Monday, May 05, 2008

Hidden Gems On My MP3 Player: Russell Morris

RUSSELL MORRIS: THE REAL THING



I can't help but think that if this song had been released by an American or an English group instead of Australian Russell Morris then it'd have been hailed as a true masterpiece in psychedelic music. To show how good this song is it was released in America without any fanfare and although it failed on the national charts it managed to reach the top spot in regional charts, in cities such as New York and Chicago. Not bad for a song that had no promotion at all. Imagine what would have been if a record company got behind it. Sadly this video misses the most vital part of the song - the epic ending. Trust me, it has to be heard to be believed.

This tune is a killer. It's one of my all time favourites, not because it's a stunning song, but it's one of those rare tunes that shouldn't work because of the people involved. The song was written by Johnny Young, who most Australians would remember as being the face of Young Talent Time. Yep - THAT Johnny Young. It's produced by Ian Meldrum - Molly to you and me - and if all Molly had done was make this music then he'd have earned his place in music history. That he went on to create one of the best loved, and possibly the most important, music programmes to ever come from this country in the form of the legendary Countdown is testament to how much he loves the genre. I've been saying for years that it's criminal that he's not been knighted for his services to arts and music, not only in Australia but worldwide. The backing band was the rapidly disintegrating group known as The Groop. The Groop were at the end of their time as a band and I've always felt that the friction they were experience only added to the mania and energy that this song carries with it.

As the song wasn't considered to be much of anything Meldrum was handed a carte blanche in the way he produced it. Given such a free reign he went, well, crazy. Not content with getting a soaring vocal performance out of Morris and an incredible instrumental out of The Groop, Meldrum decided to go the whole hog. He added a choir of angelic voices, he added singer Brian Cadd reading from the side of a recording tape box for in a cod imitation of a Hitler Nuremberg speech and closed the whole lot off with a massive explosion and his choir singing "Sieg Heil!". Sounds nuts? You should hear it! Then imagine the stunned amazement of radio programmers of the time who'd relented and played such nice long songs like the Beatles Hey Jude and were now faced with this sonic onslaught. To their credit, they played it, and more often than not in it's entirety.

The song itself runs for over seven minutes, a landmark for anywhere, let alone Australia in the late 1960s, where pop music was relatively clean and wholesome, the Easybeats and their habits not withstanding. The second part of the song is indelibly marked into the psyche of anyone and everyone that's ever heard it and - and this is the beauty of it all - it never grows tired no matter how many times you hear it. Seek it out, buy it on vinyl or on CD, sit down and have a listen, both at full volume and then with the headphones on. And then tell me if you've heard much that's better from the same period, and the results more than justify the amount of time and money that was lavished on it. I doubt you have, and I doubt you ever will. A true gem and one that deserves to be revealed to the world and not hidden.

Come and see the real thing, come and see the real thing, come and see...I am the real thing...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

One reason it probably didn't do well in the US is because they split the song over two sides of the single....nitwits.

spiros xenos said...

I think it's psychedelic kitsch. It's overdone, overcooked, over the top. That's its appeal. And that's why, like much psychedelic pop, to contemporary ears, it's a 'period piece' rather than an enduring psychedelic exemplar like, say, The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows.

Danny said...

Of course it's kitsch - Molly produced it. However it still holds up and it has one of those unique distinctions - no matter who tries to over it it sounds like crap. The original, in this case, will always be the best. As an example of Australian music it's head and shoulders above the pack for what was coming out of the mainstream at the time.

Anonymous said...

I like Midnight Oil's version much better. Hey Spiros! Ti Kanis! George "The Stooges".