Kick Out The Jams


I know ‘Kick Out The Jams’ is a song – and indeed, an album – by the MC5, a call to arms, a proselytising of the youth-, counter- and sub-culture to rise up against ‘The Man’. But I didn’t always.

Initially, I knew it as a lyric from a David Bowie song called ‘Cygnet Committee’ – an epic saga of a song that lives at the end of side one of the album Space Oddity. Now I realise it’s kind of a reply to ‘Kick Out The Jams’ – painting a bleak image of the kind of cult that follows an out-of-control messianic figure advocating slogans such as:

Kick Out The Jams
Kick Out Your Mother
Cut Up Your Friend
Screw Up Your Brother or He'll Get You In the End.

And even though I didn’t recognise the reference to MC5, there were other references and influences close to Bowie’s own heart. For example, when

the love machine lumbers through desolation rows

it's easy to assume it's lumbering through streets not unlike the one Dylan speaks of in his own epic song, ‘Desolation Row’, that closes his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. That Bowie was a big Dylan fan is evident in his tribute ‘Song for Bob Dylan’ on the album Hunky Dory:

Oh, hear this Robert Zimmerman
I wrote a song for you
About a strange young man
called Dylan
With a voice like sand and glue.

Of course, Bowie went on to record Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ at the end of the ’80s with Tin Machine. (The Dylan song, from 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, had massive ironic overtones in England during the ’80s while Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister.)

The line 

Love is all we need

offers an obvious Beatles reference. Turns out Bowie was one of the many acts that Apple Records failed to sign in the late-’60s, despite his auditioning more than once. Bowie’s interaction with the Beatles continue throughout his career. There’s a cute story of Paul McCartney running into him in the street around about the same time as his pitch to Apple, Bowie carrying a life-size cut-out of McCartney as he appeared in the animated Yellow Submarine. Bowie of course covered ‘Across The Universe’ on the album Young Americans in the mid-’70s, the same album that contained his collaborative effort with John Lennon, the song ‘Fame’. On Bowie’s last official original release, Reality, he covers a song George Harrison wrote called ‘Try Some, Buy Some’.

If ‘Cygnet Committee’ didn’t seem to be so obvious a reply to ‘Kick Out The Jams’, I would cite the reference as a nice little tribute also. I don’t know that Bowie was a particular fan of the MC5, but he was fond of other Detroit-based punks, like Iggy Pop and the Stooges.

But as I say, at the time I didn’t realise the line ‘Kick out the jams’ had any life beyond the Bowie song. Now I’m kind of surprised I didn’t see – or imagine – some sort of link between the line in the Bowie song, and a line in a Beatles song: the John Lennon-penned ‘Come Together’ refers to ‘toe jam football’. Toe jam is the gunk that accumulates between dirty toes; kicking a football may lead to jamming your toes; neither of them amounts to ‘kicking out the jams’. But ‘Come Together’ seems, like ‘Cygnet Committee’, to be another ‘answer’ song to ‘Kick Out The Jams’, albeit a much more peaceful one. Recall that although Lennon identified, to a degree, with revolutionaries, he was never quite sure if, when the time came to lay it on the line, he wanted to be counted ‘in’ or ‘out’. His ambivalence is outlined in the different versions of the song ‘Revolution’.

The most interesting version of ‘Kick Out The Jams’ I ever heard was so unexpected…

Back in 1995 the angelic-voiced Jeff Buckley appeared out of nowhere charming the world. He visited Australia on a promotional tour, and, serving at the time as the music reviewer for an independent newsweekly called The Sydney CityHub, I managed to blag my way into his gig at the Phoenician Club. That venue, originally situated on Broadway, is long gone, but I still remember that day well: the venue crammed well beyond capacity, me surrounded by a heck of a lot of chicks making out (who knew that was his demographic? Well, the chicks did, probably.)

Everyone was in thrall to Buckley’s softc*ck shtick as he woo’d them with those gorgeously wussy ballads like ‘Grace‘, ‘So Real‘ and ‘Hallelujah’. But he won me over when he returned for his encore, because he hit the stage with guns blazing as he led with his version of ‘Kick Out The Jams’. You can hear him do it on the expanded Legacy Edition of the album Grace, but here he is delivering it live at Sin-è:



When I got to write about Super Detox Foot Patches for my job at JigoCity Australia, ‘Kick Out The Jams’ was the obvious cool reference to drop. Since the product is about jettisoning the toxins and stuff that jam you up via the feet, you are more-or-less kicking ’em out – so it’s the perfect call-to-arms. Or, in this case, call-to-feet.

