AUTUMN 1971, MELBOURNE

Typing the title, a southern hemisphere companion to the previous post, I found myself wondering what was going on for me during autumn of that year. Not much, really. I was doing more-or-less exactly what my son is doing fifty years later: plodding through Year 10 in a suburban Melbourne secondary school. He’s sitting behind me at the dining room table as I write, finishing off some homework (or chatting on Discord; who can tell?) and while it is tempting to launch into a trans-generational chat about middle school life it is unlikely either party would relish that conversation. Instead, I’ll tell you about a few Australian album releases from (roughly) the second quarter of 1971.

First up is the debut album by Spectrum, darlings of the underground Melbourne scene for a few heady years and one of this writer’s favourite progressive Aussie bands.

Spectrum have featured several times at Vinyl Connection and founder/mainspring Mike Rudd has been good enough to participate in a couple of interviews. There is also a recent book detailing the New Zealand born musician’s history, for those who’d like to read more.

 

As for the album, it is absolutely worth hearing for anyone fascinated by the different forms progressive rock took around the world. Spectrum Part One was featured at Vinyl Connection here.

Also in the ‘progressive’ basket, but an elf of a different hue, is the sole album by Galadriel.

Formed in 1968 in Sydney, Galadriel were gone by the end of 1972, leaving behind just this one LP. It was released by Polydor in Australia—and also in Germany, the only other country to see it—and is one of the rarest collectibles in Aus rock, selling for around $1000. My vinyl copy comes courtesy of dodgy Italian re-issue label Arkarma, which is not really something to boast about. Having said that, I’m not actually sure whether I would rush out to buy a legit copy, even if it was re-issued. Because unlike the LPs before and after it in this post, it is more a curiosity than a lost classic.

There are a bunch of musical styles represented on Galadriel, from straight-ahead blues rock (opener “Amble On”) via a jazzy ballad (“Such a Fool”) to progressive folk (the triple-time “She Left Her Love at Home”, evoking Jethro Tull courtesy of added flute.) A standout is the stomping “Girl of Seventeen”, a kind of greed lament for an avaricious young woman who, presumably, did not find happiness in the diamonds she craved. Reminded me (a little) of Leafhound, though it’s not quite so driving. “Mind Games” is another progressive folk piece in triple time. This one brought to mind Julie Driscoll and The Trinity, though without her insistent powerhouse of a voice. “Lady was a Thief” channels The Band in Americana mode. You can sense the variety, but also the lack of cohesion. A pleasant record yet scarcely an undiscovered gem. Even so, we cannot move on before diving into the cover art.

The striking cover painting is by A. Barnard, dated 1970. Clearly a visual representation of parts of Lord Of The Rings, this folk art creation has a certain charm that will make Tolkien fans smile. Reading left to right, we have a horse-born Ringwraith (from book one) suddenly endowed with flight (as per the Nazgûl in book three). There’s Mordor, spouting flame, while lurking at the bottom is Gollum—all skinny nakedness and hipster beard—dangling his feet over a pool of skulls, doubtless representing the Dead Marshes. Adorning the front is an arboreal scene of great beauty where Frodo encounters the lidless eye of Sauron in Galadriel’s mirror. Literally, an eye in a dish. His look of horror is understandable, given he was probably expecting to see a goldfish. Nearby sits the disconsolate figure of Sam contemplating the plight of the supportive servant and the impossibility of finding comfortable socks.

Grab your rope and your carabiners as we forge onwards and upwards to a darker fantasy. 

