Songs Of Our Time

Album Notes by John Baker (1964)

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In TURN! TURN! TURN! (To Everything There Is A Season) Pete Seeger takes the listener, not just to the words and ideas of the Book of Ecclesiastes, but to the magic song method of ancient man. The incantation is to turn, turn, turn to a time of peace, for "I tell you it's not too late". It has that special quality Seeger appears able to invest into most of his work, such as "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"

DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALRIGHT: Bob Dylan is a 22-year-old American described as the most important songwriter to have emerged in that country since Woody Guthrie. Of this song Dylan says . . . "It isn't a love song. It's a statement that maybe you can say to make yourself feel better. It's as if you were talking to yourself."

The BASIC WAGE DREAM has two direct influences - Henry Lawson's "Shearer's Dream" and a piece of Sydney's industrial folk-lore about wages and judges. It treats with humour and kindness the workers and machines making pay by day and the dream horses and poker machines devouring it by night. The song was commissioned from Don Henderson by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations as one of its contributions to the humour, music, folk-lore and pay prospects of the 1964 Basic Wage Campaign. Don Henderson has emerged as one of Australia's leading contemporary songwriters and his songs are included in the repertoires of folk-singers in many parts of Australia and the South Pacific.

Dorothy Hewett's SWEET SONG FOR KATIE is a lullaby to her infant daughter set to music by young Sydney songwriter Mike Leyden. Across Australia, from Brisbane to Perth, Dorothy Hewett has wandered speaking her verse and helping her husband and fellow poet Merv Lilley to put poetry and song before anyone that lends an ear.

WE WANT FREEDOM (the Aboriginal Charter of Rights), as arranged by Gary Shearston, is as new and different as the Yirrkala Aboriginal bark painting petition on reservation rights to the House of Representatives in 1963. The Aboriginal Charter of Rights (retitled "We Want Freedom" in its song form) was written by Aboriginal poet Kath Walker and dedicated to the 5th Conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders held in Adelaide in 1962. The poem also appears as the dedication piece of Kath Walker's book of verse published in April, 1964, under the title of "We Are Going". In the music of Gary's arrangement can be seen the modern folk process of weaving together the old and the new as penetrating poetry becomes a moving and powerful song. After writing the chorus, the inspiration for his chant-like cadence in the verses came from the "Devil Dance" (a song from Yirrkala in Eastern Arnhem Land), collected and recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. The end result of this cross-pollination of poetry and song in the tribal and folk fields is an anguished demand for human understanding.

WHO KILLED DAVEY MOORE?: Davey Moore, then American featherweight boxing champion of the world, lost his life in a fight with Cuban Sugar Ramos at the Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, in March, 1963. Moore's death raised intense controversy in the United States press and those looking for a clean-up of American boxing. Remembering the controversy in Sydney following the Archie Kemp-Jack Hassen fight in September, 1949, with Kemp lingering for a time unconscious before his death, it is easy to imagine the heat of the controversy that arose. In his very moving song, Bob Dylan holds up to a merciless scrutiny each one of the shadowy figures that preside, promote and praise today's gladiators.

HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL: Considered by many to be Bob Dylan's masterpiece - so far - in his short creative life, Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" has the imagery, vividness and poetic force that gives it a universal appeal. It is something different to every person who can listen and learn the many things it really does say. Written at the time of the 1962 American-Cuban world crisis, Dylan gives his picture of the world as many young people must see it.

DIRTY OLD TOWN: Ewan McColl has been described as a leader in "the greatest revival o English song-making since Elizabethan times". This love song of dreams by a factory gate and love by the gaswork's wall is the other side of the "Room At The Top" story. Ewan believes the answer lies not in marrying the boss' daughter, but in taking "a big sharp axe" to the "dirty old town".

WHO CAN SAY?: "Who can take another's hand, the colour of coal, the colour of sand?" and "travel to seek the face of a universal human race" are just two of the eight poetic and universal questions Gary Shearston asks in this song. It is left to each listener to seek his or her own personal answers to them all.

ATOMIC LULLABY: Mike Leyden's music brings the worldwide appeal in Dorothy Hewett's lullaby to new audiences who, though they may not have decided the whys and wherefores of nuclear weapons, know that more and more people are feeling what the late John F. Kennedy said so dramatically:- "Today every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when it may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles hanging by the slenderest thread capable of being cut at any moment by accident, miscalculation or madness."

Gary Shearston's DON'T WAVE TO ME TOO LONG is a song that moves on from Ewan McColl's "Dirty Old Town". It is a love song of young men in a hurry to change the world for their generation and those to follow to the "time ahead for all that might have been, When swords have turned to ploughshares and all the world is green."

IT'S ON: This popular song of Don Henderson's is as Australian as the "Basic Wage Dream" and might seem to elevate the ideas of "step out the back and fight it out", the Irishism of "if there's a Government here I'll fight it" and even gunboats up the Nile. Don's sympathy for the victims pinpoints the men who have stepped out the back so many times that "now they're fighting to see what they're fighting about". But he shrewdly turns the argument on the defence versus education allocations into proof that, perhaps, "elections should be . . . the best of ten rounds". Without mentioning Canberra, Sydney or "The Bush", '`It's On" is unmistakably Australian folk-lore and, perhaps, folk-song too!

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