This vivid, poetic, captivating portrait of inner-city bohemian life is the sixth release from James's newly unearthed, previously unreleased archive, Lost Songs from the Rusting Shed of Disappeared Guitars.
From a seminal mid-‘70s communal house in inner Sydney James composed many of the songs that helped establish his reputation as a songwriter and performer. Some got taped then but others survived only as lyrics and chord changes on scraps of paper....so for this album we've recorded some of those ‘paper' songs now....to complete Redfern Nights and to finally share these musical autobiographies, comic vignettes, odes to friends, and meditations on how one might be in the world.
"So I went into Hothouse studio in St. Kilda and made six tracks the same way I'd been recorded in ‘76, '77....very fast, one take straight down, like playing live....so all this was written between '75 and ‘77 but the recordings and performances are a mix of then and now....and I must say I'm relieved and excited by how immediate the songs still feel...."
"All these stories are set in the streets, venues, bars, coffee lounges of inner city Sydney: French's Tavern, the Limerick Castle, the Paris Theatre, the Kirk Gallery, Cleveland Street, Crown Street, Johnny's Fish Café, the Roxy, Taylor Square, Oxford Street, No-Name's, the Stanley Palmer Culture Palace, Kings Cross, Darlinghurst Road, Victoria Street, the Piccolo Bar....and so-on....love songs, songs of loss and longing, cheerful songs, melancholy songs; songs about books I'd read, people I'd met....stories of friendship, memory, meetings, partings...and some lighthearted songs about trying to make sense of life's complicated and confusing dance....
"The first two tracks are good places to start....Where's The Party is a little comedy about hipness and hedonism, set in French's Tavern in Oxford Street...where, as the chorus suggests, on any night, anyone at the bar might've said:
"Hello, how are you? Cool I hope
Tell me where the party is, tell me where's the dope."
"And Glenmore Road is a direct meditation on life's confusing and complicated dance; on the beautiful inner Sydney landscape/seascape; and on the metaphysics of loss and longing:
‘Watch that wind over Glenmore Road
Rattling the windows of the sky
Shaking down the town as the night settles in
With the city more dry than high
It's funny how you finish up on somebody's floor
It's sad when they want you to leave
It's funny how the wind wires the night
And it's funny how you still care for me..."
"...and so-on, reflecting on the transient lifestyle and the comings and goings of friends as we try, and sometimes fail, to remain connected to each other. "From late 1975 through '77 I lived in the attic room of an enormous old three story terrace house at 50 Pitt Street, Redfern....shared my days and nights with a shifting communal population of musicians, actors, political activists, poets, playwrites world travelers and so-on....all full of energy, ideas and the belief that life should be an adventure. I wrote about 40 songs there, and along the way we created The Roll Your Own Ragtime Cabaret, many one-off street-music/theatre/poetry events, rent parties, plus I wrote a repertoire I could perform solo around the inner city music venues too.
"We didn't think about releasing records then because, for us, it was virtually impossible. We were radical outsiders, had no money or resources for making our own records (that would come a year or two later with the birth of independent record making) and the existing record labels were looking the other way. What we were about was live performance and everything was created with that in mind.
"Some of the songs from the Ragtime Cabaret are now released and available as the album, James Griffin & the Roll Your Own Band....and some as Bad News, Bad News..., a collection of topical satirical songs I composed for a 2JJ current affairs program....but beyond these were many much more personal stories, odes to friends, meditations on how to be in the world....a few got recorded at the time and some only survived on handwritten paper manuscript....so for this album I decided to record the unrecorded songs now, in 2018.
"And if you're still thinking about finding a way into the album, Love Letters and Take It From The Top might be illuminating windows as well.
"Anyway, I hope you enjoy these songs....I've gained much from bringing them into the present. I'm including some in my current live repertoire, and I'm hoping they might speak to you, now, too."
Redfern Nights 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, YouTube Music, Tidal, Groove Music (Microsoft)