Banana Lounge is a 2CD anthology of Australian lounge/jazz/Latin/exotica/soundtrack music from the 1960s/70s that I produced in the mid-2000s, but which was not released. I signed a contract on the album with EMI in 2003, through the great agency of the label’s then-MD, Englishman Tony Harlow. In the wake of the 90s’ exotica revival, Banana Lounge made perfect sense, although it was never just an extravaganza of cheese and kitsch, but rather a real plumming of the grooviest, moodiest, sexiest fringes of Australian pop, based on my decades of crate-digging. The album went so far as to be mastered, by the re-master master himself Don Bartley, and all the parts for the cover/booklet, the liner-notes and images, were stacked up ready to be artworked – but then when EMI got a new MD, a native Australian supposedly renowned for his championship of Australian music, he quashed the album with a wave of his hand, dismissing it as “jazz-funk wankers.”
Funnily though, in more recent times, like last year (2018), I started getting random, unsolicited communiques from people enquiring after the album, as if there was some sort of zeitgeisty groundswell rising up; as if the album was coming back to life even when it never really had a life in the first place…
“Such a shame it didn't go ahead at the time,” one correspondent, a prominent figure in Melbourne music, lamented. “It would have been a pretty defining historical overview of that era/style, and one that is still really yet to be made.”
A musician friend even mooted the idea of putting the album up on stage, in a similar way to that which Buried Country has become a touring live show.
“A masterwork!” declared another long-time maven of Melbourne music. “Totally enjoyable and has given me a whole new view of Australian music.”
And so, taking all this as a sign – after I’d just had to pack away for years my unshaken belief that Banana Lounge was approaching the same sort of revelation/repatriation as Inner City Sound or Buried Country, and pack away my disappointment that it had been pro-actively killed off (honestly, why do I so often face so much resistance, when my track record, when I can push through with the things I want to do the way I want to do them, is pretty consistently impeccable?) – I have now revived a campaign to finally try and get it out, whether that’s in digital form only or a CD set or vinyl… keep your eye out… meantime, scroll down to see the tracklisting and liner notes...
Although Australia’s dominant music tradition is pub rock, we’ve always enjoyed many other genres as well. It’s just that if those genres don’t command a huge slice of our small market, they can tend, after a while, to drop off the bottom of the map.
This 2CD set is designed to recover some great lost Australian music and mix it into a contemporary context, sort of like a soundtrack to the ultimate cocktail-pool party, a journey somewhere between the dance floor and a headtrip or a skinny-dip…
In Australia in the 1960s/’70s, what once might have been known as ‘space age bachelor pad music’ turned back in on itself: The journey was no longer to outer space but inner space. The Me Generation went looking for itself in affluent suburbia. Banana Lounge is a vinyl version of this odyssey, reborn now only because even by today’s most jaded standards, the listener is sure to find its grooves and moods fresh and irresistable.
Over the two disks - ‘Front Verandah’ and ‘Back Verandah’ - each track takes you deeper into the night. It covers the gamut from jazz and funk and Latin to rock and soundtracks, a ballet score and even a few vocal gems: From afternoon’s gold to the next morning’s dawn…
Some of the biggest names in Australian modern jazz are here – Don Burrows, John Sangster, Errol Buddle, Galapagos Duck – and so are some of our greatest girl singers: Diana Trask, Wilma Reading, Renee Geyer and Kerrie Biddell. Yet it’s remarkable how many juicy tunes are making their CD debut here.
The Latin influence on Australian jazz, as in the US, was part and parcel of post-war modernism itself. But here in sunny Sydney, when the bossa nova took up where the West Coast cool school left off in the late ’50s, it made every bit as much sense as surf rock would also soon do. Burrows, Sangster and Charlie Munro led a charge towards early ‘world music’, with influences coming in not only from South America and the Caribbean but also the middle-east, Asia, and, well frankly, probably other planets too (Sangster’s epic eight-album version of Lord of the Rings has recently been re-released in full on CD).
Sangster, Burrows and Munro all led sessions with a common pool of fine musicians including sax-men Errol Buddle and Graeme Lyall, guitarist George Golla, bassist Ed Gaston and later, ‘fusion’ players like Jim Kelly (of Galapagos Duck) and Mick Kenny (of Crossfire). The gorgeous tenor solo coming out of the back of the opening track, John Sangster’s “In the Rain Forest,” for example, is Errol Buddle… On the track ascribed to Buddle himself, it is bassist Lyn Christie starring on his own composition, with a nice little solo by pianist Judy Bailey (another ubiquitous talent), then it is Buddle, again, leading the Sven Libaek Orchestra in the set closer, “The Kimberleys.”
Soul-jazz, with its signature steaming Hammond organ, was another genre that grew in Australia in the 60s in tandem with the Vietnam War, as more and more US servicemen spent their R&R time in Sydney especially. But that our own King of the B3 though, Col Nolan, can go from “White Midnight” (a one-time station ID for Channel 10) to the gospel-drenched jazz version of the theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock, to the ultimate in exotica, “El Henna,” perhaps only indicates the limits of his title!
Rock too was deepening and diversifying in the late ’60s. Following pioneers like Python Lee Jackson, Jeff St.John and Wendy Saddington, the local rock scene expanded to incorporate funk and soul, thus: Hot City Bump Band, which, like Marcia Hines, grew out of the Sydney cast of Hair; SCRA (Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly), which might have been cast as an Australian Blood, Sweat & Tears if not for leader Peter Martin’s singular talents; and of course, Renee Geyer, our own Queen of Soul.