A buddy pointed out that she leaves detoxing to her liver – politely telling me that, as far as she’s concerned, this product appears a bit dodgy. I’m not interested in engaging on that level – but when I do have a liver cleansing product to write copy about, I know that my starting point will be ‘Liver Let Die’.

Although, judging by the product image, it looks more like a case of ‘Kick Out The Teabags’!



Christmas time is here again



When I was a kid, there was a guy called Bruce Hamlin - or ‘Beatles Bruce’ - who used to broadcast regularly on Radio Manly Warringah, a community radio station based in Narrabeen.

He used to produce a half-hour show each week, playing songs around specific themes.

One week he played flip sides of Beatles solo singles that hadn’t made it (at that stage) to albums.

That’s how I first got to hear ‘C Moon’, the dub reggae flip side of the Wings single ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’. (The a-side was included on the album Wings Greatest, but the flip side didn’t make it to an album until a decade later, when it appeared on the double album Paul McCartney: All The Best.)

Beatles Bruce was the guy who informed me of the existence Beatles’ Christmas records. Each year, from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles released a flexidisc (a flimsy plastic record) housed in a proper cover, to members of their official fan club, as a Christmas present. Initially, they were ‘thanks for the support’ messages. Later on they became surreal stream-of-conscious ‘sketches’. In the end they were separate messages from four estranged musicians, edited together by their mate and fellow Scouser, Kenny Everett. The ‘sketches’ were very Goon Showesque. At times a bit Pythonesque. But crazy.

And interestingly enough, their producer, George Martin, who was also boss of the Parlophone label when the Beatles signed to it, had actually pioneered producing excellent comedy records – by the Goons, Beyond the Fringe, and Flanders & Swann. Indeed, one of the reasons the Beatles were happy to be signed to Parlophone was because of their love of the Goons.

The most annoying aspect of the Beatles Christmas records is that they have never been made commercially available. Except for the musical theme – and extended excerpt, if you will – of the 1967 Christmas record, entitled ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’. It finally appeared, officially, as the flip side of the Beatles ‘reunion single’ that kicked off the Anthology project, ‘Free As A Bird’.

The records were pressed by an independent operation called Lyntone. It wasn’t a label, but a manufacturer. Decades later, someone had the bright idea to check the warehouse. Turns out there was a storeroom that still had piles of each year’s record. It was a simple matter to purchase the excess stock. Oh, to have had that idea first and to own copies…

Instead, I have to be content with stumbling across the odd bootleg.

If this is all news to you, it gives me great pleasure to pass on the baton. Just as ‘Beatles Bruce’ introduced me to the Beatles Christmas records, I am doing the same for you. Tune in to ABC 702 (hopefully it'll be broadcast around Australia) at 11pm EST on Christmas Eve (tonight) to hear me discussing – and playing excerpts from – these records, as Rod Quinn’s guest. (I normally talk comedy with Rod once a month at 4am on the ABC Local Radio network; over the Christmas break, Rod’s hosting The Night Life.)


(PS – check out other upcoming gigs and broadcasts on my homepage. And PPS, Bruce Hamlin is still alive and well and keeping his mail list informed about releases and events in the Beatle universe. Find him at all the major Sydney record fairs.)



Free Macca Track
(and Ringo’s Snack Attack)

For a limited time, if you really want it, you can download a free MP3 file of the song ‘Great Day’ from the Paul McCartney album Flaming Pie, now scoring the title sequence of the new Adam Sandler film Funny People. All it’ll cost you is being added to a Paul McCartney mailing list.

Okay, maybe you think a free Paul McCartney song isn’t the coolest thing to have, or to admit to having (you’re not quite wrong; it’s not the coolest thing, but it’s certainly not the most uncool – although you’re welcome to think that if you must). And perhaps being on the receiving end of regular Paul McCartney info updates is too big a price to pay to have it. But rest assured, the most uncool Beatles-related thing is not a Paul McCartney song. Not even – as so many people seem to want to cite as evidence for the prosecution – the one about Rupert Bear (‘We All Stand Together’). Nor the other one about Rupert Bear (T’ropic Island Hum’)!

No, the most uncool Beatles-related thing is this ad that Ringo Starr did for Pizza Hut.

“Peace and love! Peace and love!” you reckon, Ringo? More like “Love a piece! Love a piece!” And as for the ‘wrong lads’ – kinda cute. But the Monkles are no Whotles.