Blackfeather released the first of their three LPs in April 1971. At The Mountains Of Madness mixes psychedelic tropes with some progressive flourishes and a dollop of honest Aussie rock to make an appealing record that, for all its musical value, would probably be a minor entry in Aus rock history except that a young Bon Scott, fresh from Fraternity, contributed recorder and percussion. Yes, you read that correctly; AC/DC’s legendary frontman and hard livin’ rock larrikin learned recorder, presumably at primary school in Melbourne. “Now, Bon, a C major arpeggio if you please…”

The album opens with a spoken word introduction delivered in a good honest Aussie accent, an unusual but not unpleasant experience, before the driving title track gets under way. Dramatic and creative, it sets the tone of the entire disc. “On this day that I die”, thematically following the unsettled power of the title track, is a rocker in the under-appreciated down under heavy prog style. Nice interplay between vocals (strong) and guitar (also strong). Then the album’s melodic highlight: “Seasons of change, Part 1”. This power ballad is superb with a great verse and thrilling middle eight (or perhaps it’s a chorus; hard to decide). It’s an over-looked early 70s classic. “Seasons” is also where we get Bon tootling on recorder; it’s very pretty.

Is “Mangos Theme Part 2” about the golden fruit with the over-large pit? Do they grow on mountains? We may never know, but this instrumental is fabulous, integrating both Spanish threads and Eastern strings; a veritable fruit salad of texture over a bolero beat. It’s a great instrumental that closes out the first side with another ripping guitar solo and well deployed strings. Don’t you love it when strings are applied like an industrial fan rather than a feather duster? There’s also a superfluous coda, which I always forget.

Side two opens with “Long legged lovely” which is, as the title suggests, lyrically mired in the time of its writing. Instrumentally, however, it is energetic, inventive and rocks its boots off for the first couple of minutes, very much in the Buffalo mould. Stirring heavy rock with more superb guitar from John Robinson. The reflective interlude is pleasant yet leaves one wishing for more thunder and lightning, but fear not! The pace does increase again and the tension builds through more spiffing Robinson guitar, helping you realise that this song, despite it’s lyrics, is right up there with Deep Purple of the same period; other than the absence of organ, this could be an outtake from In Rock.

The remainder of the At The Mountains Of Madness (LP format) is “The Rat (Suite)”, a very 1971 heavy prog/rock epic that will delight fans of the form. It is, indeed, about a rat who “lives in a hole eating nothing but cheese…” But it’s clever, see. “Nobody likes him, spreading disease” is still very, um, rat. But then he’s running ‘round town and you start to wonder, could this be a metaphor? Alas, I missed that particular Aus Rock Lyrics and the Birth of the Seventies Counter Culture lecture, so I can’t tell you. What I can say is that what this long piece lacks in cohesion it makes up for in invention and energy. In fact, At The Mountains Of Madness is the equal of anything out of the USA or UK in that wonderful time when progressive heavy rock was throwing up slabs of powerhouse rock and roll. Released in April 1971 on Festival’s progressive Infinity label, the excellent Aztec CD re-issue includes a couple of well-considered covers (The Beatles “TNK” and the Stones “Gimme Shelter”) and will secure you the album without needing to sell your firstborn. Do it, or they’ll send The Rat ‘round. 

*

27 comments

  1. chris delprete · · Reply

    I had two chances to pick up that Galadriel record, once in the 70s for 50c. at our local appliance store Muirs. My most recent interaction with it was at a local secondhand record store- $500 on the wall. Who started this practice of putting the valuable vinyl stock on the walls. The higher the pricier…closer to heaven maybe? My teenage version of multitasking was reading/studying in my room with a record playing. Phone dragged into my room with 3XY down low, listening for one their many album giveaways. Won a few too. My best scores were the entire Santana collection and tickets to Wings at the Myer Music Bowl.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love the Galadriel story, Chris. What’s that? A x1000 increase in value?
      Reminds me of the mate who passed on the original lenticular cover “Their Satanic Majesties” for 99c. 😂
      Great prizes from 3XY, too! You must have had nimble dialling fingers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    “An elf of a different hue,” I’ll bet. 10 in ‘71! I was 1; that clarifies things some. Good chewy read this, Bruce.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Something for the afternoon coffee, Bill.
      Thanks for reading mate.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Sure, thanks for serving it up on my chaise right here!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. That guitar work by John Robinson is pretty impressive. (Thanks YouTube).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ain’t it just!

