Buffalo and its legacy
Buffalo are widely acclaimed as the Australian band that paved the way for hundreds of others in the stoner, hard rock and heavy metal genres.
Formed in Sydney in August 1971 from expatriate Brisbane band Head, the original line-up was Dave Tice (vocals), Alan Milano (vocals), Paul Balbi (drums), John Baxter (guitar) and Peter Wells (bass guitar.)
Tice and Wells had played together since 1966 with The Odd Colours and Strange Brew before forming Head in 1968. The name Head was deemed unsuitable by bookers so the Buffalo moniker was chosen by looking at an Australian map.
Alongside Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and Blackfeather, Buffalo pioneered Australia's heavy metal, pub rock and alternative rock movements.
The first Australian act to be signed to UK label Vertigo Records, they released five albums but stubbornly remained an underground band.
In May 1972 they issued their debut single, "Suzie Sunshine", which was written by Baxter and Peter Brett. It was followed a month later by their debut album, “Dead Forever...” Both the single and album sold well with LP sales reaching 25,000 despite a virtual commercial radio blacklisting stemming from the band’s uncompromising hard rock sound and a ghoulish LP cover.
After “Dead Forever...” appeared, co-vocalist Milano left and Jimmy Economou replaced Balbi on drums to form what would be known as the classic line-up.
In mid-January 1973 Buffalo supported Vertigo label-mates Black Sabbath on the Australian leg of the Volume IV Tour.
The four-piece line-up of Baxter, Economou, Tice and Wells recorded their next two albums, “Volcanic Rock” (July 1973) and “Only Want You For Your Body” (June 1974).
Their use of controversial cover artwork continued: “Volcanic Rock” has a graphic depiction of an androgynous figure holding a head of a penis while “Only Want You For Your Body “ has an obese, screaming or laughing woman shackled to a torture rack. For some reason, some record chains refused to stock the albums.
The band toured across Australia incessantly, at venues ranging from school dances in tiny halls to large outdoor concerts. Some say Buffalo pre-empted doom metal and stoner rock.
By mid-1974 Norm Roue (ex-Band of Light) had joined on slide guitar. Later that year, Baxter parted ways with the group. A series of new guitarists passed through: Karl Taylor joined on guitar in 1975 for the more commercially-oriented “Mother's Choice”, with Roue and Taylor replaced by Chris Turner (ex-Drain) on guitar and (briefly) Chris Stead.
Wells left before the end of 1975 to form Rose Tattoo. With Turner on guitar and Ross Sims on bass, Buffalo recorded their final LP, “Average Rock and Roller”. Buffalo disbanded in March 1977 when Tice travelled to London to join local rock group, The Count Bishops alongside his former band mate, Balbi. Their swansong record was released posthumously.
Buffalo pre-dated other early Australian hard rockers like Coloured Balls (formed March 1972), AC/DC (late 1973), The Angels (1974, as The Keystone Angels), and Rose Tattoo. Like many pioneering heavy metal acts, Buffalo incorporated strong influences of blues-rock and psychedelic rock.
A new generation became aware of Buffalo through its early albums being bootlegged continually in Europe and all five LPs being re-issued on CD in Australia in the 00’s.
As well as forming Rose Tattoo, Peter Wells had a prolific solo career before passing away after a struggle with cancer in 2006, aged 58.
Dave Tice carved out a successful career with pub rockers The Count Bishops who toured Australia as The Bishops. He returned to Australia to work both as a solo artist and as a member of The Headhunters. Most recently he played with ex-AC/DC bass guitarist Mark Evans as the long-running duo Tice & Evans and with his own Dave Tice Band.
John Baxter played with Boy Racer and then Southern Cross. Alan Milano was also a member of Southern Cross. Chris Turner has continued a career in the Sydney music scene.
In 2013, Dave Tice put together a line-up called Buffalo Revisited to revisit the Buffalo catalogue for the Evil Invaders Festival. The band's music had developed a following of young Metal, Doom Metal and Heavy Rock fans. For various reasons, the band was put to rest.
In mid 2015, Dave reconvened Buffalo Revisited with a fresh line-up of Vince Cuscuna (guitar), Steve Lorkin (bass) and Murray Shepherd (drums). Buffalo revisited plays select shows showcasing the music of the first three Buffalo albums and is working on new material in the same vein.