When I meet people who think music is just music,
I know that they never have found something in music
like when I found Redgum.
This effect this band had on me when I discovered them
just after finishing high school was electric.
They led me into folk music and into a political understanding,
which in turn led me into many different places.
Their do it yourself type music transcended the punk ethos
which also was happening round the same time.
When I formed a band at 18/19 Redgum songs featured strongly,
they fitted in with everything else, they had their finger on the
pulse of this nation like no other.
The founding members John Schuman, Michael Atkinson and
Vertiy Truman met at a politics and the arts course in Adelaide
in 1975, this their first album was released in 1978.
By 1983 when they released their 4th album, they
were one of the biggest crowd pulling acts in Australia.
It took the song " I was only 19" to propel Redgum into the
mainstream, where they lasted for a couple more albums
before spitting in 1987.
If you haven't heard the early Redgum, its a completely
different band to the more polished act of later years.
I'm going to post right through this bands legacy over time,
so I'm starting at the beginning.
This album is a joy, a surprise best seller for Larrikin Records
that received airplay on most of the non commercial stations
round the country. I heard them on 4zzz of course,
its Johns vocals that grab you first. Rough and quintessentially
Australian. The music for the most part is folksy and acoustic,
but they add drums and bass for two tracks at the end,
turning into some kind of folk punk band.
The lyrics are this bands greatest strength, from the
very funny "One more boring night in Adelaide"
and" Serving USA",the insightful "Peter the cabby",
Or" Hmas Australia",the sad but beautiful "Killing Floor",
To the fury of "Letter to BJ", This is a fine album.
The BJ in Letter to Bj Is Joh Bjelke-Petersen the
Premier of Queensland(the cartoon behind my header
is joh) who ruled Queensland with a strong fist, a
corrupt police force and a electoral Gerrymander
which kept him in power from 1968 to 1987.
The song is a letter because being based in Adelaide
Redgum wanted to express how they felt despite
Letter to BJ - Redgum
Can you hear me Bjelke-Petersen
From your leather padded chair?
There's a tide outside your door Steadily rising
It's a simple case of freedom
And a lot of us who care
And if demonstrations aren't enough
Well I hope you've said your prayers
It seems this time you've gone too far
Next you'll call the troopers in
And you can put my dossier
In the glossy pages of the bulletin
Oh you think the battle's over
Well the war has just begun Your
legislation's just a piece of tissue
Oh won’t you listen to the beat
Of ten thousand marching feet?
Taking to the street
Oh there'll be a national monument
In yellow-cake of course
where the plaque reads
"Look what Bjelke-Petersen did
A traitor's tree, a traitor's rope,
Thirty bits of silver
And a couple of Queensland Jackboot kicks
There's loads of references which have dated, but
this album is still speaking today. They tackle all
the big (to them) issues and were the first band
to do so for many of them. Aboriginal deaths
from alcohol, nuclear power, unemployment,
redunancy and US influence on our country.
Let me leave you with these lines from Poor Ned,
that express the Australian larrikin attitude
that is unlike any other.
You know they took Ned Kelly
And they hung him in the Melbourne gaol
He fought so very bravely
Dressed in iron mail
And no man single-handed
Can hope to break the bars
It's a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who'll hoist the flag of stars