Beyond Radio Presents: Castlist 006, Ep 9 – The Strings of The Soul, Part 2
We continue our discussion about the connection between early ’70s R&B and Soul and the more recent revival of the style. As with the last episode and a late connection to the Grammy nominated Black Pumas, our 2 year old discussion relates to a new song by Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak that fits into the narrative nicely.
During our discussion we found an exception to a Jeff rule of thumb, we analyze how my capacity for absorbing music relates to my creation of a weekly personal chart, and discover a website that may have become one of Jeff’s favorites.
Artists discussed include the Staple Singers, Hozier, Leon Bridges, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and Tone Loc. The companion playlist of Spotify, “The Strings of the Soul” features 50 songs discussed over the 2 episodes in this arc.
I’ve Got Australia On My Mind, Part 2-Don’t Crowd the Icehouse, Best Sellers and U2 Bookends.
February 23, 1991
The companion Spotify playlist has all the songs discussed in the blog.
My favorite Australian act of the era was Crowded House. Their debut album from 1986 is my #1 album of the ‘80s. In 1987 they placed 6 songs in my top 100 of the year. One of my favorites was the moody deep cut “Hole In The River” which employs a great dissonant change bridge of piano and horns. I’ve charted all 11 songs from that album. That same year U2 came out with my #2 album of the decade. “Joshua Tree” had 5 songs in my top 100 and my #1 song of the year “Red Hill Mining Town”, one of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard. It still gets me and brings a tear to my eye. Originally it was slated to be the follow-up to “With Or Without You”. It was shelved because Bono could not hit the high notes during rehearsals for the tour. A video was filmed for the song as well, but the band was unhappy with it. Of course, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” became the choice and a classic was born.
Crowded House was born out of the ashes of the seminal New Wave band Split Enz. Hailing from New Zealand, the band’s biggest song was 1980’s “I Got You” but they had 9 studio albums from 1975-1984 and 5 top 10 singles in New Zealand and Australia including “History Never Repeats” and “Six Month In A Leaky Boat”. The band was originally formed in 1972 by Tim Finn and Phil Judd as an acoustic band called Split Ends. By 1974 they had changed the name to Split Enz and had their first charted single, the #93 “Late Last Night”. That song owed more to their acoustic beginnings albeit with some quirkiness, but the next charter, the #15 “My Mistake”, more explicitly showed the direction the band was moving towards.
Tim’s brother Neil joined in 1977 and became a major focal point of the band, and drummer Paul Hester was a member is their waning years. After the Enz split (get it), these two formed Crowded House with bassist Nick Seymour. In the short term they became a bigger international band because of the song “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. In 2001 the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) for its 75th anniversary had a panel pick the 30 best New Zealand and Australian songs of the previous years. ‘Over’ made both lists, #2 for New Zealand and #7 for Australia. The New Zealand list included 4 Split Enz songs (‘Leaky Boat’ #15, “I Got You” #11, “I Hope I Never” #25, and “I See Red” #28) and 2 from Crowded House (“Weather With You” #16).
By 1991 Crowded House was on their third album, “Woodface” and rose to #1 on my chart for the eighth time with the lead single “Chocolate Cake”. All 8 of those songs made my top 30 of the year in their respective years with the best showing #3 in 1987 with the effervescent “Mean To Me”, their first single in Australia. It managed minor airplay in the States (kind of a shame), but it was one of 5 songs that made the top 100 at my 1988 music party. ‘Over’ clocked in at #3 at that party and their other major hit that year, “Something So Strong” was #17. “Now We’re Getting’ Somewhere” at #71 and “World Where You Live” at #80 rounded out those 5.
On “Woodface” the other Finn brother, Tim, joined the group. The brothers had been working on songs for their own album but when Neil Finn submitted songs to the record company for a new Crowded House album, they were rejected. Neil asked Tim if they could use the songs from their work and Tim asked to be part of the group. This resulted in their biggest UK hit (‘Weather’) and Alternative hits “It’s Only Natural” and “Fall At Your Feet”. The album reached #2 in Australia and in a 2010 book “100 Best Australian Albums” it ranked as #3, behind Midnight Oil’s “Diesel And Dust” (which includes my favorite Oil song “Sometimes”) and AC/DC’s “Back In Black”. Pretty great company. The final single “Four Seasons In One Day” is a common phrase used in Melbourne to describe it’s changeable weather.
Another song that used a phrase to describe Australian weather is “Cool Change” by Little River Band. I only learned this relatively recently from a rider when driving Uber. While the band was hugely popular in their homeland with 5 top 10 albums and 2 more in the top 20, as a singles artist they were more successful in the States. Only 2 of their singles made the Australian top 10, “Help Is On Its Way”, a #1 and 1982’s “Down On the Border”, a song that did not chart stateside. In the U.S. LRB reached the Pop top 20 10 times, reaching #1 with “Lonesome Loser” and #2 with “Reminiscing”. The band has been in my top 10 of the year 5 times. ‘Help’ and ‘Change’ are joined by “Lady”, “Man On Your Mind” and “The Night Owls”. Strangely, “Cool Change” was never released In Australia but did make the APRA top 30 list in 2001.