Got It Covered

As a rule, I don't enjoy cover versions. Oh, okay, I like cover versions of songs I like, by artists I like. John Lennon’s version of ‘Stand by Me’, for example. I’d argue it improves upon the original because it’s a song about insecurity and need. At the point in his life when he recorded it, Lennon was estranged from Yoko Ono on his extended so-called ‘lost weekend’. He certainly knew about insecurity and need.

Perhaps Ben E. King, who made the original famous, did too. But he sings it with an altogether more majestic and secure vibe. He’s not a lost, thiry-something-year-old trying to recapture the happiest part of his life.

But I still haven’t seen Zappa Plays Zappa live. Even though Frank’s son Dweezil leads the band,  it will never be Frank on that stage – even if he is on the screen, accompanying them through a few numbers. But I do have to admit, having heard recordings and seen clips – they are some of the best cover versions of Frank Zappa’s music I’ve ever heard. But it ain’t Frank.

But don’t start me on cover versions of Beatle’s songs. There’s a couple I’ll tolerate – some of the ones on the I Am Sam soundtrack, for example – but on the whole, I don’t want to know about them.

Then there’s this excellent version of ‘Hey Jude’. It’s brilliant. I thank Andrew Vallentine for pointing me toward it.

I like it almost as much as Hugh Laurie’s version, many years before House, from A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

I also quite like a version Missy Higgins does of the Skyhooks song ‘You Just Like Me ’CosI’m Good In Bed’ but I think my attitude mostly dates back to that ‘is she or isn’t she?’ early stage of her career. Sorry, I can’t find a clip of Missy playing it. Here’s a live version of the Skyhooks, with an embarrassingly long and no longer quite funny cross-over from Hey, Hey It’s Saturday.

For Whotles, the Bell Tolls

I wish I had the foresight to copyright the idea and name of the Whotles when I first came up with the idea and blogged about it. Now the Whotles – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – are all over the place. For example, a ‘live CD’ was recently listed on Ebay. Understandably, nobody was keen to shell out the ‘Buy It Now’ asking price of US$10,000. But the set list was interesting:

  1. When I Was 64
  2. Won't Get Fooled On A Hill Again
  3. Hello… Who Are You… Goodbye
  4. Baba O’Rigby
  5. Sgt. Pinball Pepper
  6. Behind Yellow Eyes
  7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-Baba-Da
  8. Magic Submarine
  9. PS I Love Your Squeezebox
  10. Lady Madonna, Who Are You
  11. See Me Help Me
  12. Here Comes The Magic Bus
  13. Call Me Beethoven
  14. Tommy, You Won't See Me
  15. You Better Get Back
  16. Revolution 515
  17. Hey Jude I Can See Your Eminence Front
  18. She’s A Bargain
  19. Baby, You’re A Substitute
  20. The Ballad Of John And John And Keith And George

Closer inspection shows more care could have been taken, however. From a comedy point of view, chose which Baba O’Reilly gag you want to make and use it (preferably, the best one – although it’s a hard call between Baba O’Rigby and Ob-La-Di, Ob-Baba-Da; Ob-La-Di, Baba-Da sounds just a bit better than the latter, but I think I like Baba O’Rigby better). The Magic Bus reference never worked in either instance – in fact, most of the offerings are a bit ‘first draft’. Here are some that I came up with:

Come Join Together (this should be the ‘title track’ of the album, clearly)
Magical Mystery Tour Bus
One After 515
Who Are You? I Am The Walrus
You’ve Got To Hide Your Eminence Front
See Me Feel Fine
I’m Looking Through Your Pictures Of Lilly
Come And Get Fooled Again

ADDENDUM - November 20, 2008

At the time of writing this blog, I had no idea – that is to say, no recollection – that I’d already come up with some of the song titles some months earlier in reply to someone who commented on the initial Whotles-related blog. I only discovered it now in the process of copying the URL of that blog for a publicist who has just announced the Who’s latest Aussie tour! Who knows – I may have even inspired the e-bayer.

The Beachles

A while ago I spent some time ruminating on the best course of action for the Who and the Beatles, seeing as the former band have lost their original drummer and bass player, while the latter are down to their drummer and bass player. Make way, then for the Whotles: Roger Daltry, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. In the same little blog entry, I suggested that it were far more likely that the pushy, bass playing, mutual back-slapping, musical genii of the Beach Boys and the Beatles would join together first: Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney of the Beachles.

Well, it seems someone else has liked that idea.

