Musings and photographs from a man in a little house by a river, on a little island at the bottom of the world.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The World Changed at Six O’Clock

Sometime after the 28th February, 1959 the world changed for me. I can picture it now, all these years hence. I was lying on the floor in the family home in a Tasmanian provincial town in the days before local television had commenced, and the signal was coming flukily in from Melbourne. It was six o’clock on a Saturday evening, and on the grainy black and white screen of our then state of the art Healing TV, an indistinct image of a clock appeared, and then a garbled excited introduction was made. A shiny-suited fellow appeared on a stage in front of a group of teenagers; the lads with Brylcreemed quiffs, the girls in flouncy dresses. He wasn’t a big man and he certainly wasn’t an attractive man. He put his head back, closed his eyes and opened his mouth – and my world changed forever. Something came out of that mouth that was primal, guttural, kind of rebelliously naughty, and I was hooked. On that stage there were also four other young men who joined in with the central figure on parts of the song, and did some dinky dance steps. The teens out front were doing some crazy dancing themselves involving the lads twirling their womenfolk, and swinging them all over the floor. A close-up of the central performer’s face showed it was deeply scarred, and he was sweating a great deal. I later discovered his back-up boys were known as the Delltones, the disfigurements were from an accident that almost took the nervously jerking singer’s life, and the sweating, well that could have equally been from the television lights, or his numerous addictions, or both. As for his song, I had never heard anything like it, so different from my father’s yodelling cowboys and my mother’s stage show tunes. A man called Bing was the only singer I readily could identify, but this was something else entirely. This apparition, it seemed, was known as the ‘Wild One’, or simply by his initials, JOK – he was Johnny O’Keefe. The song, I cannot recall, but possibly it was something like ‘Shout’ or ‘She’s My Baby’ – I discovered he had quite a repertoire.  JOK was taking the American invention of rock ‘n’ roll music, in its nascent form, to the Australian masses – it was something raw and terribly exciting - and I’ve been in its thrall ever since.

Later on Col Joye would join Brian Henderson on ‘Bandstand’, giving competition to ‘Six O’Clock Rock’, and, as the sixties rolled on, ‘Turps’ (Ian Turpie) would front ‘The Go Show’, that is, when he wasn’t dating his ‘squeeze’, an angel named Olivia Newton John. Across on another channel, ‘Kommotion’ actually had go-go girls. The Seekers, Easybeats and Bee Gees (way pre-disco) took Aussie music overseas, and for the first time, musically, we matched it with the UK and US – at least in our eyes. But it turned out to be a group called the Loved Ones, with the charismatic Gerry Humphries out front, that I became most drawn to. I had soon purchased my first vinyl recording - an EP (two songs on the A side, two on B). It featured a cherubic Johnny Young and his two massive hits, ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Step Back’. An LP of a mop-topped British band was my first LP, but I soon had a treasured ‘Magic Box’ (Loved Ones) in my possession. I wore its grooves out, as I sang along, comb in hand, in front of the mirror. If only I could be like Gerry Humphries when I was old enough to shave!!!! Gerry is now long gone, but still graces YouTube, where I go to relive so much that has passed.

So I was around almost at the start, and grew up and old along with my nation’s popular music industry. The crude and basic sound that marked the first days of rock is something so sophisticated and savvy these days, but at its best still retains the spirit of those early pioneers, both at home and aboard. Those black shiny LP albums now seem so retro in this the digital age, but I loved every facet of them. As well as the obvious, there was glorious cover art, usually with lyrics on back or in the sleeve, and I can still ‘smell’ them, even in 2012! Many still reckon that in their tracks lay authenticity. CDs to an extent destroyed all that, but didn’t destroy my ardour, and as for digital music – I know I am a throwback, but where is there tactility in music from the ether?
I rediscovered the following list and, showing my age, even though I know I compiled it for a reason not so long ago, I have no idea now what its purpose was (help me Kate!). But, along with my superlative daughter, I love compiling lists. I do know that. Through that wonderful woman I also know that the young people producing today’s music are just as talented and as committed as those of the distant and not so distant past. I sometimes wonder if a sixty year old man should be buying the music of today’s bright young things, but I like so much of it. My Katie has seen to that. Hopefully, some of you reading this may relate back to me lists of your own.

My top pick may seem a little conservative to some, but when it came out ‘A Little Further North’, its signature song, seemed to reflect how I wanted my life to be. I no longer yearn for a life lived in a warm Mangoland somewhere – back then was another time, I was in another space and, although the song no longer encapsulates where I wish to end my days, the whole album still delights me – I nearly wrote ‘speaks to me’, but that’s so naff! For some time the Mangolands of my imaginings were the dreams that formed the fulcrum that my world, like the LPs of my younger days, revolved on. It is now by a river in more southerly climes that I see my life playing out, accompanied by wonderful music all the way.

Some of the listees I have come to late, like Nick Cave and the Go-Betweens, and it saddens me that one of the driving forces of the latter is no longer around. I trust Archie Roach will be forever, providing the conscience of our land. Now that Jimmy has gone, he carries the flame. And so my humble list goes on. Enjoy and maybe listen to those you do not know, for, like that clock from so long ago –‘from little things, big things grow.’

1.  Graeme Connors - North
2.  Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers' Lane
3.  Archie Roach - Charcoal Lane
4.  Paul Kelly - Songs From the South 
5.  Loved Ones - Magic Box
6.  Nick Cave - Boatman's Call
7.  Various/Easybeats - Easy Fever
8.  Various/Cold Chisel - Stamding on the Outside
9.  Hunters and Collectors - Under One Roof
10.Richard Clapton - Best Years of Our Lives
11.Stephen Cummings -Close Ups
12.Archie Roach - Jammu Dreaming
13.Various - She Will Have Her Way - the Songs of Crowded House
14.Shane Howard - Retrospect
15.Kasey Chambers - Barricades and Brick Walls
16.Cruel Sea - Most
17.Clare Bowditch - What Was Left
18.Jimmy Little - Life's What You Make It
19.Church - Blurred Crusade
20.Sarah Blasko - As Day Follows Night
21.Mick Thomas - Anythings, Sure Things and Other Things
22.Little Birdy - Big Big Love
23.Graeme Connors - This is Life
24.Augie March - Moo You Bloody Cow
25.Bob Evans - Suburban Songbook
26. Gurrumul - Rrakala
27.Panics - Cruel Guards
28.Mark Seymour - Westgate
29.Shane Nicholson - Familiar Ghosts
30 Pete Murray - Feeler

Johnny O'Keefe and Six O"Clock Rock =

Gerry Humphries and the Loved Ones =

1 comment:

  1. I think this was for something I did when I worked at the boy's school. I remember compiling a similar list myself. And what a great list it is! And another wonderful post xxx