Formed at the beginning of 1977, inspired by a New Musical Express story seen by Simon Grigg, the original performing line-up was Zero (Clare Elliot, vocals), Billy Planet (Will Pendergrast, bass), Jimmy Joy (also Jimmy Vinyl, saxophone), Shaun Anfrayd (Brian Nicholls, guitar), Des Edwards (drums) and Sissy Spunk (Trish Scott, guitar). Grigg was the manager.
With this line-up the band played a series of gigs, each attracting more media attention than the last. Grigg booked them into a school ball, from which they were fired, gathering a front-page story in a Sunday paper, and then with filmmaker David Blyth, he promoted the band as headliners at New Zealand’s first punk concert. The gig, on July 16, 1977, at Auckland University Café was a sellout but the group, along with the other bands playing, The Scavengers and The Masochists, were immediately banned from the University.
Despite this, The Reptiles were back at the University’s Maidment Theatre two weeks later for a lunchtime show, once again selling out the venue and making the carefully orchestrated covers of all the Sunday papers that week.
An early August performance at the Elam School Of Fine Arts Ball was filmed by Gray Nichols but seems to be lost.
They made the front page of at least one newspaper every day of the week they were there. It was deemed a huge success.
In August the band went down to the Students Arts Festival in Wellington where once again they found themselves mired in controversy, fired from two gigs and evicted from a party. They made the front page of at least one newspaper every day of the week they were there. It was deemed a huge success.
Billy Planet described the trip down-country (to RipItup in October 1997) as "..Wellington. Hippies everywhere. Still all tassles and beads. Fucking hippies..."
Nicholls and Scott left the band in early September, and Planet moved to guitar, with The Scavengers’ Johnny Volume (Ken Cooke) also joining briefly on guitar (the media were told it was Tommy Volume, Johnny's brother) and Bones Hillman (Wayne Stevens, ex-Masochists) arriving on bass.
Two sessions at Harlequin Studios, the first produced by Tim Finn, resulted in four tracks being recorded. Two of these, ‘Megaton’ and ‘Desert Patrol’ (both from the second session) were licensed to Phonogram for release on the Vertigo label.
The band were tiring of the media flurry though and wanted to move on from the shock angle, despite having actively played up to it, courting the press and using intentionally provocative graphics to cause outrage. Zero said to RipItUp in October 1977, "All the time you're asked 'Why don't you swear more on stage?' or 'Do you vomit on stage?' and 'If not, why not?'"
As a result, in the last part of 1977 The Suburban Reptiles played sporadically around Auckland, focusing on events rather than regular gigs, these included a Christmas Party above the Classic Cinema in Queen Street on December 3, 1977, inspired by the legendary Hello Sailor gigs at the same venue in 1976.
Their debut single, on a 12-inch pressing, the first in New Zealand, was launched in January 1978 at the Poenamo Hotel in Takapuna, some two months after the planned release.
Zero was arrested on stage at the Riverhead Rock Festival for saying “fuck”.
Hillman was replaced on bass by Tony Baldoch in late January, in time for a daytime gig in Albert Park. In February, Zero was arrested on stage at the Riverhead Rock Festival for saying “fuck”. She was acquitted later in the year, allegedly setting a legal precedent that still stands.
In April the band headed south again, playing a fractious gig at the Awapuni Hotel in Palmerston North before headlining the Punk Festival in Wellington in June, and playing with Wellington’s 52s at 52 Cuba Street.
Over the first half of 1978 The Suburban Reptiles recorded sporadically at both Stebbing and Mandrill studios, some of the later recordings being produced by ex-Split Enzer Phil Judd who eventually joined the band. His influence proved to be the undoing of the Reptiles with Billy Planet leaving in July and Judd joining on guitar. Jimmy Joy, who with Grigg had initially formed the band, was fired during the later Mandrill sessions.
The Mandrill sessions produced the single ‘Saturday Night Stay At Home’/‘45 Single’, the former of which featured Judd’s soaring guitars but was still identifiably the Suburban Reptiles, and was released in late August by Phonogram.
In September Zero toured as part of The Rocky Horror Show (with Gary Glitter), returning to the band for the premiere of David Blyth’s movie Angel Mine, which featured two Reptiles tracks ‘Saturday Night Stay At Home’ and ‘Rosie’.
In the interim Jimmy Joy and Billy Planet had quickly formed another Suburban Reptiles, using members of The Plague, and both played at the premiere, after which the band was no more.
An advertised date at The State Theatre in Symonds Street with The Enemy and The Scavengers happened without the Reptiles.
Stiggs and Judd grabbed Bones Hillman and in late 1978 formed The Swingers, a band whose early repertoire included several later Reptiles songs.
‘Saturday Night Stay At Home’ was named the Best New Zealand Single of all time in a B-net radio poll in 2000. The single was reissued in a limited edition of 400 for Record Store Day, 2014.
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Jimmy Joy was also known as Lino Clone briefly
The first pressing of Megaton had the despised Roger Dean designed 'prog' Vertigo label. It had been requested by Simon Grigg to indicate irony