Australian Broadside

Notes by Edgar Waters (1965)

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(Introduction to the album)

Over the past half-a-century or so, there have been many folk-song revivals in many countries. In most cases, these have been revivals and nothing more: attempts to revive the singing of old songs which were being forgotten by the "folk" ("folk" is a very slippery term; in practice, especially in European countries, it has mostly meant peasants, farm workers, fishermen . . .).

An extraordinary development in popular music-making which began in the United States thirty years ago, and which today has great influence in all the English-speaking countries, is also referred to as a folk-song revival. It is a folk-song revival, but it is also something more, something quite new in the history of popular music.

This folk-song revival has as one of its aims the revival of old folk songs; and it has had a more spectacular success in this than any other folk-song revival. But the leading actors in this movement have also been determined to use the old country folk songs (and, in the United States, some of the old city folk songs of the Negroes) as the foundation for a new kind of urban popular music. A kind of urban popular music which would be able to compete with the songs of Tin Pan Alley on their own ground, but which would be better art than the songs of Tin Pan Alley, able to deal with a far wider range of experience and emotion than Tin Pan Alley, above all able to deal with serious matters in a serious way (and that is something which seems to be quite impossible for Tin Pan Alley).



This folk-song revival has successfully revived songs which looked old-fashioned to Tin Pan Alley, and found ways of performing them which seem just as much with the fashion of the day as the latest gimmicks of Tin Pan Alley. And this folk-song "revival" has also brought to birth new songs - like Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, to take an obvious example - which reach the mass audience for popular music with a serious comment on a serious matter. Just the sort of thing that the policy-makers of Tin Pan Alley say popular music cannot do if it is to be popular.

Tin Pan Alley had better watch out; pretty soon it may look as old-fashioned as it is superficial.

Of the singers on the Australian folk-song scene, Gary Shearston is both one of the most popular, and the one who has most sung these new fashionings of the old idiom. On a previous recording (Songs Of Our Time) he sang a number of songs by American and British song-makers, like Bob Dylan, Peter Seeger and Ewan MacColl, as well as some by Australian song-makers. This time, he sings songs written by Australians only, several by himself. Australians started behind the Americans and the British in this field (in more ways than one). But this record shows that they are now producing good, satisfying songs in many moods.

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