Sunday, February 24, 2008

Redgum - If you don't fight you lose

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
the distance.

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

Download Here


bazzil said...

Hey, thanks again Bob.
I haven't heard this for years.
Well before they became a huge commercial success and lost some off their left wing radicalness so to speak.


bob nebe said...

Yes back when left wing radicalness was a new concept for me, being brought up in a household that
"voted for Mal Frazer"
Its all old school left now,
its funny how things change.
ciao bob

Anonymous said...

thanks for giving me an introduction to the music scene of australia . until know i only knew the usual suspects like ac/dc,rose tattoo or nick cave , harry lime

bob nebe said...

My pleasure, its great to hear comments like that.
ciao bob

Synaptic Refuge said...

I came across your post, whilst searching for Redgum stuff to post in my Facebook profile. I found the download link was stuffed, but it doesnt matter as I have this on vinyl somewhere. It is good to see that there are still folks that like this amazing band. I was lucky to see them play once over here in London, England in the 80's as I'd been introduced to them through a mate at work. He gave me a copy of Caught in the act, and a few others. He is now back in NSW, but I owe him a huge debt for tipping me to Redgum. Keep on, if folks can listen to mozart after centuries, then why not Redgum, after 25 years? :) Simply awesome!


bob nebe said...

Hi Michael, always glad to hear from a fellow redgum fan, esp one so far away. I have some redgum here thats been reposted recentl, Rebel Chorus is live stuff from this era, posted in august, theres the incredible Lost Album, posted in june and midnight sun,from may. I have posted all the albums and if theres any your esp after let me know
ciao bob

Anonymous said...

I'd love to get this, but ZShare doesn't work for me. Could you upload it to Rapidshare or somewhere?

bob nebe said...

Re up loaded
ciao bob

roughseasinthemed said...

Hi there

having a domestic dispute here - he (one time aus resident in tas, melbourne, sydney, perth, brisbane, blah etc) seems to think there was one redgum song that had something in about 'make new friends and shoot the shit out of them'.

Any pointers? happy for any answers here or on one of my blogs at

Ta. Will bookmark this now anyway. :)


bob nebe said...

Sorry Kate but that sounds like no redgum lyric that I've heard.
I can't actually think of anything that comes close.
theres a heap of lyrics here something might jog his memory
great blog by the way
ciao bob

mick said...

Kate, The song you are after is It Doesn't Matter to Me off the live album Caught in The Act recorded in a pub in Sydney


mick said...

Kate, not sure if I have sent this before as I am new to this and just signed up. I was looking for some other information on Redgum when I saw your request. The song you are not after but 'he; is is "It doesn,t Matter To Me" The version I have is on Vinal - so old, and CD from a live album called "Caught in The Act" recorded in a Sdney pub a long time ago when the earth was green.


roughseasinthemed said...

Mick, thanks very much for your comment(s).

Confession time. An Australian friend sent me a fine Christmas present - Caught in the Act CD. I don't know why we missed the words on there, but between asking earlier and your comment today, I suddenly heard them! (I should have come back and answered my own comment but totally forgot I had made it :D )

And of course, the words are actually spoken, and not part of the lyrics as such.

Yeah the world was a bit greener then. And the year after it was recorded, I hit Sydney. Pleasant memories indeed. Wish we had some Redgum vinyl. Only worn out tapes and the new CD. Still any Redgum is better than nothing. :)

Thanks very much for your interest and help, much appreciated.


bob nebe said...

And I have this on vinyl and it didn't register with me, I should digitalize the record and post it must be the only redgum release I haven't posted
great work guys
ciao bob

Anonymous said...

For me, listening to Redgum in the late 70s' to early 80's (with this album being on 'moderate rotation' at 2NUR-FM) it was the strength of the lyrics of 'Killing Floor', 'Peter the Cabby', 'Critique in G' and so on.

No matter what you think about Marxism or Socialism, these lines from 'Killing Floor' will resonate,

"Fred had talked of his grueling heavyweight bouts
I remembered what he'd said
There's no giving up on that killing floor
If you don't fight you're dead

If you work with your hands for your livelihood
Some day you might have to choose
When the class war rages on the factory floor
If you don't fight you lose
If you don't fight you lose... "

Thank you for this post about a band that probably should have been both more widely recognised and rewarded than they were.