Albums: Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Cast recording
shared with other artists, MCA, 1972), Wine Dark Sea (Warm & Genuine/Phonogram,
1973), It's All a Game (Warm & Genuine/Phonogram, 1975), Hollywood
Seven (Polydor, 1976),
Minutes to Midnight (Polydor, 1977), Words are Not Enough (Polydor, 1978), Against the Wind (television miniseries soundtrack with Mario Millo, Polydor, 1978), English History (compilation, Polydor, 1979), Calm Before the Storm (Mercury, 1980), Inroads (Mercury, 1981), Jokers and Queens (mini-album with Marcia Hines, Midnight, 1982), Some People Can Do What They Like (Mercury, 1983), Beating the Boards (Mercury, 1983), Modern English (J&B, 1983), Dark Horses (Midnight/Chase, 1987), Always the Busker (BMG/RCA, 1990), Paris (Original Cast recording, WEA, 1990), Best of Jon English 20th Anniversary Album (BMG/RCA, 1993).
History: Singer Jon English (b. 26.3.1949) was one of
Australia's most successful solo performers. Like John Farnham, English
has enjoyed an across-the-board appeal. He has been able to divide his
time between rock music, stage musicals, television and cabaret without
fear of over-exposure. His biggest chart successes came during the 1970s,
but his talents continue to be highly
regarded and sought after into the 1990s.
The English-born singer fronted the original Sebastian Hardie (when it was an in-demand suburban dance band) until January 1972. English then joined the Australian stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar (directed by Jim Sharman) in the role of Judas Iscariot. He remained with the musical for a lengthy and successful run (705 performances between May 1972 and February 1974), appearing on the Original Cast album issued on MCA during 1972. During that time he had also sung with studio band Duck, appeared on the soundtrack to the rock opera Ned Kelly and recorded his first solo album.
English's debut album, Wine Dark Sea, contained the singles Mike D'Abo's `Handbags and Gladrags'/`Horsehair and Plastic' (March 1973) and `Close Every Door'/`Summer Song' (July 1973). Backing musicians on the album included Mike Wade (guitars), Michael Carlos (keyboards; ex-Tully), Ken Firth (bass; ex-Tully), Jamie McKinley (piano), Bobby Gebert (piano), Teddy Toi (bass; ex-Fanny Adams, Wild Cherries, Duck), Steve Webb (drums; ex-Blackfeather, Duck) and Greg Henson (drums). It's All a Game yielded English's first hit, `Turn the Page'/`Just the Way I Am' (#7 in February 1975). English then joined a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar, after which he recorded his third album, Hollywood Seven.
Following on from `Turn the Page', the next single, `Hollywood Seven'/`Sandcastles'
(a #17 hit in May 1976), established English's penchant for dramatic rock
ballads. The album's other two singles were `Lovin'Arms' (July 1975) and
`I'm A Survivor'/`Walk Across the World' (August 1976). Sebastian Hardie
(at that time enjoying success with the album Four Moments) backed English
on the album's title track. Minutes to Midnight yielded three singles in
`Lay It All Down'/`Whole Lot More' (December 1976), `Behind Blue Eyes'/`Hey
Moonshine' (May 1977) and `Everytime I Sing a Love Song'/`Don't Let
Me be Misunderstood' (August). English formed the Jon English Band for touring purposes. The line-up comprised Mike Wade (guitar), Eric Macitchka (guitar), Steve Doran (keyboards), Rick Mellick (keyboards), James Rattray (bass) and Danny Grose (drums). Words are Not Enough produced the hits `Words Are Not Enough'/`Up to No Good' (#5 in July 1978) and `Nights in Paradise'/`Fantastic' (#21 in October).
1978 and 1979 were to be English's most successful years. With Words are Not Enough selling well, English starred in the television miniseries Against the Wind in the role of convict Jonathan Garrett. English and Sebastian Hardie guitarist Mario Millo composed, recorded and produced the Against the Wind soundtrack album, which went on to become the best-selling middle-of-the-road album for 1979. The single `Six Ribbons'/`Mary's Theme' (#5 in January 1979) was the best-selling male pop single for the year. English was voted Best New Television Talent at the 1979 Logie Awards. Against the Wind later became a hit series when screened on UK and Scandinavian television.
The `Best of' album English History reached #4 on the charts in August
1979. `Get Your Love Right'/`He Could Have Been a Dancer' (#27 in May 1979)
and `Hot Town'/`Show No Weakness' (#11 in December 1979) were hits. English
nationally and overseas with his new band, Baxter Funt. At that stage, the band comprised Mike Wade, Tony Naylor (guitar; ex-Band of Talabene, Bootleg Family Band, Avalanche), Peter White (keyboards), John Coker (bass) and Greg Henson (drums). English's association with Wade and Henson extended back to 1972 when the musicians were part of the Jesus Christ Superstar backing band.
Following up such a flurry of successes must have been a daunting prospect. English kept up the pace with Calm Before the Storm (#17 in April 1980) and its singles `Carmilla'/`Survivor' (#27 in April) and `Little by Little'/`I Hope It Turns Out Right' (June 1980). Inroads contained the singles `Hold Back the Night'/`King of the Blind' (January 1981), `Ask No Questions'/`Straight from the Heart' (June) and `The Shining'/`Josephine (Too Many Secrets)' (September 1981).
In early 1981, English undertook a sold-out Scandinavian tour. English's backing band comprised Mario Millo (guitar), Jackie Orszaczky (bass; ex-Syrius, Bakery, Marcia Hines Band), Coz Russo (keyboards), Richard Gawned (tenor sax, flute; ex-Marcia Hines Band) and Nick Lister (drums; ex-Kush). As well as Against the Wind being popular on television, the single `Against the Wind' reached #1 in Sweden, while the follow-up, `Hollywood Seven', roared into the Top 5. The Against the Wind soundtrack album peaked at #2 and sold over 100 000 copies.
English's next album, the live double set Beating the Boards (May 1982;
#22 in June), yielded the single `Beating the Boards'/`Turn the Page' (April).
English's backing band, The Foster Brothers, at that stage contained Keith
Kerwin (guitar, vocals; ex-Southern Star Band), John Dallimore (guitar,
flute, vocals; ex-Redhouse), Peter Deacon (keyboards, vocals), John Coker
(bass) and Greg Henson (drums). Some People included `Some People (Have
All the Fun)'/`Beating the Boards' (July 1983) and `Waterloo'/`Oh Paris'
(November). English's duet with Renée Geyer, `Every Beat of My Heart',
came out in 1984.
Previously he had recorded `Jokers and Queens'/`Best of Me' and the Jokers and Queens mini-album with Marcia Hines (1982).
In 1984 English joined the stage production The Pirates of Penzance in the role of the Pirate King. Over the next decade he appeared in a number of successful stage musicals, including Rasputin (with Terry Serio and Angry Anderson), The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore. English also collaborated with producer David MacKay on an elaborate adaptation of Homer's Illiad under the title of Paris. WEA issued the double album of the Paris opera in late 1990, which featured contributions from such musical luminaries as John Parr, Demis Roussos and Doc Neeson, plus Barry Humphries. Despite lacklustre reviews, Paris won English and MacKay the Best Original Soundtrack or Cast Recording at the 1990 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards.
English kept up his solo recording schedule with the singles `Emotion'/`Best in Me' (September 1985), `Dark Horses'/`I Can Do Better than That' (May 1986), `Another Brand New Day'/`Best in Me' (August 1987), `Younger Days'/`Carmilla' (April 1988) and `We'll be There'/`Glass Houses' (October 1988), plus the album Dark Horses (May 1987). The Foster Brothers circa 1985 comprised Kerwin, Deacon and Henson plus newcomers Peter Greenwood (guitar; ex-Marc Hunter Band) and Tony Mitchell (bass; ex-Sherbet).
The 1990 album Always the Busker contained the singles `Always the Busker',
`High Windows' and `Love Has Power'. In 1993, English starred in the television
comedy series All Together Now. Playing the part of absent-minded, washed-up
rock star Bobby Rivers was a good example of English's talents and the
self-deprecating sense of humour that has made him a popular figure for
so long. English issued `All Together Now' as a single. A new `Best of'
album came out in July 1993, and English issued a single in September 1994,
`Stand by Me'.
Original line-up: Jon English (vocals, rhythm guitar),
Graham Ford (lead guitar), Peter Plavsic (bass), Alex Plavsic (drums)
Sebastian Hardie albums: Four Moments (Polydor, 1975), Windchase (Polydor,
1976), Rock Legends (compilation, Polydor 1980), Four Moments of the Windchase
(compilation, Polydor/Mercury, 1990), Live in L.A. (Japanese import only,
Avalon, 1999); Windchase album: Symphinity (Festival/Infinity, 1977).
History: By and large, symphonic rock has not flourished in Australia. Sebastian Hardie was the country's first and foremost symphonic rock band. During the mid-1970s, the band enjoyed considerable success with the album Four Moments, but since that time has been largely forgotten on home turf. Yet in European, Japanese and American progressive rock circles, the highly revered Four Moments and its follow-up Windchase are considered to be classics of the genre.
Graham Ford formed the Sebastian Hardie Blues Band in 1967. The band
played R&B and soul covers and experienced several line-up changes.
