Renee Geyer

Renée Geyer 1953-2023

Renée Geyer was many things in a career that spanned 15 studio albums and 50 years, and she continued singing to packed houses up to only a month ago. She was surely the finest white soul singer, male or female, that Australia has produced, but to speak only of her immense talent does not capture what she was about; her real greatness.

Geyer was, above all, unapologetic. It was this attitude that defined her, as much as her singing. Paul Kelly, who became a close friend, recognised it when he wrote Difficult Woman for her, knowing full well how she would respond. Women, after all, are always the ones thought to be difficult, never men.

But line by line Geyer peeled the song apart, exposing the vulnerability beneath the steel of the titular character. The singer and actor Lo Carmen, in her fine 2022 book Lovers Dreamers Fighters, wrote that “she wore the title like a crown” in the knowledge that it would come at great cost. Indeed, it already had.

Difficult Woman was released in 1994, and it relaunched Geyer’s career in Australia after nearly a decade living in Los Angeles. But Geyer’s transformative presence had been apparent 20 years earlier, with her third single, a heart-stopping rendition of James Brown’s It’s A Man’s Man’s World.… Read more..

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Spencer P Jones: Hellraiser among Australian rock greats

Spencer P Jones wasn’t a household name of Australian rock music. But he worked with many who were (Tex Perkins, in their band the Beasts of Bourbon, as well as Paul Kelly and Renée Geyer) and was held in high esteem by many beyond these shores, notably Neil Young.

His work as a guitarist and songwriter also influenced many, including the Drones, who covered one of his songs and whose principal members, Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, recorded an album with him under the name the Nothing Butts in 2012.

The news of his passing from liver cancer on Tuesday, aged 61, was no surprise. He’d been forced into retirement from the stage (a place you otherwise couldn’t keep him from) a few years ago, and was advised of his terminal condition in June.

His rare appearances had been limited to guest spots, one of his last being for the Beasts of Bourbon’s bass player Brian Hooper in April. Hooper came out of hospital to perform, took the stage in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen mask, and died days later, aged 55.

If this paints a familiarly grim picture of the rock musician’s fate, it might be worth mentioning that Jones’s first album with the Johnnys, recorded in 1986, was called Highlights Of A Dangerous Life.… Read more..

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The strange return of Mr Somewhere

Robert Forster, co-founder of the Go-Betweens, writes that in the small, but febrile post-Saints Brisbane music scene of the late 1970s, everyone knew each other. That should be no surprise: really, they still do. But even back in those days, he says, he and the late Grant McLennan knew of Peter Milton Walsh before they had met him; he was a man with “whispers and claims on his trail”.

Walsh is the near-myth behind the Apartments, the group he named after one of Billy Wilder’s greatest films. It speaks of him. He wore impeccable suits and shades under a big mop of blond hair in Brisbane’s sweltering heat. He had a taste for the arcane and the exotic. His music is of another time: of post-punk, certainly, but also of Burt Bacharach and Jacques Brel; Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg.

He is a star in France, yet all but unknown here. He lives quietly in Sydney, rarely performs, and has just made his first album – his fifth overall – in 18 years. The man himself is no mystery; just not one to make a noise about himself. He deadpans he has been “hard at work developing my sitting still and keeping quiet talents, which to me are a little bit neglected in this world”.… Read more..

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