Make way for Sgt Petsounds, by the Beachles!


If I were brutally honest, I’d be forced to admit that these mash-ups are quite heavy-handed compared to, say, The Grey Album by Danger Mouse (the mash-up of The Beatles’ so-called ‘White Album’ and Jay-Z’s Black Album). Sgt Petsounds is still a worthy undertaking nonetheless.

Thanks to Michael Larson for pointing its existence out to me!


Clayton Counts, the artist behind the Beachles’ Sgt Petsounds project, writes

…Your honesty is appreciated, but I'd like to point something out to you. I am friends with a good number of producers and DJs, and like me a great number of them feel as if the Grey Album is sub-standard. I could give you examples, and even show you just how little work went into the construction of those tracks. Many of them are one or two loops set to a simple beat, and there's hardly any Beatles material on the record. You even get the impression at times that Dangermouse doesn't much like the Beatles.

Don't get me wrong... I do like Dangermouse's solo work, but this project of mine is a different sort of mashup record. I don't think of it as heavy handed, or a mashup record at all, in the sense that it is intended as an abstract reinterpretation, in the vein of Negativland, Emergency Broadcast Network, the Residents, and the like. Certainly some people have felt the way you do, though I dare say that it is really because we have grown to accept and even expect that which is most easily digested. This record is a challenge to make, especially since it's being done almost exclusively track for track, and it should be equally challenging to listen to. And anyway, it would be a disservice to the people who enjoy my original music if I were to lay a simple beat under all of it. Feel free to check that stuff out, but it's not for everyone.

And of course I'm not complaining... it’s probably best if people get a warning before they dive in. It's avant garde / noise music, but I can assure you that a lot of hard work has gone into this. It doesn't take patience to make a beat-driven record... it only takes a beat. (I do make a ton of dance music, and when I play out people dance to it, but it's far less satisfying to me artistically.)

Okay... sorry for rambling. Very funny that we would cross paths! Take care.

And so I’d like to add that I agree, Dangermouse’s Grey Album is simplistic in it’s approach, is beat driven, does resort to loops… and I realise that’s why I like it more than Sgt Petsounds — which I love in concept, much as I also like the Residents, but listen to their gorgeous, glorious noise quite infrequently.

I do like my mashups easily accessible and beat-driven rather than avanguarde and harder to ingest, and Clayton clearly knows what he’s talking about here because, on the same site, he features a Paul McCartney & Wings Vs Ne-Yo mash-up that does tick all the traditional, on-the-beat, easily digestible boxes!

Who Would You Eat Last?

For the last week and a half, I can say that I’ve been ‘hangin’ with Mr Rhodes’ — the full meaning of that phrase isn’t quite worth chasing down, suffice to say that Tom Rhodes is a brilliant comedian and Southern gentleman whose live performance I saw three times and enjoyed each time.

The second time, he introduced a nice new subroutine while talking about Hinduism. He has a great piece about the origins of Ganesh, the elephant-headed boy deity, which he follows with the comment that he’d love to convert to Hinduism. But of course, he can’t convert — you need to be born into Hinduism. Or ‘reborn’ into it.

So the subroutine was the comment about how George Harrison’s ‘conversion’ to Hinduism made him akin to Sammy Davis, Jr. My paraphrasing makes it clunky — Rhodes delivered it perfectly, in a concise and clever way which made a whole two of us in the audience, hip to the fact that Sammy Davis, Jnr converted to Judaism, roar with laughter. The following night, Rhodes delivered the line again, at the same point in the Ganesh piece, and again, about two people laughed. “That’s all right, nobody liked it last night, either,” he said. That got a massive laugh. Even though it was a lie: I had loved it.

As it happened, we’d gone out drinking after the second performance. That is to say, we’d stayed in drinking — since it was a Tuesday night and everything in Sydney closes early on a Tuesday night — imbibing what turned out to be an incredibly yummy Argentinian red wine that might have been called 33 Degrees (sorry, don’t know how to make the little circle on my Mac), named for the latitude at which Mendoza, the wine-making region of Argentina, is situated. In passing I mentioned the George Harrison bit, which I liked. I confessed that Harrison was quite possibly my favourite Beatle.

“Yeah, I’d eat him last,” Rhodes said.

There was what felt to me like an awkward silence that followed, but to Tom, was merely a dramatic pause before he launched into his explanation of the strange comment.

“Imagine you were on a plane with the Beatles, and you crashed in the Andes and ran out of food, and you had to start eating them…”

Of course. Given that set of circumstances, I guess George is the one I’d eat last.

