OLD BULLI was written for the four miners who lost their lives at Bulli Mines in November 1965. Methane- is a firedamp marsh-gas and one of the main causes of fires and explosions in a coal mine. The goaf
is an area of abandoned workings where gas tends to accumulate and the
roof is likely to fall; such an area is usually curtained off with a
cloth-like canvas called a brattice. Dusted lungs is the most common disease contracted by miners and after-damp refers to the noxious gas, carbon monoxide. The "Merkesworth"
was the name of the boat which carried non-union labour down from
Sydney to work the Bulli Mines during the strike of 1886. The first
group was taken to the mines under police escort. The second
contingent, however, never got there; the local miners and their
families blocked the locomotive and six cars carrying the blacklegs from the wharf to the mines. The wives of the miners actually lay across the railway tracks.
is Gary Shearston's sixth album and one in which I take considerable
personal interest not only because I talked him into doing it but
because I feel it is important that Gary Shearston, the songwriter,
should come to the fore with an LP of his own songs. With his two
previous recordings, THE SPRINGTIME IT BRINGS ON THE SHEARING and
BOLTERS, BUSHRANGERS AND DUFFERS Gary has emerged as one of the most
important interpreters of Australia's traditional songs, receiving
worldwide acclaim for both records. The success of these two LP's,
however, tends to underestimate Gary Shearston's own capabilities as a
writer and composer of contemporary songs of considerable importance.
His songs are not just "protest" songs! They are, rather, his personal
comments and thoughts on a wide variety of issues and human emotions.
This album features eleven of these songs. Most of them have not
previously been recorded, those that have been, are presented here in
usual, Gary Shearston is backed by his own guitar and the "old team" of
RICHARD BROOKS on harmonica and LES MILLER on banjo and guitar. The
sound reproduction here is in the style of Gary's traditional
recordings without the use of artificial studio techniques or reverb
resulting in a closer, more personal appeal to the listener.
- DON'T WAVE TO ME TOO LONG
is one of Gary's most tender love songs. Beautiful words set to a
haunting melody make it one of his best songs to date in this category.
- THE LOST SOLDIER was written
from a newspaper report of the death of an Australian soldier in
Vietnam. The song finishes with some of the statements made by his
young wife about his participation in the Vietnam war. The tune for
this song is adapted from a traditional song known as "Lord Franklin".
- DUKE'S SONG
is a tribute to one of the last of the old-time bushmen, "Duke"
Tritton, who died in May, 1965. During his seventy-eight years "Duke"
lived and worked the kind of life Henry Lawson and "Banjo" Paterson
wrote about. In later years as a member of the Sydney Bush Music Club,
where he was a life member, he was recognised as one of Australia's
finest traditional bush singers. "A lifetime of years and experiences
separated us," says Gary, "yet he gave his friendship with the same
sincerity and honesty that he sang his songs. He was one of the finest
men I've ever known." The tune for this song is adapted from a
traditional Australian song, "The Cockies of Bungaree".
GO ON, GIRL "Be on your way, leave the sands behind, go build your
house of clay . . ." This is Gary's most recent song and like "Sometime
Lovin'" again clearly demonstrates his ability to produce a strong
melody and sensitive lyric without sounding contrived. Gary plays
harmonica on this track.
WE'LL BE BACK IN JUST A MOMENT AFTER THIS IMPORTANT, INFORMATIVE INTERLUDE each week as you enter this timeless land . . . (the tune is adapted from the traditional American song, "Railroad Bill").
THE VOYAGER was written a couple of days after the sinking of the Voyager, Australia's worst peacetime naval disaster.
Gary's most talked-about and recorded song to date. The beautiful
lyrics and tune combine to make one of the most outstanding songs ever
written by an Australian. It was awarded the "Best Australian Song of
the Year (1965)" by Radio Station 2UE in Sydney. Personally, I believe
this song establishes Gary Shearston as a song writer in world class.
THE CONSCRIPTION RAMP
Perhaps this song, written a week after the announcement of
conscription, anticipated the political and moral debates that were to
come throughout Australia in following months. The tune is adapted from
one of the fairly numerous Australian versions of an English folk song,
"The Derby Ram".
GO TO SLEEP, ME LITTLE SON
a lullaby about an incident Gary remembers from his childhood. A
drover's wife had died and he had to leave their young son with friends
to go droving for six months.
WAITING FOR THE POSTMAN
"I wrote this one morning after listening to, and watching a bunch of
kids near where I live. They had a whole fleet of scooters, tricycles,
skate-boards, pedal cars, billy-carts and bare feet ready to accompany
the postman up the street as he made his deliveries."
WE ARE GOING TO FREEDOM
was officially adopted at the Easter, 1966, Conference of the Federal
Council for Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as a
"freedom song" for the movement. The tune is based on an Aboriginal
song taught to Gary Shearston by Roy Dadynga of Yirrkala in Eastern
Arnhem Land. The words of the verses are simple statements of the hopes
and aspirations of the original Australians. Gary Shearston has given
the song to the F.C.A.A. & T.S.I. and all royalties from its
performance will go to that organisation. It is his hoped that the song
will grow steadily as more and more people add verses of their own. It
is performed here with a group of aboriginal singers representing the
Notes by Sven Libaek - Sydney, May 1966