Beatles’ chart onslaught.
By September 1963, Bombora had been released in Japan, Italy, Holland, England, New Zealand and in South America. It was nominated as Record of the Week by US Cashbox magazine and reached No.2 on the Italian charts (where there was even a vocal version released).
It charted in southern California. The song was covered by a number of overseas bands, which made The Atlantics Australia’s first internationally recognised rock act. They went on to cut three albums for CBS, followed by a “best of” compilation which remained in the company’s catalogue for many years. In the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics, Kylie Minogue’s arrival in the parade atop a giant rubber thong was accomplished to the strains of Bombora.
The Atlantics was a seemingly odd name for a surf band that assembled along Australia’s Pacific coast, though it makes sense when you understand that it was inspired by a popular brand of petrol.
They weren’t prepared to just cover Shadows and Ventures tracks but had their own exciting sound to pursue. There was no shortage of instrumental acts in Sydney in the early ’60s, before the British invasion exploded – The Statesmen, The Starlighters, The Midnighters, The Telstars, The Dee Jays, Dave Bridge Trio, The Joy Boys, The Leemen, The Sierras, The Nocturnes and The Denvermen among them. But almost none were writing their own material.
Matched with the production skills and enthusiasm of Sven Libaek, their recordings possessed a particular energetic presence, right from their first single Moon Man. They developed an efficient studio association. In a four-hour session they could turn out an entire album. Although songwriter/guitarist Jim Skiathitis says that the success of Bombora took the band somewhat by surprise he can recall Libaek “jumping up and down” about the song when they laid it down. As one online tribute expresses it: “That pounding surf drum beat. He inspired many a teenager to beat the skins!”
The members’ European cultural influences (largely Greek with some Yugoslav and Hungarian), with all members having come to Australia as child migrants, gave their music a passionate edge over other local bands of their day. The members were schooled at Maroubra Boys High, with Theo Penglis coming through Sydney Grammar.
From the start Hood was, as Skiathitis, terms it: “The driving force. He was a powerful character, both creatively and as a muscly, imposing drummer. He always drove us forward.” Apart from the anchor and engine room that Hood provided, the band had the advantage of twin lead guitarists, both highly proficient on solo work and both capable of pushing the band along with a zinging rhythm. Their stage act included them playing their guitars behind their heads and Penglis and Skiathitis on opposite sides of the stage swapping lead lines with one another.
They even found acceptance in Melbourne, at a time when that rarely occurred. There The Thunderbirds ruled the roost but The Atlantics won many friends when they played a residency at Earl’s Court alongside the highly regarded Strangers. Their repertoire was not entirely linked to the ocean; they were also well known for tracks such as Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
Their fourth single, War of the Worlds, was a total break with the surf sound. Released in March 1964 it was a bold and ambitious attempt at a mini sci-fi space opera, it had a dramatic building intro, tempo shifts and dynamic changes. It was way ahead of its time, featuring a battle in space using echo and guitar effects, the like of which would not be heard, according to some chroniclers, until the arrival of Jimi Hendrix.
Penglis switched to keyboards in 1965, they added a vocalist in rock’n’roll hero Johnny Rebb and released a number of tough-sounding singles, most notably, in 1967, the song that is now widely regarded as a classic punk/garage track, Hood’s Come On. They also transformed Screaming Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You into a live drawcard.
They were one of the first Australian bands to set up their own independent label. From late1967 all their recordings (laid down in their own studio) were released on their Ramrod label. They moved with the times. For their instrumental release Take A Trip/Flowers the band worked under the pseudonym Gift Of Love. Their association with Russ Kruger lasted for eight singles and with Colin Cooper for 10.
Like England’s Shadows, The Atlantics were perfectly capable, in all phases, of recording vocal tracks, though radio programmers made it plain that they were an instrumental band to them and to their listeners. That is why, when they formally reunited in 2000 for another string of albums with new members Martin Cilia and original bass player Bosco Bosanac, they saw that particular writing on the wall and became the hottest, sharpest instrumental outfit in the country. Once again with Hood the engine under their hood.
A new audience got to see them in arenas across the country on the Long Way To The Top Tour in 2002. With original tracks on the Flight Of The Surf Guitar CD and songs such as Reef Break they were redefining their unique position in Oz Rock.
In 2006, they participated in the CD/DVD project Delightful Rain. Filmed at Freshwater Life Saving Club, it celebrated Australian surf music and beach culture. In 2013, they were invited to a surf music festival in Livorno, Italy, to which they tacked on shows in Italy, Finland and Greece. It made up for the tours that never eventuated during their peak years.
Hood’s battle with progressive aphasia confined him to bed and made him gravely ill for the past year. He died on September 22 at Robina on the Gold Coast. Jim Skiathitis was by his side, as was Carol, his wife of more than 50 years.
Peter Hood is survived by his children David, Daniel and Michelle, who is a musician and music teacher, and by four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.