by Greg White
RADIO Birdman is arguably the most influential Australian rock band ever.
There were no hit singles and while the fans remain diehards to this day, crowds during the band's short peak period were usually considered moderate.
But Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Silverchair and Nick Cave all cite the band as influential and that's before you hit the international scene.
The album Radios Appear is considered among the greatest ever recorded and the singles Aloha Steve And Dano and New Race are undisputed classics.
"The Birdman" and Brisbane band The Saints came before and inspired the anarchistic spirit of The Sex Pistols while in the USA, Henry Rollins, Talking Heads, The Ramones and Iggy and the Stooges all kept a close ear on the band from Downunder.
A documentary film, Into The Maelstrom, tells the story of the band and screens at Birch, Carrol and Coyle Cinema in Coffs Harbour at 7.00pm this Thursday.
There's some dispute as to whether the band ever played gigs on this part of the coast but three members have made their homes here at various times.
Frontman Dr Deniz Tek spent several years as a critical incident specialist at Coffs Harbour Health Campus and after working as a general practitioner, Dr Phillip "Pip" Hoyle went on to an executive position with the Mid North Coast Area Health Service.
Acclaimed artist and bass player Warwick Gilbert and wife Julie Mostyn, herself the charismatic singer from The Flaming Hands, are Coffs Coast locals and their contribution to the legend is sealed in stone.
"Julie also worked with me on the artwork for the (updated) band logo and the first t-shirts," Warwick said.
"She's about to go touring again with Flaming Hands while I will be back on the road with my other band, The Hitmen."
Before those tours, the pair will conduct a Q&A following Thursday's film screening and Warwick is happy to clear up a few of the mysteries surrounding Birdman.
"In my time it was a bit like the Spinal Tap movie where we had our differences of opinions and all the classic band misadventures," he laughed.
"All I wanted to do was play music and sometimes we were just making it up as we went along.
"There was no real plan and we were something like primitive cave men."
Warwick often appears mystified by all the fuss and 'cult' status - every band member as some time has expressed loathing for that terminology - but in his voice it's not hard to detect a great deal of pride.
With Birdman as famous for feuds as music, Warwick was pleasantly surprised by how the film turned out, despite the famously contrary Dr Tek expressing some reservations.
"Deniz said he didn't agree with everything but he let us have our opinions.
"We never earned a cent from that time but it was something good to put on your resume."
Stories abound from the band's heyday in the late-1970's when not everyone appreciated the cultural changes they were making to the music scene and Warwick recalls one of the most famous yarns.
Is it true the band was once paid not to play?
"Yes, it did happen one night in Armidale," he confirmed.
"After about three songs the bloke putting on the show came up and offered us money to p---s off.
"Okay with us as we'd done our job of upsetting the squares."
Just another episode in the Radio Birdman legend.