Monday, June 30, 2008

Faces in the Street - The Bushwackers

This 1981 release from the most Australian of all Australian bands
is my favorite. But its the tile song that brings me to post this
album as part of a trilogy of albums that honor the great Australian
poet Henry Lawson. Hes the guy on our 10 dollar note, the greatest
poet this country had and he leaves Banjo Patterson in the dust.
His poem "Faces in the street" is an epic masterpiece, which the
Bushwackers transform into the Marxist anthem that would have
made Henry smile, the only poet given a state funeral,
a nation treasure and for those who don't believe a national
treasure could write a song like that, here's the poem,
well the Bushwackers version of it
but first a bit of context.

The poem was written in 1888. Lawson had come to Sydney from
the bush five years earlier and met his mother's friends,
many of them radical in their politics
It is easy to see how a young man would look for the Red flag to
impose a form of equality

Faces in the Street - Lawson/Ashley

They lie, the men who tell us in such load decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the beat of restless feet;
I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon's slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When your God demands a reason for the sadness of the street,
The wrong things and the bad things
And the sad things that we meet
In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.

I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me the shadows of those faces in the street,
Flitting by, drifting by,
Flitting by with noiseless feet,
And cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.

I cried: 'Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.'
And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city's street,
And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
Coming near, coming near,
To a drummers distant beat,
And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution's heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
Pouring on, pouring on,
To a drummers threatening beat,
And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.

And so it must be while the world goes rolling round this course,
The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
But not until a city feels Revolution's feet
Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street
The dreadful everlasting strife
With scarce enough to eat
In that cruel hell of living death
The city's heartless street
So they're pouring on marching on
To the drummers threatening beat
and the war hymns and the cheering of the faces in the street

Now if you took the time to read that congratulations,
I have 2 more different recordings of this poem as a
song to come and a lot more Lawson poetry turned
into song. Its fantastic stuff, Australian but not in
that cheesy way. This poem had a lasting impact on
me, it taught me more about politics than 12 years of
school, it lead me to other parts of the world to see
for myself. What more could you expect from a song.
This album is full of fantastic songs like that.
"The Ballad of 1891" is adaptation of a song that
details the history that lead to the Labor party
in this country. It has to be heard to be believed.
We also have the sad depression era song
"Weevils in the flour",
Jan singing the very funny "Marijuana Australian"
And the epic tale of "Les Darcy" the champion boxer
who refused to go to the 1st world war.
This is the Bushwackers at their peak
with Dobe Newton, Roger Corbett and Jan Wositzky
all still together.

Download Here


beergut said...

Thanks Bob. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Classic. Grabbing it to save me the pops and hisses from trying to dub my much-loved old vinyl copy. Again..

Bob, Brisbane, Australia said...

Hi Anonymous bushwacker fan,
pleased you found me and this classic, its my favorite of their
records. This is a vinyl rip from my copy, I don't think it was released any other way. I have a program that cleans all the pops and hiss which I can tell you bout if you need it.
Theres another earlier Bushwackers post, its their " And the Band Played waltzing Matilda" album another vinyl rip and a great record
(just click on the "Bushwackers" link in Links to this post found right at the bottom of all posts)
I have a few more albums which I'll rip and post over time.
And don't stay anonymous I love a name and even a place where you come from to put to a poster.
Thanks for all your encouraging comments
ciao bob

radhock said...

Anonymous here. I'm not that blog-literate yet, but here's a start given my usual online ID. From Perth, WA. Have fun with the pinboard. I reached you via mad parade for the record.
There's also a Bushwackers el cheapo 3 CD compilation set (The Great Bushwackers Band, Rajon Music 2002)that I scored from JBs and has a lot of stuff ranging over all albums, but not a definitive set album by album, unfortunately - spent much time matching tracks to albums and going Aaaargh! after a while.

radhock said...

Thinking more, Bushfire comes close to this if not a bit on top. It's the one that got us started originally. Worth looking up.

Bob, Brisbane, Australia said...

Glad you found the blog Radhoch,
when I think of Perth I think of thr Triffids who I recently posted,not the same sort of thing as the Bushwackers however.
I don't have a lot of Bushwackers stuff up yet but the legion of fans of redgum talked me into posting everything they released plus their unreleased last album, all mighty fine stuff.
ciao bob

radhock said...

Triffids not so much. Left me cold. David McComb solo? Brilliant, religious in a sincerely devotional sense, still sends shivers down spine, to a confirmed agnostic. Love of Will is about the most sincerely religious CD I know, surprisingly so and not in the usual manner (read: Osmonds or whatever), and so convincing. End of rant, other than TRACK IT DOWN and listen. The music will win, on top of the subject matter.

Errm, sorry for the sidetrack....

Bob, Brisbane, Australia said...

Yep Radhock I have Love of will as its very good. David McCombs voice was something else, putting you are ease one minute or menacing the next.
ciao bob

geetar_man9 said...

They also play one of Australia's most well known songs - "I am Australian" Dobe Newton really is a story teller with his words.. amazing!!

Great post :)