The line-up included Ford, Dennis Laughlin (vocals; later in the original
version of Sherbet), Dave Waddington (vocals), Neil Williamson (organ),
John Bellamy (bass), Syd Richmond (drums) and Richard Lillico (drums).
The Sebastian Hardie Blues Band became Sebastian Hardie in 1968 with the
arrival of singer Jon English and the Plavsic brothers. All three musicians
were students at Sydney's Cabramatta High School. The band went semi-professional,
same suburban dance circuit as The Affair, House of Bricks, The Clik and dozens of other Sydney pop bands.
Throughout 1969, Sebastian Hardie worked as backing band for rock'n'roll
legend Johnny O'Keefe. At the end of 1971, Sebastian Hardie broke up when
English accepted the role of Judas Iscariot in the Australian stage production
of the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. A year later, Ford and the
Plavsics re-formed Sebastian Hardie with Steve Dunne (vocals, keyboards).
At that point, the band was still playing pop covers on the dance/club
circuit, with little indication of future directions. Visiting English
producer Larry Page (Daniel Boone, Kincade) was impressed enough, however,
to produce the
band's debut single `All Right Now'/`The Professional' (September 1973). One month after the single appeared, 19-year-old Mario Millo replaced Ford on lead guitar. Millo had been playing the Sydney dance circuit since 1969 with his band The Clik. The Clik comprised Millo, Brian Nicholls (organ), Vince Moult (bass) and Mark Friedland (drums). They took out first place in the 1969 2SM Pepsi Pop Poll (Battle of the Bands) held at the Sydney Stadium.
The Clik recorded two bubblegum pop singles for Festival, `La De Da'/`Yes
Sir' (November 1969) and `Mary Mary'/`Uptight Basil' (March 1970). By 1972,
The Clik comprised Millo, Garry Adams (guitar; ex-Galadriel), Phil Cogan
(bass) and Doug Bligh (drums; ex-Galadriel) and had moved in a hard rock
direction. Justin McCoy replaced Adams, but the band broke up when Millo
joined Sebastian Hardie. McCoy later joined Sydney jazz-rock band Eight
Day Clock, which issued
the album Eight Day Clock on RCA (1975).
Millo played on Sebastian Hardie's second single, `Day After Day'/`Mermaid
on the Sand' (April 1974). By that stage, Millo had begun to write original,
highly orchestrated and inventive material which helped usher in a much-needed
change of direction for Sebastian Hardie. The catalyst in the band's transformation
from accomplished dance-pop band to fully fledged symphonic
rock band was the decision to play a 20-minute arrangement of Mike Oldfield's popular `Tubular Bells'. Polydor Records signed the band on the strength of Millo's new material. The band supported international visitors Lou Reed and Osibisa on their respective Australian tours. At the end of 1974, classically trained musician Toivo Pilt (ex-Forever) replaced Dunne on keyboards and Millo took over lead vocals. Sebastian Hardie upstaged Dutch jazz-rock veterans Focus on their June 1975 Australian tour. With the band's increased profile, the album Four Moments and the single `Rosanna'/`Openings' (edit) (both August 1975) appeared to strong critical acclaim. The album attained gold status (35000 copies sold) after peaking at #13 on the national album chart; `Rosanna' reached #31.
Featuring seamless, dramatic arrangements and impeccable musicianship, Four Moments revealed the influence of European progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and Focus. It contained just three tracks, the side-long, four suite `Four Moments', the sensual, melancholic `Rosanna' and the majestic `Openings'. Millo contributed some of his most epic and graceful guitar playing to the instrumental `Openings'. Mercury issued Four Moments in the USA and Japan. At the end of 1975, Sebastian Hardie undertook a very successful 63-date Australian concert tour. The band's second album, Windchase, appeared in February 1976 to coincide with another national tour as support to US band Santana. Like its predecessor, Windchase boasted superb playing and well-crafted progressive rock, but it failed to live up to expectations. It produced the single `Life, Love and Music'/`Hello Phimistar' (February 1976).
In June 1976, the Plavsic brothers left the band amid a flurry of ill-feeling. Millo and Pilt immediately recruited a new rhythm section of New Zealander Doug Nethercote (bass; ex-Clockwork Strawberry) and Doug Bligh (drums; by then ex-Stuart & McKay), but a legal wrangle over ownership of the Sebastian Hardie name prevented the band from playing live. Peter Plavsic had registered the name Sebastian Hardie and therefore claimed legal right to its use. Millo argued because it was his music that had established the band's identity he was entitled to the name. The Plavsic brothers emerged as the successful party in the ensuing court case, and Millo was forced to rename his band Windchase. The brothers never did use the Sebastian Hardie name for their new band as intended. They recruited Graham Wardrop (guitar), John Bushell (guitar) and Rick Mellick (keyboards) in order to back rock'n'roll revival duo The Studs.