“Because you’d eat Ringo first,” Tom continued, “since he’s the least necessary”.

I can’t remember if Rhodes made the observation at the time, or if it’s the standard observation that gets made at this point — “I mean, if you quite the band, and nobody notices for a few days…” — referring, of course, to Ringo’s walk-out during the recording of the so-called ‘White Album’, which led to Paul McCartney thumping the tubs for a couple of songs — “…then the band can get by without you.”

There is, of course an irony: piss pot Ringo, who at one point had to issue injunctions to prevent the release of substandard recording he’d made while muddling through life in an alcoholic haze, would be the one that would last the longest, inadvertantly pickled in his juices. Sure, you’d kill him first so as not to tax the rations of whomever you’d eat second, but you could get away with eating him next-to-last, depending upon who you chose next.

Who you’d eat second was rather contentious. Surprisingly, Tom and I agreed on this point, although for different reasons.

Popular opinion would be Paul McCartney; his post-Beatles output, though prolific, would not be described by most as prodigious. I don’t agree, of course; Rupert the Bear ditties, the 1972 ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ single and some of those painful mid-90s albums (Off The Ground in particular) notwithstanding, the time will come when everyone gives Paul McCartney the respect he deserves. John Lennon’s oeuvre, on the other hand, gets by unscathed because, ‘Imagine’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Happy Christmas (War Is Over)’ and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ aside, nobody’s really heard it. He did so little and made so little. If people did try to listen to John Lennon to any extent, they’d hate most of his work. They’d be wrong, of course, it ought to be loved. But it oughtn’t be loved without being heard and understood, and it oughtn’t be loved at the price of hating Macca.

“I’d eat John Lennon second because he was a dick!” Tom announced, and I didn’t argue. There was no need to go into the finer points.

Macca was the third course on the Beatles menu and George, fourth. Although, when you think about it, there wouldn’t be much difference between them from a gustatory point of view, since they’d both spent the last few decades of their lives as millionaire vegetarians. So we’re talking organic, grain-fed, free-range Beatles. And both of them would have a fine, smokey flavour.

Having determined, logically, in which order to consume the Beatles, it became clear that this game could be applied to any collective, and the most obvious application at this point was to Monty Python.

“If you’re going to devour the dickheads first,” I offered — the change from ‘dick’ to more Aussie ‘dickhead’ made necessary by the fact that the phrase ‘if you’re going to devour the dicks first’ sounds like we’re going for specific apendages, which, even given this context, sounds downright sick… — “it would appear that John Cleese would be the first to go.”

“Which is a pity,” Tom pointed out, “since he’s the funniest…”.

“Yeah, but Michael Palin’s the nicest; you’d want to keep him around the longest…” I argued.

“So you’d eat Palin last?” Tom demanded in disbelief.

Six is a lot more difficult to deal with, but if you think it through, you can make a good case for the following:

Graham Chapman, lamented, demented genius that he was, lead actor in all the films, produced the least amount ultimately, even if you only measure up to his time of death in 1989. So he’d be the first to go, even if, like Ringo, his love of the sauce meant that he’d preserve the longest.

I stand by Cleese going next, although it’s hard to mount a strong case as to why it shouldn’t be Terry Jones. Then Cleese. Then Eric Idle, who is actually probably the funniest, albeit less successful if you only judge him by what gets to the screen. Apparently he makes a lot of money as a script doctor in Hollywood, making utter crap somewhat more palatable. Remember, he used to write alone. I reckon if he had his version of a Connie Booth, he would have cranked out a cracking good Fawlty Towers. Instead, he had Neil Innes, which isn’t a bad thing, since it led to making things like Rutland Weekend Television and The Rutles. Maybe after Eric, it should be Michael Palin and then Terry Gilliam.

At this point, having had plenty of Argentinian wine, there was a lull in conversation; while I was thinking it through I realised a few more ironies:

  1. if you were in a plane crash in the Andes with either the Beatles or Monty Python, and you ran out of food, despite their internal squabbling, their jealousies and their grudges, chances are they’d pull together and eat you first;
  2. this ridiculous conversation really should end by us playing the ‘Lifeboat Sketch’ (or whatever it]s called) from the album Another Monty Python Record. It didn’t end that way because neither of us had the recording — released on CD as Another Monty Python CD — with us. But I can at least link to it.

