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The Sports

Like The Yachts, Stiff got into The Sports when they supported an existing artist on tour.  This time it was Graham Parker who was touring Australia and played The Sports’ home city of Melbourne.  Dave Robinson was out in Australia with Parker and immediately recorded and produced a whole set of songs, four of which became the Who Listens To The Radio EP (LAST 5), released in 1979. 

But the band – led by singer songwriter Stephen Cummings – had been brewing for some time before.  In 1977 a fan of their debut single had loved it so much they’d sent a copy from Melbourne to the NME office in London, and it got a rave review.  “Blimey it is ace,” they said, “Don't think that all the bands down under are out of date.  Steve Cummings out-Jaggers Jagger and nearly matches Lowell too, I kid you not…  The Sports are a gen-u-wine rock’n’roll discovery.”

“I knew about Stiff because I owned Dr Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz and Chilli Willi albums,” remembers  Stephen Cummimgs.  “Then when we toured with Graham Parker and we were a good live act, and the deal came as a result of that.  Nick Lowe would often ask me about the obscure rockabilly and Southern soul mix tapes I played on the bus.  I really like Nick.  His Heart Of The City is just a great dumb rock song. Familiar chords, with a twist.”

With NME kudos, and a single on Stiff, the band briefly relocated to England with the hope of breaking in a new territory, and to escape the claustrophobic local music scene.  But it didn’t work out.  “When you get there you see a group on every corner,” Cummings told Ram magazine in 1979.  “There are so many groups doing OK with lots of different things.  Like, there’s Ian Dury, who’d be doing a Cockney sort of thing, but what you don't realise is there's lots of Ian Durys.  Lots of people doing a similar thing to Lene Lovich, The Police...  What I meant was, it's sort of daunting.”

“Dave was hilarious,” says Cummings in 2007.  “He was always trying to get me to change my name to Steve Cochran. After Eddie presumably. I said ‘I don’t think it’s going to work twice Dave!’”  The band split in 1981 with Cummings releasing 15 solo albums and venturing into novels in the decades that followed.




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