They are the band who got their name after the artist charged with creating their first poster attended a gig he could describe only as being 'Mental As Anything'. The only problem was, singer Andrew 'Greedy' Smith had no idea until he read it on a poster hanging in a shop window.
Prior to their upcoming gigs at Bellbird Hotel on Saturday, 6 April and at Tea Gardens Hotel on Friday, 26 April, AHA's Nikki Taylor spoke with Greedy Smith about everything 'Mentals' and why this is definitely one show worth seeing.
"We first started playing in the Hunter at the Ambassador Nightclub around 1978 -1979 and it's always been a good area for us. People there enjoy our stuff which is always good," Greedy said.
"We first started playing in the Hunter at the Ambassador Nightclub around 1978 -1979 and it's always been a good area for us. People there enjoy our stuff which is always good..."
Despite the band being from Sydney, aside from playing numerous gigs across Newcastle and the Hunter over the past 40 years, Greedy said he also has a number of personal connections within the area, some that have even helped shape the current Mentals line-up.
"My mother's family are from Maitland and our current bass player Peter Gray also teaches bass guitar at the University of Newcastle and lived in the Hunter for about 25 years. He was actually recommended to me by Chris Alford, a keyboard player from Maitland who I have played with before. I also know local musician Mark 'Tinno' Tinson well, so we have a lot of connections up that way."
For the past 40 years, Mental As Anything has endured and enjoyed a roller coaster ride of pub rock royalty, including international tours in the United States, Canada and Europe, tours with Robert Palmer and Men at Work, soundtrack inclusions in movies including Crocodile Dundee and Young Einstein, various changes to the line-up, and founding member Martin Plaza's ongoing battle with cancer.
But according to Greedy, ensuring the band has a continual presence on the Australian stage is more important now than ever before.
"I'm the only original member left," he said.
"But it's so important to me that we continue to play and give people the chance to hear the songs they love. It really matters to me that when we play it sounds like the radio, that it sounds like the songs they loved, and that we give them that experience of being transported back to moments and times in their lives those songs were the soundtrack to.
"People have been very concerned and understanding about Martin (Plaza) pulling out due to cancer and I've felt a responsibility to bring the band as close as I can back to the original recordings to protect the legacy."
"People have been very concerned and understanding about Martin (Plaza) pulling out due to cancer and I've felt a responsibility to bring the band as close as I can back to the original recordings to protect the legacy..."
The current tour, and recent live album, both entitled Mental As Anything - At Play is a celebration of the history of the band, its commitment to making sure long-time fans get to experience the songs they love, and also engaging a new audience.
"Our first record Mental As Anything Plays At Your Party was recorded in 1978 on vinyl as an experiment really for a new label. We were the first band they chose to record. One of the records only had three songs on it and included The Nips Are Getting Bigger, which got airplay and then we went on from there," Greedy said.
"We wanted to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of that release with a live multi-track, multi-camera recording of Mental As Anything's 2018 full live show.
"Two weeks ago we also released a live album called Mental As Anything - At Play. That album also contains five new songs that were included on an EP we released last year, and all of our older songs, but it was recorded live to showcase how the band sounds now and we pride ourselves on getting that sound exactly right, the way it has always been."
"You know, back then you could play seven nights a week but now it's not so easy to play live shows. The culture has changed..."
Greedy believes in the current and ever-changing landscape of NSW live music, it is important that bands like The Mentals and other iconic Australian bands continue to play and represent the classic era that was pub rock, or pop.
"Things are very different now," he said.
"Back then it was a different culture. It was before the introduction of in-home entertainment and changes to the industry. People would come out to see their favourite band, to dance and meet people, even future husbands and wives would meet at the pub, at gigs. People had their favourite bands and it was almost the same as their favourite footy teams and they'd come out to see them live.
"You know, back then you could play seven nights a week but now it's not so easy to play live shows. The culture has changed."
Current legislation around lockouts, noise restrictions and live music culture continue to make headlines across Sydney, Newcastle and other areas of the state, reflecting Greedy's sentiment.
In fact, had current restrictions been in place in 1978, the Mental As Anything embraced by audiences across Australia, might have been dramatically different than the band people came to love - The name in particular...
"The person who was making a poster for one of our shows at The Settlement in Sydney asked what was the name of our band. At that time we weren't sure, so I said to him you think of something. It was about three weeks later we were walking down the street and saw a Mental As Anything poster promoting that show. Martin (Plaza), I think said I thought we were playing that gig? It dawned on us then that must be the name - Mental As Anything," Greedy said.
"I think it came about because the artist making the poster had been at a gig and people were very enthusiastic. In Paddington back then we had to play on top of a small pool table and it was pretty cramped. Everybody would crowd around right up to the edge. It was a Monday night too, and people were still there and really excited. I guess that could have seemed a bit mental.
"Things are a lot different today. It's not very often we play outside of the weekend now, maybe a rare Thursday night but that's all."
Had current restrictions been in place in 1978, the Mental As Anything embraced by audiences across Australia, might have been dramatically different than the band people came to love - The name in particular...
After 40 years of touring, recording and playing, Greedy said he believes that although the Mentals have provided him with a lifetime of fun and memories, it is only now that he can really appreciate the kind of life the band, and the music industry, has provided him.
"We put out a single every three months during the 80s. It would be played on Countdown and people really embraced and identified with us as a band," he said.
"When you first start out it's all new and exciting because it's something you've never done before. But for me, as a song writer to be able to go somewhere and people recognise a song is a huge thing. When I sing a song that I wrote and they clap and they like it, it's just incredible. As you get older you really appreciate what that means and how rare and important it is. It's not something to ever take for granted."
Mental As Anything will bring all their hits including Too Many Times, The Nips Are Getting Bigger, If you Leave Me, and Live It Up as well as songs from their new EP to:
Bellbird Hotel outdoor stage on Saturday, 6 April
Tea Gardens Hotel outdoor stage on Friday, 26 April.
For more information on Mental As Anything's album At Play, five-track EP or show video, go to www.mentalasanything.com