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About Absent Friends
When Australian new wave band the Models broke up in 1988, lead singer Sean Kelly attempted to launch a solo career with a single that shared its name with his band's final tour, "Thank You, Goodnight." It was not a success. His next venture, however, was. Recruiting an all-star lineup, he put together the supergroup Absent Friends, which was not only a successful side project for members of other bands but also the launching pad for Wendy Matthews' career. As well as singers Kelly and Matthews, the loose lineup of Absent Friends typically consisted of James Valentine on saxophone and Andrew Duffield on keyboards (both also former members of the Models), Gary Beers on bass guitar (still a member of INXS), Michael King on guitar (from Jimmy Barnes' backing band), and John MacKay on drums (from the Machinations). Originally called Sean Kelly & His Absent Friends they began touring in 1989, which included supporting Crowded House during their Rock for Land Rights concert.
Their first single, "Hallelujah," was released on the independent rooArt label and featured another member of the Models, Roger Mason, on keyboards. It was the first taste of their only album, 1990's Here's Looking Up Your Address, again released on indie rooArt though with national distribution through BMG Music. Second single "Hullabaloo" charted, but it was their third single that was to be their most successful. A cover of soul singer/songwriter Eddie Floyd's "I Don't Want to Be with Nobody But You," it showcased the lead vocals of Wendy Matthews, who had previously been a backing singer for the Models as well as Jimmy Barnes, Tim Finn, Richard Clapton, and Icehouse, as well as a member of the Rockmelons. Peter Blakeley, also of the Rockmelons, sang backing vocals on the song, which won the ARIA award for Best Single of that year. Buoyed by that success Looking Up Your Address went on to be certified gold.
Afterwards, Andrew Duffield left the band and was replaced by Geoffrey Stapleton of GANGajang on keyboards. James Valentine also left the band and Gary Beers returned to playing bass in INXS on their European tour, but Absent Friends extended their lifespan by acting as their support act, with Ron Francois sometimes filling in on bass. The conflicting interests of the various members finally made the band unworkable in the long term, and a live EP recorded in Sydney called Networking was the capstone of their career. ~ Jody Macgregor
- Sydney, Australia
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