Monday, November 6, 2017
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
It's Melbourne Cup Day on the 7th November and long after the media reports on the winners the media is full of pictures of the drunk incapable women usually in high heels making their pathetic way home or to the beleaguered emergency services. Now it does happen but why when reporting misbehaving cafe belles, high heels must always be included. After all it is not the shoes that are intoxicated but those who choose to wear them. The shoe police are quick to condemn the evil heel despite their being little or no independent evidence to support their claims.
In the absence of independent evidence, the health risks of wearing high heeled shoes per se is overstated. Complications arise from the limited research available because most studies involve static analysis; small study groups and research from sponsored sources. The body is kinetic (moving and three dimensional) and not static, hence other compensatory mechanisms may play a role which help prevent universal outcomes for everyone. Published studies tend to involve small numbers and are rarely repeated which makes it difficult to put much store by their findings. Finally, many studies are sponsored and or conducted by interest groups with a vested interest in the outcome. This makes it problematic to co-relate study findings and ill advised to extrapolate to the general population. This does not stop it from happening and no one can refute prolonged wearing of footwear unfit for purpose or ill-fitting will increase the risk of a critical incident but high heels are not necessary the primary cause of major injuries in the vast majority of cases.
Kinetic studies have shown elevated heels can increase mechanical advantage or push-off power (ankle plantarflexion) during walking. There also appear to be significant biomechanical compensations in the pelvic region to counter balance any critical alteration on the centre of gravity of the body caused by wearing high heels. The same mechanism is seen in pregnancy when there is a marked increase in body mass causing changes in deportment. Studies from Oxford University have shown no evidence to support cafe belle footwear (high heels) does lasting harm to the knees. When Harvard Medical School compared “knee torque" of high-heel wearers to low heel wearers they discovered the latter had greater torque across the knee. Heel height and knee torque alone however, does not account for added wear and tear (osteo-arthrosis) but all parties agreed, heel height may be one possible contributory factor in those people prone to osteoarthritis. Studies here in Australia, have shown close co-relation between heel height and balance in older populations and this may contribute to falls in some older adults. Other studies from Italy have suggested wearing higher heels can improve continence training by increasing pelvic floor tone. Now these are small studies and their findings lack the same legitimacy as those oft quoted research data to complement the argument high heels are detrimental. In truth the jury is still out.
Vested parties, in the name of the common good construct convincing narratives connected by either false causal links (alternative facts), or no a causal link whatsoever. Part of the allure is the information is presented by an 'expert' in a syntactic structure (radio interview or newspaper article). which implies strongly there should be meaning within, whether there is or not. The claims are further legitimised by common sense (i.e. personal bias), strengthened by compelling anecdotal evidence. Health foreboding based on no evidence is sadly typical of today’s ‘fake news.’ In the end, if unchallenged this passes for truth. If we examine the story in more detail we might see a moralistic condemnation of café belles i.e. Lady larrikins (ladettes) misbehaving in public.
Some historians believe the fashion for high heeled shoes arose as a modification of the chopine (the original platform). Shoe makers carved out the forefoot section of the platform and created a heel. This made the elevated shoe easier and safer to walk in. Elevated shoes had been known from early Hellenic times however this new phase of fashion was the first-time shoes were associated with the female gender. The true heel as we know it today was not introduced until the middle of the twentieth century when technology and design fashioned the stiletto heel.
In the sixteenth century, height challenged Catherine de Medici (1519 -1589) wore heeled mules when she married the King of France. She had moved from Florence, the centre of fashion and flair to Paris, and as was the custom took with her the costumes and customs of her heritage. Heeled shoes became an instant success and the fashion remained in vogue throughout her lifetime. Many experts believe this was the true beginning of fashion because it was the first time ever a costume lasted the life time of an individual. By the beginning of the 17th century, and after her death heeled shoes for ladies, became passé but high-heeled shoes became popular with men as well as a trademark of sex workers of the time. Men wore thigh length boots sometimes heavily decorated at the thigh and attached to the doublet by suspenders. Louis XIV (1638 -1715) became fanatical about them and banned anyone other than the privileged classes from wearing them on penalty of death. The Sun King was of short stature and may have preferred the borrowed height heels could give him. The heels of men's shoes often were painted with miniature rustic or romantic scenes. Different shapes were experimented with including hourglass heels. Also during this time men's shoes were ornamented with silver buckles. The Louis Heel was invented by Louis XV (1715-1774) was splayed at the base with a wasted section, which is still used in modern female fashion. He also introduced the white shoe to match his hose but red heels survived until 1760. The term "down on your heels" is thought to relate to the habit of the rich towering over the poor.
