Born in rural New Zealand in 1956, the same year Elvis Presley redefined rock’n’roll, Spencer P Jones grew up on a diet of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Already a fan of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Spencer’s move to Australia in 1976 coincided with his immersion in the country rock songwriting of The Band, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds, Tom Waits and JD Souther. It was this blend of classic pop sensibility and evocative country rock that would come to define Spencer’s songwriting.
After tours of duty in the proto-alternative Cuban Heels (with former Paul Kelly guitarist Steve Connolly) and the acid-billy psychedelic cabaret act North 2 Alaskans, in Spencer was drafted into The Johnnys, eventually graduating to become the band’s lead singer and principal songwriter. Around the same time, Spencer formed the inner-city swamp supergroup, the Beasts of Bourbon, as well as joining The Gun Club on its 1983 Australian tour.
When The Johnnys musical diet of cowpunk and cacti ran dry in the late 1980s, Spencer began to funnel his creative energy toward a solo career. Spencer’s first solo album, Rumour of Death (featuring former Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S Howard) remains one of the great lost Australian independent albums of the 1990s.
In between commitments with the Beasts of Bourbon – and the occasional near-death experience – Spencer released five critically acclaimed, and eclectic albums on Spooky Records, from the big swinging rock sound of Spencer P Jones and the Last Gasp, to the more restrained and contemplative Spencer P Jones with Cow Penalty, to the dirty rock of Fugitive Songs (featuring the Escape Committee). Fait Accompli, which includes songs recorded in New York with members of Television and the Violent Femmes, and Immolation and Ameliorations, comprising outtakes and rarities recorded over a 10-year period, illustrate the depth and diversity of Spencer’s songwriting.
In 2010 Spencer released Sobering Thoughts, an album drenched with the emotional pain of marital suffering and narcotic addiction. In 2012 Spencer teamed up with former Beasts of Bourbon drummer James Baker and The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin on Spencer P Jones and the Nothing Butts. In 2013 Jones and former Beasts guitarist Kim Salmon released Runaways, an album of original material and eclectic covers.
Wherever you turn in the Australian music scene, Spencer is there. Spencer’s list of collaborations is a who’s who of Australian music: Ian Rilen (Rose Tattoo, X), Paul Kelly, Renée Geyer, Chris Bailey (The Saints), Sacred Cowboys, Rowland S Howard (Birthday Party), Maurice Frawley (Paul Kelly Band, Working Class Ringos) and Ice Cream Hands. Internationally, Spencer’s fan base extends to Neil Young and Richard Hell, while his collaborative circle includes punk rock cult legend Sonny Vincent (Shotgun Rationale), Lydia Lunch, Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes), Billy Ficca (Television), Tav Falco (Panther Burns) and even The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
Spencer’s songs bleed romance, tragedy and pathos, evocative tales of the slings and arrows of outrageous rock’n’roll fortune. Spencer P Jones is a genuine rock’n’roll legend. Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations.