The Best Heavy Metal Band in the Country


This is the store at Ngukurr (pronounced Nooker) Community on the banks of the Roper River in the NT. This settlement, home to around 900 people, was the origin of a rock band that Andrew McMillan from Rolling Stone magazine once described as the “best heavy metal band in the country.”

It all started with a friend of mine, a teacher at the local school, the late Annette Robb (cousin of Andrew Robb the politician). Annette started lunchtime guitar lessons with a couple of kids. Two of the students, John Rogers and Nelson Gumbuli, got the hang of it so fast they were better than her within a couple of months. Years passed and John was teaching himself from the music of guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen. I sat with John years later in Katherine while he played Surfing with the Alien from start to finish, note perfect, as good as the original, all on a cheap guitar and tube screamer pedal.

As teenagers the two boys, along with friends and relatives Keith Rogers, Danny Thompson and Hubert Rami formed Broken English. They were an awesome band, with the much older Keith singing lead vocals with a presence every bit as menacing as Ozzy Osbourne with his gaunt, bony face and lean body. Keith drank spirits straight from a bottle and screamed original lyrics like he meant them.

Songs like Ngukurr Sunrise, Dear Me, and Flour, Sugar Tea should have been Aussie classics, but the band imploded, unable to cope with mainstream interest, alcoholism, and family pressures. A mate of mine, Dave Dalrymple, tried to manage the band, buying them brand new gear and studio time. The gear disappeared into a network of relatives, but the recording led (much later) to the band’s only genuine release, The Studio Sessions. If you can get hold of a copy, it’s well worth a listen.

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