September 4, 2007


Surprise. is group full of surprises (no pun intended). Hailing from the shores of Australia back in the 80’s started a group called “Surprise Surprise” and later shortened their name to “Surprise.”. The band consisted of Alexander Mcdonald, David Welch, Allan Dowthwaite, Malcolm Kiely and Lisa Parson. Locally managed by David Smallbone who is the father of the CCM renowned artist Rebecca St. James who narrates a line or two in a track in one of the albums.

Releasing a custom made demo called “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White” which was only released locally. The group progressed with two other releases which were made both under Refuge records during the 90’s. The sophomore album “Fish” mixed the influences of New Wave, Heavy Metal, Country and folk and created a sound that is hard to explain. Alex Mcdonald vocally resembles Moe Berg from The Pursuit of Happiness fame does a pretty good job in delivering the songs.

A clever play of lyrics makes The last album called “Reformation” worth a listen with lyrics like “No condemnation in the Him of Hymns, when life ends is when it all begins.” Alex Mcdonald may be likened to Terry Taylor when he does spiritually thought provoking lyrics like in a song called “The Sixty Six”:

I know 66 reasons for these feelings inside my Head.
I’ve seen 39 old ones full of bold ones and what you said.
Be still and Know I am God.
I know that 27 speak of heaven and how you bled.

The group Surprise. may have not reach mainstream appreciation but it sure did with me and I believe that others might have as well. Don’t miss out on these rare gems and I am sure that if Surprise won’t surprise you at all (no pun intended again). God will surely will!

Similar Artist :

Audio Sample : 90 seconds



  1. It is nice to still be remembered.

  2. Hey Alex,

    Nice of you to drop by. I am really astounded with all of your albums. I would consider “Fish!!!” to be one of my top 10 Alternative albums of all time. It simply has the Christian message of Love, Faith and other issues that no one would even dare to write about. The music is encircled with a passion for clever lyrics and cutting edge music which I believe would still stand out even today.

    Drop me a note here or you can email me at christiannewwave@gmail.com. Would love to hear from you and know about the band’s influences, struggles . . . . triumph.

    “I sat there thinking and supposed I’d better go. The hour was late, I should be heading home.”


  3. Have tried to send some info to you at christiannewwave@gmail.com. but it comes back as undeliverable.

  4. Oh well here it goes……

    You’ll be sorry you asked about SURPRISE Part 1:

    Our most interesting years were probably 1984-9 when we courted the indie pub and club scene as Surprise Surprise, we got to play at a lot of seedy dives and had a fiercely devoted following of disaffected Christian kids and numerous 60’s Psych/Mod loving aficionados who had no ‘religious’ connections. We used to play a few times a week, writing songs on Monday rehearsing them on Tuesday, and playing them on Wed, Fri and Sat. We got to play with some of the more interesting Australian alternative (hate that term) groups such as The Church, Hoodoo Gurus, Lime Spiders, The Hitmen and many others.

    Lyrically the band, well me really as I wrote the songs, tried to say as much as possible about our ideology without naming names. This probably changed some what by the time Surprise recorded ‘Fish’ and ‘Reformation’. I have always liked quirky word play and vivid imagery in my lyrics, I like to let the listener come to their own conclusion as to meanings within a song. By the latter two recordings the message had become ‘in your face’.

    It’s probably no surprise some people, well ‘churchie’ people I guess, were always a bit wary of us, the right wing pentecostals derided us as evil, satanic etc (‘66 reason’s was regarded as a nasty apparently). It made us laugh (a bit) but galvanized us in our plan to be what we thought we should be. It’s a pleasure to be disliked by some people. The Evangelicals, however, generally liked us as another part of the puzzle working towards the same end. There was always great support from people who we admired in the industry, but of course it was the others that became our undoing in the end, but that’s another tale.

    We looked a bit seedy, sounded pretty raw and brash. We pretended we were rock stars a bit, we were pretty energetic and funny, we used slide projectors, oil projectors, authentic instruments and we always liked to speak to audiences (after the gig). On stage chat was minmal. We had ‘Christian’ songs that included images of Zombies, Werewolves, Snake Villages and Spiders, we mercilessly stole 60’s riffs, themes and added pre-grunge, grunge to what we did. We covered songs like ‘Wild Thing’, ‘Born to be Wild’, ‘Light my fire’, ‘Lucy in the Sky’. We were atypical of the time, Christian wise, but not so of the underground.

