Damien Lovelock, 1954-2019


I first caught the Celibate Rifles a few weeks after my seventeenth birthday in the upstairs room at the Paddo Green Hotel. They were loud, fast, made me let my hair grow long. I’d recently bought their first EP, ‘But Jacques, the fish’, skipped the first few classes and went into the city, got back to school with that treasure, a passport to a different world.


fanzine, 1986.


There were a lot of Rifles gigs over the years. It’s remarkable to think how damn LOUD they, and many other bands, were in the `80s. Towering amps, double fourway PA, in an average pub or club. It was inspirational too. If they could do it…


Of course, the average teenage punter didn’t know how much time and effort had already been ploughed into that band. Thirty-one years after that first gig I put this together:


(Read it, it’s the key. Meanwhile, for your listening pleasure…)



Although I was friendly with some of the blokes in the band, I had never really spoke to Damien until that interview at a cafe in Narrabeen. Three hours of rapidfire talk about the band, music, culture, sport, occasionally interrupted by someone saying hello, enquiring about the yoga classes. The transcript (many thanks, Peta) ran over 100,000 words. He had a hell of a brain, that man.


Though known for his soccer commentary, he was a big NFL fan too. New York Giants was his team, he spent some time there in the late `60s. Damien’s mum was a professional singer and his dad a songwriter and producer who lived in New York after their marriage broke up. The Rifles’ first overseas jaunt was to the USA. Damien really wanted to play New York. Only in the last day or so did I discover why. It was for his mum, who died when he was 19.


It wasn’t all “bazooka guitars” for Damo:



1989, the Rifles released ‘Blind Ear’, their fifth album in six years. For Damien, this was the album that would really crack it open in Australia, with good songs good mixing, professional vids. Except that Kent wasn’t in the vids. He wasn’t in Australia when the band should have been touring in support of the new album. He had a different take on success to Damien.


There were stories that they might break up, I recall something about a post office holdup in Amsterdam. Late ’90, they played the Kardomah, it was magic. I remember ‘Dancing Barefoot’, something in the damp fug that night made it one of the most memorable shows of my life.


Then there was the Dee Why gig, 27 December, 1991. Seven folks in my HJ panno, from Surry Hills and back again, a mad night, Nik’s first gig with the band, awesome fun and awful consequences back in the city at 88A.


Nine years later, a bloke I knew described the Celibate Rifles as the “greatest pub rock band.” I had a different view of the band but he made a good point. They were certainly the smartest pub rock band. Moreso, they were beloved.


You had to be there. They’d kick off a set with the furious ‘Back in the red’, a few more songs and then Damien would tell a story, Dave would tell a joke – geez, what a duo, those two – and the crowd would be laughing and dancing.


The Boxing Day harbour cruises were fantastic. ’08, Mandy and I ate some pills and sat up on the top deck shooting the breeze and listening to the Rifles kick through a stack of fantastic covers. Paul told us that they’d writ out a list, a very long list, of all the songs they knew and then played them. I had plaster from toe to knee and had to half-carry Jeff, Mandy’s husband, off the boat, then go buy thongs for Mandy cos she’d thrown hers into the harbour.


2010 Harbour Cruise, Dave does Elvis:



They did a lot of great covers with a belly laugh, like ‘Cars.’


The Celibate Rifles were always there, even if I didn’t see a gig, it was just good to know that they were there. Now they’re not.


Photo courtesy of Damien Lovelock Yoga


Damien was a stoic bloke. Kept his troubles to himself and kept on going to work. The Rifles, over the years, had one singer, two guitarists, three drummers, four bass players, a geometric that Dave would dig.


Fucking bloody hell, it’s like a death in the family. Sydney just aint the same anymore. I aint one for crying, but I am now.


Cheers Tipsters



P&C A Stop Privatisation Of Footy Production, a division of Trans-Dementia Inc
Brought to you with the assistance of ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, the Celibate Rifles at CBGBs, 1985. Highly recommended.

About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.




  2. Remember stumbling onto the World Game with besuited Les Murray chatting to some clown with bleached hair, an earring and a T Shirt. Hard to say that the clown knew more about footaball than Les, but he had clarity and humour and insights that made me nod and understand the game where Les could go over my head with afficianadodom. The jester who spoke truth to power and knew more than the assembled Lords of the Game.
    Think I fell in love with Damo that day and always aspired to be a little more knowledgeable, contrary and witty like him. But he was one of a kind, and I have no idea how he knew so much about such a wide range of sports and cultural issues.
    When I was a Champions League or EPL game now it is only because he made the World Game fun and interesting for me. Vale’ Damo. (Jeez 1954 – the Grim Reaper seems to be catching us up – time to put the skates on). Thanks Earl.

  3. John Butler says

    Earl, the Rifles were a must-see whenever they came south.

    Inner city venues of a certain time in Melbourne had a regular cast of Sydney visitors that won’t be forgotten – The Rifles, The New Christs, Died Pretty. Hell, most everything on the Citadel label for a longtime.

    Damien Lovelock always seemed like a top bloke. Nice to hear that was the reality.

    On happier news, Ronny Peno seems to have come through pretty well after his cancer surgery. The dice of fate roll on.


  4. citrus bob says

    Well said PB and did I love his dog. An Aussie legend.

  5. Brilliant reading, Earl. And the link was a pearler also.

    I loved Damien Lovelock on the soccer broadcasts. No bullshit. You could tell he was the real deal.

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