Saturday, November 2, 2019

Jon English - English History (1989)

(Australian 1962 - 2016)
Jonathan "Jon" English was born in Hampstead, London, and came to Australia when he was 12. He is one of few Australian performers who have successfully combined a career in music, television and stage.
English's musical passion and skill were evident early and before he graduated high school he had been a member of two bands - Zenith and Sebastian Hardie. In 1968 Sebastian Hardie was employed as Johnny O'Keefe's backing band. English played the rhythm guitar and sang. A stellar career was underway!
In the early '70s English auditioned for Harry M Miller's first production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar. He was given the prestigious and demanding lead role of 'Judas' at the age of just 22. The show's phenomenal success kept him busy for the next five years, touring all over Australia and New Zealand.

During the time English was touring with Superstar (see earlier post), he also recorded his first four albums. He had hits with songs such as his debut single "Handbag and Gladrags", "Turn the Page" (his first number one) and "Hollywood Seven". At the same time he appeared in guest roles on popular television drama shows including 'No 96', 'Mattock Police' and the 'Homicide' telemovie, 'Stopover', for which he received a Penguin award nomination for Guest Actor of the Year.

For the rest of the '70s English remained in the public eye as an actor and musician. He sang the role of Ned on the soundtrack of the rock opera 'Ned Kelly'. He starred in the play 'Bacchoil', co-wrote lyrics for a ballet called 'Phases' and wrote a regular column for a major newspaper. He also produced his old band's first album, 'Four Moments' by Sebastian Hardie. He won an Aria award for best male vocal performance for "Turn the Page" and was voted RAM magazine's best male singer on three separate occasions.

1977 culminated with English's fifth album and the hit single "Words are Not Enough" plus a concert tour with the band 'Thin Lizzy'. He then took a short break from the rock music scene in 1978 when he appeared in the lead role of the incredibly popular television mini-series, 'Against the Wind'. English won a 'Best New Talent' Logie for his  performance as convict Jonathan Garrett in the series.
In partnership with Mario Milo, English wrote all the incidental music for 'Against the Wind'. He also wrote the theme song, 'Six Ribbons', which became a number one hit in more than six countries. As a result of 'Against the Wind'  English became one of the rare performers to win an acting Logie and a TV Week/Countdown award (for best male vocalist) in the same year.

'English History', Jon's seventh album was released 1978. This 'best of album' made history by becoming the biggest selling double album in Australia. Albums number eight, nine and ten followed in 1980, 1981 and 1982 - 'Calm Before The Storm', 'Inroads' and 'Jokers and Queens' (with Marcia Hines). 'Calm Before the Storm' produced the hit singles "Carmilla" and "Hot Town". During this time English also appeared in a feature film called 'Touch and Go' for which he wrote tbe theme song of the same name.

During the '80s, English's career broadened overseas, with tours both at home and in Europe with his own band, The Foster Brothers. Album number eleven, 'Beating the Boards', featuring the Foster Brothers live, was released in 1983. While in Norway with the band, he won the award for best concert by a visiting artist, over other major acts such as Bruce Springsteen. Tours with the legendary American band 'Chicago' followed, and he was invited to Los Angeles to perform with Tower of Power.
English's first collaboration with producer David Mackay also began in 1983, with his twelfth album 'Some People'. The title track of the same name became another hit single. This collaboration saw the beginning of a partnership that would eventually give birth to the highly successful rock opera 'Paris'.

Jon the Pirate !
1984 saw English's first appearance as the Pirate King alongside Marina Prior, Simon Gallaher, and June Bronhill in the Victorian State Opera's production of 'The Pirates of Penzance'. As the Pirate King he won the Melbourne Critics Green Room Award for 'Most Outstanding Actor' for two occasions. That same year he also co-wrote the feature film soundtrack for the movie 'Coolangatta Gold' and in 1985 he shared an AFl award with Renee Geyer for the theme song for the movie 'Street Hero'. During this time English continued touring pubs and clubs and won the Mo Award for Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the year three time. 1985 and 1986 saw English in return seasons as the Pirate King, with his thirteenth album, 'Dark Horses', also being released.

