Table of Contents
GO YOUR OWN WAY
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I ever change things
That I feel
If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way.
Mick Fleetwood- drums
John McVie – bass
Christine McVie (nee Perfect)-, keyboard and vocals
Lindsey Buckingham- guitar and vocals
Stevie Nicks- vocals.
Of the many incarnations of Fleetwood Mac, that’s the famous line-up responsible for Rumours, the 1977 album that dramatically raised their status from moderately to wildly successful.
Fleetwood Mac had been around since they were a British blues band in the late ‘60s, but in the ‘70s, changes in personnel expanded their songwriting and vocal harmonies. Furthermore, Stevie and Lindsey were Californians, so when the band relocated across the Atlantic, they became exponents of the soft rock West Coast sound, no more blues jams.
Like Abba, Fleetwood Mac was made up of 2 couples- Christine married John but that didn’t last, the Californians were a pair but that didn’t last, and Mick was married but that didn’t last. However, they all stayed together for the sake of the music, and tensions simmered. To use Christine’s wonderful maiden name, this was perfect grist for the songwriting mill.
Stevie wasn’t thrilled about these lyrics written about her by Lindsey, but still sang her backing vocals regardless.
Tell me why
Everything turned around
Shacking up is all you want to do
If I could
Baby I’d give you my world
Everything’s waiting for you.
Rumours was a year in the making, but must have felt much longer given the friction within the group. At the end of each tense recording session, the girls and boys parted company to spend nights in segregated accommodation.
They had to go their own way
Go their own way.
The confessional nature of Rumours struck a chord with the record-buying public, and it has gone on to sell more than 40 million copies. Go Your Own Way was the first of four singles from the album.
1977 was the year of CB radio, cordless TV remotes, VCRs at the bargain price of $2000, and microwaves at $429.
It was also the year of strikes, strikes and more strikes. Air traffic controllers, postal workers, power workers, and Telecom employees all had their turn. The oil, building and iron ore industries were affected, as was the export of uranium and coal.
Australia still had a whaling industry. Refugees were pouring in from Vietnam, and we heard the term ‘boat people’ for the first time.
A 39 year old neurophysiologist, Colleen McCullough, sold the paperback rights of Thorn Birds for $1.7 million in the US.
English adventurer, Robyn Davidson, travelled for four months with camels and a dog from Alice Springs to Wiluna on the west coast.
Anti-drug crusader, Donald MacKay, went missing in Griffith NSW, after his car was found in a hotel parking lot with spent cartridges and pool of blood nearby.
83 people died when a commuter train travelling to Sydney from the Blue Mountains hit a road bridge near Granville railway station. A 300 tonne section of the bridge came down on the train, killing 83 and injuring more than 200.
After 70 years of planning, the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches combined to form the Uniting Church.
Jimmy Carter became President of the US, Brezhnev took over as President of the USSR, and our Prime Minister was Malcolm Fraser.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
Since Federation had been declared in 1901, Australia had shared an anthem with Great Britain. There had been on-going interest in replacing God Save the Queen (or King) with a song that reflected our own distinctive national character. The path to an Australian anthem is quite a saga.
In 1971, the Australian National Anthem and Flag Quests Committee launched an anthem contest, one of the entrants being John Shortis, my father, an amateur composer, conductor and arranger. His entry was Australia, Dear Land of Mine.
Australia dear land of mine
Let all voices now acclaim
As southern stars and waratahs
Enshrine thy lasting fame.
The ten top entries were published in a book, and there alongside songs by Jack O’Hagan (the writer of many hits like Along the Road to Gundagai), and Frank Coghlan (bandleader at Sydney’s one-time leading dance hall, the Trocadero), was my dad’s song.
These entries were given to the Australia Council for judging, but they mustn’t have been too impressed, because in 1973, during Gough Whitlam’s time, a new competition was held and every entry rejected. Till his dying day my father never forgave Gough.
But the issue burbled away, and in ’74 the Australian Bureau of Statistics held a public opinion poll to judge support for three existing songs- Song of Australia, Waltzing Matilda and Advance Australia Fair. The latter received over half the vote, so Gough declared it the new anthem.
Gough was ousted, in came Malcolm Fraser, and in 1976 God Save the Queen was reinstated.
But not all were happy with the idea of athletes at the Montreal Olympics that year standing on the podium without a distinctive Aussie song, so the choice was given to the people at a non-compulsory plebiscite in 1977. Advance Australia Fair won convincingly, although it wasn’t officially adopted for another seven years.