High heels for men were considered in vogue during the 17 & 18th century. Prior to the French Revolution (1789 until 1799,) contemporary medical reports described the changes in posture associated with wearing high heels. ‘Medical gaze' was firmly transfixed to women and ignored men completely. Women of distinction no longer wore heeled shoes preferring the new style of heel-less pumps and some authorities believe this was a veiled attempt to moralize by misogynists. This has recurred throughout modern history and often corresponds to women in the workforce. Heel heights lowered after the French Revolution and when the new socialist government ran short of money and men donated their silver shoe buckles to the cause, if they wanted to keep their head.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Kiwi: The Australian Brand That Brought a Shine to the World by Keith Dunstan (Allen & Unwin) is a new book which details the history of Kiwi boot polish. The son of a Scottish immigrant, William Ramsay, , started the Melbourne company in the early part of the 20th century. He named the product after his wife, “Kiwi” Annie, a New Zealander, and the recipe became a better-kept secret than the atom bomb. In 1914, the product was so popular the company issued a product movie featuring Diggers and boot boys. Despite fierce competition boot polish became synonymous with the name Kiwi.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Australian, Rodney Ansell died in 1999. To many his name means very little but the 44-year-old bushman was the inspiration for Paul Hogan's famous character, Mick Dundee. Tragically the Territorian met his maker in much and the same way as he lived his life, i.e. on the edge and he was killed during a shoot-out with Darwin police. Like Ned Kelly, the larrikin was part of Australian folklore but where did the term Larrikin, originate from.
The origins of the word larrikin remain unclear but many etymologists believe it came from a mispronunciation of "larking", as in ‘larking around ‘. It was first used in Australia in 1870, and referred to a group of wild, adolescents, from inner urban areas of Melbourne. It took another ten years before the term larrikin was officially used in police records. Defined as anti-authoritarian, the larrikins were compared to the London "Loafers"; New York "Hoodlums” and San Francisco "Corner Boys".
A characteristic of the youth culture was their dress. Described by the press in 1870 as "youths with a hang dog look and careless in attire" they were the great grandfather of juvenile delinquents. Contrary to their contemporary put down the original larrikin dressed in quite spectacular style. They would appear in the street wearing long frock coats made from dark or black material. The jackets were tailored with tight waists and velvet collars. Quite Spanish in style, the long fingertip jacket was similar in cut to Edwardian drapes, later adopted in the 1950s by the UK Teddy boys. Trousers were either bell bottomed or cut very tightly. The larrikin wore either a slouch or small round (like a bowler) hat which had to be black. To complete the outfit, they wore high heeled boots with extremely pointed toes. Loud silk ties and jaunty waistcoats would complement their sumptuous attire.
Larrikins were usually accompanied by young female companions called Cafe Belles. The girls were gaudily dressed to attract attention and in public displayed much irreverence by being loud (unlady-like) and smoking (usually associated with prostitutes). Larrikins were idle lads who often became involved in petty street crime much in the same way today's street kids can drift into crime by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is no historic evidence larrikins were anything other than "naerdae wells" or “jack the lads". Whereas their North American counterparts i.e. Hoodlums and Bowery Boys (Soaplocks) eventually became the crime families we now recognise today as the Cosa Nostra (or Mafia).
The terms Bodgies and widgies were used to describe the youths of the fifties in Australia. Bodgies were the boys and the girls were known as Widgies. Again the origins of the terms remain unclear but the behaviour and clothing styles bare remarkable similarities to Larrikins and cafe belles albeit they were parted by almost a century.
Bellanta M (2012) Larrikins: A History St Lucia, University of Queensland Press
Manning A.E. (1958) The Bodgie: A Study in Abnormal Psychology A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington.
It was well documented among the penal colony population that boots and shoes wore out quickly due to the harsh conditions. From 1790 convict shoemakers made large quantities of footwear from imported leathers. Problems of mass production were hampered because of the lack of raw materials. Local cattle hides were not strong enough for soling, although kangaroo skins were successfully treated for uppers in 1805. Australian convicts were rarely issued socks and their prison issue shoes were straight lasted. Part of their penance was having to break in their shoes.
Convicts who were by trade shoe makers (Snobs) could not keep up with the demand and made shoes for private commission as well as for fellow inmates. Many continued in their trade once released from prison and quickly established themselves as saddlers and leather tradesmen. In the 1828 census the outback had one shoemaker for every 236 inhabitants. Western Australia became a penal colony much later and received a small numbers of juvenile offenders from 1842. It was not formally constituted as a penal colony until 1849.
Convicts were taught to make boots and shoes in the West Australian prisons with many taking their trade to the towns and bush on release. Convict transportation to WA stopped in 1868.
At first Australian made shoe were expensive and most settlers continued to send to England for their shoes well into the 1830s. A decade later, Australian shoe making had improved and outback boot makers were making quality hard wearing boots for rural Australians.
It was common practice among the early Scots and Irish immigrants to go bare foot; this was by choice and not borne through adversity. However, by the 1830s it had become a mark of deprivation in the eastern colonies to be without footwear. Settlers in the more tropical climates started to dress for the conditions and men in Brisbane abandoned shoes for sandals and the more middle class wore plaited leather shoes for ventilation. The absence of shoe makers in Perth Western Australia in the early 19th century is apparent by this letter sent to England from a lady in Perth, Western Australia (1830):
“many respectable females with their children are going - barefoot - not a shoe maker can be got to work."
Absence of shoemakers and money to buy shoes meant many Australians went barefoot. Shoe mending (cobbling) fell mainly on women in Australian towns and country areas.
New comers to the colonies were often met with a stare because they sported the latest European fashions. In the eighteenth century Top boots were all the rage in London but had little practical use in Australia. New arrivals immediately acquired the bush dress of rough clothes and equivalent manners. New comers to the colonies were often met with a stare and cries of derision because they sported the latest European fashions. In the eighteenth century Top boots were all the rage in London but had little practical use in Australia. New arrivals immediately acquired the bush dress of rough clothes and equivalent manners.
The clothes worn by working people were usually ready made in heavier materials with women's clothes made of softer fabrics. Rural dress was more practical and governed by shortages. Australian men traditionally wore something special on Sundays. Children wore cast offs or adult style clothes made to smaller sizes. The working class bought their shoes at the slop shops which catered for the cheap and cheerful.
Towards the end of the 19th century, middle-class Australian women became preoccupied with fashion and the new urban bourgeois shopped at the new stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. They employed agents in Europe and Britain to conduct their import business.
John Lobb trained as a bootmaker in London before moving to Australia to try his luck in the goldfields. Whilst he never found fortune in gold he did strike on the idea of making hollow heeled boots for prospectors to hide their gold. The idea caught on and Lobb set himself up in business in Sydney in 1858. When the Great Exhibition came along in 1862 he sent a pair of his boots along and won a gold medal for their quality. Twelve months later he sent a pair of his riding boots to the Prince of Wales and was awarded a Royal Warrant. He returned to London and established a business " John Lobb, Bootmaker" which continues to trade as the world's most famous bespoke shoemaking establishment.
Besides European influences the effect of American styles on colonial woman's fashion was profound. None more so than the high quality shoes available around about 1890. By 1894 the American shoes had replaced British footwear in the Australian Market. The mass production stateside made them cheaper but also the range of styles and leathers were much bigger. There was an American Shoe Company in George Street Sydney selling modish forms of footwear.
Australian footwear industry in the mid nineteenth century faced similar problems to clothing manufacturing. Colonial made boots and shoes commanded the local market in New South Wales from 1840-1852. The period also recorded high productivity in South Australia and shoemakers were able to provide much of the footwear for the local market. Adelaide had four tanneries in full production in 1843, and colonial articles were reputedly preferred to import ones.
The British manufacturers made a deliberate attempt to capture Australian trade by flooding the market. Low manufacturing costs and mechanisation meant the UK could produce footwear at low prices even with high transport costs. These imported shoes were not always suited to the climate. Often the leather would become mildewed on the outward journey. Colonial made boots and shoes commanded the local market in New South Wales from 1840-1852. The period also recorded high productivity in South Australia and shoemakers were able to provide much of the footwear for the local market. Adelaide had four tanneries in full production in 1843.
Local manufactures alleged the colonial boots were longer lasting. An Australian made working boot would last on average one calendar month whereas the English slops were doomed by two to three weeks. Australian made footwear was more expensive than the cheaper imports. By the end of the 1850s prices women's boots cost between 3/6 to 7/- for British boots; whereas the colonial made equivalent cost 12/6. The decade between 1850 & 1860 saw a decline in the footwear industry in New South Wales due to high wage claims caused by the gold rush. Boot makers' wages had doubled between 1840 and 1860. By 1870 Sydney boot makers were producing 15,000 pairs of boots each week.
Once mechanisation was established bootmakers could cater for the neglected market of children's shoes (although Clarks of England had been exporting children’s shoes to Australia since 1842). Shoes were made for men and children rather than women. Boot and shoemaking was one of the most successful of the garment industries because the product was produced to be profitable, hard wearing and practical items. By 1890s the Melbourne manufacturers had converted to a modern system of mechanisation. Concentration of practical footwear meant the fashionable imports remained popular with consumers.
A home grown fashion industry tried to establish itself and a Melbourne firm responded by producing shoes made from kangaroo skins. The Kangaratta was popular partly because kangaroo skin looks like superior glace kid. Unfortunately, by the mid-1890s the US had captured the Australian market.
In 1858 new technologies had been introduced in the States which completely revolutionized the manufacture of mass produced boots and shoes. At first these were poor quality and scarcely lasted more than 12 days but eventually quality improved. American manufacturers over produced for their domestic market and became a major exporter during the late 19th and early 20th century. A spike came with the Gold Rushes (US 1848- 1855; and Aus 1850s - 1890s). During this time the population of Australia quadrupled and the Australian market continued to be flooded with cheap US imports. Australian manufacturers found it difficult to compete until tariffs were introduced then they started producing their own footwear. The effect of American styles on colonial woman's fashion was profound and by 1894 the American shoes had replaced British footwear in the Australian Market.
Making shoes is a complex business involving many subsidiaries and footwear operations sprung up in many metropolitan areas across Australia including: Ballarat, Geelong, Goulburn, Hobart, Perth and Adelaide. By the beginning of the 20th century good quality leather was abundant and many new Australian companies started making quality boots for farmers. The onset of World War, meant Australian boot makers went into war production mode, manufacturing footwear for the Australian military. Many of these companies have survived producing quality footwear for mountaineering and industrial needs. The First World War saw a massive demand for Australian footwear and by the 20s there were large Australian footwear companies with many hundreds of employees.
During the Depression these firms went to the wall and in their wake came smaller boutique companies who thrived due to demand of an increasing population and the Second World War. By the 60s the entire Australian economy was expanding, fuelled by large scale immigration and technical and scientific innovation, as well as the increasing availability of raw materials after protracted wartime shortages. As the 80s and 90s approached there was a marked decline in Australian produced footwear and more dependency on imports from Asia. Currently local manufacturers produce about 12% of the footwear purchased in Australia with much of the production now done off shore.