    We chugged along merrily as the same line up from 1983-1987;
    Alexander Macdonald,(Guit Vox) David Welch (Keys) Lance Muir (Drums Vox) Glenn Blackley (Bass)

    ‘Welcome to the Snake Village’ (1984) Cassette Album re-released on CD with some tracks from Good guys.

    ‘Sounds of Now’ 7” Single B/W Runaway, Classification Needed (Highest chart position 7 on Indie Charts)

    ‘Walking with a Zombie’ 7” Single (Highest chart position 8 on Indie Charts)

    ‘Anguished Heart’ 7” single B/w (can’t remember actually?) did not chart.

    ‘Good Guys don’t always wear White’ (1987) (Cassette Album as Surprise).

    ‘Surprise Alive’ (1989) Cassette album (Terrible load of old rubbish, fun if you were there)!! (Cassette Album as Surprise).

    ‘Anguished Heart’ was on a compilation album called Sound of Sydney released by Method Records in 1987.

    Surprise Surprise appeared on and won an episode of TEN’s TV show; Star Search in 1984 performing ‘’Walking with a Zombie’ it paid for the Snake Village recording sessions.

    Lance and Glenn left in 87, no dramas they just moved on. We then became Surprise because half of the band had gone; well it seemed like a good reason at the time.

    Over the next few years the dynamic of the band changed, we seemed to grow biggish in the ‘Christian Scene’ and we drifted from our underground roots. We had a succession of bass players finally ending up with Mal Kiely who was suitably deranged enough to fit in, and a new drummer in Allan Dowthwaite, who once in an argument spoke in favor of apartheid (he was born in South Africa, is white and was never allowed to say anything publicly again) as well as two hot girl singer/dancers Cathy Ryan and Lisa Parsons.

    Shows became more and more about numbers through the door, bigger and bigger PA systems, selling product, commissions, and of course David Smallbone,(who was a very savvy businessman who made a lot of money out of other people’s efforts.)((as most clever entrepreneurs do, mind you.)) David Smallbone had become our erstwhile manger and he had a plan……………….

    To be continued


    • Hi Alex. Chris Bathgate here with Dennis Claire the giving pig is nearly broke, 1 ear, hungry, and missing you badly. Love to hear from you. Please look us up. It would be an honoured to chew the fat, cut some bacon and trotter through some old times. 0414632486

  5. Awesome Info Alexander! I did sent you a message on your email prior to your message here. I’m not sure if you got it from last week.

    Thanks for replying and It’s such a blessing to hear your struggles with our fellow Chistian brothers who often misread Christian who are in the music industry. Will probably ask more questions soon. For now, it’s back to being a busy bee. : p


  6. Thanks for remembering those old times, good times they were :)
    I was the bass player from 1989-1991, having fun recording both “Fish!” and “Reformation” CDs at Windwood Studios at Lawson (NSW Australia) in 1989 & 1990. Lots of interesting gigs along the way too.
    Mal :)

  7. Well, we might as well make it a reunion!

    Also, wanted to clear my name. Yes, I am white and from South Africa, but I have never been in favour of apartheid – it’s the reason my family left the country.

    Now that’s over and done with…

    Best Surprise gig – Blackstump ’88

    Worst Surprise gig – Lithgow RSL after Cathy had eaten some dodgy vindaloo from the bistro :-0



  8. Nice to see some memorial to Surprise Surprise left in Cyberspace. I was the original bass player with the band – back playing again in bands after a break of 20 years – having caught up with a guy who lives not far away who used to see us play and still had a collection of old handbills and other memorabilia from the Mod days. He urged me to put some old photos up on Facebook which I have done – search under Glenn Paisley to find or google for Relics of Ong – my current band in which I play guitar and keyboards and get to sing – which is a far cry from my days in Surprise Surprise.

