“I Like It Both Ways”: The bisexual anthem by Australian glam band Supernaut shocked the land down under in 1976

By on December 21, 2015

The kings of glam rock — Bowie, Bolan, Sweet, Slade — all hailed from the UK, where the genre was most popular. Most of the glam bands were sexually ambiguous, and though their public image may have played off this uncertainty, their lyrics were rarely as vague as their personas.

One group, an Australian outfit called Supernaut, took what was largely a campy façade to another level. Their debut single, “I Like It Both Ways,” seized upon the theme of bisexuality, which had rarely — if ever — been so overtly sung about in a pop song. The band was rewarded with a hit record and fame, but, as they would soon discover, even the best “coming out” parties have to come to an end.

The Australian glam rock quartet Supernaut formed in 1974 in Perth. The group included three members — singer Gary Twinn, along with the Burnham brothers, drummer Joey and guitarist Chris — who were originally from England, having relocated with their respective families (bassist Randall Murphy was possibly the only native Australian in the band, but we’re not sure).

Supernaut inlay

The Burnham brothers started the pub rock outfit Moby Dick, with Twinn eventually joining as their singer. The group would soon evolve into Supernaut (named after the monster Black Sabbath track) and relocate to Melbourne.

Ian “Molly” Meldrum took the band under his wing, producing their debut 45, “I Like It Boy Ways” b/w “Lightning” in April 1976. Meldrum was the talent coordinator for “Countdown,” the incredibly popular pop music program that aired Sunday nights on ABC-TV in Australia.

supernaut

Musically, “I Like It Both Ways” is a tough glam number, with heavy riffing throughout. Lyrically, it concerns a young man who “likes it both ways.” In the grand tradition of sexually suggestive pop songs, there isn’t a reveal as to exactly what “it” is.

There are hints that it’s of a sexual nature, though, both in the lyrics and Twinn’s steamy vocal delivery. The tune comes across as an anthem for bisexual teens—and may have indeed been a comfort for many at the time—though the allusions to insanity and schizophrenia being the cause wouldn’t be viewed as politically correct today.

“I Like It Both Ways” unsurprisingly caused quite a stir in Australia upon release in May 1976, with many radio stations banning the song. Thanks to Meldrum’s influence at “Countdown,” Supernaut were featured on the show twice performing the song (the amazing clip seen above is from one of those “Countdown” appearances), and they also turned up on the Sydney programBandstand.” All this exposure helped make “I Like It Both Ways” a #1 hit in Australia.

Suddenly, Supernaut were rock stars.

SUPERNAUT 1

The band was touring the country when bassist Murphy quit, and a session player had to be brought in so they could stay on the road. In August, they found a permanent replacement in Philip Foxman.

Supernaut released a second 45 in September, “Too Hot To Touch, which was also an Australian hit. The A-Side features some moaning from Twinn, but it isn’t nearly as hot as their debut. There does seem to have been an attempt at one-upping themselves with the B-side, though, the gleefully raunchy, “Lick My Lolly.”

The lads also made time to record their debut LP, Supernaut, which came out in December. Incredibly, the album sold 8,000 copies the day it was released, and by Christmas the group had earned an Australian gold record. It went on to sell more than 50,000 copies.

supernaut - album cover

At the time, trends in Australia lagged a year or two, which is how a glam band like Supernaut could still be mega-popular in the country even though the genre had peaked in England a couple of years prior. This also meant that the unit had little chance for success elsewhere, and by the end of 1977, Supernaut’s popularity had started to wane.

They had worked extensively on a second album, but abandoned the sessions once they realized the music was out of touch.

Supernaut, n.d

In April 1978, the group unveiled an updated sound with theirUnemployed 45. Supernaut, obviously influenced by punk rock, had completely streamlined their approach. Gone were any hints of glam or hard rock; instead, they went full-on Sex Pistols with this snotty, proletarian sing-a-long.

Supernaut - Unemployed era - live 1978

The reinvention continued as the band attempted to further themselves from their glam rock past, incorporating new wave into their sound and shortening their name to The Nauts. In 1979, they released more punk/new wave-inspired material under the moniker, including an album.

The unit, which now included keyboardist Noel Kennedy, made their way to the UK in early 1980, but by March they had broken up.

supernaut-smiling

In 2007, Supernaut reunited for the “Countdown Spectacular 2″ special. Guess which song they performed?

About Bart Bealmear

Bart Bealmear is a librarian, archivist, bandleader, and freelance writer. He has contributed to a number of online media outlets, including All Music and Dangerous Minds. His rock band is a collective known as The Blind Doctors, featuring a cast of Detroit-area musicians.