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Steve Connolly and the Usual Suspects

DESCRIPTION: Steve Connolly and the Usual Suspects was a Melbourne based band and recording project fronted by Steve Connolly.



MUSIC GENRE: Rock, Alternative Rock


RECORD COMPANIES / LABELS (Current & Past): Independent


Steve Connolly and the Usual Suspects was a band put together by Melbourne musician and singer songwriter Steve Connolly. The band recorded a self titled album in the 1990's, which was re-released in 2018.

Steve Connolly was one of this country’s finest guitarists, songwriters and producers before his untimely death at age 36 in May 1995.
Best remembered for his work on lead guitar with Paul Kelly in both the Coloured Girls and the Messengers over near a decade, Steve spun a wide web of musical projects both before and after.

His first foray into the musical scene began in the in the late ’70s with garage bands Red Shift and The Shards, before putting together well-known pub act the Cuban Heels, a band which featured Spencer P. Jones. Steve also played in Rare Things and The Zimmermen, a staple of the early ‘80s scene, before teaming up with Kelly on his acclaimed 1985 album “Post”.

Steve, along with Michael Barclay (now Weddings, Parties, Anything), bass player Jon Schofield and Peter Bull on keyboards, were the sound behind some of Kelly’s most acclaimed albums, “Gossip” (1986), “Under the sun” (1987), “So much water so close to to home” (1989) and “Comedy” (1991). Hum just a few bars of Kelly classics like “Before too long” or “To her door”, and you’ll more than likely have Connolly’s distinctive solos also echoing in your ears.

Connolly’s influences and indeed his influence, however, were far broader than simply playing some mean licks. He co-wrote, Darling it hurts”, and wrote another favourite, “Leaving her for the last time”. He produced albums for the country-rock act Mary Jo Starr and Kev Carmody’s acclaimed “Eulogy for a Black Person”, and co-produced as well as played on Archie Roach’s haunting and ARIA award-winning “Charcoal Lane”. And when the Messengers disbanded, he blended his rock roots with the folk-Irish sound of Friends And Relations to form another band, The Troubles, as well as playing with and producing country rock act Sherry Rich and the Grievous Angels.

But the rock bug continued to bite hard. At a time when it seemed everyone else was playing funk or consumed by self-absorbed rock-star angst, Steve wanted to get back to his roots, playing simple, unadulterated, no-nonsense rock music in pubs, and so, along with former Divinyls bassist Tim Millikan, Graeme Lewis on Keyboards, and drummer Stephen Fidoc, formed the Usual Suspects.

Though the band played perhaps no more than a dozen memorable gigs at The Esplanade, Punter’s Club, and other Melbourne inner-city venues, anyone lucky enough to be there realised here was something very good in the making.

The Usual Suspects recorded 10 tracks at Atlantis studios over October-November 1994, and were waiting to mix them when, tragically, Steve became ill in April 1995 and died a month later. But while his death had a profound impact on everyone who knew and worked with him, so did it strengthen their resolve to finish the project.

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The Album Cover

The Steve Connolly and the Usual Suspects album is the result of four years’ painstaking and sometimes painful effort. It involved much banging of heads against brick walls, many favours above and beyond the call of friendship, and several dozen logistical nightmares. But the outcome is an album of which Steve Connolly would have been proud - as are his colleagues, friends and family.

About a year after Steve’s death, Tim Millikan bravely picked up the pieces, spending another four days mixing at Atlantis, more time mastering at at Eden Sound, and innumerable hours on the phone and fax and in meetings in order to have this record released. Finally, it is ready. And crucially, it has emerged exactly as Steve would have wanted it to sound.

This is an important recording not only because it is Steve Connolly’s last, but simply because it is a great collection of songs. Ironically, what music fashion dictated wasn’t flavour of the month four years ago sounds pretty familiar today, but then Steve always did seem a step or three ahead of most of his contemporaries. Just ask them….

“Steve had a perfect ear for a song.” Says Paul Kelly. “He was always hearing the song, not just part of it.”

“He had an uncanny ear for arrangements, “ says Tim Millikan. “He knew what was important in a song. He could pick the hook in a song and hear the piece, finished, in his head. That’s why his songs were so good, simple but effective.”

Article by Jo, Keith, Rohan, Linda, & Sharon Connolly and Paul Elliott


Steve Connolly and the Usual Suspects album track 'Over Me'


Parent Category Page Links: Music Artists / Outfits - Australia

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