Where do you begin? There are a remarkable number of Australian acts which have over the decades set the world of popular music on fire, from Frank Ifield who introduced the US buying public to the Fab Four; to AC DC with more than 120 million album sales worldwide. And don’t forget The Seekers (arguably the most famous folkies of all) and Helen Reddy and of course the diva of pop, Kylie Mogue. Apart from talent and perseverance they all have one thing in common; they all had to move away from Australia to establish themselves as International stars. This of course only happened after they had learned the ropes of the business by doing the hard miles in the Big Brown land. Ultimate success in the music business came from selling albums and the small population of Australia and New Zealand was just not big enough, so talented acts needed to try their luck on the world stage which of course mercilessly eats and spits out young talent. So to achieve “15 minutes of fame” requires outstanding talent.
Peter Allen (1944 – 1992) was a song and dance man who gained public attention as part of the Allen Bros (with guitarist Chris Bell), and they became a popular act on stage, clubs and TV variety shows in Australia. They went on tour in the Far East in 1964 and there he met Judy Garland, who recognised their talent and offered them a job as her opening act. They appeared in London then onto the US. Peter and Liza Minnelli fell in love and eventually got married (1967). Stateside, the Allen Brothers became a popular on the cabaret circuit and Liza and the Allen Brothers toured the Playboy circuit until the Allen Bros eventually called it a day in 1970. Peter launched his solo career and continued to write and sing his own material, including "I Still Call Australia Home," "I Honestly Love You." Sometimes he wrote in collaboration with others like Burt Bacharach and Jeff Barry and the theme from Arthur (starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli) was collaboration between Burt Bacharach, Carol Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross, and Peter Allen. Back in Australia, his recording "I Go to Rio" (co-written with Adrienne Anderson) topped the charts. Many other artists clambered to record his material including; Melissa Manchester "Don't Cry Out Loud" (co-written with Carole Bayer Sager), Pablo Cruise covered "I Go to Rio," and Rita Coolidge "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love." At the height of his fame in 1992 he died suddenly but his life and times have been beautifully recreated on stage in the musical, The Boy from OZ starring Hugh Jackman in the title role.
By the time the Bee Gees had arrived in London they were consummate performers and had been teen idols in Australia for some time. This of course cut no ice in trendy London where boys from the Antipodes would have to prove themselves all over again. Fortunately the lads had a fairy god mother in the form of impresario Robert Stigwood, a fellow Australian, who got them a contract with Polydor Records. The brothers' first UK single was their own composition “ New York Mining Disaster, 1941.” They followed this up with another one of their songs, “To love somebody” but it made no impact on the charts. Ironically this Bee Gees’ song is one of the most covered from their catalogue. When in 1973 the band fell out with their record company they took the unprecedented action of moving to the US. Teamed with Arif Mardin (producer) they worked on a new sound which exploded with the soundtrack of “Saturday night Fever.” With the passing of Disco, the Bee Gees reinvented themself and were back on top of the charts by the mid eighties with a streams of new hit, including "Woman in love", and "Heartbreaker". The Bee Gees represent one of the biggest pop phenomenon of the 20th century and in their 42 years together have released 28 albums, selling approx 175 million copies. The soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, the soundtrack remains the best selling soundtrack ever. The end of the Bee Gees came in 2003 when Maurice Gibb died. Over 1,000 artists have performed their songs, from Elvis Presley to Barbra Streisand (Woman in Love, Guilty, What kind of fool). One of their greatest fans of the Bee Gees is fellow Manchurian , Noel Gallagher (Oasis).
Certainly a heartbreaker for me was not, Patsie Anne Noble (Trisha Noble enjoyed some success in the UK), but Olivia Newton John. Olivia (Livvy) Newton-John dropped out of high school and won a talent contest in the late 60s which took her to England where she joined the group called, Toomorrow. This was a made up group assembled by Don Kirshner in the hopes of creating a female UK version of the Monkees. When the project was pair shaped Olivia joined Cliff Richard on tour. She quickly established herself as credible singer and "If Not for You," became a Top Ten hit in 1971. Somewhat of a surprise to all it sold well in the States which gave her a fan base and when three years later her version of the Bee Gees "I Love You, I Honestly Love You," was released it confirmed her position as a singing starlet. The rest of the seventies were a dream for Olivia could not go wrong and released singles and albums all of which were successful. She moved to LA in 1974 to try to establish her credentials as a country singer this met with minor interest but it was her appearance in Grease (1978) where the little English rose from Melbourne fully blossomed in the glare of International stardom. Olivia was now a soft rocker had had a string of hits including "Magic,""Xandau," and "Suddenly.” In 1981 she won another generation of fans with "Let's Get Physical, " and rather a suggestive video. Hits continued through to the mid eighties unabated but popular music tastes changed and Olivia wanted to grow old gracefully and stepped out of the limelight.
One of the most accomplished singer song writers Australia’s ever produced is Brian Cadd. Before moving to America in 1975, he had establishing himself as a formidable rocker in Australia writing and co-writing The Groop's original material. Brian and Don Mudie also wrote Axiom‘s “Arkansas Grass“, “A Little Ray of Sunshine” and “My Baby's Gone“. Other Australian artists recorded his works including Ronnie Burns’ “When I Was Only Six Years Old“ which was later covered by Paul Jones (ex Manfred Mann) and Master’s Apprentices “Elevator Driver” and “Silver People. ” In later years Brian’s songs were covered by many prominent acts, notably the Pointer Sisters, Gene Pitney, Joe Cocker, Ringo Starr, Bonnie Tyler, Yvonne Elliman, Charlie Daniels, Glen Campbell, The Little River Band, Dobie Gray, Johnny Halliday, Sylvie Vartan, Cilla Black, Trini Lopez, Wayne Newton, and many others. In 1991 Brian was invited to join veteran US country-rock band The Flying Burrito Brothers and in 1995 he produced the very first Chinese Country album, actually recorded in Mainland China. Brian Cadd is still on the go and a very much sought after writer, performer and producer.
Worth a listen:
I remember you (1962)
Georgie Girl (1967)
I go to Rio (1977)
Arthur’s Theme (1980)
Olivia Newton John
I honestly love you
Lets get Physical
Olivia Newton John and John Travolta
You’re the one that I love
New York Mining Disaster (1967)
To love somebody (1967)
A little ray of sunshine
Loggins & Messina
Your mama don’t dance (1973)
Don’t you know its magic (1972)