15 May 2007

The Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers

You never know what will pop up on that overlooked miscellany ABC2, the ABC's digital TV channel.

Last night they showed Festival, Murray Lerner's 1967 documentary about the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1966. It's a bit like a black-and-white Jazz on a Summer's Day. (In one sense especially: the crowd shots stay in the mind as much as the music.)

Every minute of it is full of interest, and everybody seems to be there: Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie. Peter Paul & Mary. Howlin' Wolf, and Son House, Dylan going electric. Bluegrass bands, jugbands, kids in the parking lot with home-made instruments. A marvellous old-time gospel choir called the Sacred Harp Singers.

But I wasn't prepared for this joyous slice of Americana. It's perfect: no commentary needed, just press Play... The Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers at YouTube

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.