In the late '80s English took on the role of the mad monk 'Rasputin' in the musical of the same name. This production, although controversial at the time, served to fire English's ambition to write his own show, 'Paris', based on the Trojan wars. He left 'Rasputin' and travelled to England to again work with David Mackay, determined to complete what would become a virtual magnum opus.

For the next three years English focused on this ambition. He took a few short breaks to release has fourteenth album 'The Busker' (see earlier post), to play the role of Pap Fin in the Sydney production of the musical 'Big River' and to appear with Mike Batt and Michael Parkinson in a concert version of 'The Hunting of the Snark'. After this he finally recorded the finished version of Paris, which won an ARIA award for the best cast album featuring artists such as: The London Symphony Orchestra, Barry Humphries, Doc Neeson,John Waters, Demis Roussos, Francis Rossi, Phillip Quast, Donovan, John Parr, and Harry Nilsson.

English planned a break after the Paris, recording - but those plans were short lived. He took on the lead role of Bobby Rivers in 1991 to the television sitcom 'All Together Now', co-starring Rebecca Gibney. The show, about a faded '70s rock star who discovers parenthood late in life, lasted for three years and over a hundred episodes. English again wrote the theme song and was musical director for the series. 'All Together Now' was sold in over thirty countries, including Germany where it was called 'Rock and Roll Daddy'.

English worked alongside Simon Gallaher again in 1994 when Gallaher produced an updated version of the 'Pirates of Peinzance'. With English again as the Pirate King, the show played to sell-out crowds around Australia and New Zealand. The ABC produced video of Pirates sold triple platinum and the live recording won an ARIA award for 'Best Cast Album'.
The success of 'Pirates of Penzance' was followed up with another two Gilbert and Sullivan classics -'The Mikado' and 'HMS Pinafore'. With English again cast in the lead roles, both shows toured extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia, until Pinafore finally closed the hugely successful 'trilogy' in October 1997.
In August 1998, English started rehearsing for a new production of the hilarious British theatre farce 'Noises Off'. He spent the rest of 1998 touring Australia to much acclaim for his comic ability in this famous Michael Frayn comedy.

After this, English re-established his partnership with Simon Gallaher and EssGee Productions to undertake the role of 'Pseudolis' in the great Broadway musical 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'. The show played to rave reviews for English's performance and toured major Australian and New Zealand venues until July 1999.
English then finished off another beloved project -writing, producing and performing his own musical stage show 'Buskers and Angels', which toured September through October 2000, subsequently releasing a CD of the same name. The production was nominated for a Green Room award for 'Best Original Music and Lyrics'. 2001 then saw English in a trio of back to back theatre appearances in 'Are you Being Served' (with John Inman from the original television series), 'Don't Dress for Dinner' with Dennis Waterman and a special anniversary production of 'The Pirates of Penzance' with Simon Gallaher.

2002 and 2003 saw return seasons of the ever popular Pirates again in Melbourne, as well as more theatre appearances with John Inman in Brisbane, this time in 'Bedside Manners'. Added to this were well over 100 'In Concert' shows.
English then released the amateur rights to his rock opera 'Paris'. Productions have since been staged throughout Australia, New Zealand, the UK and in Europe,

Jon with Molly Meldrum
During the rest of the 2000's, English continued to perform and tour extensively. He acted in a season of the all time favourite 'Dad's Army' at the Twelfth Night theatre in Brisbane and in the British Comedy Festival In Auckland. He appeared in the feature film 'Walk the Talk'. He circumnavigated the country in the hugely successful 'Countdown Spectacular' tour, teamed up with fellow Pirates actor, friend and musician - Peter Cupples (of 'Stylus' fame) on their show 'Uncorked', featured as 'the Narrator' in the acclaimed musical 'Blood Brothers' and took part in the recording and world premiere of Gavin Lockley's classical work 'Symphony of Australia'.