One poll in ’77 had support for an Australian republic at only 29%, and during Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee Tour of Australia that year, a protester was removed for waving a Eureka flag and crying out ‘Independence for Australia’.
1977 was the year that punk group the Sex Pistols brought out a rather different God Save the Queen.
God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
The single, which was sold with a cover that showed the Queen sporting a punk safety pin, was promptly banned by radio stations throughout Britain, but still got to number 2.
God save the queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
In England’s dreaming.
The UK, in the hands of an impotent Labour government led by James Callaghan, was experiencing runaway inflation and unresolved industrial action, and there was increasing pessimism and cynicism among youth who saw no future beyond the dole queue.
This discontent found expression via a new musical and social phenomenon, punk, a movement that equated existing rock music with the establishment. Punk was everything the pop industry wasn’t.
The first UK punk band to record was The Clash who sang of a hope for change. Then came the nihilistic Sex Pistols who were instantly met with revulsion by the mainstream, who saw punk as sinister pop cult, based on sex, sadism and violence.
Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future, no future,
No future for you.
Punk was not just a new approach to music, but also had its own fashion, created by designer Vivienne Westwood, who happened to be the girlfriend of the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren. The punk look consisted of brightly coloured Mohican hairdos, army-style boots, and body-piercing in unusual places.
Punk had actually begun in New York in 1975, led by groups like The Ramones, but the first punk band outside the US was from Brisbane. They were The Saints, and their song (I’m) Stranded is seen by many to be seminal in the development of punk.
I’m riding on a midnight train
And everybody looks just the same
A subway light it’s dirty reflection
I’m lost babe I got no direction
And I’m stranded on my own
Stranded far from home, all right
Stranded – yeah I’m on my own
Stranded – I’m so far from home
Stranded – you gotta leave me alone
‘Cause I’m stranded on my own,
Stranded far from home.
The single was released in the UK in 1976, one review declaring it…
…The single of this and every week.
The single had a cult following, and didn’t make it on to the Australian charts at all. However, (I’m) Stranded has been listed in the Top 30 Songs of All Time by the Australasian Performing Right Association, inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, and has been stored on the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry.
Sir Bob Geldof once said that there were three bands that altered the face of ‘70s rock music: The Ramones, the Sex Pistols and The Saints.
MULL OF KINTYRE
The new musical order was the antithesis of pop music as it had been. In fact the bass player of the Sex Pistols, Glenn Matlock, was fired in 1977 because of musical differences. He did, after all, admire the bass playing of Paul McCartney.
Speaking of which, poor old Paul who had signed his songs away for peanuts in the naive early days of Beatlemania, bought the copyright of Buddy Holly’s catalogue of songs in 1977 for the bargain basement price of $100 000, a very smart move.
At the same time, another investment, a farm in Kintyre in the remote highlands of western Scotland, was to give him the inspiration for a nice little earner, a song he co-wrote with Wings’ guitarist, Denny Laine, inspired by a rugged headland not far away.
Far have I travelled and much have I seen,
Dark distant mountains with valleys of green.
Vast painted deserts with sunsets of fire,
As they carry me back to the Mull of Kintyre.
Mull of Kintyre,
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here,
On Mull of Kintyre.
The local pipe band in full traditional dress played on the recording and the nostalgic lilting song was released into a music scene now feeling the effect of punk, just a fortnight after The Sex Pistols’ album Never Mind the Bollocks was released.
Mull of Kintyre sold two million on release, and one story goes that when Paul was once caught in a traffic jam he noticed a group of punks in the car next to him. Trying to become invisible as he thought they’d think him a joke, Paul was pleasantly surprised when one of the punks wound down his window to declare…
…you know that Mull of Kintyre- it’s fucking great.
TV AND POLITICS
1977 saw the first Aussie Rules final to be broadcast live on TV, and Kerry Packer’s first season of the very controversial World Series Cricket.
ABC TV serial Bellbird ended after 1693 episodes over 10 years.
Channel Seven committed to a TV adaptation of The Naked Vicar Show, which had begun as an ABC radio program two years earlier. The show gave us Ross Higgins’ immortal character, Ted Bulpit, around which the popular sitcom Kingswood Country would later be based.
That year, Harry M Miller, who was chair of the Queen’s Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, set up what would become a landmark moment in Australian television industry. Molly Meldrum was to interview Prince Charles for Countdown, to promote a specially compiled album to raise money for charity. Molly learned the carefully worded script off by heart, but when the time for the interview came, he kept stuffing up the intro. To break the ice, the prince noted that Molly had just returned from a trip to London, to which the Countdown host replied…
As a matter of fact I saw your mum driving along in an open carriage in London the other day.
