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Buskers & Angels (2000 - )

Speaking personally, the music business has been very good to me, and most of the people I know who work in it are hard-working, dedicated, honest people who are committed to making it better! Now that's got that out of the way can I just say...

I've always been fascinated by Buskers. In a way, they're the purest form of what we do. They don't have light shows, sets, stages, managers, nothing... They just go out and do it, and if we (the punters) like it, we give them money, not even any specific amount, no booking fee or anything. It's so damned simple it's beautiful. It also takes a lot of guts.... You can get found out you see?

Now in my time I've signed recording contracts that are as thick as the Yellow Pages and nowhere near as interesting, I've been in stage shows where they seriously considered canceling because of faulty air conditioning, I've seen entire TV variety specials taken off the air because the hairdresser wasn't in a union, and I once heard a well known manager complaining to an equally well known booking agent that; "The trouble with the music business is all those bloody musicians!" So you take all this on board, and one day you walk past a busker, and he's playing a song you wrote and you ask yourself the obvious question; "How did it all get so complicated?" I just have to throw this last one in okay? Some time ago, I recorded a double CD, "Paris". It's a full-on opera, I was very proud of the work, and the CD sold pretty well but it never made it on stage. When I once asked why I was very obviously being left out of the loop in terms of decision making and marketing, I was told to; "Stick to the creative end and leave that stuff to us... After all, we don't want the lunatics running the asylum do we?" My immediate reaction was, it looks like they already are! So 'Buskers and Angels' was born. It started with one song, 'Always the Busker' which did quite nicely as a little insight into this fictional character I wish I had the guts to be. The Irish band 'The Furies' even covered it recently. It got me to thinking about the dichotomy of the story, and the 'Angels' part was born. Now I'm not the Busker, and I don't think I'm Angel as I've always tried to maintain some sort of equilibrium in my career, but I've seen it, oh God I've seen it!!

The story is not without humour, pathos, and all the necessary ingredients to help with the telling, and I'm secretly very proud of the music, but the thing that makes it special to me is that it's basically true... I haven't really embellished the events that transpire that much at all. So no one can question it's authenticity can they?

We've tried to give the show a sort of 'filmic narrative' feel with live jump cuts, interplay between live actors and video, and the like As someone told me after the workshop; " it makes it seem more real..." Now there's irony for you eh? It looks a bit like a film so it's more real....

Well that's life in the new millennium! Anyway, 'Buskers and Angels' is about life, Rock and Roll, dreams and aspirations, and blind ambition. I'm proud of the journey it's taken from my first double take at a Busker back in the eighties, to well... Now... We can only sit back and hope for success, but I think we've already got that...After all, 'success is a state of mind!!'

Cheers, Jon English.

The Story

The busker works his corner content in the philosophy that 'Success is a state of mind'. He is doing what he wants to do, when he wants to, and he makes enough to eat and keep a roof over his head.... Therefore success....

(Always the Busker)

On a typical day, involving protest marches, bag snatches and general chaos he meets a girl (Lee) who wants to sing.

(Out on my corner)

After a brief misunderstanding (about gender) the busker relents and he teaches her the fine art of song writing (his version)

(Do-do song)

They spend the day working his corner together and by the end Lee is getting pretty good.

(The view up there)

The busker is impressed, not so Harry the Hot Dog seller who reckons she looks like a bagful of spanners. The Busker tells him that she's a crowd pleaser and has doubled his take for the day. That's enough for Harry who after dispatching his long suffering wife Doris to another of her dozens of jobs proceeds to raise the price of hot dogs!

(Fancy this)

It is a week later and the Busker and Lee have quite an act. Harry has been thinking and decides they are too good to work the street and that he should be their agent and use his contacts to get them some real gigs.


The Busker is unimpressed, but Lee is really thrilled she heads off with Harry to find some 'real musicians', leaving the Busker to complain bitterly to Doris about how; 'If it aint broke don't fix it!'

(20-20 Hindsight)

They are now working Spiders night club due to Harry's contacts (Doris). It is their first gig, and even the Busker has to admit that the joint is rocking.

(Nothing to hide)

During the break Harry approaches Lee and tells her that the owner wants to meet her, the Busker wanders off to chat with Doris (who works there as a waitress) when Lee rushes over and asks him to 'pretend we're an item, I know why they call him Spider, he crawls all over you'. Doris proceeds to disarm the Spider threat in her own inimitable way. Lee explains that she is too excited to sleep and 'Can I come back to your place? Just for a while?'.......Uh oh!

(One thing leads to another)

The Busker and Lee are now indeed an item and life is good. They work the corner during the week and weekends at Spiders. Harry is still not content and using his contacts in the recording business ( Doris) sets up an audition for a recording contract. The recording executive turns out to be a pimply, pissed storeman who wants; 'A bit of bump, and grind!' The Busker explains that they're not that kind of an act and that Lee doesn't do the sex thing! He has unwittingly issued the challenge and Lee sets out to prove him wrong....In spades!!

