Mental As Anything founder Andrew Smith loved his food.
It earned him the nickname Greedy in 1977, the year he formed the beloved feel-good pop-rock band in Sydney alongside Reg Mombassa, Martin Plaza, Wayne “Bird” Delisle and Peter O’Doherty.
Smith had just downed no fewer than 16 pieces of KFC in front of an astonished Mombassa, who couldn’t quite believe what his band mate had managed to put away.
The name Greedy stuck, enduring for the next 40-odd years, alongside Smith’s insatiable appetite and constant craving to be on stage, singing, dancing, playing keyboards as well as harmonica.
The band is synonymous with Australia’s vibrant live-music pub scene of the 1980’s with hits like If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?, Too Many Times, Live It Up and The Nips Are Getting Bigger becoming an indelible soundtrack of that decade.
Every year – for the past 16 – Smith hit the road with Mental As Anything, criss-crossing Australia to perform in the order of 140 shows. That’s one every two-and-a-half days.
The band played in the southern NSW beachside hamlet of Tathra on Saturday night and on Thursday they were due to perform at the Sooki Lounge at Belgrave in suburban Melbourne.
But ‘The Mentals’ won’t be there. Smith died on Monday night after suffering a heart attack while behind the wheel of his car in Sydney.
His death, at 63, has devastated those who knew and loved him best because he seemed fit as a fiddle, rarely took a sick day and wasn’t one for holidays.
“He loved touring. He absolutely loved it,” the band’s struggling long-time manager Grant Bartlett told AAP on Tuesday.
“People often asked him about the amount of shows and he just used to get a grin on his face and tell people it was like being on an endless holiday.
“I think the whole time I’ve looked after the band the most they’ve ever had off was maybe a fortnight over Christmas.
“Today is just a terrible day. Everyone’s got a song that means something to them.”
We are extremely sad to hear about the passing of Andrew “Greedy” Smith. As a member of Mental As Anything @mentalsofficial, he was inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2009. He was a huge character, with a big smile and boundless energy. That energy will be sorely missed. pic.twitter.com/T3rjEaXeAV
— ARIA (@ARIA_Official) December 3, 2019
Bartlett says it’s a little appreciated fact that Mental As Anything has had 25 Top 40 hits in Australia, more than any other band.
Smith who was the most effervescent of his band mates on stage, wrote about half of the songs, the rest were the work of Plaza, who he shared frontman duties with, and who is now battling cancer.
We are shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden and unexpected passing of Andrew (Greedy) Smith
— Reg Mombassa (@regmombassa) December 3, 2019
International success followed hits at home, with Smith’s Live It Up charting in the US after being included on the Crocodile Dundee soundtrack. Another of Smith’s greatest hits, Too Many Times, also made it big overseas.
Bartlett says his long-time friend was due to marry fiancee Fiona Docker next year, making his sudden death even harder to accept.
His band mates gave a glimpse of their own shock in a tribute posted on Facebook.
“Our grief and confusion at this time are little compared to what Andrew’s family will be feeling, our hearts and prayers go out to them,” they wrote.
Loyal fans have shared personal stories of a class act who pumped out their hits at city venues and in modest country-town pubs from the north of the country to the south, from the east to the west.
But there was one line repeated more than any other on social media as fans mourned Smith’s passing: “If you leave me, can I come too?”
That was one of Plaza’s songs, but for grieving fans it hit the mark.
The band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2009 and last month Smith was inducted into the Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Smith is survived by his son Harvey.
Hey Death. Can you send Greedy Smith back? You got the wrong bloke
— RoGat (@ro_gat) December 3, 2019