This intimate live alt-folk/punk-folk/acoustic-rock portrait of inner Sydney bohemian life is the eighth release from James’s newly unearthed, previously unreleased archive, Lost Songs from the Rusting Shed of Disappeared Guitars.
When 2JJ invited James to write and record a series of new songs for a weekly news review program called Out Takes, the idea was that each week, for three months, he would deliver a personal, alternative response to the news....via satires, commentaries, comedies based on the headlines....aiming to entertain listeners by having fun with the absurdities, pomposities, half-truths and misdirection so common in public affairs. A bit like being a cartoonist, except with music and lyrics.
James wrote about a dozen Out Takes songs but only six recordings still exist: the tracks now on Bad News, Bad News:
Six captivating postcards from Darlinghurst - in which spare, unadorned acoustic guitar and voice; rich, multilayered piano atmospheres; and James’s characteristically eloquent lyrics combine to create a timeless tribute to the eternal verities and dualities of bohemian life: songs that are at once ironic, loving, acerbic and wistful; bitter and sweet; of love, loss, fashion, friendship and loneliness; of camaraderie, theft and style hunting; funny and melancholy, gentle and tough; of smoking, drinking and endlessness; of talking and hoping; bitter-sweet evocations of lives running on and off the rails, lost poetry voices of dreamers….and of those adrift in clouds and rain, down and out among Sydney’s ocean views....
“In my first few years as a performing artist I did hundreds of shows: wine bars, coffee shops and folk clubs; university campuses, festivals, from the backs of trucks; house concerts, rent parties, political marches and rallies; busking at markets and on the street...and so-on, but it was rare for me (or anyone) to be recorded in these situations, so the fact that there’s a good quality recording of Jane Butler and me at the Roxy that night is a minor miracle….and is entirely due to the ABC’s Radio 2JJ, which was then in its third year and was committed to recording Australian artists and putting them to air.
Double J recorded several acts that night and it’s great to be able to share some of Jane’s and my part in the evening.
And what makes this even more special for me is that this is one of only two recordings, from those years, of Jane’s piano playing. Although we played a lot of shows together we only did one other extended recording session, a studio performance in 1976, of seven songs with our then band, The Roll Your Own Ragtime Cabaret. That day’s music is now the album, Comedies, Absurdities & Satirical Imaginings, also just released. Jane is a wonderful musician and to have this six song showcase of her, as usual faultless, work on stage is a wonderful gift from the universe.
We did two sets at the Roxy that night and this tape is from the opening bracket. There are earlier, solo, one-take ‘studio’ recordings of four of these songs on my Redfern Nights album, but Cheap Hotel Fire/Car Crash/Desire and Male, Heterosexual and White are available for the first time here.
The Roxy was in Taylor Square in Darlinghurst and, mid-decade, was a key inner Sydney performance venue. Initially it ran from 1969 to 1975 as a community art centre, then, in ’76, ’77 it became a coffee house run by Tim Carroll, a Canadian expatriate with a great love of music, who turned it into an accessible place we could all play at. Ironically, the fact that the Roxy was really too small for bands is what helped make it important for new ideas….because that lack of space meant solo artists, duos and small ensembles had the run of the place, and a lot more freedom than was usually offered at the more rigidly formatted folk clubs or the more alcohol focused pubs and wine bars.
We did the Roll Your Own Ragtime Cabaret there through 1976. We always had guests in the show: musicians, writers, actors, including the acclaimed poet, Vicki Viidikas, the much loved singer/songwriter John Ewbank and the now internationally acclaimed guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel, who had just arrived in Sydney from northern NSW. The rest of the week Tim showcased many of the emerging and established acoustic and jazz artists playing around Sydney at the time.
By the time these songs were recorded in ’78, the Roxy had moved down the road to the corner of Crown and Oxford Streets….but it’s great to have this memento of Tim; the venue in both its incarnations; the streets of Darlinghurst; time, and the times....
Live At The Roxy is available from James's Store
The complete work is available digitally as one single 18 minute track from Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora, You Tube Music, Tidal, Groove Music (Microsoft)