Australian Broadside

Album Notes by Edgar Waters (1965)

Back to Australian Broadside Go to Album Notes Parts 1 3

(Songs on Side One of the original LP)
Twenty Summers
The Voyager
Son Of Mine
The Roar Of The Crowd
On The Far Side Of The Road
Do You Know Barry?


Mona Brand's words were written as a comment on the recent decision to conscript young Australians for military service overseas. But they are a protest not so much against that decision in itself, as against all warfare. The melody is by Gary Shearston.



Like many of the singers of folk-song revival - and like many in their audience - Gary Shearston is a pacifist. This song was his response to the sinking of the destroyer Voyager by the aircraft-carrier Melbourne during naval exercises. The song. . . "was written two days after the disaster out of a complete feeling of helplessness and frustration that eighty-two men had lost their lives rehearsing for this thing called war which was supposed to have ended twenty years ago for all time."



White Australians have recently been showing a good deal of interest in the verse of the black Australian, Kath Walker. Maybe this in itself provides some justification for her rather tentative hope that black Australians will in the future be treated less brutally by their white conquerors. Shearston has set Kath Walker's words to a tune which is known, in many slightly differing forms, to folk singers throughout the English-speaking world. It is appropriate to the theme of Kath Walker's words that this particular form of the tune should belong to an Irish rebel song, The Croppy Boy.




The words and melody of this song are the work of Denis Kevans, a Sydney trade unionist. Kevans retains - and here expresses - the traditional belief of trade unionists in Australia that the union movement is an important instrument of social change.



The words and melody of this song are by Gary Shearston. The song-makers of the folk-song movement, as this record shows, have some very definite ideas of what they are against - war, racial discrimination, capital punishment, for example - but generally only rather vague ideas of what they are for. So this song is a very characteristic product of the present-day folk-song movement: an expression of hope for a better future which is not related to any clear ideology, much less any political programme.



This was written, of course, as a comment on the last presidential election campaign in the United States. Michael Thomas had his tongue in his cheek when he was writing it, at least part of the time. He has his tongue in his cheek today, when he suggests that Do You Know Barry? just goes to show how quickly a topical song goes out of date. Gary Shearston provided the words with a tune which is appropriate but not altogether original; unashamed borrowing is one of the traditions of folk-song making.

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