(Nature of the beast)

Lee astounds the Busker and slays the crowd all except for the kid who is too pissed to say anything except 'Show us your tits!'. Lee is dejected but is consoled by Doris who tells her that a nice man left a card for you and said you were 'hot'. The nice man turns out to be Ashley T Roth the A&R mananger of the most successful independent record label in the world - Boogie Records, and the card says 'call me'. Harry goes into shock! As the Busker and Lee walk home that night Lee explains that she doesn't know where her performance came from, and she hopes the Busker isn't upset. The Busker says he's more turned on than anything but is still amazed with the difference in her. Lee asks him if he ever gets bored doing the same old things? That stops him in his tracks and he fumbles excuses before saying that he's always got his songs...Here's a new one....

(Life is like a wheel)

Lee contacts Ashley T Roth and sets up a meeting, where she is told that they are to cut a demo the next day. The Busker is strangely unenthusiastic but goes along with it. Ash likes what he hears and wants to try a few different looks for Lee. The Busker is concerned that he'll miss peak hour on the corner, and Lee explains that he's a Busker and cares more about a corner than a career. Ash placates the potential row by saying he thinks the Busker has the right attitude towards the punters; 'Some things stay the same, don't they Jonnie?' Lee is intrigued and the Busker dismisses the mystery as 'Ancient History!' He heads off to his corner and Lee is transformed by the experts...

(Splitting Image)

The Busker returns to find a beautiful, sexy, woman where he left Lee. He asks her if she's seen Lee around, when Ash enters and introduces him to Angel. The penny slowly drops and in a whirlwind of information is told to deliver all his songs immediately, and that Angel is going to be the next big thing! The months pass in frantic activity as Lee and the Busker record Angel's first album. The Busker more and more has to work the corner on his own until one day Lee arives to sing with him and proudly shows him her first CD. All are impressed except for Ash who arrives to announce that Angel is about to be launched on the public and street singing is a thing of the past. The Busker points out that it doesn't say who wrote the songs on the CD sleeve and Ash apologises as it's a major screw-up by the printers and they'll fix it the next run....

That night Lee announces that she has to go South for a while. The Busker offers to go with her but when he finds out the time frame is indefinite, he sadly cuts her free.

(Dear Lee)

Ash explains to Angel that if she wants to be a star she has to trust him, and that a big Music TV concert is coming up and the only unknown on the bill will be her. The promoter wants to meet her to see if she can 'cut it'. Angel agrees to go along to the audition only to find out what the Promoter's definition of an audition really is.

(Money Tree)

Angel makes her debut and slays them!

(Potential Angels)

A year later and Angel is one of the hottest stars around. The Busker's corner is dominated by Billboards of her. He sings a song to her image.

(Try to be a hero)

Angel is presenting her fourth single off the album on a TV show called 'The Jury'. She performs the song well but in an unscheduled interview, is mercilessly put down and made to look a fool. She is furious and complains to Ash about being bored, lonely, and locked away. Ash explains that they are playing the media game and keeping her under wraps so that she can remain a mystery. Angel says that she just wants to go out for a while! Sorry, no public! Ash relents a little and suggests they take the next day off and go to the beach as she's looking a little run down. Angel is thrilled and wants to go shopping for swimmers. Sorry, no strap marks. but don't worry it's a very secluded spot. Angel reluctantly agrees, Ash waits until she is out of the room and calls the Features editor from the Newspaper.

(What's the view like up there?)

The Busker is playing on his corner as the Newspaper fliers proclaim 'Angels nude beach romp! Exclusive pictures!' Harry arrives and decides he is going to make something of the Busker if it kills him. It nearly does, several times.

(Harry's schemes)

After several forays into different genres of contemporary music end in disaster, Harry hits on a scheme that seems to be benign and foolproof. A pensioner's dance contest. But when Harry want's them to 'liven it up a bit' the inevitable happens.

(Roll Daddy Roll)

After Harry is released (thanks to Doris) he wants to continue but the Busker pulls the plug saying he just wants to be a street singer. A row ensues culminating with Harry storming off to find; 'The real talent!! Coming Doris??' As Doris leaves the Busker asks her why she stays with him when he treats ger like...Well you know....Doris says; 'Cause he needs me, and if you love someone you've got to make allowances for them!'

(The guy for me)

That sets the Busker thinking. He is back on his corner when he is stopped by a policeman who demands to see his licence... Since when? New Council ordinances, move along... The Busker is frantic, he points to a poster of Angels and explains that she used to be a Busker, right here, with him! The Policeman is dubious but suggests that if Angel could vouch for him then perhaps the Council would grant him a licence. The Busker proceeds to write to Angel, but not wanting to make her think things were wrong he twists the truth a little (a lot) to make her think he's doing okay. She writes back and does the same thing.

(Doing okay)

Meanwhile cracks are starting to show in the Angel camp. Angel is more run-down as the heavy schedule is taking it's toll. She is relying on Ash for pills to keep her going, and while she is still a big star the demand for her secong album is collossal. They have been trying to record it but she is not singing well, and when she criticises Ash's song he turns on her, frightening her. To console her he brings in Harry and Doris. While Ash and Harry are talking business Doris looks after Angel, finally deciding that the best thing for Angel is to simply go out for a while.

