One of the great things about Adelaide Fringe Festival is the incredibly diverse range of performers who come to our town to entertain.
There’s cabaret, comedy and circuses aplenty, but what’s wonderful is the increasing number of live music acts who are entering the Festival.
No stranger to the Fringe, or to the live music scene, legendary Aussie blues musician Russell Morris, will be playing the Spiegeltent on February 26.
Russell loves coming to Adelaide and told us about a time when we were a breeding ground for successful live music acts.
“I’ve spent heaps of time there!” he says. “Adelaide was, at one stage, the ‘it’ town. Adelaide produced the best bands, the best venues to work at; it was unbelievable. You guys were really at the forefront of things. It’s slipped away a little bit of recent. I know there are still some great acts there, but that’s where all the main bands came from at that stage. I mean, look at AC/DC, Cold Chisel, The Master’s Apprentices, The Twilights, Zoot; all those bands.”
He loves the excitement of the Fringe Festival and the unpredictability of playing during this crazy time of year.
“We did it once before and it was absolutely incredible,” he enthuses. “I was standing outside the Spiegeltent. There was 20 minutes to go until we were to go on, and you could have shot a gun, and you wouldn’t have hit anybody! I rang my manager, and I said, ‘John, this is terrible! There’s not a soul around! (Well, there were a couple of people eating ice creams on the path). This is going to be a disaster!’ and he said, ‘Oh well, you’ve got to do it.'”
“So we wandered around the back and started to get changed and I was telling one of the guys that I didn’t think it was going to be very good. He said he’d seen a couple of people walking in, then by the time we got on stage, the place was jam packed! Where did the people come from? I guess they go from one thing to another. It was just fantastic. And what a great atmosphere!”
The ARIA Hall of Fame inductee has had a great couple of years after Sharkmouth and Van Diemen’s Land and the recently release of Red Dirt – Red Heart.
The new album is true to Russell’s blues and roots sound and includes rich narratives, solid riffs and contagious melodies.
Depending on his crowd, Russel reckons he’ll play a range of his music from the past series of albums, and possibly some from his time in Somebody’s Image, and even ‘The Real Thing’ days.
‘With the three albums, the first is all about the back streets, gangsters and gamblers; the second was the bigger picture of Australia about the convict ships, the beginning of the Labor party, shearer strikes and the Eureka Stockade; and the third is about the red dirt of Australia and the heart of it – places like Alice Springs and the Nullabor. There’s some indigenous stories and some bush rangers,” he says.
“I tend to tell a whole lot of tales, and then because of all the brain damage I gave myself in the ‘60s, I’ll go back in time and throw in a few oldies,” he laughs. “There’s always some people in the audience – flower children – who want to relive that! I’ll throw a few in. Not a lot, but I’ll throw the main ones in, depending on how the crowd is reacting. I’ve done shows where they haven’t wanted to hear the old stuff, which has been interesting and also a great feeling when you’ve lived on playing those songs for 35 years and people are yelling out, ‘Play more Sharkmouth!’”
Speaking of harking back to the past, recently Channel Seven produced a miniseries on music industry legend Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, starring Samuel Johnson as Molly.
One of the episodes featured Russell Morris because Molly produced Russell’s massive number one hit from 1969, ‘The Real Thing’, although the show might have used some artistic licence when depicting that process.
“The bit where Molly told me to just sing the guitar part didn’t happen,” Russell explains. “What really happened is, I was singing, but Ian, being the smart arse he was back then, says, ‘You’re not singing it right!’ and I go, ‘What’s right?’ and he said, ‘You’ve got to sing it differently. Come in here!’ So I went into the control panel and he went into the studio and the engineer played the track while he sang the second verse. When he came back in, we were literally doubled up laughing. He said, ‘Stop it! You know what I mean; just go in and do it how I did it!’”
“I had no idea what he meant so I just went back in and sang it the way I’d been singing it and, of course, he said, ‘That’s it!’. I went back in the studio and the engineer played it, but he’d forgotten to erase Ian’s voice, so Ian’s voice was underneath mine out of time, because he can’t sing in time. It sounded so bizarre, so we kept it in. In the second verse of ‘The Real Thing’, you can hear Ian Meldrum singing, if you listen carefully. It’s like a whispering, funny, out of tune voice. That’s what actually happened. They should have done that bit because it would have been funnier.”
Russell will be singing in tune and on stage at The Spiegeltent on February 26, so book your tickets through Fringetix to give him another awesome Fringe gig!
By Libby Parker