To which Prince Charles replied…
You mean Her Majesty the Queen?
After putting his arm around the prince’s shoulder and calling him ‘Lovey’, it was decided that the intro would be re-recorded after the future king left the studio.
Television played a big part in the federal election that was called for the end of the year, with Coalition ads using the slogan ‘fistful of dollars’ to promote its offer of tax cuts (which of course never saw the light of day). The ads worked. Despite one poll showing that Fraser was as unpopular as Whitlam, his government was resoundingly returned with a loss of only five lower house seats, and a small but meaningful majority in the Senate.
KEEPING THE BASTARDS HONEST
Don Chipp had served as a Liberal MP since 1960 and had been responsible for several portfolios, but when Fraser became PM in ’75, Chipp was not in the ministry, and it was clear that there was no love lost between the two men.
So it was no surprise when, in 1977, Chipp resigned from the Liberal Party with a speech that shows that disenchantment with political parties was alive and well even back then.
…I have become disenchanted with party politics as they are practised in this country… The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it.
Chipp was to lead a new centrist party, provisionally called the Centre-Line Party. Other names flagged were Dinkum Democrats, Practical Idealists of Australia and People for Sanity, until it was decided to call the party The Australian Democrats. Policy voted on by the members included environmental sustainability, health and welfare, animal rights, rejection of nuclear technology, and opposition to economic rationalism. Above all, to use Chipp’s immortal words, uttered some years later, the party’s main role was
…to keep the bastards honest.
Chipp and a NSW colleague were elected to the Senate at the ’77 election as Australian Democrats, beginning a long upper house presence that was to last for over 30 years.
Two Elvises were in the news in 1977, one who was coming and one who was going.
First, the one who was coming.
Back in 1970, there was a dispute between certain record labels and Australian commercial radio stations which meant that some records were banned from airplay. So, for about five months, we got cover versions of some singles, including the Beatles’ Long and Winding Road, which us Aussies heard sung by an unknown English singer called Day Costello. Costello’s take on the song was in our charts for 21 weeks and went to number 3.
Costello’s real name was Ross MacManus, who took the pseudonym from his grandmother’s maiden name.
It’s no wonder that, when his son, Declan, followed in his father’s footsteps to carve a career in the music industry, he adopted the same surname, with a first name taken from a music legend. He was Elvis Costello.
It was alternative record company, Stiff Records, that took on Declan MacManus in 1977, and who insisted on a change of name. His first album, My Aim Is True, attracted good reviews and reached the Top 20 in the UK, but it wasn’t till he released Watching the Detectives, which wasn’t from the album, that he had any success.
Nice girls not one with a defect,
Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct.
Red dogs under illegal legs.
She looks so good that he gets down and begs.
She is watching the detectives
Ooh, he’s so cute!
She is watching the detectives
When they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.
They beat him up until the teardrops start,
But he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.
The detectives come to check if you belong to the parents
Who are ready to hear the worst about their daughter’s disappearance
Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay,
It only took my little fingers to blow you away.
Just like watching the detectives.
And so to the Elvis who was going.
In August 1977, the world stopped still when Elvis Presley died, and it’s one of those occasions where we know exactly what we’re doing and where we were when we heard the news.
Without Elvis, music and social history would have unfolded very differently, because it was thanks to him that white country and pop music met black blues and gospel, giving us rock ‘n’ roll. And with it came the incredible changes in youth culture that turned the western world on its head.
His first recording was an outrageously original and spontaneous version of That’s All Right Mama, but it was his Heartbreak Hotel in 1956 that put a bomb under the complacent and fairly insipid music industry of the time. Many musicians of a certain age name this record as their epiphany.
When John Lennon was asked to comment on Elvis’s death he said that Elvis died when enlisted in the army, a fairly accurate comment. Originally gutsy and groundbreaking he became, under the management of Colonel Tom Parker, a showbiz property whose name on a movie or record regardless of the quality, meant dollars.
After the army stint, the movies and their soundtracks deteriorated in quality, although he still gave us many highly memorable recording moments. But with the advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion he was seen as old-hat, and had stopped live performances. So, in 1968, he reinvented himself with a TV special, and a new and high quality album, From Elvis in Memphis.