Maynard M 1994 Fashioned from Penury: dress as cultural practice in colonial Australia Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Michell L 1997 Stepping out: three centuries of shoes Sydney: Powerhouse Publishing
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Sunday, May 7, 2017
The term quack or quackery means fraudulent or ignorant medical practices. A quack is a "fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill" or "a person who pretends, professionally or publicly, to have skill, knowledge, or qualifications he or she does not possess i.e. a charlatan". The term quack is a clipped form of the archaic term quacksalver, (Dutch: quacksalver a "hawker of salve") and in the Middle Ages, quack meant "shouting" as the quacksalvers sold their wares on the street shouting in a loud voice. During the Middle Ages, the combination of plagues and syphilis left the orthodox medicine in the absence of antibiotics, unable to cope with painful skin sores. Things were dire and a blind eye was turned to charlatans and quacks purveying all manner of so called remedies, most of which had little or no effect or worse caused further complications. Among the popular salves and quack cures was one which survived to this day i.e. the corn cure. By the middle of the nineteenth century quack medicine had been banned in France and Germany causing many purveyors of life’s elixir to spread throughout Europe and the colonies. In Australia at this time it was unclear who could practice medicine and many quacks roamed the country making the best of the opportunity. Not all were scoundrels but many were.
Lying and extravagant claims in newspaper advertisements were all accepted norms in these days and reflected an era when free enterprise was the name of the game. Victorians were agog with electricity and all manner of therapeutic appliances that plugged into the electricity grid were for sale. A physiotherapist’s delight. From corsets to belts all were electrified and claims of curing weak backs, functional irregularities, hysteria, kidney disorders and rheumatism would put today’s infomercials to shame. Most of course did not work and many of the so-called inventors spent long years doing vertical sun tan for their frauds and scams. Some however survived and became legitimised.
Pall Mall Electric Association was an Australian company which advertised extremely practical products such electrical hairbrushes, toothbrushes and electric insoles. All had one thing in common; they were all mercifully harmless which is perhaps not what might be said about the advertising copy which appeared throughout Australian newspapers in the 1880s.
Nothing to do with the old plates of meat (Rhyming slang for feet) but a fellow by the name of Doctor Richard Foot came in Sydney in about 1860, his motto was “Vitality force” and was the Viagra of the time. At seventeen shillings and sixpence Doctor Foot would supply you with his voltaic appliance for coping with seminal weakness.
In Melbourne he introduced his Brown Sequard or monkey gland injections. Foot was a professional showman and held regular seminars to the demonstrate his products, throughout Australia, he then moved to New Zealand, returned briefly to Sydney before setting himself up in South Africa as Professor Foot. His fortunes were less well starred there and eventually he was exposed for contravening the Medical and Pharmacy Act.
The Victorians were also fascinated magnetism and any manner of magical creams and potions. Dr Sheldon’s Magnetic Liniment was popular and claimed to cure rheumatism, backache, toothache, neuralgia, sore throat, corns and cuts and bruises, according to the newspaper adverts. Water (hydropathic) became a treatment in itself, whether recommended to drink in copious quantities or just bathe in it, great efficacious benefits would accrue. Antiseptic footbaths were recommended for ailments causing flatulence, bowels dysfunction, lungs and headaches.
Perhaps the greatest hydro therapist of the day was Father Sebastian Kneipp. from Worishofen in Bavaria, the parish priest had no medical training but was interested in water cures. He was used herbal remedies and was reat believer in walking barefoot for good health. So popular was his hydrotherapy Australian doctors began using it.
Phillips P 1984 Kill or cure: Lotions, potions, characters and quacks of early Australia Richmond: Greenhouse Publishing
Friday, May 5, 2017
Robert Stigwood was born in 1934 in Adelaide, South Australia and was educated at Sacred Heart College. He began his career as a copywriter for a local advertising agency but in 1955, aged 21 he moved to England. At first he took odd jobs including working as an assistant in institution for "teenage boys" in East Anglia. There he became friends with Stephen Komlosy and they decided to start a small theatrical agency. One of their first clients was a handsome young actor called John Leyton. Stigwood spotted his potential as a pop singer but after Leyton had been turned down by a number of recording companies, Stigwood took him to meet Joe Meek. Meek was an independent record producer who had his own small recording and company, RGM Sound Ltd. He used a small roster of artists and wrote, produced and recorded their works before offering the completed tape to established record companies to manufacture and distribute. Leyton’s first couple of singles, a cover of ‘Tell Laura I love her’; and ‘Girl on the Floor Above’ were released in 1960 but met with no interest.
As John Leyton’s agent, Stigwood managed to get him cast in the role of a pop star, Johnny St. Cyr ("sincere") in a new TV soap called, Harper's West One. The role called for Leyton’s character to perform a song on the show. The single, ‘Johnny Remember me’ became an instant Number One hit in the UK.
Encouraged by initial success Stigwood became more involved in record production. Other artists like Mike Sarne, and Mike Berry soon joined the Stigwood stables.
