Behind the Lines – the story……
In early 2006 my friend David Minear, executive producer of the Lawson album, introduced me to his mate, Mark Venables. Mark loved the Lawson album and over a few beers he asked me whether I’d be interesting in re-assembling some of the Vagabond Crew to perform an outdoor community concert on Anzac Day in Goodna, just outside Brisbane. The idea was to celebrate the re-opening of the new Goodna RSL club but, more importantly, commemorate the Australians and New Zealanders who’d fought in various wars over the years.
Everyone who’d worked on Lawson jumped at the chance to honour the tradition and spirit of the Anzacs – and, of course, to play together again. My old mate from Redgum, Hugh McDonald, Robbie Hirst, Russell Morris, Mike Rudd and Broderick Smith all signed up without a moment’s hesitation. Bless ‘em.
To my mind the concert had to be respectful, emotive and entertaining. I started by drawing up a list of Australian songs from the early seventies through to 2006 which related, directly or indirectly, to Australians at war. I also wanted to feature a couple of appropriate songs from the Lawson album and I wanted each of the special guests to perform at least one song they’d made famous.
I had a couple of other ideas: one was to screen images from the Australian War Memorial’s stunning collection while the band performed the songs; the other was to place the songs in thematic context with excerpts from news reports, correspondence, poems and letters of the day. I researched and wrote the linking narrative and the people at the Australian War Memorial were enthusiastic, generous and very helpful in guiding me through their vast collection. The concept worked. Really well.
Later in 2006, I was invited to take the Vagabond Crew to Saigon and Vung Tau to play three concerts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. Radio National’s Music Deli program came along to record the concert for broadcast. ABC-TV covered the commemorations too and this flurry of activity must have attracted the attention of Robert Patterson, head of ABC Music. It wasn’t long before I was on the ABC label and Hughie (Bullet) and I were camped in his recording studio in Kew working out how to recapture what we’d done in Queensland and Vietnam.
Bullet and I both saw these songs as important features on Australia’s cultural landscape. However, notwithstanding our respect for these songs, we weren’t too interested in an album of straight covers. So, one by one, different approaches to each of the songs fell out of our guitars and into the recording equipment. We got the band in to record the backing tracks and we invited Robbie, Mike, Russell and Broderick to play or sing on our interpretations of their songs. Don Walker was very gracious in allowing me to recast the opening line of “Khe Sahn”.
For better of worse, the results are here on this CD. It’s as much a celebration of some great Australian songs as it is a commemorative song cycle. A lot of the songs clearly belong on this album. For other songs, it’s not so obvious. But the meaning’s there. You just have to look behind the lines.
We hope to be playing it live soon!
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