During the later years of LRB, between 1982-85, the original lead vocalist Glenn Shorrock was replaced by John Farnham, who had been a teen idol during the late ‘60s and ‘70s. After his stint in the band, he went back to his solo career and had a defining song with “You’re The Voice” and the accompanying album “Whispering Jack” became the second biggest selling album in Australian history. The song was my #2 song of 1987 and is his only Hot 100 entry in the States, reaching #82 in early 1990. Even without real success here, the song was an international hit. In 1991, Heart released a live version of the song that made it to #20 on the Rock chart but it failed to reach the Hot 100. In 1995 the Alan Parsons Project included it on a live album, with vocal from Chris Thompson, one of the actual songwriters. He is best known as the vocalist for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and “Blinded By The Light” as well as for the 1979 song “If You Remember Me” from the movie “The Champ”. Thompson initially did not want Farnham to record ‘Voice’ because of his teen idol image from the ‘70s.
To exemplify Farnham’s importance in his homeland, he has had a #1 record in 5 consecutive decades. One of those was 1988’s “Age Of Reason” a #1 single and the best-selling album in Australia that year. This song also made my top 10 of the year, #4 of 1990. This spiritual song has lyrics that are appropriate for our time:
“So why can’t we be still, why can’t we love each other
Is kindness an ancient skill buried by our blindness
And if we look behind us there’s a wind blowing in
To create the age of reason”
In 1989-90 he also reached my top 20 with “Two Strong Hearts”, a song that made the Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S. and led to the re-release of “You’re The Voice”, and “Beyond The Call”. ‘Voice’ is one of only a handful of pop songs that feature bagpipes. It was actually written as a protest song about nuclear disarmament. It has been used at rallies against COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia over the last year.
“How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?
You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear”
A funny side note, Farnham passed on the song “We Built This City” for his “Whispering Jack” album and we all know how that played out. Another co-writer of ‘”You’re The Voice” was Andy Qunta, who also co-wrote the song “Crazy” from his band Icehouse. This is one of my favorite songs of all-time, it was my #1 song of 1987 (this blog so much more about 1987 than 1991) and my #3 of the entire decade of the ‘80s. The atmospheric quality of this song just sends me for some reason. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to be powerful. The album it comes from, “Man Of Colours” was another massive album in Australia, their best-selling overall and Australian’s #1 album of 1988. It was also the first album to have 5 songs reach the top 30 in Australia. “Electric Blue”, their biggest song in the States (Hot 100 #7, “Crazy” #14 and both Rock chart top 10’s), was co-written by John Oates from Hall & Oates.
The band was originally called Flowers and had an early song called “Icehouse”. The word is an Australian term for an insane asylum and became the band’s name after conflict with a Scottish band Flowers. That song and “We Can Get Together” got the band stateside Alternative airplay in 1981. The early band in essence then split up. Frontman Iva Davies recorded a solo album and released it under the Icehouse name. It spawned 2 hits, “Hey Little Girl” and “Great Southern Land”, and to promote it brought a band together with a mix of old and new members.
Their highest charting song on the Rock chart in the U.S. was “No Promises” in 1986. “Man Of Colours” generated 3 more top 10 songs on my chart in 1988 with “My Obsession” (#1), “Heartbreak Kid” (#2) and “Nothing Too Serious” (#9). In late 1989 they returned to #2 with “Touch The Fire” and in1991 this week they had 2 songs on my chart “Jimmy Dean” (63) and “Miss Devine” (92). In February 2020, right before COVID lockdown, the band played the St. Kilda Festival in Melbourne, 40 years after Flowers played at the first festival.
There are 2 other male artists who fronted earlier bands that were enjoying solo success during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s era. Daryl Braithwaite had been the lead singer of arguably the most successful Australian pop band of the ‘70s, Sherbet. They were relative unknowns in the States, save for a minor hit in 1976, “Howzat”. That song and the 1975 song “Summer Love” both reached #1 in Australia. I remember “Howzat” and I’m just listening to “Summer Love” now. I would have enjoyed that one as a teenager. The band moved from Little River Band style music in the ‘70s to a more New Wave approach in the early ‘80s and that came with a name change to the Sherbs. It did not gel in their homeland but in the States, they managed 2 moderate Alt hits with “I Have The Skill” and “We Ride Tonight”.
Braithwaite re-surfaced in 1988 with a solo album and scored a string of hits including the top 10 “One Summer”. In 1991, like Icehouse and John Farnham, he earned the best-selling album of the year in Australia with the 1991 album “Rise”. That was fueled by the #1 hit “The Horses” (78). That song was written by Rickie Lee Jones of “Chuck E’s in Love” fame, along with Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Jones released the song on her 1989 album “Flying Cowboys” and though it was not released as a single people may remember it from the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire”.