2 Who or not 2 Who

Earlier this month (November 2004), Pete Townshend announced via the official Who website that he and Roger Daltrey were getting together in December, with whatever bits of song they’d managed to write thus far, in order to see if it was worth proceeding any further with plans for a new Who album. The project was apparently tentatively title Who2, clearly a reference to the remaining original members of the band.

Okay. The name sucks. But what about the idea?

A friend of mine likens the concept of new Who songs to re-animating a dinosaur skeleton.

I disagree.

When I saw The Who at the Sydney Entertainment Centre some months ago, I was impressed: despite lead guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey illuminated by a spotlight as a duo, accompanied by a backing band who spent most of the evening in the shade, they were good. The backing band were essential to the enjoyment, providing the solid bed upon which Pete and Roger could rock.

And what a backing band: Zak Starkey, forever destined to have the middle name ‘Son-of-Ringo’, was the perfect drummer. Simon Townshend – slated to appear  downunder as The Who’s guitarist in a mid-90s tour that was, thankfully, called off (see, the world really is wonderful!) before it could taint the outlaw memory the band had created in their one and only previous Aussie tour, in 1968, when they were given the bum’s rush out of the country for being ‘unruly’ on a flight – backed up big brother Pete as rhythm guitarist. Pino Palladino, session bass player extraordinaire deputised for the most recently departed Ox, John Entwistle. But it was John ‘Bunny’ Bundrick, on keyboards, who proved his worth, playing fantastically.

Indeed, ‘Bunny’ delivered the most gorgeously majestic introduction to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, that Daltrey had to go and ruin. That’s right. Ruin. Daltrey’s onstage ‘move’ for most of the night consisted oof swinging the microphone by its lead, often having it wrap around him and then unwrap before he’d catch it. Only, one time, it led to the ‘Spinal Tap’ moment of the evening, when he dropped the damn thing. Which resulted in a faulty connection, static, and ultimately, malfunction. But only at the most delicately dramatic moment of the evening, after that awesome introduction that reigned over ‘Love Rein O’er Me’. And there was no choice: stop the song mid-verse, pick it up again. However, rather than risk ‘Bunny’ attempting to reproduce that brilliant intro again, and failing, they chose to pick it up from the verse.

But that was ultimately forgiveable. Why? The true test of whether this version of The Who cut it was with songs like ‘Who Are You’. In fact, specifically the song ‘Who Are You’. The choruses were faultless, with perfectly falsetto’d ‘Hu! Hu! Hu! Hu!’s following each ‘Whoooooo are youuuuu?’.

Those harmonic interludes of “Whooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah” were, likewise, note-perfectly reproductions of that song. It was heaven.

The band played their token new ‘single’ – the recently recorded ‘Real Good Looking Boy’ (a tribute to Elvis and rock, based around the ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ melody) and ‘Old Red Wine’. The songs appear as ‘bonus’ tracks in the recently released singles box set and the most recent Who compilation The Who: Then & Now. It was after playing the songs that Pete admitted that they were considering recording a new album. The cheering didn’t increase noticeably, but nobody boo’d. Clearly, we’d given the idea our approval.

So back to the new album.

I think the idea is almost, but not quite right, and even though Pete and Roger don’t realise this, the people around them certainly do. Consider again their greatest hits collection Then and Now


Does it look familiar to you?


Hint: the word ‘fab’, describing the ‘new recordings’, is a bit of a give-away.


If you’ll recall, The Who’s ‘The Kids Are All Right’ always was the best Merseybeat song that The Beatles never wrote. So it’s kind of fitting that The Who are ‘ripping off’ the ‘ripped’ artwork for The Beatles’ Anthology series.


Indeed, The Who could have gone all the way: instead of Then and Now they could have called the album Yesterday And Today, like the Beatles did, in America, in 1965. And there you have the perfect solution to the problem. With the passing of Keith Moon (drums) and John Entwistle (bass), The Who have lost their rhythm section. All The Beatles have left is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – their rhythm section. They should combine forces and record an album as The Whotles.

Unfortunately, another band has beaten The Who to this collaboration: former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has already let slip, in interview, that he intends to record with Paul McCartney next year. It won’t be the first time: Paul McCartney munched a carrot on the original recording of ‘Vegetables’, for the ill-fated Smile album (which, nearly forty years later, Brian Wilson has gone and re-recorded). Macca also appeared, along with Eric Clapton and Elton John, on Wilson’s album Gettin’ In Over My Head earlier this year. However, next year’s collaboration may prove to be more significant. Which is fitting: two great bass players who are also pushy song writers who orchestrated their respective bands’ best albums, who also happened to be born within days of each other, and admire each other greatly… most likely we’ll get a Beachles album before we get a Whotles album.

