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Warren Fahey - Larrikins, Louts & Layabouts

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  • Model: TN316-42
  • Shipping Weight: 0.125kg
  • 99 Units in Stock

I am a city-slicker - through and through - despite my extensive outback travelling and lifelong fascination for bush traditions.

My dad used to say: Sydney born and Sydney bred, strong in the arm and thick in the head. I always wondered if he had that last bit back the front? Whatever the case I grew up in Sydney and have lived here most of my life. I like the city's 'buzz' and, I suspect, it provides me with a unique opportunity to observe bush mythology.

Such a comparison is not born of rivalry between country and urban life for they are chalk and cheese. Both serve a purpose in our nation and both produce traditions and, in this instance, songs.

When I started to look at the songs stashed away in my archive, representing at least a part of my recording history, I realised I had more than enough songs about the city to fill a compact disc.

This collection of songs loosely reflects city life and more than a few oddities thrown in for good luck. A dog's breakfast if you like! For the purpose of the collection 'city life' does not necessarily mean the 'big smoke' of the capital cities. For a shearer contracted to a station for a season, a drover held responsible for a thousand head of cattle or a rabbiter trying to earn his quota, then any town looks like 'big smoke'. Of course many of the itinerant workers planned to hit Sydney or Brisbane or the likes but, in truth, often ended their journey at the first wayside shanty where they were 'lambed down' and sent back to the sheds with nothing to show other than a throbbing head. Others made it to the city and were awestruck by the size and unexpected brutality of the city only to retreat to the safety of the bush as fast as possible.

The city in folklore differs in the eye of the beholder. I love the yarn about the cow-cocky who brings his family to the city. They get off the steam train and a taxi takes them to the only place they had heard of – Myer's Department Store. They walk in open-eyed and full of amazement and proceeded to spend the next three days there – eating meals in the cafeteria, sleeping in the bedding department, listening to the radio in the electrical department and so on. They caught a taxi back to the train and when they arrived in Windybellyful they told the locals have fantastic their holiday was and how the city have everything for a great holiday. Another tells of a shearer staying at Sydney's grand Hotel Australia and asking the head waiter to “Bring me something very Sydney to eat.” The waiter returned with fresh harbour prawns on a bed of finely shredded lettuce. Returning to the table the waiter looked at the uneaten prawns and enquired: “Did you not enjoy the food?” to which the shearer responded: “Geez mate, the grass was alright but be blowed if I'm goin' to eat those bloomin' grasshoppers.” Of course there are thousands of yarns about city people going up the country so I guess all's fair on this count. Of course the classic bush yarns involved Dad and Dave and Mabel wherever they be in the city or at home in the bush. Sometimes these jokes serve both directions: (Dave comes strolling into the hut and says: “Hey Dad, there's one of those city blokes up in the dam.” “What's 'e doin' Dave?” “Drowning, Dad”

I've provided notes on all the songs so suffice to say they are a mixed mob with some dating back to the young colonies, some about sport and sporting heroes, songs from the Great Depression (Lord knows what was 'good' about it) of the nineteen-thirties when sustenance schemes forced many city people on to the bush roads and some from the hard times of the eighteen-eighties when many country people were forced to the cities. There are also songs about Green Bans, medibank and other political agitation including a series of songs about union struggles in the early mining industry. . Most of the selections qualify as traditional however, when we get to the last section, there are songs from several known writers who create songs that, in earlier days, would have found their songs being passed on down the line as 'traditional'. Their songs are non-the-less important and I am pleased to have played a role in their musical journey.

Of course I have always sung a mixed swag of songs be it as part of The Larrikins, recording for the ABC or performing at festivals. I have always held that contemporary songs are part of a continuing tradition. As a singer I am happy to sing a shearer's song about bad station conditions alongside a song about how 'Doctor's fees are ruining my health.' To me a song is a song no matter what its pedigree and often the mutts are the most interesting.

I know this collection is unique in Australian folklore – no one has ever assembled such a collection – and, I hope, it provides an insight into what makes us unique as Australians and, in tandem with the Bush CD, it helps a new generation of Australians appreciate where we have come from as a people. Without these keys to the past we have no entry to the future. Advance Australia Fair Dinkum.

Let me get one thing straight here. I became a singer by default rather than a natural journey. For years I described myself as 'Australia's best known shower singer' because that's how I saw myself. I started to learn songs because, as a product of the nineteen sixties folk revival, I realised that there were very few Australian songs being sung so I started learning them for my own amusement. A stint as host of the Elizabeth Folk Club, Sydney, provided a launch pad and I well remember that first night when my knees knocked like the bells of St Mary's. I was filling in for a singer who hadn't arrived and I've never stopped singing. Two years in Newcastle also helped since there were many nights when no other performer turned up. My main reason for singing was to perform the songs that I had collected off old time singers and, later on, unusual songs from other collectors. I have never been interested in singing the 'folk top 40' and would much prefer to give life to some variant or long asleep ditty. Looking back I have to admit to a repertoire unlike anyone else I have ever met. I like this aspect of being a singer and being able to give songs a new life. There is also the fact that I am a 'ham' and enjoy the opportunity of treading the boards – be it a stage, a radio microphone or across a dining room table.

Featuring: The Larrikins

About the artist: Offering a unique repertoire of rare broadsides, goldfields minstrel songs, old bush songs, larrikin ditties, children's rhymes and songs about early city slickers. Warren Fahey is joined by fellow 'larrikins' Marcus Holden, Clare O'Meara and Garry Steel.



This product was added to our catalog on Monday 07 July, 2008.