James Reyne rose to fame as the leader of Australian Crawl who enjoyed success during the first half of the ‘80s with 4 albums, 2 of which reached #1. The band name is derived from a swimming technique that was developed by a swimmer in the 1890’s. Though their music is not patterned after the Beach Boys, they earned a reputation as the Melbourne version of that band because of their beach culture vibe. I own their 1982 album “Sons Of Beaches” but I do not recall any of the songs from it. The lead single from it was “Shut Down” but listening to it I got nothing. They did not receive much airplay in the U.S, and definitely didn’t reach any national charts here. I bought so much stuff from used record stores back in college for like $1 or $2 and probably listened to some of those once, if at all.
I did not discover Reyne as a solo artist until 1993 when his 1991 album “Electric Digger Dandy” was re-packaged in the States as “Any Day Above Ground”. It yielded 2 #1’s on my chart, “Slave” and “Some People” and 2 other appearances with the title track and “Reckless”, a reworking of Australian Crawl’s biggest hit from 1983. The first 2 songs ended up as my #8 and #5 of 1993. He also had a song on the album “Company of Strangers” that would become the name of a one album Australian supergroup featuring Reyne, Braithwaite and Simon Hussey. Hussey had also been in Australian Crawl and was married to Reyne’s sister Elisabeth at the time. In addition, he was the producer of both solo artists. As a band they did not have the same impact as their solo careers, managing 3 top 40 singles including the chugging “Motor City (I Got Lost)” but none reaching past #21.
In 1990 the best-selling album in Australia belonged to Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. It was straightforward pub Rock as evidenced by the top 10 hits “Cry In Shame” and “Don’t Need Love”. Diesel (real name Mark Lizotte) was born in Fall River, Massachusetts and his family moved to Perth when he was 5. He was sort of discovered by the wife of Jimmy Barnes (who I wrote about in the last post), Jane. Diesel eventually married her sister. My exposure to Diesel (he dropped Johnny for his moniker as a solo artist) came with the next album, the #1 “Hepfidelity”, a nice mix of Rock, Blues and Funk that brought the song “Man Alive” to #1 on my chart in 1992. “Tip Of My Tongue” was the bigger hit in Australia, reaching #4. In 1993 he won Album of the Year and Best Male Artist at the ARIA Music Awards. He would also nab Best Male Artist the following 2 years. He did not make an impact stateside though (strange aside) there was a band from the Netherlands with the same name that scored a U.S. hit in 1981 with “Sausalito Summer Night”.
Another Aussie band that could not translate their homegrown success to the States was 1927. Their debut album “…ish” was huge in Australia, going 5 times platinum and generating 4 top 20 singles. 2 of those made my top 5, “You’ll Never Know” and their first single “That’s When I Think Of You”. That song was their only Billboard Hot 100 entry, barely making it at #100. Their brand of solid Pop Rock veered between the post new Wave vibe of INXS/Icehouse and the Pop sheen of Little River Band. They had 3 songs from their second album on my chart this week, “Don’t Forget Me” (31), “The Other Side” (58) and “Tell Me A Story” (38) that had just peaked in my top 10. I’ve been groovin’ on ‘Story’ lately and it is back in my current top 10. By the third album things had fallen apart.
Going back to a band that is closer to the pulse of Crowded House, we land on Hunters and Collectors. Interestingly, that band’s frontman Mark Seymour is the brother of Crowded House member Nick Seymour. Their biggest songs on my chart were the same 2 that made the U.S. Alternative Top 10 in 1998 and 1990, “Back on The Breadline” and “When The River Runs Dry”. These songs brimmed with the Jangle Rock sound of the time, but their early music was more influenced by bands like Kraftwerk. The song “Judas Sheep”, from the second album “The Fireman’s Curse” in 1983, is pretty raw comparatively. In a way it reminds me of how some of the early Split Enz music was, adventurous and off-kilter. “42 Wheels” the lead track from their third album, “The Jaws Of Life”, is decidedly Talking Heads.
The 1984 song “Throw Your Arms Around Me” alluded to the musical direction they would move towards and become a signature song for them. I would equate their evolution through the ‘80s to that of R.E.M. Though in hindsight R.E.M. was less experimental, to me when I saw them on Landsdowne St. across from Fenway Park in 1982, I felt I was experiencing something completely new. Songs like “Wolves, Lower” and “1,000.000” we’re really exciting to me at the time. Hunters and Collectors would become one of the best live acts in Australia and I can imagine if I saw them early on, I would have had a similar experience. This was also true when I saw U2 at CBGB’s in New York City in 1980. “I Will Follow, “The Electric Co.”, and ”A Day Without Me”; the energy was unbelievable. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen both of these iconic bands at the beginning of their careers.