Gerry ’Cross the Mersey

Gerry Marsden, of ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’ fame may not mean much to you, but he and his band recorded a handful of singles – ‘How Do You Do It’ (the single the Beatles rejected, with which the Pacemakers made their recording debut, and with which, had their first number one single), ‘I Like It’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’ and of course, ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ – that are universally known and loved. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, from Marsden’s favourite musical, Carousel, was adopted as the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club. Marsden is currently in Australia with PJ Proby, as they undertake their ‘60s Gold – Fortieth Anniversary’ tour.

I know very little about Proby – except that he used to perform a stage manouvre that would see the seams of his jumpsuit split, that would have women decorating their cookies throughout the audience. As for Gerry, I was always a bit of a fan of that early 60s pop. Managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin, the Pacemakers may appear to have been another besuited wannabe Beatles as far as latecomers are concerned. But they were the Beatles’ contemporaries. Indeed, there was an occasion in which pre-fame Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Beatles performed together, as the Beatmakers. However, whereas the Fab Four were always breaking new ground, exploring and exploiting sonic territory, the Pacemakers never really changed. So when the Beatles discovered psychedelia, the Pacemakers broke up so that Marsden could pursue a career in musicals.

Forty years on, he seems to have a pretty good life on the nostalgia circuit. A pleasant, happy, chatty interview subject, I can only hope I’m having half as much fun, still being paid for doing what I love to do, by the time I get to his age! (Although, let’s face it – what’s this ‘still’ business? I hope I get the opportunity to get paid to do what I love to do just once by the time I get to his age!)

A truncated version of this was edited into last week’s Music News and broadcast on ABC NewsRadio. I may even get around to posting a transcript of that broadcast. You can listen to the broadcast version – bookended by Music News banter – here. The transcript of the full, original interview follows.

GERRY MARSDEN: The last time I was here was a year ago. This is my twenty-third trip to Australia. I’m really a national.

Demetrius Romeo: So you must like it here!

GERRY MARSDEN: I love Australia. It’s great. I have lots of friends in Australia. I enjoy working in Australia, and I love the weather in Australia. So it’s great to be back!

Demetrius Romeo: If I didn’t have any scruples, I’d follow that quote with a snippet from your song ‘I Like It’!

Now, Gerry, when you started out, you broke a record by having three number one singles as your first three singles. Did you have any idea that you’d be that successful when you first picked up a guitar?

GERRY MARSDEN: No, not at all. Music was fun to me, and it still is today. When we had our first number one with ‘How Do You Do It?’, we thought, ‘bloody hell!’, you know, ‘we’re stars!’ Next thing was, we got ‘I Like It’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as our first three number ones and there was a great surprise and a great pleasure to have them. We just loved them. That was what started my career in show biz and it’s still tremendous; I love it.

Demetrius Romeo: When you recorded ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which was a song from a musical – apparently it was one of your favourite songs from your favourite musicals. How did you actually come to record the song?

GERRY MARSDEN: I saw the musical… the song itself is a lovely song. I love the lyrics. When we had ‘I Like It’ and ‘How Do You Do It?’, George Martin and Brian Epstein, our manager. I said I wanted to do ‘… Walk Alone’ as our third record and they said, ‘oh, it’s too slow, it’s wrong; it should be poppy!’ I said, ‘no, let me do it’. I won the fight, and when it got to number one, I rang them back and went, ‘nah nah ner-nah nah’. It’s just a song I loved and I still love singing it today. So God bless ‘…Walk Alone’.

Demetrius Romeo: It’s become an anthem; it’s still sung by hordes of people at the football in Liverpool.

GERRY MARSDEN: Yeah, it’s great. I go to the match when I’m at home, and my hair stands up and I get goose pimples when they sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. I stand with them and I’m singing it with them. It’s wonderful. It’s become the anthem of our football team. Wonderful!

Demetrius Romeo: Another anthemic song that you wrote was ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ which again sums up so much, and always brings a tear to the eye of people who can look back nostalgically on where they’ve come from and where they’re going. How did that song come about?