Up until the 1970s, women like Diana Trask, Wilma Reading, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy had had to go overseas to get recorded. The local success in the ’70s of Renee, Marcia Hines and Kerrie Biddell proved it was possible for female musicians to maintain a career here in Australia.
Jazz and rock came increasingly close together in the early ’70s too. ‘Fusion’ bands produced some of the most memorable soundtracks of the first Australian film rennaisance, like Galapagos Duck’s take on David Williamson’s The Removalists.
When progressive rock met beach culture, the result was the unique animal that is the early Australian surf film soundtrack. Some of these bought in music from overseas – Pink Floyd was popular – but others, like Morning of the Earth and Sea of Joy, were notable for their original soundtracks by local acts like Taman Shud and Tully. On the Crystal Voyager soundtrack - like Morning of the Earth, produced by singer-songwriter G. Wayne (“Open Up Your Heart”) Thomas - jazz keyboardist Bobby Gebert was a featured player and composer.
The surf theme extends all the way back the Australian All-Stars, whose 1961 album Jazz for Beach-Niks pictures the band (which included Don Burrows) clustered around a Whale Beach Surf Living Saving Club boat wearing suits, all the way through to the penultimate track, “Longshore Rider,” which might be the only instrumental that singer-songwriter Richard Clapton ever cut (for the Highway One soundtrack, in 1976).
There are producers and composers whose names recur throughout the collection too. Sven Libaek, who, as A&R Manager at CBS Records in Sydney in the early ‘60s, produced the Atlantics' surf instrumental classic “Bombora,” wrote and produced Col Nolan’s “White Midnight,” as well as closing the set with an excerpt from his own Australian Suite album. Eric Jupp was an EMI in-house man who is most famous for composing the Skippy theme (which is not included here), but does offer a version of the theme from salacious TV soap The Box.
Horst Leipold, a major behind-the-scenes figure in modern Australian jazz, was by the early ’70s manager of Galapagos Duck, publicist for the Basement, and regular producer for his own 44 Records label, which has left behind a catalogue - like those of contemporaneous indies like Cherry Pie, M7 and Cumquat - that is a buried treasure of Australian music. But then, that’s the whole idea here, isn’t it? Digging up these lost gems, and digging them again or, for many people, for the first time…
For me, this music has existed as a sort of fuzzy half-memory in the back of my mind for a long time. It’s been an exhilarating process bringing it out into the light, because I’ve found it just sparkles. I hope you will find something similar.
DISC ONE - ‘Front Verandah’
1/ John Sangster - In the Rain Forest (Sangster)
2/ Les Patching Trio - 9:20 Special (Patching)
3/ Hot City Bump Band - Kufanya Mapenzi [Making Love]
4/ Eric Jupp - Testing Time [Theme from The Box] (Lindup)
5/ Australian All-Stars - Ka-Link (Philly Joe Jones)
6/ Galapagos Duck - In the Making (Qua)
7/ Studio 24 Orchestra – Heading in the Right Direction (Punch/Paige)
8/ Renee Geyer Band - Sweet Love (Renee Geyer Band)
9/ Johnny Nicol - Easy Evil (Alan O’Day)
10/ Tully - Sea of Joy (Lockwood)
11/ Col Nolan Quartet - Jazz Variation on the Theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock (Nolan/Buddle)
12/ Taman Shud - Bali Waters (Bjerre)
13/ Diana Trask - Temptation (Freed/Brown)
14/ John Sangster - The Birds (Sangster)
15/ Col Nolan’s Soul Syndicate - White Midnight (Sven Libaek)
16/ Steve Murphy Quartet - Gettin’ It Together (unknown)
17/ Eric Jupp - Paper Boy [Theme from Number 96] (Grey)
DISC TWO - ‘Back Verandah’
1/ Dudley Moore Trio - Song for Suzy (Moore)
2/ Charlie Munro Jazz Orchestra - Excerpt from Countdown: A Contemporary Ballet (Munro)
3/ Errol Buddle Quartet - In Vino Veritas (Lyn Christie)
4/ Barry Lee Trio - Morning After the Carnival (Bonfa)
5/ SCRA - Sighin’ (Peter Martin)
6/ Don Burrows Quartet - Kaffir Song (Sangster)
7/ Nolan-Buddle Quartet - El Henna (Abdul Rahman El Khatib)
8/ Pirana - Then Came the Light (Hamilton)
9/ Peter Boothman – Afro Blue (Coltrane)
10/ Charlie Munro Jazz Orchestra - Excerpt #2 from Countdown
11/ Wilma Reading - The Way I Want to Touch You (Tennille)
12/ Crossfire - Perverted Pavanne (Mick Kenny)
13/ Charlie Munro Jazz Orchestra - Excerpt #3 from Countdown
14/ Compared to What featuring Kerrie Biddell - How Do You Say Auf Wedersen? (Scibetta/Mercer)
15/ Moir Sisters – Keep on Givin’ (Moir Sisters)
16/ Richard Clapton - Longshore Rider (Clapton)
17/ George Golla - Day Tripper (Lennon-McCartney)
18/ Sven Libaek and his Orchestra - “6th Movement: The Kimberleys” from Australian Suite (Libaek)
(PS: … if you’re wondering how Englishman Dudley Moore manages to get a guernsey, well, his trio was always at least one-third Australian [drummer Chris Karan left Melbourne in the early ’60s to join Dud] and “Song for Suzy” was recorded in Australia, at United Sound Studios in Sydney, with Spencer Lee engineering - and so it was just too hard not to claim it as an honorary Australian track!)