06 May 2007

Beyond the Yarra: Johnny Broome & the Handels

I had an email from Michael who wondered why there is no mention at the website of mid-60s Adelaide band Johnny Broome & The Handels, also known as The Handel.

It's a good question, and I had no ready answers except that I don't set out to mention every one of the 4,003,221 bands in the history of Australian pop music, and that the site is really about songs and not bands. I could've mentioned the demands of the day job, but I didn't want to sound pathetic.

Michael's real point, though, was that browsing Aussie websites might give the impression that, as he put it, "Australia stops at the Yarra".

On reflection, the history of Aussie pop music does seem to be East Coast-centric. (And Mainland-centric: a Tasmanian once asked me why I had omitted some key Hobart bands. I ended up writing about The Kravats, but in the end I couldn't find out much about the 60s scene in Hobart.)

The South Australian artists mentioned at the site - Bev Harrell, The Vibrants, Drummond - are there because they moved east and had hits outside of South Australia.

In a way, that answers the question: the pull of bigger markets worked on the artists themselves and that's how they wrote themselves into the broader histories of Aussie pop music. The same would be true of such Western Australians as Johnny Young and Robbie Snowden who - even when they recorded at home for Clarion - had an eye on the Eastern states and ended up moving there.

On the other hand, it's easy to see why somebody from Adelaide could be dismayed that a seminal local band had been overlooked, especially (as Michael says) a very progressive band that was one of the best live shows around and finally went to the UK off their own bat before the Twilights.

Not only that, but the band's line-up was a distinguished one. The Handels' bassist Alan Tarney was later in the James Taylor Move and the Tarney-Spencer Band. After that, he was with The Shadows for a while, and he wrote and produced for Cliff Richard and wrote and played for Olivia Newton-John. Laurie Pryor, the drummer, famously joined The Twilights, and later played with Healing Force, Genesis (Oz) and Chain. Guitarist Kevin Peek had been in the original Twilights line-up and later joined James Taylor Move, but he is best known for being in the pop-classical fusion group Sky with John Williams.

As for Johnny Broome, his name was actually Dave Parsons and he went on to produce The Vibrants, among others.

As it turned out, I had an airtight excuse for omitting The Handels, because I discovered that both sides of their only single, Didn't Know Her Name/Dos and Don'ts (1965, on W&G) were originals, written by Tarney, and the main focus of my site is on non-original songs and their sources.

Never mind: in a second email Michael listed several Adelaide bands whose songs might lend themselves to song histories at PopArchives: Buffalo Drive, The Hergs, The Midnights, The Mystics, The In-sect and The Why Four. (By now I was starting to think that Michael might actually be from Adelaide himself.)

So, then: one point of this post is to give me an excuse to mention Johnny Broome and The Handels. The band name alone is a classic, and so is the title of The In-Sect's album: In-Sect-A-Sides.


Paul said...

South Australian bands. Gee, let's see now:-

The Twilights, The Master's Apprentices, Levi Smith's Clefs, James Taylor Move, Zoot, Mississippi. The original LRB was fundamentally South Australian, although they came together in Melbourne. And that's just a few.

Adelaide's influence on Australian rock, particularly in the '70s, was enormous.

Lyn said...

Of course! Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

I still remember all the times,but i wasnt on drugs being a nurse at royal adelaide,i still went to all the gigs i could,do u know what happened to john rupert perry of the vibrants?

Lyn said...

No I don't know. This page mentions that he moved back to the UK but that's not much help. http://www.musicminder.com/scripts/entertainers/displayentertainer.asp?ID=007936

Anonymous said...

About John Perry; last I heard was that he moved to Melbourne and was driving limos or taxis. Could be wrong.