    Would be nice to catch up with Alex and the other guys again – as not seen any of them in over a decade.

    fond regards
    Glenn Blackley (Paisley)

  9. I had Surprise play at my 21st back in 1990 at Balmain Town Hall! I was stoked!

  10. G’day everyone. Alexander and I caught up with each other last weekend after nine or ten years. It was great catching up and remembering the old days … when we all had hair and lots of it!!!

    I have very fond memories of the “Fish” and “Reformation” album sessions at Windwood Studios – for which I was the engineer and producer. Particularly strong is the memory of Alex having played some amazing guitar solo with lots of whammy bar and feedback, and then listening the playback saying, “Yeah … that’s bad enough!!!”

    In the studio it was always free flowing. Lots of ideas. A song could change direction at any moment if someone came up with a better idea. It was fun stuff. There are too many well-meaning Christian bands who take the business and themselves far too seriously. A big lesson can be learned from Surprise! who always looked for the lighter side … and the next zombie song!

    And I have to agree with Al – best gig was Blackstump ’88. Awesome gig. Biggest mosh pit that I ever witnessed at a Christian gig! “Waits For Me” (off “Fish” the next year) went down a storm!!


  11. Hi to all,

    just prolonging this sell into the “Noughties” – I was the singer & bass player in a band called “The Doorkeepers” who played support to The Surprise once, around the “Fish” era… would love to catch up via email with Alex sometime… Alex if you’re reading!?



  12. ahem… “well” into the “Noughties”, I meant to say.

  13. Hi Guys,
    I was trying for the last few years to get some Surprise Surprise cd of even a old tape as mine has given up the ghost. Can anyone get me in touch with Alex,

  14. I just got Reformation on CD the other day from Amazon:


    Thrilled to find it after all these years, and for less than five bucks!

  15. The first concert ticket I ever bought was to see Petra. But they werent the first band I ever saw. No, that honour went to their support band. I’d come all the way from a tiny country town to see Petra and….well. My rural teenage brain had no way to classify the first band I ever saw. They wore a lot of black, that much was clear. They had cool hair. And years later I found out that “East to west for me” was actually “He still waits for me.”
    That’s right, the band that took my live music virginity was Surprise. An appropriate metaphor in so many ways….at the very least, inasmuch as I had no idea what to expect, and never ever forgot the experience. I am sitting here now, 20 years later, listening to the Fish! CD. It still rocks my world. It still matters. Not everything from back then does. Most of Petra, for example. Or the Newsboys. But Surprise…..Surprise have lasted. I can’t imagine a time when a Surprise tune won’t bring a smile to my face, and if that time ever comes you can put me to bed with a shovel.
    It’s hard to put my finger on exactly where the magic lies. All I can think to say right now are two things. One- how many bands around today will still be raising a smile in 20 years time? Not that many, man. Not that many. And two- any time I’m feeling down, I put on “Surprise Alive” and it makes it all better. We can talk about scales and chords and virtuosity all day long, but come on….are there many higher compliments than that? I dont think so.
    Gotta go. “Ignorance” is the next track. Thank you, Surprise. And I mean it.

  16. Is this thread stil alive?
    Are there digital downloads available of your stuff?
    I used to go see The Surprise all the time at Castle Hill
    Please let me know

  17. Hi is there any way to get a copy of the Fish album on cd or mp3? It has always been a fave of mine and would love to get it.

  18. I just had a lovely little moment of reminiscence. I went to many a Surprise gig. My Best mate of all time Dean Justice the roady with the mostest.

    I remember the first time I saw them as Surprise Surprise surprise at the Horden supporting an unwell Lesley Phillips. Then at a fusion supported gig again at the Horden – an alnighter.

    Lugged your guys stuff many a time. Used to love those Toerags and Surprise gigs.

    I went searching as yesterday I swam 66 laps of the local pool and would you believe I have had the 66 reasons song going around my head ever since. Amazing those songs from the formative years hey.

    Anyway I absolutely loved you guys. I really miss those heady 80’s 90’s days of Christian Rock and Outreach.

    Would love to get hold of your stuff again guys. Anyone know where I can access some. Digital or oldstyle CD’s

    God Bless you guys. You were a real influence on me. Many the hours chewing the fat with Mal.

    Alex still got that Rickenbacker

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