The controversy finally addressed for you to finally believe
By Don Gladbee
The Makeup Sect, a forgotten 1960s New Zealand quintet of questionable sideburn origins, has re-emerged from their formaldehyde-pickled dormancy to charge Ed Masley and his band The Breakup Society, whose new single on Onus Records is called “Strength Was Always Your Weakness,” with ripping off their much earlier song, also called “Strength Was Always Your Weakness. ”
“The proof is in the vegemite,” said singer Geoff Thatcher, grey sideburned and visibly hot under the collar. “We released our “Strength Was Always Your Weakness” in May of 1967.” From out of his liquor cabinet, he pulls his dog-eared copy of the Makeup Sects’ debut 45, released on the equally obscure Fission label and he slaps it on his ancient Victrola with measured alacrity.
“I don’t know what this Masley guy is contriving but the first and third verses are the virtually the same same same! And the chorus, he’s cocked that up completely. Even his band’s floogin’ name is a complete theft of ours”
“I mean I have kinescopes of us performing it on Teenager’s Choice,” he says about the down-under dance party show that I have to feign complete ignorance of. After an hour of waiting for him to thread the Bell and Howell project, I decided to take his word for it.
I asked Ed Masley about the brewing controversy and if the song and even his own band’s moniker is possibly a tip of the hat to The Makeup Sect. “Tip of the hat?” It’s not in the same haberdashery,” he laughs. “No one, not me, not Serene Dominic, not Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, both of whom co-wrote the song, ever sat down and said, ‘hey let’s give some props to The Makeup Sect.’ When I brought this up, none of those guys had ever heard of them either. And between us we know a lot of obscure New Zealand bands. The Puppetmasters? Zal and the Gasmatron? The Hygnostic Suggestions? The Butterfly Sandwich? Ever hear of those? Well, we have. But we’ve never heard of The Makeup Sects.”
So we did a lot of digging. But there was nothing in Wikipedia on them so we had to do actual digging. And we found that The Makeup Sect, if they were known for anything, it was for ripping off very well-known British bands. Errr, ONE very well-known British band.
You could do a lot worse in 1966 and early 1967 than worship at the altar of the Rolling Stones and if anyone ever wondered what the music of Aftermath or Between the Buttons might have sounded like sung with authentic Australian accents, they could do no better than this quintet. Stones copyists to a man, The Makeup Sects not only purchased their orange corduroys from the same pants maker that Brian Jones did, they made sure Jones’ bangs and muttonchops were never longer than those of their rhythm guitarist Derek Linseed’s at any given time. Sometimes that emulation ate through the band’s living funds–purchasing all the exotic instruments the blonde Stone had mastered and then discarded with every new Jagger-Richard composition.
“Strength Was Always Your Weakness,” a Thatcher-Lindseed original, if you can call it that. is a prime example of The Makeup Sects’ slavish devotion to the bad boys of rock—fuzz bass, ghostly Chuck Berry licks, snarky lyrics about a messed up chick and simple but insistent drumming.
Had they remained true to these punky R&B roots as they did on their first album, a blatant Between the Buttons lift called Up The In-Seam, the Sects would’ve been in a very good position to usurp the genuine article, soon to abandon those very same earthy sounds for the folly of Their Satanic Majesties Request. But devotees they were to the end, following their heroes up the primrose paisley path with a disastrous psychedelic opus of their own, Demonic Renaissance Minstrels At Your Service, that all but eroded their fan base. Felled by audience disinterest and the crippling cost of the floral arrangements for the album cover, The Makeup Sects were but a grimy memory by the end of 1968.
The above clip contains excerpts of their appearance on Teenager’s Choice combined with pathetic new footage shot in the Eighties, when the band’s dependency on lip-syncing and wigs became all too obvious.