Thought Criminals

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The Thought Criminals were an influential and enterprising Australian punk band based in Sydney. They formed in late 1977 and disbanded in late 1981. The "angular, fast and quirky punk rock" of the Thought Criminals "was a fixture in the burgeoning Sydney underground scene." [1] The band’s name was derived from the concept of ‘thoughtcrimes’ (unapproved thoughts) from George Orwell’s book, Nineteen Eighty-Four . The Thought Criminals exemplified the do-it-yourself punk ethos of the late 1970s, with which they combined considerable business acumen. The band members formed the Doublethink record label and agency which provided recording and live performance opportunities for other new bands.

<i>Nineteen Eighty-Four</i> dystopian novel written by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English writer George Orwell published in June 1949. The novel is set in the year 1984 when most of the world population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda.



An inner-city punk band

The Thought Criminals were formed in late 1977 with the initial line-up of Roger Grierson (aka Jack Boots; guitar), Rique Lee Kendall (aka Matt Black; bass) and Bruce Warner (aka Kit Identity; vocals). Various drummers played in the band during this early period. The band’s first gigs were at Blondies in Bondi Junction in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Inspired by the DIY ethic of the Desperate Bicycles, the Thought Criminals’ first recording was the EP Hilton Bomber, with Mark Kingsmill (aka Jim Boots) on drums. The EP was the inaugural release on the band’s own Doublethink label. [2]

Roger Grierson is a New Zealand born musician and music industry executive.

Mark Kingsmill

Mark Adrian Kingsmill is an Australian rock musician. He has drummed with several bands including the Hitmen (1979–84), New Christs (1983–84), the Screaming Tribesmen (1984) and Hoodoo Gurus. He is the older brother of Richard Kingsmill, music director and presenter on Triple J.

Rique Lee Kendall left to join the Last Words and, in turn, the Last Words’ drummer, Ken Doyle (aka Derik Wapillspoon), joined the Thought Criminals. With the inclusion of Stephen Philip (aka Vivi Sector) on guitar, Roger Grierson switched to bass. [2] By the end of 1978 John Hoey (aka The General) had also joined the Thought Criminals, playing keyboards. [3]

The Thought Criminals built up a following with performances at mainly inner-city venues. The music of the Thought Criminals, in their early recordings and live performances, has been described as a "jagged, frantic sound". [3] Their songs often had an irreverent sense of humour, perhaps exemplified by the following extract from "Fun" (1978): "Don’t want no top ten hit / Don’t want no disco shit / Just wanna have fun".

The Thought Criminals' debut album, Speed. Madness.. Flying Saucers…, was released in February 1980. The songs were recorded in three separate sessions spread over a period of eighteen months. [3] The Thought Criminals' Doublethink label evolved from a record label to include agency and PR functions. Other less-established bands such as Tactics, Popular Mechanics and Sekret Sekret became incorporated within the Doublethink stable. [3]

Tactics were a post-punk group which formed in Canberra in 1977. The line-up changed periodically, with songwriter and vocalist, David Studdert, as the mainstay. They released four studio albums, My Houdini, Glebe, Blue and White Future Whale (1986) and The Great Gusto (1990). Which were critically acclaimed and they were respected for the quality of their live performances. However, they did not achieve wider commercial success and remained largely unacknowledged outside of the alternative independent music scene. Their reputation for running against the grain musically, lyrically, and stylistically was described by Bob Blunt as "frenetic, discordant, [and] full of unusual rhythms." Tactics disbanded late in 1989 and Studdert relocated to London.

In 1980 the band toured beyond the precincts of their usual inner-city venues, at the end of which they announced their intention to retire from live performances. In their own words: "The band were not enamoured of the Music Business and had made a pact that when it wasn’t fun they’d call it a day – so when it wasn’t, they did". [2] The Thought Criminals’ final gig was at Chequers in inner-city Sydney on 29 August 1980.

In their studio phase during the following year the Thought Criminals recorded a second album, You Only Think Twice, which "revealed the band expanding its scope with a more considered and diverse approach". [4] In late 1981 the band played a live show at Chequers, after which the Thought Criminals disbanded.

Roger Grierson, Warren Fahey and rock journalist Stuart Coupe set up the Green record label in the early 1980s. Grierson continued to work in band and tour management, eventually attaining the position of Managing Director of PolyGram Music Publishing, and later Chairman of Festival Records. In 1982 guitarist Stephen Philip joined Do-Ré-Mi. In 1988 keyboardist John Hoey joined Died Pretty. Bruce Warner became an animator and the drummer Ken Doyle works in computing. [2]

Occasional resurrections

In July 2005 a retrospective two-CD anthology (Chrono-logical) was released, which featured all the Thought Criminals’ recordings released under the Doublethink and GREEN labels. On 4 February 2006 the band reformed for a one-off performance at the Annandale Hotel to publicise the CD. [5] On the subject of reforming the Thought Criminals after 25 years Roger Grierson commented: "It seemed like everybody was doing it and with the release of the CD, and we put a website up to give away all the songs for free, it dragged a few people out of the woodwork". [6]

In September 2006 the Thought Criminals took the stage again in a concert with Buzzcocks at Sydney’s Century Theatre. [7] In February 2007 they again reformed to play with T.V. Smith of The Adverts at the Annandale Hotel. [8]


Singles & EPs



  1. ‘They Only Think Twice: Return of the Thought Criminals’ Archived 26 January 2013 at , ‘I-94 Bar’ web-site, from the introduction to an interview with Roger Grierson in December 2005 (accessed 5 November 2008).
  2. 1 2 3 4 The Thought Criminals Official Site 'BIO Dynamic', (accessed 3 November 2008).
  3. 1 2 3 4 McFarlane, Ian. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (Allen & Unwin: 1999), p. 639.
  4. McFarlane, Ian. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (Allen & Unwin: 1999), p. 640.
  5. (accessed 5 November 2008).
  6. ‘They Only Think Twice: Return of the Thought Criminals’ Archived 26 January 2013 at , ‘I-94 Bar’ web-site, interview with Roger Grierson in December 2005 (accessed 5 November 2008).
  7. ‘Buzzcocks, The Thought Criminals, Happy Hate Me Nots, Mach Pelican @ Century Theatre, Sydney (09/09/06)', (accessed 5 November 2008).
  8. ‘Thought Criminals, TV Smith (Adverts), Bruce Griffiths @ The Annandale, Sydney (02/02/07)’, (accessed 5 November 2008).

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