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Stephen Cummings

Stephen Cummings Australian singer

Australian singer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Australian singer
Is Singer Songwriter
From Australia
Type Music
Gender male
Birth 13 September 1954, Melbourne
Age: 65 years
The details

Stephen Donald Cummings (born 13 September 1954 in Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian rock singer-songwriter and writer. He was lead singer of Melbourne-based rock band, The Sports, from 1976 to 1981, followed by a solo career which has met with critical acclaim but has had limited commercial success. He has written two novels, Wonderboy (1996) and Stay Away from Lightning Girl (1999), and a memoir, Will it Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? (2009). In 2014 a documentary film Don't Throw Stones based on his memoir premiered as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Early years

Stephen Cummings was born in 1954 in Melbourne and grew up in Camberwell. He was the vocalist for Ewe and the Merinos.

The Pelaco Brothers

The Pelaco Brothers formed in 1974, with Cummings on vocals, Joe Camilleri on saxophone and vocals, Peter Lillie on guitar and vocals, Johnny Topper on bass guitar, Karl Wolfe on drums and Chris Worrall on guitar. They played "rock-abilly, country swing and R&B that recalled American outfits like Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. Yet, the band's delivery presented a fiercely Australian outlook". Only existing for 18 months, they later included Ed Bates on guitar and Peter Martin on slide guitar, their posthumous releases were The Notorious Pelaco Brothers Show a live six-track Extended Play on the Ralph imprint (a completely different entity from the San Francisco label) in June 1977 and three studio tracks for the various artists release, The Autodrifters and The Relaxed Mechanics Meet The Fabulous Nudes and The Pelaco Bros, in June 1978 on Missing Link Records. The Pelaco Brothers disbanded in late 1975, Camilleri went on to form Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Lillie formed Relaxed Mechanics, Topper formed The Fabulous Nudes, Lillie, Topper and Wolfe were all in The Autodrifters. Meanwhile, Cummings and Bates formed The Sports in 1976. and Paul Hitchins on drums. Their early sets contained covers of Chuck Berry, Billy Emerson, Don Covay, Company Caine and Graham Parker. Original songs, mostly written by Cummings and Bates, completed their sets. The Sports' debut recording was the EP, Fair Game in early 1977. A friend in London posted the record to the New Musical Express which declared it 'Record Of The Week'. Andrew Pendlebury (ex-Myriad) joined on guitar in August 1977 and assisted Cummings with songwriting. Cummings brought in Martin Armiger on guitar, vocals and songwriting to replace Bates in August 1978. The Sports had top 30 hits on the Australian Kent Music Report singles charts with, "Don't Throw Stones" (1979), "Strangers on a Train" (1980) and "How Come" (1981); and top 20 albums with, Don't Throw Stones (#9, 1979), Suddenly (#13, 1980) and Sondra (1981). "Who Listens to the Radio?", co-written by Cummings and Pendlebury, peaked at #35 on the Australian singles charts in 1978, and was their only hit on the United States Billboard Pop Singles chart, peaking at #45 in November 1979.

Solo career

After The Sports had disbanded in late 1981, Cummings spent 1982 co-writing tracks with Ian Stephen (The Armchairs), and waiting out his contract. He released his debut solo single, "We all Make Mistakes" on Phantom Records, in January 1983 and followed with "Stuck on Love" in September. Cummings' debut album, Senso, released by Regular Records in August 1984, was produced by former bandmate Martin Armiger, and recorded with session musicians including, Armiger, Joe Camilleri and Pendlebury from his earlier bands. Senso spawned two dance-pop singles, "Gymnasium" (July 1984) and "Another Kick in the Head" (October), with a non-album single "What am I Going to Do?" following in 1985.