      Like

      1. Just read a bit about his career. Looks to have been, how shall we say, unlucky in his choice of business associates.
        Anyway, thanks for the reminder on these.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. In November ’71 I burst onto the scene!! While the 80s but more so the 90s had a profound effect on me, music of the 70s remains arguably the era that I love the most. If I’m right, Daddy Cool made a big splash in Autumn of 71 with its single ‘Eagle Rock’. Of course, the album it came from Daddy Who? Daddy Cool would come soon after mid year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1971 was indeed a good year for all kinds of reasons, Robert. How nice to add your appearance to the list.

      As for Daddy Cool, I’d be hoping to include the August album (though knowing my struggles with timeliness, Christmas might be a more realistic deadline).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In addition to learning about three Aussie bands with which I was previously unfamiliar, I’ve learned a new word: larrikin. Does Wikipedia get it right? “Larrikin is an Australian English term meaning “a mischievous young person, an uncultivated, rowdy but good hearted person”, or “a person who acts with apparent disregard for social or political conventions”. I also have to say that “Fruit Salad of Texture” would be a great name for an album!

    Like

    1. Those are perfectly acceptable definitions of ‘larrikin’, JDB. ‘Loveable rogue’ is an all purpose slug-line too. Probably best not to delve too deeply into this one as the likelihood is high we would uncover frequent use of the term during the 60s and 70s as an excuse for–or glossing over of–reprehensible behaviour, particularly in the area of gender (dis)respect.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well looks like they were kicking off the weirdness of the ’70’s in fine style. Tolkien was still alive, I wonder what he thought of all this. That Galadriel cover is something, the illustrator apparently had a vision of the future, Cate Blanchett playing the part, or was Little House on the Prairie playing at the time, and Frodo exclaiming “There’s an eye in me soup,” and a suite about a rat, strange days indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Weird and wonderful, Robert. That Cate B image is a hard one to unsee; thanks for that. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m enough of a Tolkien nerd that I covet that Galadriel record, although I respect your judgement that it’s not that good. Gollum needs some pants though, or at least a loin cloth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Gollum portrayal is unsettling, isn’t it Graham? Could it be a portrait of someone known to the artist? A disrobed insurance salesman perhaps? Or the record label’s head of marketing? Chances are, we’ll never know.

      (There was a CD re-issue in 1995 by Melbourne’s Visious Sloth that one can secure for a modest sum, if you are so moved).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yup, it’s probably trolling someone, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m with Aphoristical over here, total Tolkien nerd. Re-reading LotR (already done the Hobbit) to the kids for the second time just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a marathon read, Aaron. Well done!

      Like

      1. Thanks, but it’s made easy by the fact that the kids LOVE those books. We are parenting correctly!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Gold star, mate.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, I mean, how could I refuse when they demand it? 🙂 My daughter (10) asked for (and received) her own copies of the series too, for when she wants to dip into them herself. They have pride of place in her bookshelf.

            Funny, I bought the boxed set of the novels when my lovely wife and I were still just dating (that started 23 years or so…er, a while ago now) and I said you know, one day I’m gonna read these to my kids. I never opened that boxed set until they were old enough and ready to hear it. And like I said, second time through, now. They get so excited about it, and know all the events by heart.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Love it. My one read LOTR IN year 8. Took a while, but he enjoyed the journey.

              Like

            2. Yes! There’s something about them, inspires the right imagination.

              Liked by 1 person

  9. Our teenage band was called Galadriel around 1971 … until we realised we had stolen the name from some other musical upstart. (Probably not the one featured here.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was the times, eh? I notice (on Discogs, hard drive of all musical data) that there are no less than ten artists boasting the name Galadriel. I suspect, however, that you and your friends were in the first elven wave. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] AUTUMN 1971, MELBOURNE […]

    Like

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: