Kings of the Sun (also abbreviated K.O.T.S.) is an Australian hard rock band formed by Gold Coast’s native Clifford Hoad in Sydney in 1983. After 8 albums, couple of hiatuses and lineup changes, the band is still active and has recently recorded 9th studio album.
The Young Lions (1983-1985)
Initially called The Young Lions, the band was formed in Sydney in 1983 by drummer Clifford Hoad who recruited seasoned guitarist Bob Spencer (Finch, Skyhooks), whom he had met before in Brisbane in late 1981 during the making of his Drouyn drum kit. Cliff then sent for his younger brother Jeffrey, who took lead vocals & guitar duties and the original lineup was completed by bass player Marlon Holden. They scored support slots for The Angels and INXS the same year.
The band’s then image comprised 50’s American big band style outfits. During the first half of 80’s, lineup has changed several times. Bob Spencer left the band around late 1983 but later on (1984-1985) rejoined along with bass player John McKinnon, who replaced Marlon Holden. After Bob Spencer left the 2nd time, lead guitarist Tommy Poulter stepped in for him in 1985. The Young Lions did 2 Australian tours, intermittently supporting such established acts as INXS, Rose Tattoo, The Church, Kevin Borich, Sherbet, Dragon, The Angels, Eurogliders, The Swingers, Hoodoo Gurus, The Saints etc.
Kings of the Sun (1986-1998)
In mid-80’s, Cliff Hoad renamed his band Kings of the Sun after seeing the movie of the same name starring Yul Brynner on daytime television in Sydney's Tamarama, where the band resided.
First single & contract with RCA
Another lineup changes happened in the first half of 1986 when the KOTS were signed to Mushroom label and recorded their first single. Tommy Poulter left and John McKinnon was replaced by Anthony Ragg. During April and May 1986 several Hoad Bros. compositions were recorded in the studio by Hoad-Hoad-Ragg lineup (with Jeff recording both lead & rhythm guitar tracks in addition to lead vocals, what later become tradition). Bottom of My Heart was chosen as a single and subsequently released with B-side Bad Love (both songs were later re-recorded for the debut album). The rest of the songs from these recording sessions remain unreleased.
Accompanying videoclip was shot starring Hoads’ younger sister Belinda and new acquisition on lead guitar Ron Thiessen (Uncanny X-Men). Also Cliff is playing his custom-made square drum kit built by Bill Buick and himself, especially for the clip. In Cliff’s own words: “They look sensational but sounded like wet cardboard. They met ill fate when they tore a hole in the hood lining of my beloved Valiant. Days later, I smashed them with an axe. Wish I still had ‘em!”. The little known fact is that actually there were two videoclips filmed. The original one featured Tommy Poulter on lead guitar and was shot in complete darkness as opposed to the second one, although the concept is the same. Original clip stays in the vaults.
Single enjoyed chart success (made it to National Australian Top 20) and KOTS even appeared on the Countdown (popular weekly Australian music television show in the 70’s and the 80’s). Yet, the band wasn’t offered the full album recording.
One show left at the Sydney Cove Tavern in late 1986, before the band were to disband. KOTS got signed that night to RCA Records by Simon Lowe, A&R head of this New York’s label, who came to Australia for talent seeking visit. So in 1987 the Hoad brothers along with Anthony Ragg (Ron Thiessen left the band before it got signed) arrived in New York to start the work on their first LP.
Band got under the wings of Mark Eichner, who was band’s A&R representative with RCA for first 3 albums, and manager Freddy De Mann of De Mann Entertainment, who also managed high-profile artists Michael Jackson and Madonna among others.
Kings of the Sun album
The self-titled debut album Kings of the Sun released in October 1988 was produced by the legendary Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Ace Frehley, Rolling Stones etc.), who offered himself to the band after listening to their demo tape. Recordings took place in upstate NY in two studios. First half of the recording was done at BearTracks Recording Studio in Suffern and the rest at Bearsville Studios in Bearsville, just west of Woodstock. Album was mixed by Dave Thoener at The Record Plant, NYC. Glenn Morris subsequently joined the band to play lead guitar.
Single Serpentine placed on the 19th position of the U.S. music charts (in Australia it made it to position 48). Second single Black Leather made Billboard Hot 100 peaking at 98th position. Videoclips for both singles were shot, but Black Leather was banned on MTV for being “too risqué”.
After the release of the album group toured the USA supporting Joe Satriani, followed by Europe, where they opened for KISS on their Crazy Nights Tour. They also played at the Monsters of Rock 1988 in Modena, Italy. At the end of 1988 they returned to Australia to open for Guns N' Roses along with local heroes The Angels. On the 3rd date of that tour, they were infamously kicked off stage in Sydney by Axl Rose, who apparently couldn't bear Clifford Hoad’s remark in an interview for the Australian On the Street magazine about Guns owing much of their image to Rose Tattoo (Australian rock legends).
Full Frontal Attack album
Following year, Glenn Morris left the band to join The Screaming Tribesmen. He rejoined KOTS after the 2nd album was finished. Full Frontal Attack was recorded at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles and released in August 1990. Produced by William Wittman and mixed again by Dave Thoener at New York’s prominent Electric Lady Studios & Battery Studios, it contains perhaps the biggest hit of the band called Drop the Gun (30th place in the Billboard charts). Videoclip features crashed Dodge Challenger and some stunt done by Jeff Hoad. Lock Me Up was released as the second single. In home Australia, Mushroom label released I Get Lonely as additional single.
Following the album release, RCA Records went through turbulent times and was taken over by BMG. KOTS lost label support and album didn’t get much promotion. Even without support, single Drop the Gun stayed 10 weeks in the charts and got some solid airplay thanks to demand of listeners. Full Frontal Attack was also the last album to be released on vinyl by RCA Records.
KOTS went on tour and opened for Bruce Dickinson in the US. The Australian tour with The Screaming Jets followed in early 1991, before Morris and Ragg left the band in 1992.
After the band was granted a third album by BMG, Resurrection was recorded in Los Angeles again (Hoad brothers lived in Malibu Beach for couple of years) at A&M Studios and Paramount Studios. Most bass guitar tracks were recorded by Englishman Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol), additional 2 tracks were recorded by American Brad Spurr who joined the band afterwards. This time, the Hoad brothers produced themselves, except two tracks co-produced by Mark Dearnley, who also mixed the record. Album offered standard Hoad’s dose of dozen tracks, but in fact, there were recorded enough songs to make it a double album. These unreleased tracks still wait to see the light of the day. Also, during the recording of the album, Mötley Crüe invited Jeff Hoad to audition as a replacement for Vince Neil. He refused to even consider it.
Album was released in May 1993 in Australia only by Mushroom Records in print run of 1000 copies (nowadays, the original pressing is regarded as collector’s item). The band subsequently returned from the States to their native Australia, where they shot videoclip to the 2nd single called Road to Nowhere (released in July). Videoclip features Cliff Hoad speeding in his Roadrunner muscle car, which a few years later had almost fatal impact on his life & career. As the 1st single was released Trapped Inside Your Heart in April of that year. Now as a trio, KOTS supported Jimmy Barnes on his Australian tour the very same year.
Bombs Away single
After the touring, Brad Spurr went back home to the States and KOTS recruited Australian Dean Turner on bass with whom they recorded Bombs Away single in 1995. Cliff Hoad explains: “Recorded by Brett Johnson from Sea FM Radio in one night in 1995 [17/8/95]. With a classic heavy riff and a sing along anthem style lyric, denouncing the French President Chirac's decision to bomb test in the Pacific.“. The accompanying video was shot with help of Miami State High School, Gold Coast, QLD. Single was released independently in limited volume and all proceeds went to the Gold Coast branch of the Australian Surfriders Foundation.
Final KOTS album
In wintersun of 1997, band went to Terry Stevens’ Studio One Sound Explosion and recorded an album called Daddy Was a Hobo Man. Cliff Hoad on recording process: “OK… the thing is with this album, we did not set out to record this album with the same intention as the first three. This album, we wanted to record with no commercial pressure what so ever, also, at the time we wanted to record as a 3 piece and live in the studio, this is what you’re hearing. The band playing live! Jeff’s singing and playing at the same time, it’s magnificent, ‘cause this is what we sounded like on stage!!! Especially when we came back from the States as a 3 piece. This is why I love the album so much. No harmonies, no over dubs, just raw singing & playing, first & second takes only...“. Album remained shelved until 2011, when master tapes resurfaced and it finally get released independently.
KOTS continued touring Australia in 1997/1998. In May 1998 they opened for Sammy Hagar, now as a quartet again, featuring young Melbournian axeman Quentin Elliott on lead guitar and Chris Lewis on bass. This lineup played some new songs as Higher Power or Stagefright which has never been recorded in studio, but some live shows were bootlegged. Around this time, Cliff Hoad crashed his Roadrunner and completely wrote it off. After the touring, band went on hiatus.
On 13th April, 2001 KOTS reunited for a one-off gig, when they opened for KISS at Carrara Stadium in their hometown of Gold Coast, Queensland. Craig Pesco joined the Hoad-Hoad-Elliott lineup on bass. This was the last Kings of the Sun gig.