The Stigwood/Meek success set a new pattern for the industry and within a couple of years over half the hits in the UK were independent productions. Despite this success Robert Stigwood became increasingly dissatisfied with Joe Meek's erratic behaviour. Eventually they parted company and Stigwood took on the role of record producer and made a deal with Sir Joseph Lockwood, (managing director of EMI) in 1961. Now agent, manager and independent producer, he continued to thrive as a music publisher and pop concert promoter. Keen to encourage greater success for his UK acts, the entrepreneur reversed the normal process for UK acts by regularly visiting America to acquire potential songs to rush release UK covers before the originals hit the American charts. His business rapidly expanded and Stigwood bathed in excess with success. His management style was abrupt and was not always popular. By the mid-60s his business was in serious financial trouble although Stigwood managed to avoid complete disaster he went bankrupt but kept his creditors at bay as he re-established himself. Within two years, he was back on top. The music business is aggressive and highly competitive and a common practice for agents then, was to try and ‘pouch’ acts from other agencies. This often met with violent repercussions and it is alleged, Don Arden reacted menacingly to Stigwood when he made advances to The Small Faces to switch to his agency.
Stigwood took on a new business partner, David Shaw, to strengthen his financial position. The Robert Stigwood Agency (RSA) remained intact as he worked to rebuild his career as a manager and independent producer. In 1966, Robert Stigwood became, The Who's booking agent and eventually lured the band to join his Reaction Records and record, "Substitute".
Cream, consisting of Eric Clapton (John Mayall's Bluesbreakers), bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker (The Graham Bond Organisation) were also an aspiring act in the UK but the trio had never appeared in the US. Stigwood arranged for them to debut at a 9-day gig in New York for the Who in 1967.
To finance this venture he released capital by moving his recording activities to Polydor Records in a lucrative deal. The band went on to record at Atlantic Records with producer-engineer Tom Dowd. In the same year the Australian entrepreneur signed a career-making deal with his friend and colleague Brian Epstein to merge their two companies. Brian Epstein remained manager of The Beatles but Stigwood was now in control of most of NEMS other acts and soon the friends found themselves at odds. The move effectively placed Stigwood at the pinnacle of the British pop industry. Why Epstein decided to merge with Stigwood remains uncertain and it was generally considered an un popular decision as Stigwood had a reputation of being a ruthless and a cavalier style that upset many people. Epstein would soon regret the partnership. The next big break came only weeks after the merger with the arrival of The Bee Gees. Straight from Australia with hopes of making it in the UK, Stigwood signed them to a five-year deal while still at NEMS. Later when he left the company he took their contract with him and signed them to Polydor. Their first single flopped despite heavy hype, but undeterred, and with NEMS' resources behind him, he embarked on a concerted campaign to break the Bee Gees in the UK. Their second single, New York Mining Disaster 1941, was a major UK hit and was followed by Massachusetts, which went Top 5 in both England and the USA.
After the death of Brian Epstein. Robert Stigwood left NEMS to form his own company, The Robert Stigwood Organisation. By the end of the sixties, Stigwood was enjoying huge success with his music ventures. Cream and The Bee Gees were the biggest attractions in the world and Stigwood took production credits on their early works. He moved into theatre production in 1968 after he saw the Broadway production of Hair. He decided to stage it in London and it was a huge success and followed this with a series of other successful productions: Oh! Calcutta!, The Dirtiest Show in Town, Pippin, Sweeney Todd, Sing a Rude Song, John, Paul, Ringo and Bert, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar.
By the beginning of the 70s Stigwood's companies had expanded into almost every field of entertainment, including both film and TV production. Stigwood had purchased a controlling interest in Associated London Scripts, an independent writers' agency co-founded in the 1950s by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, which subsequently developed the hit series All in the Family and Sanford and Son in the USA, which were adapted from the popular British TV shows Til Death Us Do Part and Steptoe and Son.
In 1973 Stigwood moved into film and produced Jesus Christ Superstar as a motion picture in association with its director, Norman Jewison.
He followed this with the acclaimed film version of The Who's Tommy, directed by Ken Russell.
RSO Films then produced Saturday Night Fever with a sound track by the Bee Gees. This became the largest-selling soundtrack album ever released, and one of the biggest-selling albums in recording history.
Stigwood followed this with another huge success, Grease, which became one of the most successful film musicals ever released.
His company produced the cult 'gangster' movie for kids, Bugsy Malone, as well as Peter Weir's Gallipoli and Evita, starring Madonna.
Not all the musical movies were a great success and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees, bombed at the box office.
He has continued with mixed fortunes in the film industry. By the mid-80s, RSO had shuttered and its catalogue was sold off. RSO teamed up with Bob Banner Associates in 1975 to produce a stunt game show, Almost Anything Goes (ABC) which lasted four seasons.
He became more active in the second half of the 1990s, producing the long-awaited film version of another Lloyd Webber/Rice concept album-turned-stage musical, Evita (1996), and being involved with the stage version of Saturday Night Fever (1999).
