Thursday, 2 July 2009

the soul years

At the beginning of the 1980s I was living in Sydney and very much into the pub band scene. At the Forest Lodge pub in Glebe the Magnetics would play. They were, for the most part, a three piece apart for the period when the guitarist from Dragon joined them. The audience’s response to this addition tended to echo the gestures of the teenage audience of the popular ABC TV show Countdown, on which Dragon (a NZ band) appeared. We would wave our hands above our heads (the Magnetics themselves would never appear on Countdown). Elsewhere, in places like the Rose of Australia in Erskineville, or various other inner city pubs in Surry Hills, Rozelle and Newtown, the R & B (in the old sense) Ratbags of Rhythm might appear, or the Bopcats (a band focussing mostly on rockabilly). I loved all of them, but the ones I loved the most were the soul bands. At various pubs in the inner suburbs one could see the Dynamic Hepnotics (whose singer Robert Seuss was one of the only people I can think of in that music scene to wear a cummerbund. He was a great singer, no doubt still is, and the band was as funky as it’s possible to get). My favourite band of them all though was the Champions, an impossibly tight soul group who never really made it onto record. The Hepnotics produced (as far as I know) one live and one studio LP (the live one didn’t really capture their style; the studio one was ok). The Champions only recorded an EP which didn’t in any way reflect the power of the band. You just had to have been there at the time. I was secretly in love with Sally King, the Champions’ singer, though I don’t think I ever spoke to her (the band did, however, play in their sets a couple of tracks that I’d passed on to them via cassette – ‘Soulful Dress’ was one of these). Most of these bands are mentioned in my long poem Memorials, published by Little Esther (appropriately enough) in 1996. I had a line therein about the impossibility of not dancing while the Champions in particular were playing. It was a bit clumsy till John Forbes, looking over the manuscript, gave me the right phrase: that these bands ‘made dancing your condition’. Some years later I came across a worthy aural survivor: a CD of Bridie King’s band. She was the younger sister of Sally King and a wonderful pianist, and on this album, My Blues, dating from 1999, a handful of great singers appear (including her sister Sally).

1 comment:

Sally King said...

I did hear murmurings that across the ocean was a poet who had fallen in love with me when I was a Champion. So I chanced across this blog about the soul years and felt compelled to reply. Thank you Laurie for giving me 'Soulful Dress' on a cassette - I was singing it the other day to myself...'I'm gonna put on my dress with the splits up both the sides' seeing how much of the lyrics I could remember cos it was one of my favourites from back then. I have just recorded an album of my original tunes that I'd like you to hear. You can find me on facebook or For someone like me who is in love with love this is a beautiful accident, Laurie the poet fond regards
Sally King