In 2007, English filmed a children's 13 part mini-series 'Time Trackers' that was shown in Australia and New Zealand, playing the role of a lovable but havoc raising hologram from the future. In 2010, in a departure from his usual musical theatre roles, English appeared in the title role of the Perth Theatre Company's production of David Williamson's dark comedy, 'The Removalists'.

English's major project over the final years of the decade was with a multi-talented troupe of young rockers, producing and starring in a spectacular 10 piece theatre show honouring '60s and '70s classic rock. 'The Rock Show' continued to tour Australian theatres in 2011 to sell out audiences and outstanding reviews, returning to venues a second and third time by popular demand.
To his impressive list of television credits over the years can be added Graham Kennedy's long running comic game show, 'Blankety Blanks', regular appearances on The Don Lane Show and as a panellist on Daryl Sommers' enduring 'Hey Hey It's Saturday', an episode of the popular Australian drama series 'The Flying Doctors', plus a cameo role in the ABC's current affairs spoof, 'Frontline'. He also appeared in episodes of 'Pizza', 'Rafferty's Rules', 'Chopper Squad', 'Bellamy', 'Ocean Girl', 'Last Man Standing', the celebrity version of 'Sale of the Century' and more recently on the ABC's foremost music trivia show 'Spicks and Specks' and the SBS rock quiz show, 'Rockwiz'.  English has been interviewed twice each for both '60 Minutes' and 'Parkinson' and his life story was captured for episodes of 'This is Your Life' and the ABC's 'Talking Heads'.

In 2012, English returned to Tasmania, working with Encore Theatre, for a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, with English in the role of Pilate. Funds raised at each performance and at the Launceston preview were donated to the programme. In 2013, he played at the Sweden Rock Festival, backed up by Swedish hard rock band Spearfish.
In 2015, he returned once again to play the Sweden Rock Festival and during his stay in Sweden he decided to record a new solo album together with his friends in the band Spearfish. Many new songs were written and recordings were set to start March 14, 2016...

RIP Jon English
In late February 2016, English was hospitalised due to "unexpected health problems" and he was forced to cancel several scheduled performances due to planned surgery for an aortic aneurysm. He died following post-operative complications late in the evening of 9 March 2016, 17 days short of his 67th birthday. A public memorial service commemorating his life was held at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney on the evening of Monday 4 April 2016. The memorial took the form of a tribute concert and included performances by the Foster Brothers, John Paul Young, Simon Gallaher and John Waters, among others.  [taken from liner notes "Six Ribbons: Ultimate Collection of Jon English"]

A prolific songwriter, experienced screen composer and a popular actor with wide community recognition and critical public acclaim, Jon English was undoubtedly one of Australia's most successful, loved and enduring recording and performing artists. This post is a tribute to 'ol Dark Eyes'.

This tribute post consists of FLACs ripped from my CD copy and includes full album artwork for both Vinyl and CD, along with label scans.  It should be noted that this single AMCOS CD release only features 17 of the 20 tracks originally featuring on the double LP set (probably to reduce costs).
I have taken the initiative of ripping the 3 missing tracks from my vinyl and including them here as bonus tracks. I have also edited the back CD tray artwork for those of you who want to replicate the original release and turn this into a double CD set.
I always love listening to Jon's music and hope that this post will act as a fitting tribute to a great musician and actor. We miss you Jon.
01 Get Your Love Right
02 Wine Dark Sea
03 Words Are Not Enough
04 Turn The Page
05 Minutes To Midnight
06 Hollywood 7
07 Same Old Feeling Again
08 Lovin' Arms
09 Superstar
10 Handbags & Gladrags
11 Laughing At The Guru
12 Everytime I Sing A Love Song
13 Nights In Paradise
14 Lay It All Down
15 Sandcastles
16 Behind Blue Eyes
17 Six Ribbons
BONUS TRACKS (from original 2 LP release)
18    I'm A Survivor
19    Play With Fire
20    Brand New Day
Jon English History FLACs Link (492Mb) New Link 04/04/2020

1 comment:

  1. I first saw Jon in JCS in 1973. He was amazing. A fabulous talent. Gone too soon