It was then a new stage of his career took off as he was offered his first Las Vegas season, and the era of overblown outfits and performances began. His fans flocked and his ability to wrap them around his finger, not to mention his sizable talents as a performer and singer, meant lucrative results, and an ongoing contract.
As the years went by though, his behaviour and his spending became increasingly erratic, and when those around him tried to talk to him about it he stormed off, and took himself to Washington where his fame allowed him to have an awkward meeting with President Nixon. He told the President of his concern with the drug culture, which is ironic given his heavy use of prescription drugs.
Elvis’s life degenerated into a series of tours, variable performances live and on record, a bloated appearance, lacklustre reviews, and a growing list of health problems with drug dependence at the top of the list.
Footage of him performing Unchained Melody in Rapid City Ohio was too raw for broadcast at the time. The passion is there but the voice and the physical strength had all but left him.
Then the imminent release of a book that spilled the beans on what was happening to him behind the scenes sent him switching between depression and defiance.
When he finally succumbed to the effect of Seconal, Placidyl, Valmid, Tuinal, Demerol and a mix of other depressants and placebos, the initial cause of death was given as ‘cardiac arrhythmia due to undetermined heartbeat’. After the lab results, it was admitted that the primary cause of death was polypharmacy, better known as heavy drug use.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as Elvis’ body was transported in a white hearse from Graceland to the cemetery.
I am a big Presley fan, and this is an excerpt from my tribute song.
In a room lined with peg board
A cross marks the spot
Where he once tapped his Lansky store shoes
Where Tupelo met Memphis
Where hillbilly white
Met the black heart of rhythm ‘n’ blues
Where chains were unlocked
Where a culture was shocked
Like nothing we’d witnessed before
Now the room’s filled with tourists
And reel to reel sessions
These four walls see him no more
‘Cause Elvis has left the building
He’s found a safe place to dwell
And it’s out in the ether
Where he talks to St Peter
‘Bout the tariff at Heartbreak Hotel.
Interestingly, the day after Elvis left us, three Aussie bands began- INXS, Midnight Oil and Mental as Anything. The baton was passed on.
BIG IN AUSTRALIA FIRST
Back to Molly Meldrum, and to 1975 when a film clip arrived on his desk from Sweden containing songs by an unknown band called ABBA. The song that stood out was Mamma Mia, but their record label refused to release it as a single until it was played regularly on Countdown. It received so much response that the record company gave in to public demand, and as a result the single took off around the world and ABBA’s international career was launched.
When Abba came to Australia for a sell-out concert tour in ’77, it was like a thank you for giving them their first success. In the audience, fresh from announcing that the Coalition would proceed with full-scale uranium mining was….
There you go again
You’re no Gough
It’s easy to resist you
Don’t you know that when
You sell it off
I’ll never ever miss you.
Another act that hit it big in Australia, before the rest of the world, thanks to Molly, was New York band, Blondie.
Darlin’ darlin’ darlin’
I can’t wait to see you
Your picture ain’t enough
I can’t wait to touch you in the flesh
Darlin’ darlin’ darlin’
I can’t wait to hear you
Remembering your love
Is nothing without you in the flesh.
Lead singer Debbie Harry was discovered when she was part of a female vocal trio called The Stilettos. She was given the job of lead singer in a new band named after the colour of her dyed hair. In 1977 Molly was on one of his international jaunts, and noticed Blondie when they were playing support for Iggy Pop in the US. He was impressed enough to ask them for a video, and In the Flesh got the Countdown treatment. In the words of Debbie Harry…
…By the end of 1977 In the Flesh had hit number two in Australia, It was Blondie’s first hit anywhere in the world. Thanks Molly.
Now we cross to Peter Manning with his take on the Cabinet Records of 1977.
Manning, Manning, Manning,
I can’t wait to see you
Your picture ain’t enough
I can’t wait to hear you in the flesh.
Click to go to a transcript of address by Peter Manning.
Songs, YouTubes and credits
Go Your Own Way written by Lindsey Buckingham
Australia Dear Land of Mine written by John Shortis (senior)
God Save the Queen written by Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Paul Cook, Stephen Jones
Mull of Kintyre written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine
Watching the Detectives written by Elvis Costello
Elvis Has Left the Building written by John Shortis
Mamma Mia written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson. Parody by John Shortis
In the Flesh written by Deborah Harry and Chris Stein. Parody by John Shortis
Paul McCartney- the Biography by Philip Norman
The Never Um Ever Ending Story by Molly Meldrum
Unfaithful Music by Elvis Costello
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
Careless Love by Peter Guralnick
Essay written February 2017