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The Riptides
Also known as
  • The Grudge
  • the Neon Steal
  • the Numbers
OriginBrisbane, Queensland, Australia
Years active
  • 1977 (1977)–1983 (1983)
  • 1987 (1987)–1991 (1991)
  • 2007
Associated acts
Past members
  • Mark Callaghan
  • Dennis Cantwell
  • Scott Matheson
  • Alan Reilly
  • Robert Vickers
  • Andrew Leitch
  • Michael Hiron (d. 2001)
  • Graeme Hutchinson
  • Russell Parkhouse
  • Howard Shawcross
  • J.J.Harris
  • Graham Bidstrup
  • Tony Adams
  • Neil Chadwick

The Riptides were an Australian power pop group which formed in Brisbane in 1977 as the Grudge. Their founding mainstay was Mark "Cal" Callaghan on lead vocals, bass guitar, rhythm guitar and as principal songwriter. Former member Michael Hiron died in 2001.


The Riptides were formed in 1977 as the Grudge, their members were students at the Architecture Department, University of Queensland;[1][2] the original line-up was Mark "Cal" Callaghan on lead vocals, Dennis Cantwell on drums, Scott Matheson on rhythm guitar, Alan Reilly on lead guitar and Robert Vickers on bass guitar.[1][3]

During 1978 the Grudge changed their name to the Neon Steal and then to the Numbers.[1][3] In September 1978 the Numbers issued a limited edition (500 copies) three-track extended play, Sunset Strip, on the Go-Betweens' Able label.[1] Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described it as "punchy and energetic and featured a brilliant, English-flavoured 1960s-inspired pop sound."[1] Early in 1979 Vickers left the Numbers, travelling to New York City, where he joined the Colors.[1] In 1983 he joined the Go-Betweens.[1]

In 1979 Callaghan switched to bass guitar and the Numbers became the Riptides to avoid confusion with a Sydney band of that name,[1] they remixed Sunset Strip's tracks and reissued it in July 1979 (2000 copies) via Able.[1][3] Andrew Leitch then replaced Reilly on guitar and added keyboards.[1][3]

The band issued a new single, "Tomorrow's Tears", in February 1980 on the Flat label.[1][3] McFarlane felt it was "a fabulous slice of 1960s-styled R&B; pop."[1] The band appeared on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's pop music TV show, Countdown, to promote the single;[1][4] the Riptides moved to Sydney in mid-1980.[1][2] In October they were signed to Regular Records.[5][6]

Michael Hiron (ex-Leftovers, Flaming Hands, the Pineapples from the Dawn of Time) joined in March 1981 on bass guitar and Callaghan switched to rhythm guitar; Matheson also left;[1][3] the four-piece line-up entered the studio with producer, Graham "Buzz" Bidstrup, (ex-the Angels) in mid-1981 to record a six-track EP, Swept Away, which was released in November.[1][3] From the EP a track, "Only Time", was issued as a single, also in November, while Cantwell and Leitch both left.

Callaghan and Hiron reformed the Riptides in early 1982 with new bandmates, Graeme "Hutch" Hutchinson on drums (ex-Leftovers, the Humans), Russell Parkhouse on keyboards and Howard Shawcross on bass guitar (ex-Last Chance Café, Elks); while Hiron moved to lead guitar;[1][3] the group issued a new single, "Hearts and Flowers" in September, and supported Scottish group, Simple Minds, on their Australian tour in October.[1]

By January 1983 the Riptides decided to disband: they had enough of performing.[1] Callaghan recalled in December 2014, "There were other things that were going on in the band, you know, drugs, and I just thought nah, I've got to stop this, it's crazy, it had gone away from its original kind of vibe, anyway."[7] In July 1983 Regular issued a compilation album, Riptides (a.k.a. The Last Wave), with the track list selected by Callaghan.[1][3] Callaghan and Leitch had recorded a new track, "The Wedding Song", for the album.[1]

McFarlane summarised the group's output "one of the classic Australian new wave groups; the band's blend of diamond-hard power pop, snappy surf melodies and whomping backbeat was irresistible and eminently danceable. After becoming one of the biggest drawcards on the Australian pub circuit during the early 1980s, The Riptides called it a day in 1983."[1]

In 1984 Bidstrup on drums and Callaghan on guitar and lead vocals formed a pop rock group, GANGgajang in Sydney, with Chris Bailey on bass guitar (ex-the Angels).[3][8] Leitch and Hiron formed a group, Catchcry, with Felix Davies on bass guitar, Ross Harley on guitar and vocals, and Tim Seckold on drums.[1]

The Riptides had developed a cult status in Brisbane; they periodically reformed briefly for gigs at universities during Orientation Week. Early in 1987 Callaghan revived the Riptides for a reunion tour to celebrate ten years since formation;[1] the line-up comprised Callaghan, Leitch, Hiron and Bidstrup on drums.[1][3] The tour provided a double live album, Riptides Resurface, which came out in December,[1][3] they toured again in February 1988 with Callaghan, Leitch and Hiron; while Bidstrup was replaced by J.J. Harris on drums (ex-Divinyls).[1][3]

Callaghan, Harris and Hiron reformed the Riptides for tours during 1989 and 1990, with Brisbane's John Willsteed on guitar (ex-the Go Betweens).[1][3] In early 1991 Callaghan, Harris and Hiron entered the studio with a new guitarist, Tony Adams and a session drummer, J. J. Hackett (ex-Mondo Rock).[1][3] South African-born producer, Ricky Fataar (ex-Beach Boys drummer), recorded the group's first studio album, Wave Rock (August 1991),[1] it provided two singles, "Stop (Don't Start)" (May 1991) and "Here Comes the Sun" (August).[1] Neil Chadwick joined as a permanent drummer and the Riptides toured once again before disbanding at the end of that year.

In March 2001 Michael Hiron died suddenly.[7] In July 2001 Callaghan played in a tribute gig for Hiron, in Brisbane, with other artists who had worked with the musician.

Bidstrup and Callaghan put together a new line-up of the Riptides for the Pig City Festival on 14 July 2007: adding Chris Bailey on bass guitar and Mark O'Connor on keyboards, they performed a classic set that showed why they still remain one of Brisbane's great bands.[2] Rave Magazine's Sebastian Hayes, Simon Topper and James Stafford described how "Callaghan run, high-kick and grin around the stage is a bit like watching an over-enthusiastic Dad meeting your pals at a 21st – embarrassingly uncool, but completely endearing. Thankfully, the dancing and clapping crowd adore the five-piece's surf-rock."[9]

During 2014 Callaghan supervised another compilation album, Tombs of Gold, which included unreleased material from the Swept Away sessions and four tracks from a later line-up.[7]


Singles & EPs
  • Sunset Strip/Magic Castle; Rules Of Love (7" - Able AB-004 - 2000 copies - 1978)
  • Tomorrow's Tears/Some Other Guy (7" - Flat FLAT-1 - 1980)
  • Only Time/The Riptide; Shake It (7" - Regular K-8341 - July 1981)
  • Hearts And Flowers/Sandarama (7" - Regular RRSP-716 - 1982)
  • Stop/Hideous (7" & CD single - Bluedisc 868 146-7 - 1991)
  • Here Comes the Sun - CD single Bluedisc (1991)
  • Swept Away (mini-LP - Regular L-20004 - 1981)
  • The Riptides (LP - Beachtime Records - Recorded in 1980 - Released in 1983)
  • The Riptides (Regular Records - RRLP 1207 - 1983)
  • Wave Rock (CD Bluedisc 510224-2 - 1991)
Lives & compilations
  • Resurface - double-LP Mercury 832989-1 (1988)
  • Tombs of Gold - LP IS Music ISM210401 (2014)
  • Relics - Bonus Tracks from "Tombs of Gold" IS Music ISM201402 (2014)


  • McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 17 August 2017. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae McFarlane, 'The Riptides' entry. Archived from the original on 18 February 2004. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Bell, Steve. "Swim between the flags - The Riptides". Queensland Government. Retrieved 20 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o The Riptides and related entries at Australian Rock Database:
    • The Riptides:– Holmgren, Magnus. "Riptides". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
    • Mark Callaghan (1979–83, 1987–88, 1991):– Holmgren, Magnus. "Mark Callaghan". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
    • Graham "Buzz" Bidstrup (1987–88):– Holmgren, Magnus. "Graham 'Buzz' Bidstrup". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  4. ^ "The Riptides - Tomorrow's Tears". YouTube. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  5. ^ P, Heather (30 September 1981). "Baxter Ball". Tharunka. 27 (12). p. 29. Retrieved 17 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ Coupe, Stuart (11 January 1981). "Variety! That's the Spice of Sydney Pub Rock". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Stafford, Andrew (19 December 2014). "The Riptides: Tombs of Gold". Notes from Pig City. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  8. ^ McFarlane, 'GANGgajang' entry. Archived from the original on 10 July 2004. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  9. ^ Hayes, Sebastian; Topper, Simon; Stafford, James (24 July 2007). "Pig City". Rave Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2017.

External links[edit]

  • Who's Who of Australian Rock Compiled by Chris Spencer 2nd ed 1989 Five Mile Press
  • Waltzing the Plank : The Australian Illustrated Encyclopedia of Surf Music 1963-2003 by Stephen J. McPharland