Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend edition: Australian pop stars twenty years later

Someone who was a modestly successful pop star (a number 1 or two and a dozen other chartings) can make a living off old glories for most their life in America. The market is sufficiently big.

But someone of that status has a much harder time making ends meet in music in Australia. You can be privileged to see them with very small (and in this case respectful) audiences.

Below is one of my favourites from my 20s - Angie Hart - who is somewhat younger than me - and was one of the first Australian stars to sing in a really strong Australian accent.

The song is Elvis Costello's (similarly dated) song Shipbuilding - a story about laid-off ship builders in the North of England looking at the loss of tonnage in the Falklands War and thinking they may get a job at the shipyards. "Within weeks they will be reopening the shipyards, and notifying the next of kin". (If you do not know the lyrics they are reproduced at the end of this post.)

When I was in my 20s I was not very conscious of Angie's Australian accent (and I had one this intense). 10 years of talking on phones internationally and listening to Americans in particular has changed the way I speak. I still sound Australian - but not like that.

Here - 20 something years ago - is the song for which Angie Hart is most famous - another cover - this time of a New Order song...

But what I find really strange is that 20 years later the Frente cover of the New Order song has become the way to do it - especially in Asia where it was featured on Indonesian Idol (no not kidding).

And all over YouTube you find Chinese teenage girls in Malaysia or the Philippines or Indonesia or even China singing New Order songs with a deliberate Australian accent. Here is one - there are hundreds of others.

Fame on the internet can be very strange.



Is it worth it
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boys birthday
Its just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon well be shipbuilding
Well I ask you
The boy said dad they're going to take me to task
But I'll be back by christmas
Its just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
Its just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they'll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
Once again
Its all were skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
[ Lyrics from:


the old boathouse said...

John I respect your political economy views, but surely Frente most famous for the song "accidentally Kelly st" Plus not to be to harsh 10 years earlier you had real Australian Voices such as the Triffords and the Go betweens

Anonymous said...

Sadly all the cover versions are missing the most special bit, the amazing Blue Monday 12" FAC73 packaging.

Anonymous said...

John did you read the article in the paper a few Sunday's ago about Doc Neeson?

Anonymous said...

i'm 34. i live in London. between the ages of 2 and 21 my parents lived in asia. now as an outsider looking back i wonder can an area excel simply by imitating and replicating other societies in culture, technology and business. we will copy exactly what you do, except we will do it cheaper. at some point, surely, that falls over? maybe some day a band in manchester will be playing a cover song from a band in shanghai. i'm sorry, i just don't see it. why has it not happened by now?

John Hempton said...

I am more a Triffids fan than any other Australian band of my era (maybe Go Betweens, maybe Triffids). The Go Betweens are a subject of antother post - the violin player is now the librarian at my son's school...

And the Frente song which I remember best is Labour of Love. But hey - who is counting.


MPR said...

The Aussie accent here really works. That girl has a beautiful voice.

Aharon said...

Ah, but Midnight Oil predated them all, no? And that surely was an Australian accent, though I guess you could argue that it wasn't exactly singing...

My favorite Frente! (can't forget the punctuation) song, and the one that certainly was most distinctive, was Labour of Love (have to force myself to put in the extraneous-to-my-eyes u). I feel Bizarre Love Triangle, while not itself being one, ushered in an era of middling, soothing folkish female-vocal covers of rock songs. A sort of Body Shop effect, making them safe for upper-mid-level retail.

I hear the Go-Betweens, meanwhile, in almost every Australian and New Zealand band that makes it to New York indie airwaves, though of course that's a skewed sample.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Got to love accents.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous 34 London, if you think Asia, which stretches from the mid-east to Japan, is accurately described as imitating and replicating other societies, then I'd say you were a particularly juvenile observer.

Ages 2 and 21 ? Oh yes, that figures.

Mark T said...

Nice of her to give a break to a guy that can't play guitar tho'

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