I’ll never forget hearing Baby Animals for the first time. They came blazing out of the radio with the aptly titled ‘Early Warning’. “Too young to know,” Suze DeMarchi sang. “Too old to listen.”
If you were in Australia in the summer of 1991/92, you couldn’t avoid Baby Animals – they were everywhere.
Their self-titled debut was released the same month as Nirvana’s Nevermind. It actually sold nearly twice as many copies as Nevermind in Australia, preventing the Nirvana album from reaching number one, which shows what an impact Baby Animals made.
At the start of 1992, I saw Baby Animals play at the Palais in St Kilda. I think my ears are still ringing – not just from Dave Leslie’s scorching guitar but the ear-piercing screams of the fans.
Nearly three decades later, I still wonder why Baby Animals didn’t conquer the world. They certainly gave it a shot, doing ‘Painless’ on the Letterman show, as well as a two-month US tour with Robert Plant plus five months with Van Halen (I love that Eddie Van Halen signed their tour poster: “Thanks for letting Van Halen close the show!”).
Suze DeMarchi was – and is – a star, an Aussie rock goddess to rank alongside Chrissy Amphlett. The band’s former manager, John Woodruff, says his biggest regret is that Baby Animals didn’t become global stars. “They were just so close on that first album,” Woody said. “Suze was the biggest star out of everyone I ever had.” High praise indeed from a man who also managed Savage Garden, The Angels and Diesel.
It’s a crazy thing to ponder, but I often think that if the band’s second album had been their debut, things would have been different. The more adventurous and indulgent Shaved and Dangerous would have established their rock cred, and then the hit-laden self-titled set would have taken them over the top.
Of course, Baby Animals are now all grown-up. But they’ve got plenty of life left in them. As their most recent studio album noted, This Is Not The End. And the beautiful thing is they still rock like untamed teenagers, too young to know, too old to listen.
– Jeff Jenkins