GERRY MARSDEN: ‘Ferry…’ was from a film. We made a film called Ferry Cross The Mersey because in the early days, we didn’t have videos, so we couldn’t actually send videos around the world for kids, and the Beatles did A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and Brian said we should do one. A guy called Tony Warren, who wrote Coronation Street originally, wrote Ferry Cross The Mersey the film, and asked me, could I do the songs for the film. I said yes, and he said, ‘well, we need a good theme song’. So I wrote ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’. I wrote it about Liverpool people and why a ferry should cross the Mersey to get to Liverpool, and it worked and it’s became a great standard for me. All over the world, wherever I go, people say, “please sing ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’!”

Demetrius Romeo: How do you feel that you had these massive hits at the front end of your career? Does it effect you as you go on as a musician?

GERRY MARSDEN: Not at all. You can’t continue having hit records. But the thing those records gave us – ‘Ferry’, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’, things like that – they gave us a longer life in the business, because people liked the songs, they liked the lyrics, they like to come and see the shows. So it doesn’t matter now, not having hit records, truthfully. It would be nice to have one, of course, but it doesn’t matter not having one because people still love to listen to the records of those days. I’m just glad that they still do, and I can still work and enjoy myself. And travel the world. And come to Australia every year. Yeah, yeah, bloody great!

Demetrius Romeo: One of the problems for the music industry at the moment is that people are downloading songs illegally. If what you are, primarily, is a live performer, does that affect tour career as a musician?

GERRY MARSDEN: It doesn’t affect my career as a musician… Downloading is a thing they do that’s just life. It might affect me if I’m making millions and millions of pounds out of records, but I’m not; I’m making millions out of singing and entertaining, and they can’t download me – ha ha ha! I wish they could – ha ha ha. So no, it doesn’t matter to me, really.

Demetrius Romeo: What sort of audience do you draw in Australia?

GERRY MARSDEN: The nice thing is, we get kids of sixteen to kids of ninety-three coming into the show, because you get the parents, you get the grandparents who know the songs, and you get the young kids who like the sixties music and they want to see the artists who actually recorded the songs. So it’s massive. The audience is a vast array of ages, and it’s great, because the kids love the music. What you get is another bonus for us: they’re grateful and they know the words and it’s easy to sing ’em.

Demetrius Romeo: Do the kids sing along with you?

GERRY MARSDEN: Of course they do. The kids and the old kids all sing along. It’s like a party. I could go out on stage, start my first song and leave until the end because they sing every song with me.

Demetrius Romeo: Do you find, as you play different territories, that different songs are the ones that get the crowd rolling for you?

GERRY MARSDEN: Maybe so. Yeah, like, in Australia, a song called ‘Girl On A Swing’ is very popular, which isn’t really popular in England. And in the States, ‘Girl On A Swing’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, songs like that which aren’t massive in England, are big in Australia, so you find that you do have to change the act slightly. And half the time, I’ve forgotten the words to the songs, so I’ve got to relearn them. But never mind: it’s worth doing!

Demetrius Romeo: What’s your favourite part of coming to Australia?

GERRY MARSDEN: I don’t know my one favourite thing… Maybe the beaches – I love the beaches. I’m a sun worshipper, so I love the beaches. And I love the people because I just think Australians are great; they’re mad, and I’m mad, and I think it’s great fun to be back in Aussie.

Demetrius Romeo: The Pacemakers broke up in the mid 60s. How did you progress after that? Did you think it was the end, for a little while?

GERRY MARSDEN: What we did, we decided to split in 1967 – the original band – because I was going into the West End, into theatre, to do a show called Charlie Girl and I loved it. I did that for nearly three years, and the show actually came out to Australia but I couldn’t sign the contract for twelve months because I wanted to be home; I couldn’t be away for that long. And a great guy called Johnny Farnham did my part in Australia; Johnny’s a great artist, a great singer and a great guy. So I did that and then I did another show – a West End show called Pull Both Ends. Then, in about 1975, I said ‘right, I want to tour’ because I would get letters from the States and Australia saying “What are you doing? Where are ya?” So I thought ‘right!’ and I re-formed me band, just to re-tour again. And since that day, I’ve been touring and I’ve had about three thousand Pacemakers in my band since the early days.

Demetrius Romeo: Freddy, your brother, was an original Pacemaker. Is he still in the band with you?

GERRY MARSDEN: No, Fred finished with the other boys in ’67, and all he’s done since then is play golf. He’s a great golfer and enjoys playing golf, so, no, Fred isn’t in the band, but I still see him a hell of a lot of course because he’s mah bruddah. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother!

Demetrius Romeo: Gerry, thank you very much.

GERRY MARSDEN: The pleasure has been all mine. You take care and look after yourself. God bless you.