GOLDENTONE PRESS ANNOUNCES CLINTON WALKER’S SUBURBAN SONGBOOK: WRITING HITS IN POST-WAR / PRE-COUNTDOWN AUSTRALIA
EXCITING NEW BOOK IS A CRITICAL HISTORY OF HOMEGROWN SONGWRITING AND HOW ITS COMING OF AGE IN THE EARLY ’70S GAVE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC ITS OWN VOICE
ACCLAIMED AS “OUR BEST CHRONICLER OF AUSTRALIAN GRASS-ROOTS CULTURE” BY THE SUN-HERALD, CLINTON WALKER IS THE AUTHOR OF SUCH CLASSICS AS HIGHWAY TO HELL: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BON SCOTT, BURIED COUNTRY: THE STORY OF ABORIGINAL COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE RECENTLY RE-PUBLISHED STRANDED: THE SECRET HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN INDEPENDENT MUSIC
I was blown away by what I read. There was information on every page that I didn’t know… and I thought I knew a bit about Australian music. It’s a very important (and much-needed) book – Bruce Milne
Clinton Walker is a cultural archaeologist, always on the big dig and usually, somewhere no one else has thought of looking: then he makes the discovery, and we all come running –
Goldentone Press announces Clinton Walker’s Suburban Songbook: Writing Hits in
Post-War / Pre-Countdown Australia, an exciting new book is a critical history of homegrown songwriting and how its coming of age in the early ’70s gave Australian music its own voice.
Suburban Songbook looks at the transition Australian music made from a cover version culture in the 50s and 60s to one where original songwriting came to dominate and started to capture and evoke the unique contours of life in this country. It is a different view of Australian music history; rather than going in search of a Sound, it seeks out the Songs and their writers to find a fresh take on this old story. Knitted into a background of tumultuous social change, and with deep dives into the development of the development and impact of Indigenous and female artists and the impact of the fledgling local film industry, Suburban Songbook draws on deep research and personal experience and knowledge and gets inside the compositions that helped shape the sound. And it pays long-overdue credit to the often-obscure pioneers who toiled to set the stage for the full maturation of Australian music that followed Countdown into the 1980s.
The great local writers of that later era are well-celebrated; now Suburban Songbook acknowledges their forebears, reconstructing the foundations without which the towering edifice of Australian pop would have been so much slower to rise, and much less rich. From Johnny Devlin and Nat Kipner paving the way for the Atlantics, Vanda/Young and the Gibb brothers in the 60s to Ross Wilson, Mike Rudd, Brian Cadd and Greg Quill in the early ’70s – with so many others, including Johnny Young, John Farrar, Steve Kipner, Jeannie Lewis, Bob Randall, Vic Simms, Janie Conway, Robyn Archer along the way – the book plots a course through this crucial epoch that will please trainspotters, scholars and casual readers alike.
Suburban Songbook is a work of art in its own right, beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated to uncannily recreate the atmosphere and mood of the era. It is also accompanied by chapter-by-chapter playlists on both YouTube and Spotify.
Broderick Smith, one of the great songwriters of the period, says in the Foreword: “Thank you, Clinton Walker, for this long-overdue history of Australian song, and for honouring the pioneers. It will remind you, the reader, why you love songs so much, and why they are so important to us all.”
Clinton Walker has been acclaimed as “our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture” by the Sun-Herald. He is the author of such classics as Highway to Hell: the Life and Death of Bon Scott, Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music and the recently re-published Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music.
The timing of Clinton Walker’s new, eleventh book, Suburban Songbook, could not be more apposite. Suddenly music people everywhere are talking about 1971. It’s fifty years ago and that’s why we’ve been hearing about Daddy Cool’s immortal “Eagle Rock,” because 2021 is its golden anniversary. But it’s the documentary film 1971 that’s really started the conversation.
The film’s subtitle claims it was “The Year Music Changed Everything.” Australia was no exception. When “Eagle Rock” exploded in 1971, it changed everything. Its enormous success set new records, but it was just one hit amid a sudden outpouring of brave new Australian music, a wave that decimated the cargo cult that had dominated our local scene for so long. Suburban Songbook is timely because, with its heart centred in this same early 70s period, it finally accounts for a huge transformation that until now has hardly been addressed, let alone fully appreciated.
In 1970, the year’s Top 3 Australian singles were “Knock Knock Who’s There,” “In the Summertime” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” – all covers. Many of the rest of the best in 1970 were covers too, like “Teach Me How to Fly,” “Western Union Man,” “Wheels on Fire,” and others. Then in ’71, “Eagle Rock” led a florid coming-of-age for Australian music. Here’s a little test: you doubtless know all the stuff in the film 1971 (Sticky Fingers, Tapestry, Hunky Dory among them), but beyond the obvious other big Australian hits of the year, like “I’ll Be Gone,” “Because I Love You,” “The Pushbike Song,” “Seasons of Change” or “I Am Woman,” do you know “Black and Blue”? Or “Gurindji Blues”? Or “Speak to the Sky,” “Piece of Peace,” “Kill My World,” “Show Me the Way,” “Trixie Stonewall’s Wayward Home for Young Women,” “Golden Miles,” “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”? The list could go on…
This is what Suburban Songbook is about: the transition Australian music made from a cover version culture in the 50s and 60s to one where original songwriting came to dominate and started to really capture and evoke the unique contours of life in this country. Suburban Songbook recovers this vital story in all its glorious detail before it might be fatally forgotten, or lost. Rather than going in search of a Sound, it seeks out the Songs and their writers to find a fresh take on this old story, the most elusive leap Australian music took, from telling other people’s stories to telling our own. Knitted into a background of tumultuous social change, Suburban Songbook gets inside the compositions that helped shape the sound, paying long-overdue credit to the often-obscure pioneers who toiled to set the stage for the full maturation of Australian music that followed Countdown into the 1980s. The great writers of that later era are well-celebrated; now Suburban Songbook acknowledges their forebears, reconstructing the foundations without which the towering edifice of Australian pop would have been so much slower to rise, and much less rich.
Suburban Songbook will be available from November 1st in a limited First Edition from selected bookshops and record stores, from Clinton Walker’s website (clintonwalker.com.au) and from the book’s own Suburban Songbook facebook page.
Check out Suburban Songbook on YouTube and Spotify.