Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What a difference 50 years makes!

How's this for a cavalcade of talent? Fifty years ago to the day, the Go-Set National Top 40 was a whole lot more killer than filler. 

All the usual suspects are there: The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Beatles, The Animals, The Who, Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood... ahem, Engelbert Humperdinck and Harry Secombe...not to mention some fine local hit-makers such as Normie Rowe, The Cherokees (although I confess, 'Minnie the Moocher' leaves me colder than this frosty Melbourne winter's day), Lynne Randell and Ronnie Burns.

But only two bands have more than one song in the chart: The Mamas & the Papas and--of infinitely more interest to this blog--The Master's Apprentices! 

Since June marks the third anniversary of singer Jim Keays' death and a half-century since The Masters' classic self-titled debut album came out, it seems only fair that we consider the group's domination of the hit parade in late-June 1967 a little further...

First cab off the rank is their stormin', riff-tastic debut single 'Undecided', still going strong in 22nd spot after 13 weeks burning up the Top 40 (where it peaked at number 13). To think the band whipped it up in a mere 15 minutes to fill some recording space is a convincing argument that true art is the product of inspiration rather than perspiration. Rock'n'roll simply does not get better than this. Icing on the cake is, of course, the flipside, 'War or Hands of TIme', an anti-Vietnam protest number with a distinctly freakbeat-y sound.


Meanwhile, The Masters' snarlin' follow-up 'Buried and Dead' comes in at 33. Released in May 1967 ('Undecided' came out in October 1966), this gold-plated punker is significant not only for being a dance-floor favourite, but also for being accompanied by one of the country's first purpose-made music videos. As Jim Keays recalled in his memoir, His Master's Voice:
"We had tried a new approach with 'Buried and Dead' by making a film clip for the song. We'd seen a few of them made for overseas acts so we filmed one in a couple of hours at a park in St Kilda. As far as I can remember, it was never shown on TV but I'm pretty sure it was the first proper film clip made by an Australian artist."
Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that (what about The Loved Ones doing 'The Loved One' in Approximately Panther? Or The Black Diamonds' clip for 'I Want, Need, Love You', made for the ABC TV program Be Our Guest? Or even the long-lost 'Witch Girl' video by Holy Go-Go Boots Batman's favourite masked weirdos, The Mystrys?)...but it's certainly an early, and groovy, example of the artform, and here 'tis:

 (Incidentally, as a Southsider, I'm DYING to know which St Kilda park they filmed it in so I can go and soak up any residual genius vibes that might still be floating around. I don't recognise the location from this grainy footage.)

By the time of the Top 40 above, The Masters Apprentices had finally made the move from Adelaide and had been living in Melbourne for some months, gigging up a storm at legendary venues such as The Thumpin' Tum, Sebastians, The Biting Eye and Catcher. (If anyone out there was lucky enough to see them in action, please share your memories in the comments section! Meanwhile, our little 'pipe bending ears' will have to be content with the records...)

And the Australian Top 40 fifty years later? Don't get me started.

Suffice it to say, the lame-arse bunch of performers currently populating the charts (as evidenced HERE)--combined with the disturbing news that sales of electric guitars are plummeting--simply reinforces my belief that rock'n'roll's glory days are well and truly over...or am I just a grumpy Gen Xer? Wait! Don't answer that.

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