Windchase entered the studio during January 1977 to record a new album. Nethercote left halfway through the album session to be replaced by journeyman bass player Duncan McGuire (ex-Doug Parkinson In Focus, King Harvest, Friends, Ayers Rock). By the time the album Symphinity appeared in June, McGuire and Bligh had left to be replaced by the returning Nethercote and Ralph Cooper respectively. Symphinity saw the band moving into heavier jazz-fusion territory (akin to Al Di Meola), but it was not a chart success. It produced the singles `Glad to Be Alive'/`No Scruples' (May 1977) and `Flight Call'/`Horsemen to Symphinity' (October). Millo took the band on the road, but in the meantime the emergent punk and new wave movement had relegated bands like Windchase to the dinosaur scrap heap. Windchase played its last gig to 60 people in a Melbourne pub during October 1977.
Mario Millo went on to work with Jon English on the highly successful Against the Wind soundtrack, before issuing two fine, but neglected, solo albums, Epic III and Human Games. He then embarked on a successful career in television and movie soundtrack production. In 1994, the organisers of the annual US progressive rock gathering ProgFest invited Sebastian Hardie to appear on the bill. Although Millo, Pilt and the Plavsic brothers had not played together since 1976, they flew to Los Angeles in November for the festival. By all accounts, Sebastian Hardie delivered a brilliant set to which the audience responded with a standing ovation.
With overseas interest in Sebastian Hardie still strong throughout the
late 1990s, the Avalon label in Japan and the Musea label in France reissued
the band's back catalogue on CD. The Japanese reissues of Four Moments
and Windchase included a bonus track apiece, 'Day after Day' and 'Since
You Left Me' respectively. The band's live set from the 1994 US ProgFest
saw the light of day on CD, as Live in L. A. The Avalon and Musea labels also issued Mario Millo's highly regarded solo album, Epic III, on CD for the first time.
Original line-up: Jon English (vocals; ex-Sebastian Hardie), Bobbi Marchini (vocals; ex-Hunger), John Robinson (guitar; ex-Dave Miller Set, Blackfeather, Hunger), Bobby Gebert (keyboards; well-known jazz session player), Larry Duryea (percussion; ex-Tamam Shud), Teddy Toi (bass; ex-Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Fanny Adams, Wild Cherries), Steve Webb (drums; ex-Blackfeather, Wolfe)
Duck album: Laid (Warner, 1972); John Robinson solo album: Pity for the Victim (Festival/Infinity, 1974).
History: Sydney-based band Duck was an all-star `supergroup' assembled by producer G. Wayne Thomas in order to record a studio-only album of cover versions. The nucleus of Duck grew out of Sydney club band Hunger which John Robinson formed following his departure from Blackfeather. The Duck venture proved so enjoyable for all concerned that the band also toured briefly once the album came out.
Danny Robinson (vocals; ex-Wild Cherries, Virgil Brothers) joined Duck
for the live shows, because Jon English was already playing Judas Iscariot
in the stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar and was unavailable to
tour. Russell Smith (guitar; ex-Company Caine) also joined for tours. The
collectable Laid album (July 1972) was padded out with some ordinary songs,
but was buoyed by strong renditions of Neil Young's `Southern Man', Bill Withers' `Ain't No Sunshine', Frank Zappa's `Dog Breath' and Nick Gravenites' (as covered by Janis Joplin) `Burned Alive in the Blues'. Two singles were lifted from the set `Sweet Inspiration'/ `Southern Man' (May 1972) and Paul McCartney's `Maybe I'm Amazed'/`The Man in Me' (September).
On the evidence of tracks like the blueswailin' `Burned Alive in the
Blues' and `Southern Man', Bobbi Marchini was a flat-out, blues-belter
in the Janis Joplin/Maggie Bell mould. She later recorded several delicate
soul-pop singles for the Albert label, which did little to reflect her
tougher blues style. She also sang on Robinson's 1974 solo album, Pity
for the Victim. Once Duck's touring commitments were out of the way, Robinson
reunited with singer Dave Miller in a revived version of Dave Miller Set,
which also comprised Steve Hogg (bass; ex-Bakery) and Steve Webb (drums).
The reunion was short-lived and Robinson formed Tramp with Webb, Len Pitt
(vocals) and Benny Kaika (bass; ex-McPhee). Webb and Kaika contributed
to Robinson's 1974 solo album, Pity for the Victim, alongside Marchini.
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999 under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.
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