This Week in Elder News: 4 April 2009
Elders Online

Elder Music: Australian Pop

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's guest elder music blogger is Peter Tibbles of Melbourne. Peter doesn't keep a blog, but he comments on TGB from time to time and occasionally contributes to The Elder Storytelling Place. He's here today to take us on a musical tour of Australian popular music decade by decade – which often parallels U.S. pop music.]

I'm of a certain age, as I imagine most of you who are reading are also, so I first took notice of music in the early fifties. This period has been characterised since as somewhat of a wasteland before rock n roll hit us. It wasn't quite.

I remember enjoying Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Fats Domino and one or two others. Indeed, the first song I can remember hearing was Guy Mitchell's The Roving Kind. No doubt there were others before that but it's the one that's stuck in my brain all these years. But that's neither here nor there.

I was going to do "history of Pete's listening over the years" or some such nonsense. This would mean musicians you probably all know about and would include in your own histories. I was born and bred in Australia so I've decided to include only Australian music this time. There have already been two clips in a previous Elder Music piece - the great Daddy Cool and the loud Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Back to the fifties. Along came Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and the rest. We took notice and developed our own home-grown rockers. The earliest and best of these was Johnny O'Keefe, known at the time as the "Wild One". There are a bunch of his clips around but only one I discovered that gives even a hint of what he was like in concert at the time.

Here he does a cover of The Isley Brothers song Shout. The backing vocal group is The Delltones, themselves a popular DooWop style group. [3:55 minutes]

Johnny's main rival at the time was Col Joye. He was preferred by parents and young girls. This is Oh Yeah, Uh Huh from 1959, backed by The Joy Boys. [2:05 minutes]

The late fifties and early sixties saw a decline in rock n roll here but it gave rise to "Trad Jazz" (insipid copies of old style New Orleans jazz) that reigned supreme until The Beatles hit the scene. Then everyone picked up electric guitars.

The best of these from jazz was The Loved Ones. This group was blessed with a singular singer of extraordinary quality named Gerry Humphreys. They made a bunch of singles, an album, played sell-out shows around the country and split up. This is Ever Lovin' Man. The primitive TV audio recording wasn't really up to the task of capturing Gerry's voice. [2:04 minutes]

Another from the time was Max Merritt & The Meteors. Max is still around today, but only just. He was originally from New Zealand, as were quite a number of famous "Australian" performers. Their biggest hit was Slipping Away. (Really from 1976). Unfortunately, they truncate it. The second half is better than the first (but I would say that). [3:18 minutes]

As the sixties rolled on, like elsewhere, music got groovy. Life's too short to search for examples of this except for Russell Morris The Real Thing. This was a giant hit and the album track went for seven or eight minutes, about half of which was out of phase noodling, chanting and such. This clip is just the basic song. The full version is also on YouTube if you're really interested and have nothing better to do. [3:16 minutes]

The seventies were a better bet. As elsewhere, we saw the rise of the singer/songwriter. The best of these were (and still are) Mike McClellan, Doug Ashdown and Glenn Cardier. These were joined in the eighties by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. I searched in vain for Mike's Saturday Dance (my favorite of his), Song and Dance Man (his biggest hit), Rock n Roll Lady, and - well, you get the picture. I found just one clip (from 1973), Another Grey Day. [2:49 minutes]

Doug seems to be missing completely from YouTube apart from his most famous song, Winter in America which, alas, is just a slide show showing that very thing.

There's a lot of Glen, all worth watching. These are from shows from the last year or two (which I attended). It was hard picking one, but here is Close Encounter (With a UFO). [2:54 minutes]

In the sixties, our stupid government dragged us into the Vietnam miasma. We remained there until Gough Whitlam's Labor Party was elected in 1972. The best songs about this were not protest songs from the time but those written afterwards. Reflective songs, I guess. A good example is Cold Chisel's Khe Sanh. Another is a song by Redgum that seems to have two titles, A Walk in the Light Green and I Was Only 19. [4:32 minutes]

Around the same time an earlier, equally pointless war (World War I) was featured in a song. Eric Bogle, originally a Scot, wrote a fine song about the disastrous Gallipoli campaign when Britain, Australia, New Zealand and others tried, unsuccessfully, to invade Turkey in 1915. The song is The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. [7:09 minutes]

To lighten things up: a bit of glam rock. Skyhooks sent up the whole genre.  Check out "Horror Movie" from 1975. [3:46 minutes]


Glad you mentioned Paul Kelly. Shane Nicholson and Anna McCue are two more talented Aussie singer-songwriters. And although they're hardly pop, Rose Tattoo sure was a good band.

I waffled on at length and this is only part one. If Ronni's not tired of my nonsense, and the second part is published, you'll find a couple of clips of Paul Kelly. None of Shane or Anna though. I forgot about Rose Tattoo while I was doing this.

I found a good RT video of "Scarred For Life." Look for it on my Friday entry.

Well, that sure took me back!
I look forward to the next lot.
Thanks, Pierre.

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