Hidden 'Gems' On My MP3 Player: #6 - Jo Jo Zep



For my money this is hands down the best song to come out of Australia in 1982. The album it came from, Cha, is Joe Camilleri's masterpiece - he never did better either before or since (although many, including Joe, will probably argue that, but it's all in perspective isn't it?). I'll freely admit that I'm not a huge fan of Joe's work. I liked his work with the Black Sorrows and I didn't mind Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, but the truth is I'd be lost without this song. How good was it? Let me tell you two stories that sum it up for me.

In the mid 1990s I was in a second hand record store owned by a pal of mine when a lady walked in and asked the age old question. "I'm looking for a song," she said, "that has a guy and a girl singing, it came out in the '80s and that's all I know. It was really poppy and sounded great." My friend looked at me (it's like saying, I"m looking for a book I once read. It had words in it and was interesting.") and, more as a joke more than anything else, said, "Any ideas Danny?" For some reason a penny dropped and I said, "Taxi Mary by Jo Jo Zep." Much chuckles all round until we found a copy and put it on. The lady's eyes went as wide as dinner plates and she screamed, "THAT'S IT!!! THAT'S IT!!! How did you know?" "I guessed," I replied, "You see everyone loves that song." A few years later I was having a quiet night in with a girl I was dating at the time and a similar thing happened. We were watching some old Countdowns and talking music (along with chuckling over the fashions of the day) and she said that I'd never be able to guess her favourite Australian '80s song and I spoke the title to her amazement. You see Taxi Mary is that kind of a song.

I fell in love with this song as a kid and it's not been far from me ever since. As a youngster I adored the sound of Jane Clifton's voice and I was shattered, I tells ya, shattered, when I saw her on the show Prisoner. Never a conventional beauty, I realise now that she was probably uglied up for that show, but still, my heart was broken. I still have a mental image of the face behind the seductive voice on the song and nothing will take that away from me. The Cheese Factor in this video is more about some of the '80s fashions (big shirts, baggy pants) than anything else, indeed for some reason it's always reminded me of a Joe Jackson music video. Keep an eye out for Jane's killer mullet, Dodgy hair was something that the eternally bald headed Joe Camilleri never had to worry about.

If you've never heard this song, and I'd hazard a guess that not many people outside of Australia have, then treat yourself and tune into it. Crank it up and play it loud and if you're not dancing at the end of it and have a strong desire to play it again then check yourself into a hospital to get your legs looked at because they're probably already broken.


Anonymous said…
What a great forgotten classic!

At the time, I had no idea what Jo Jo Zep was singing about or what the title meant. All I knew was Jane Clifton's delightful half-spoken, half-sung back-up verses.

Indeed, I am sure many wanted to "squeeze her tight and call her honey"!

Prisoner fans might remember that Jane Clifton teamed up with 2 other Prisoner colleagues, Collette Mann (Doreen) and Betty Bobbit (Judy), to form the singing trio, "The Mini-Busettes".

This group was formed out of the boredom of promotional travel around Australia for Prisoner. On one particular tour, Jane, Collette and Betty jammed a few singing numbers on their mini-bus and discovered they meshed quite well together. They took the name "The Mini-Busettes" and did a few club tours.

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