(Love is the one thing)

Meanwhile Ash has gone searching for the Busker in the hope of new songs. He finds him on the corner as usual and asks him has he any songs. The Busker's reply is maybe but he's given up writing for charity. It transpires that the Busker has recieved nothing for the songs on Angel's first album as Ash registered them to Boogie records before the Busker had. Ash tries to offer
him a job as a staff writer but the Busker refuses. As Ash leaves he is suprised by the Busker handing him a cassette full of songs he wrote for Angel. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth he heads back only to find Angel gone. When she returns he is furious that she went against his wishes and proceeds to up her pill dosage to nightmarish proportions in order to control her.

(Palm of our hands)

Harry and Doris arrive to find Angel semi-conscious on the bed and demand to know what he's been giving her; 'Nothing that will hurt her unless she doesn't take it on time, or she takes too much!' Ash then fires them on the spot but Doris refuses to leave until Angel asks them to, Ash shakes the pill bottle at Angel and she miserably conceeds.

(Fallen Angel)

Ash somehow manages to make the deadline on Angel's new album and on the night before it's national release she is due to appear on TV singing her brand new single. She starts valiantly but breaks down half way through rushing off into the night. She arrives at the Buskers corner to find him gone, sits down by some rubbish bins and takes all of the pills in the bottle. There is a distant whistle and the Busker appears. He had been watching TV and knew exactly where she'd be. Angel says that she thought he'd gone, but he consoles her and says he'll never leave her again. The pills are doing their work however and she slips
away. Frantic, the Busker carries her off shouting for help.

(When I was younger)

The Busker appears alone and explains the death of Angel, and the irony of that event becoming the catalyst for her new album selling triple platinum in three days. 'Ash was laughing... For a while.... but he didn't find it too funny when I told him I'd registered those songs on Angel's new album before he could!' So the Busker is pretty well off now, but he still performs. Out on his corner, where things are rarely what they seem to be, where you must never judge a book by it's cover, and one thing very often leads to another......

(Street Beat)

Buskers and Angels - 2000
A new Aussie musical called BUSKERS AND ANGELS written by Jon English.

It was workshopped at THE HILLS CENTRE, Castle Hill, Sydney on Feb 9, 10, 11, 
2000 and included in the cast:

Jon English
Jodie Gillies
Derek Metzger (Me and My Girl, Chess)
Martin Monroe

"Buskers and Angels combines wit, passion and style as the audience is taken on a journey from the streets of the city to heights of stardom and back again. It is a mixture of pleasure and pain, humour and sorrow and passion and pathosis a true rock musical and features contemporary music composed by Jon."

Musical look at fame and fortune a little too simple
2000-11-07 13:46:14

Buskers & Angels, Comedy Theatre,
Saturday November 4

It makes sense that Jon English, one of our most enduring entertainers who has long been fascinated by the vagaries and empty seductions of fame in the music industry, should write a musical with an insider's perspective. Buskers And Angels was not only written by English but also stars the craggy singer-songwriter in the lead role of The Busker.

As someone who has been knocking around the music and theatre scene for 30 years - from having a No.1 hit on the pop charts in the '70s to roles in TV sitcoms and many stage productions - English is well-positioned to know the price that is exacted for success.

In this role as The Busker, he is part narrator, part romantic lead, and is the character who drives the show. He happily plays guitar on a corner in a busy urban street and is approached by a young woman, Lee, to sing with him. They perform together, then swing together, and everything is idyllic until ambitious Lee is spotted by a smarmy talent agent and catapulted to stardom as pop queen Angel.

The Busker is left behind and Angel is trapped in lonely hotel rooms, controlled by her manager. Eventually, it all goes horribly wrong and Angel collapses in a haze of drugs on television, realising she was much happier busking with Jon on the corner.

In form, Buskers and Angels combines live original songs (about 20 rock ballads), with video footage, dance routines and acting. Because the story is about a busker and the music industry, the songs are an integral, non-intrusive part of the show's structure.

Jon English the actor is pretty much as he always is - amiable and self-deprecating, a big shaggy dog with a love of bad jokes, and a penchant for ignoring the fourth wall and addressing the audience.

His co-star, Martine Monroe, is a singer with a swag of studio and backing vocal credits from the Gold Coast and Sydney.

The mystery, given English's credentials and the sincere love and care that has gone into this show, is that it lacks realism or awareness. The story and characters are simple and obvious; they are not imbued with any qualities beyond the stereotypic.

The exception is Jodie Gillies, as Doris, who oozes charisma and lifts the show whenever she is onstage.

Buskers and Angels has an exuberant air and everyone seems to have a good time.

This story was found at:

Jon English and his "Buskers & Angels" was nominated for The Green Room Awards 2001 in the category "Best Original Music and Lyrics." The Green Room Awards Association was founded in 1982 to recognize, celebrate and encourage excellence in the Melbourne performing arts scene across a range of performing arts disciplines. The Green Room Awards are very particular to Melbourne. Their existence acknowledges the rich theatrical environment that is our city, encompassing everything from mainstream opera to fringe productions in small unsubsidized venues.