Worth a listen
Johnny Remember me (1961 )
I’m a boy (1966)
Happy Jack (1966)
Pictures of Lily (1966)
I can see for miles (1967)
Magic Bus (1968)
Pinball Wizzard (1969)
Strange Brew (1967)
Sunshine of your love (1968)
White Room (1968)
The Bee Gees
New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)
Jive talkin’ (1975)
Styin’ Alive (1977)
Night Fever (1978)
Thursday, May 4, 2017
The earliest printed reference to “Happy as Larry” (meaning extremely happy or content) is from New Zealand writer G. L. Meredith, dating from around 1875:
"We would be as happy as Larry if it were not for the rats".
When Australian middleweight boxer, Larry (Laurence) Foley (1847 - 1917) retired unbeaten at 32 (1879) , he collected a purse of £1,000 for his final fight. A newspaper article in New Zealand carried the headline “Happy As Larry,” to describe the father of Australian boxing. The phrase slipped into common lexicon thereafter and a reference can be found in Tom Collins’ (the pen name of the popular Australian writer Joseph Furphy), Barrier Truth, 1903:
"Now that the adventure was drawing to an end, I found a peace of mind that all the old fogies on the river couldn't disturb. I was as happy as Larry."
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
As a new Australian I thought it would be fun to research the origins of Australian English. Starting with the convicts my study took me through the various developments of the Big Brown Land and the myriad of influence which made up the lexicon of Australia. The works were originally part of a series of radio broadcasts which I compiled into a blog and enhanced with YouTube clips. I do hope you enjoy it.
As a new Australian I thought it would be fun to research the origins of Australian English. Starting with the convicts my study took me through the various developments of the Big Brown Land and the myriad of influence which made up the lexicon of Australia. The works were originally part of a series of radio broadcasts which I compiled into a blog and enhanced with YouTube clips. I do hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
The Australian media magnets, that’s the Paker, Murdoch, and Fairfax families (now Fairfax Media Limited), dominate global communication and have done so for several decades. Their combined interests in radio, film, television, satellite television, telecommunications and newspapers not to mention the internet has everyone from Palestine to Paris; from Singapore to Seattle aware of what’s happening in Ramsey Street (Neighbours) or and Wentworth Detention Centre (Prisoner) long after home based Aussie fans may have filed it away as been there and done that.
Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch were both very much Ockers and have made no attempt to disguise their Aussie true blue background regardless of how rich and powerful they have became. Not confined to the big brown land the Australian media magnets have taken the Australian life style and flaunted everywhere and on every level of communication suffice everyone now talks Australian or at least is familiar with Aussie customs and vernacular which is now regarded as modern living and modern talking. Buying and selling as they did much of the TV culture of Australia gradually started to appear overseas. From the 80s onwards no longer was the Chips O’ Rafferty version of Australiana taken as a stereotype when the impact of Austalian Soap Operas shaped global culture.
Soap Operas started on US radio in the thirties and were short ongoing episodic dramas, broadcast during daytime slots and principally directed at female audiences. The original kitchen sink broadcasts were sponsored by soap companies like Colgate Palmolive and became known affectionately as soaps. The same was applied to television and soaps are now the most-watched genre of television program with a conservative estimated two billion viewers worldwide. No surprise then when the Australian mogels had space to fill on their television stations they chose Australian soaps. The Australian television industry of the 60s and 70s became very adept at making programs (for home consumption) on the cheap. Whilst many remain memorable by comparison to modern standards they were pretty awful but that did not stop the Australian entertainment industry from becoming most adept at working to a very high standard within a limited budget. All this proved invaluable as Australian technicians, actors and writers became an integral part of the US Entertainment business and of course with the Australian moguls taking greater control of world media then the Australian Front was complete.
Australian soap operas focus on everyday characters and situations, set in working class environments. Most plots explore real life storylines often puling no punches but with romance never far away and always tinted with a comic element. Experts believe the strength of Aussie soaps lie in the portrayal of family relations and suburban reality with drama that remains recognisable and relevant. This contrasts starkly with UK soaps which generally tend to be serious and humourless; US soaps by contrast glorify glamor. The first Australian TV series to make an international impact was The Sullivans in the mid-80s. Not only was it a big hit in the UK it became huge in Gibraltar.
Prisoner came later then Sons and Daughters followed.
Prisoner continues to have a massive worldwide audience with cult following in Sweden. It became the first Australian soap to be screened on late night TV in the UK and the US and has subsequently achieved enduring success with fans snapping up books, plays and even a musical.
All of this was dwarfed by the enormous success of Neighbours which is broadcast in Belgium, France (titled Les Voisins), Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, Barbados, Catalonia, Galacia, Iceland, Cyprus, Canada, US, and Israel.
Almost as successful was Home and Away (for a teenage demographic) which was distributed worldwide.
Now it is very common to find Australian colloquialisms like, "no worries" in common use in American and UK lexicons. According to linguistic experts Australians now provide more new words to the American lexicon than any other country in the world. I suppose we are just getting our own back for earlier intrusions into Australian English. Of course something we may not recognise is when it comes back at us (rather like a boomerang). If we were in Swahili just now and I said ‘Hakuna matata’ which literally means "There are no worries". In 1994 the American animated movie The Lion King brought the phrase international recognition, featuring it prominently in the plot and devoting a song to in the movie.