The Rich & Famous (2001-2009)
Not long after, brothers Clifford and Jeffrey Hoad returned to the scene under moniker The Rich & Famous – which allowed them to further explore their abilities as songwriters. Their self-titled & self-produced debut album was recorded at Stardust Studios and 3 Horn Studios in the (Australian) summer of 2002 and the winter of 2003. Cliff Hoad: “In the summer of 2002, Jeff and I went into the studio, hell bent on making a definitive classic pop rock album. This was an experimental journey, to places we had never ventured before musically. Far removed from the confines of our heavy rock legacy, with instrument swaps, Jeff playing keyboards and guitar, and me playing sax. You can hear the artistic freedom and self-discovery, meshed into this wonderful landscape of Hoad brothers song writing.“. Album was released independently in 2004. Dean Turner rejoined the band on bass and toured with R&F locally.
While first R&F album was experimental move by the Hoad Bros., second album Like a Superstar meant their return to heavy rock roots. It’s aggressive, raw & loud with punk edge. Recorded at Terry Stephens’ Sound Explosion studio and released independently in 2006. Album cover inspired by famous American picture called Nighthawks was painted by Dean Turner, who is not only a bass player, but also talented artist.
The last Rich & Famous record called Stand Back… Prepare to be Amazed!!! was released the following year (2007). Recorded again by Hoad-Hoad-Turner lineup at Lost Valley Recording Studios, it features almost 24 min long drum solo by Cliff Hoad and his lead vocal on I Wanna Rock track. Sound wise it picks up where previous album left off.
The band broke up again in 2009.
Clifford Hoad's Kings of the Sun (2010-present)
In 2010 Clifford Hoad began with the composition of songs for the new album and formation of a new Kings of the Sun lineup – this time without his younger brother Jeffrey, who decided to leave behind his music career.
2011 saw release of the last Rich & Famous material – album called Airborn Love Spirits. It includes 3 tracks recorded in 2001 (2 previously unreleased) plus complete Resurrection album, which has been long out of print.
In March 2013, new KOTS lineup entered Govinda Doyle’s private studio to record Cliff Hoad’s latest compositions. Quentin Elliott returned to play lead guitar and Dave Talon (Rollerball) joined on rhythm guitar. Drummer Cliff Hoad also took charge of singing, as he sang backing vocals on all previous albums and lead vocals on 2 tracks (shared with Jeff on Shot Me an Arrow & lead on I Wanna Rock). Bass tracks were recorded by Govinda Doyle who also engineered and produced the album with co-production by Clifford Hoad. Mixing was done by Govinda & Clifford.
New album entitled Rock Til Ya Die released in 2013 and is return to classic Australian rock sound.
Clifford Hoad - lead vocals, drums & percussions
Quentin Elliott - lead guitar
Dave Talon - rhythm guitar
Jeffrey Hoad - lead vocals, guitars
Anthony Ragg - bass
Glenn Morris - lead guitar
Dean Turner - bass
Brad Spurr - bass
Ron Thiessen - lead guitar
Tommy Poulter - lead guitar
John McKinnon - bass
Marlon Holden - bass
Bob Spencer - lead guitar
Gary Lee - bass *Full Frontal Attack album recording
Phil Soussan - bass *Resurrection album recording
Govinda Doyle - bass *Rock Til Ya Die album recording
Craig Pesco - bass *KISS concert at Carrara Stadium in 2001
Kings of the Sun
Kings of the Sun (1988)
Full Frontal Attack (1990)
Daddy Was a Hobo Man (2011) *Recorded in 1997
The Rich & Famous
The Rich & Famous (2004)
Like a Superstar (2006)
Stand Back… Prepare to be Amazed!!! (2007)
Airborn Love Spirits (2011) *3 tracks recorded in 2001 plus Resurrection album
Clifford Hoad's Kings of the Sun
Rock Til Ya Die (2013)
Kings of the Sun
Bottom of My Heart (1986)
Black Leather (1988)
Drop the Gun (1990)
Lock Me Up (1990)
I Get Lonely (1990)
Trapped Inside Your Heart (1993)
Road to Nowhere (1993)
Bombs Away (1995)
^ a b c d e f g h http://www.billboard.com/artist/305940/kings-sun/biography
^ Mason, Darryl. "Kings of the Sun: Still Shining", HOT METAL, Issue 18, August 1990.
^ a b c http://www.billboard.com/artist/305940/kings-sun/chart?f=376
^ "Throwing Down the Palms The 'Kings' Return", On the Street, Issue No 417, Wednesday 14 December 1988.
^ Walsh, Peter. "We Three Kings", 1993.
^ Cullen, Joey. "Sunrise", 1993.
KINGS OF THE SUN’s tracks