His second album, This Wonderful Life released in September 1986, was a more personal and less busy recording, which was produced by Cummings and provided two singles, "Speak with Frankness" (July) and "Love is Crucial" (October). Cummings dueted with Pendlebury (by then ex-Slaughtermen alongside Ian Stephen) on "She Set Fire to the House" with John McAll on Piano released in September 1987. For his third album, Lovetown released in January 1988 on Rampant Releases, Cummings formed Stephen Cummings' Lovetown (aka Stephen Cummings and Lovetown) with Rebecca Barnard on backing vocals, Mick Girasole (also in The Black Sorrows alongside Camilleri) on bass guitar, Peter Luscombe (also The Black Sorrows) on drums, Shane O'Mara on guitar and Pendlebury on guitar. It "was a very subtle, alluring, personal and mostly acoustic album [...] full of conversational, narrative vignettes". The album, produced by Mark Woods and Cummings, provided two singles, "Some Prayers Are Answered" in February and "My Willingness" in May.

Cummings changed labels to True Tone Records for his next album, A New Kind of Blue, which was released in March 1989 and produced by Cummings and O'Mara. It spawned three singles, "A Love is a Life" in October 1988, "Your House is Falling" in February 1989 and "When the Day is Done" in July. The album provided Cummings with his only Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Award, winning "Best Adult Contemporary Album" in 1990.

For his fifth solo album, Good Humour, Cummings returned to his earlier dance and funk sound from his Senso album, using a backing band of Barnard, O'Mara and Nick Smith (ex-Kevins) on backing vocals, with additional session musicians from Sydney jazz outfit The Necks, and Robert Goodge (I'm Talking) on guitar, drum programming and co-production (for two tracks). The album, produced by Cummings and O'Mara, peaked at #40 on the ARIA Album Charts in March 1991. "Hell (You Put Me Through)", which peaked at #33 after its January release, was followed by a cover of Sly Stone's "Family Affair" and then "Stand Up (Love is the Greatest)". Cummings has supplemented his income by writing advertising jingles: he co-wrote Medibank Private's theme "I Feel Better Now", with Goodge.

Cummings' next album, Unguided Tour, produced by Cummings and O'Mara for Polygram Records, was issued in 1992 and provided three singles. Steve Kilbey of The Church produced Falling Swinger, Cummings' seventh solo album released in August 1994. The single, "September 13" appeared in July and is titled for Cummings' birthday, which he shares with Kilbey. Later in 1994, the Toni Childs and Cummings duet, "Fell from a Great Height", was released as a single, it later appeared on Childs' compilation album, Best of Toni Childs in 1995. Kilbey also produced Escapist in September 1996, which contained "countrified ballad `Everything Breaks Your Heart' to the psychedelic-tinged mantra `Sometimes'". Also in 1996, Cummings published his first novel, Wonderboy, which deals with relationships especially those between a father and son.

On 14 November 1998, Cummings and, a briefly reformed, The Sports performed at the Mushroom Records 25th anniversary concert. His next solo album, Spiritual Bum, had Cummings as record producer and was issued in June 1999. He returned to an acoustic, melancholic sound. Cummings also had his second novel, Stay Away from Lightning Girl, published in 1999, which described an aging musician and his band. In 2001, he released Skeleton Key followed by Firecracker in 2003, Close Ups in 2004, Love-O-Meter in 2005, Space Travel in 2007, and Happiest Man Alive in 2008. On 1 May 2009, his memoir, Will it Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? : misadventures in music was printed, which his publishers described as a series of anecdotes from his childhood through thirty years of the music business and his family relationships. In October 2010, his 1988 album Lovetown was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.

Media reviews

Alongside Nick Cave and Tim Rogers, I would nominate Stephen Cummings. He is easily one of our great storytellers, capable of creating lives in miniature

— Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 2001

Apart from Paul Kelly, no other Australian solo artist has managed to sustain a recording and performing career at such a high level of artistry for as long as Stephen Cummings

— Shaun Carney, The Age, 1 November 2001

Debonair, romantic and sensitive, Cummings owns a voice that allows vulnerable yearning qualities as much space as an authoritative voice of experience.