So in conclusion I would have to agree with Oscar Wilde when he said US and the UK were “Two nations divided by a common language,” but I am proud to say they are now connected because we all talk Australian.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Strine (Australian) was started as a spoof byAlastair Ardoch Morrison but soon grew to what we now know and love as talking Australian. Under the pen name Afferback Lauder (Alphabetical Order), and illustrated by Morrison’s alter ego, (Al Terego), Professor of Strine at the University of Sinny authored several books in the 60s including Lets Stalk Strine (1965), Nose Tone Unturned (1966), Fraffly Well Spoken (1968), and Fraffly Suite (1969).
The fundamental aspect of the joke was it was Australian words written phonetically and pronounced as they sounded. For example:
"Spewffle climber treely" - It's a beautiful climate, really
"Emma chisit" - How much is it?
"Egg nishner" - air-conditioner
"yerron yerrone" – you are on your own
"snow ewe smite" – its no use mate
‘Strine’ became a form of creole language (or hybrid language) with its own lexicon, syntax of course littered with idioms, similes, invented words and slang. Strine matches perfectly with the Australian humour and has kept international audiences laughing from Barry McKenzie to Kath and Kim.
One of the greatest exponents of Strine was the former PM Paul Keating. His vivid imagination, dry wit and colourful command of the language made him a deadly adversary as well as a joy to hear. His genius was exposing inconsistencies in others and seldom did he miss the opportunity to score points using Strine. This gained him the title the Lizard of Oz. Who could forget classics like. "I was nearly chloroformed by the performance of the Honourable Member,” and "The Opposition crowd could not raffle a chook in a pub." He described the efforts of others as……like being flogged with a warm lettuce leaf….” And the classic put down. "I suppose that the Honourable Gentleman's hair, like his intellect, will recede into the darkness." Almost Churchillesque in his oratory command but done distinctly with tongue in cheek and as dry as a Pomme’s towel (according to Cunard the English immigrants only had a bath once per month).
Australian humour is anti-authoritarian, self-mocking, ironic and full of extremes. We like to look for the lighter side but have the ability to find humour even in the darkest of circumstance. The same trait is found in Celtic humour and this it has been suggested was a coping mechanism for a brutal past.
In 1903 Joseph Furphy wrote Such is Life describing his works as ‘a tale told by a vulgarian, full of slang and blanky (swearwords), signifying nothing' The novel consisted of a series of comic and tragic variations based on Furphy's own life as a failed selector, a bullock driver ruined by drought and a foundry worker. The same comic larrikin tradition is evidenced today throughout the works of Kathy Lette, Clive James, Tim Winton and poems of Les Murray.
Australian humour is infectious and whether its films like Crocodile Dundee (1986), Strictly Ballroom (1993), Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and The Castle (1997) or television sitcoms like Mother and Son, Kath and Kim, the Paul Hogan Show, Roy and HG, and Dame Edna the world is entertained with its mirth and merriment laughing with Australians and not at them.
The popularity of Australian personalities in the film and entertainment industry over many years has also led, Barry Humphries (in all his persona), Paul Hogan and probably the best known Australian on the planet, the late Steve Irwin to becoming household names from Jindabyne to Jerusalem; and Kirribilli to Kilmarnock.
It was the television coverage of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 that introduced Australians and Australian humour to a global audience. Considered to be one if not the best Olympics ever many of the US commentators were stoked at the thought of talking Australian.
Of course, the best is left for home consumption. The late, John Clarke (New Zealander) and Bryan Dawe were by far the best satirists on Australian television
Sunday, April 30, 2017
By the 1960s Australians had embraced town living and for the affluent middle class leisure was an integral part of their life style. The beach was regarded as an Australian treasure and advertisers wasted no time emphasising the suntanned, healthy, handsome beauties you might find there. Life was for the living or so the advertising copy went and blue skies, sunshine and sandy beaches were emblems of the good life in the Lucky Country.
In truth despite being the biggest island in the world where some of the best beaches can be found, Australia was then, and now a nation of people who mostly can’t swim. The nasty stingy things and fish that bite kept most people out of the water with sea swimming banned during daylight hours. So back in the 19th century the lure of the waves attracted only dare devil types who wanted to flaunt the rules and play in the waves. By 1903 beach bathing became legal and after numerous accidental drowning the new beach savers clubs were formed. Wave larrikins and life savers became sworn enemies.
Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku came to Australia in 1914 and brought with him his long surf board. His magnificence on the waves captured the imagination of the beach crowd who naturally wanted to acquire the same skills. Who could afford to spend time perfecting surfing were the well off and the beach culture then was a middle class preoccupation.
The first Australian (long) board riding champion was Claude West (1924), a few years later Australian surfers participated in the 1939 Pacific Games in Hawaii. The sport got a real injection when in the mid-fifties the US Lifeguard team touring Australia demonstrated smaller surfboards which allowed surfers to turn and manoeuvre. Not long after an Australian invented the roof rack. Surfing became a cult and like Rock’n’Roll, everything from the US (the epi-enter of surfing) was copied exactly.
Surfing had its own codes and the best surfers got the best beaches and the best girls (beach bunnies/babes or surfie chicks). The best beaches were often near or adjacent to the better living areas and these were jealously guarded (and still are). Surfing became a male preserve and unwanted visitors to prime surfing areas (cockroaches) were frequently threatened with physical violence. The new Rockers (mainly working-class kids) took a serious dislike to surfers and the ensuing rumbles in the sand were legend.
Somewhere along the line a group of entrepreneurial Australian surfers began backyard businesses making wetsuits, surf gear and board shorts. Soon Australian cottage industries like Quicksilver (1969), Billabong (1973), and Rip Curl had become household names quoted on the stock market.
A couple of jackeroos from Victoria and working here in WA crafted a pair of makeshift sheepskin boots with linoleum soles and used them to keep the feet warm on cold mornings. Slowly but surely UGG Boots became the footwear of choice across the surf crowd in the Big Brown land. They were taken to the US and became a worldwide sensation.
Australian surf culture had its own surf music with the best known example The Atlantics’ Bombora (1963).
Not only that it had its own dance craze called the Stomp.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
The early 70s (1970 to 1975) was a fertile period in Australian Rock history with veteran rockers and new performers joining in new formations to develop a more mature, progressive and distinctively Australian rock style. Some acts were successful within Australia and others with considerable international success. Australian music is often distinguished from the rock styles of other nations by its focus on melody and complex rhythms usually accompanied with humorous lyrics which were dry and often self-deprecating. Skyhooks were the first to write songs in Australia, by Australians, about Australia, and make money doing it. The Melbourne band formed in 1973 and considered themselves counter to glam rock. Skyhooks were ostensibly pre-punk rockers that revelled in camp costumes, lyrics, and on-stage activities that would shock. More importantly lyrist, Greg Macainsh wrote commercial songs about contemporary young Australians. Their first album, Living in the Seventies, rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for so long it became the bestselling Australian album up until that time. This was despite seven of the ten album tracks were banned by Australian commercial radio. Compare the glam rock of Skyhooks to the UK's Sweet.
Until 1975, all commercial pop radio in Australia was broadcast on the AM band, in mono. Unless pop songs were three minutes long and contained no contentious or suggestive lyrics then they were just ignored and that meant many talented acts went unnoticed. The most commercially successful new wave band was Sydney’s Sherbet (a.k.a. The Sherbs and Highway) who formed in 1969. They were the first Australian band to reach $1M in record sales and scored a couple of Australian number ones. They started as a soul band doing Motown covers before Daryl Braithwaite joined them in 1970. After they won Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds in 1971 and a few line-up changes, Sherbet became an upfront pop band who wrote many of their hits and toured Australia often to the remotest regions. They had one international hit “Hozwat” in 1976 but in 1975 their first Australian hit was ‘Summer love’ when they were an Australian teen sensation.
Meanwhile elsewhere the world had gone mad for five lads dressed in plaid.
By the seventies national popularity was encouraged through of a variety of means. The traditional dance hall and disco were dead and much more reliance was placed upon the media to convey popular music. Changes to broadcasting meant the introduction of Double Jay to FM radio. The Go-set magazine had been introduced in 1966 as the first Australian Rock Magazine.
Founded in Melbourne by a couple of university students and aimed at a teenage audience and was soon distributed to other states. A popular feature was a centre page spread called The Scene which featured a ‘what’s on,’ this became compulsive reading for acts and their fans alike.
Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum wrote a weekly column for Go-Set until its demise in 1974. The introduction of colour television and Countdown had a phenomenal effect, gaining a huge audience which soon exerted a strong influence on radio programmers, because it was broadcast nationwide on Australia's government-owned broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Countdown was certainly influential in the rise of many Australian acts including Little River Band. Little River Band was formed in 1975 in Melbourne, Australia. The first formation of the band included Glenn Shorrock, lead vocals, Beeb Birtles, guitar and vocals, Graeham Goble, guitar and vocals, Derek Pellicci, drums, Roger McLachlan, bass, Rick Formosa, lead guitar. The band were made up of set consummate musicians with a definite soul background and started to produce some funky music. By comparison the Average White Band was Scottish and came out with similar music to Little River Band both could easily have been mistaken for USA bands. Make up your own mind as we play Little River Band, Average White Band with Steely Dan.
The Sunbury music festival which started in 1972 gave rise to a newer generation of tough, uncompromising, adult-oriented rock bands which was continued in the popular in the pub circuit, which followed in the latter part of the decade.
Festivals meant big sound bands could get rocking and there was no bigger band than ACDC. They were formed in 1973 by guitarist, Malcolm Young (Velvet Underground) after his band collapsed. He joined forces with his younger brother Angus (lead guitarist), and Dave Evans (singer), and they played around Sydney. They recorded “Can I sit next to you” which was produced by Harry Vanda (Easybeats) and older brother George Young (Easybeats) but it failed to raise much interest.
Phil Rudd (Coloured Balls) and Mark Evans (bass) joined the group when they moved to Melbourne. Bon Scott (Fraternity and The Valentines) was the drummer and driver and had much more experience in the business than the rest of the lads. When Dave took stage fright, Bon stepped in as lead singer, and when Dave left the band in 1977, Cliff Williams took his place. Bon Scott eventually took over and they were on their way to the top.
When Scott died in 1980 he was replaced by front man Brian Johnson (Geordie) and ACDC went on to became arguably the greatest and certainly the more enduring Rock'n'Roll band in the world.