— Lauren Zoric, Rolling Stone Australia, issue 544, January 1998

in a year rich in fine albums from singer-songwriters as diverse as Bob Dylan, Ron Sexsmith and Lucinda Williams, this is one of the finest

— Larry Schwartz, The Sunday Age, 28 October 2001


The Pelaco Brothers (1974–1976)

  • The Pelaco Brothers (EP) — Ralph Records RR001 E (1976)
  • The Notorious Pelaco Brothers Show (live EP) — Ralph Records (1977)
  • The Autodrifters and The Relaxed Mechanics Meet The Fabulous Nudes and The Pelaco Bros by various artists contains three studio tracks by The Pelaco Brothers — Missing Link Records MLP-1 (June 1978)

The Sports (1976–1981)

Solo (1983–present)


  • Senso — Regular Records RRLP 1208 (August 1984)#46 AUS
  • This Wonderful Life — Centre Records 829 725-1 (1986)#69 AUS
  • Lovetown — Rampant Releases RR052 (January 1988)#61 AUS
  • A New Kind of Blue — True Tone Records TLP 791309 (March 1989)
  • Good Humour — True Tone Records 847625-2 (1991)#40 AUS
  • Unguided Tour — Polydor Records 513 852 2 (1992)
  • Rollercoaster (compilation) — Polydor Records 521 149 4 (1993)
  • Falling Swinger — Polydor Records 523355 2 (1994)
  • Escapist — Polydor Records 5318402 (1996)
  • Puppet, Pauper, Pirate, Poet, Pawn and King (compilation) — Polydor Records 537883-2 (6 October 1997)
  • Spiritual Bum — Festival Records D24112 (26 July 1999)
  • Skeleton Key — W. Minc Productions WMINCD021 (3 October 2001)
  • Firecracker — W. Minc Productions WMINCD028 (3 February 2003)
  • Live at the Big Room — (April 2003) originally released as Live 2002 as a bonus disc to pre-orders of Firecracker re-released as Live at the Big Room in June 2005.
  • Close Ups (unplugged) — Liberation Music BLUE069.2 (16 August 2004)
  • Love-O-Meter — Liberation Music LIBCD7181.5 (10 October 2005)
  • Space Travel — Liberation Music LIBCD92435 (25 August 2007)
  • That's My Cave Man (compilation) — (January 2008)
  • Happiest Man Alive — Head Records HEAD099 (6 September 2008)
  • Good Bones — Liberation Music BLUE180.2 (6 September 2008)
  • Tickety Boo — Head Records HEAD123 (2 November 2009)
  • Reverse Psychology — Head Records HEAD155 (17 February 2012)
  • Nothing To Be Frightened Of — Head Records HEAD198 (August 2014)


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
1982 "We All Make Mistakes" 89 Senso
1983 "Stuck on Love" 76
"Backstabbers" 40
1984 "Gymnasium" 27
"Another Kick in the Head"
1985 "What Am I Going to Do?" 80 'Non-album single'
1986 "This Wonderful Life" This Wonderful Life
"Speak with Frankness" 83
"Love Is Crucial but Money, that's Everything"
1988 "Some Prayers Are Answered" Lovetown
"My Willingness"
"A Life Is a Life" 89 A New Kind of Blue
1989 "Your House Is Falling" 67
"When the Day Is Done"
1990 "Family Affair" Good Humour
"Hell (You've Put Me Through)" 33
"Stand Up (Love Is the Greatest)"
1992 "I've got a Lot of Faith in You" Unguided Tour
"If I Had some Money I'd Go away Tonight"[A]
"Keep the Ball Rolling"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.
Year Title Peak chart positions Album
1992 "Didn't Anybody Ever Say No to You" Unguided Tour
1993 "Teacher, I Need You"[B] 'Non-album single'
"Whatever Love Is" Rollercoaster
1994 "September 13" Falling Swinger
"The Big Room"
"Fell from a Great Height"[C]
1996 "Sometimes" Escapist
"Taken by Surprise"
1999 "Don't Talk to Me about Love" Spiritual Bum
"Wishing Machine"
2004 "When Love Comes Back to Haunt You" (acoustic version)[D] Close Ups
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.

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