Thursday, May 15, 2008

An English Tale Of Waterloo

English born singer Jon English cut his rock performance teeth in a number of bands during the late 60s and early 70s in his adopted country Australia, having moved here in 1961 at age 12. The most notable of these was the band Sebastian Hardie which English fronted until early 1972. Soon after Jon English won the role of Judas Iscariot in the Australian stage production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Performing alongside another great singer in Marcia Hines, English showed his versatility as a stage performer and actor.

The production toured for the next five years, but along the way English found the time and energy to record his debut solo album ‘Wine Dark Sea’. The album was well received but didn’t yield any hit singles. English’s follow up ‘It’s All In A Game’ proved to be the breakthrough for ole ‘black eyes’ as he was affectionately dubbed, led by the hit ‘Turn The Page’ (#7) in early ‘75. The second half of the 70s would prove a prodigious period for English. His 1976 album ‘Hollywood Seven’ reached the OZ top 20. The title track reached #13 and proved the perfect vehicle to display English’s ability to belt out a classic dramatic rock ballad.

The album ’Minutes To Midnight’ followed within eight months, but it was to be the 1978 album ’Words Are Not Enough’ that would see English finally receive a well deserved top 10 hit with the title track. During the same period English took the lead role in the popular TV mini-series ‘Against The Wind’, and to top it off collaborated with old Sebastian Hardie bandmate Mario Millo to compose, record and produce the soundtrack album, featuring English’s biggest career hit ‘Six Ribbons’ (#5).

The hits continued through 1979 and 1980 with ‘Get Your Love Right’ (#27) and ‘Hot Town’ (#11). English toured extensively in the early 80s around Australia and overseas, but international success largely eluded him - like so many Australian artists of that era - however he did breakthrough to enjoy considerable commercial success in Scandinavia during that time. 1982 also saw English rekindle a great creative partnership with Marcia Hines on the single ‘Jokers And Queens’ (#62).

In 1983 English released the album ‘Some People’. The title track reached #50, whilst the follow up ‘Waterloo’ (not the ABBA song) lost the battle for chart success at #96. But I was among those to purchase ‘Waterloo’ on 45 and absolutely loved the song. It’s a brilliant rock-ballad that tells of the events at the historic Battle of Waterloo, from the perspective of a 15 year old drummer boy in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. It’s one of those songs that can literally send shivers up the spine, very emotive and delivered with such fervour by English. I played my 45 copy until the grooves were well worn, not to mention it featuring one of the best B-sides I’ve ever heard with the song ‘Oh, Paris’ - a precursor toward English‘s future efforts in the stage musical and album ‘Paris‘. I was well pleased to finally obtain a CD copy of ‘Waterloo’ through its inclusion on Jon English’s second ‘best of’ compilation, ‘English History II’ released in 2001(and still available).

English has continued to star in numerous stage productions through the 90s and 00s including his oft reprised role as the Pirate King in ‘Pirates Of Penzance’. He also reprised his success on the small screen with a starring role in the sitcom ‘All Together Now’, as well as winning the celebrity challenge on TV quiz show ‘Sale Of The Century‘. Along the way he has continued to record albums and tour regularly, including with the Countdown Spectacular shows.

I couldn’t find the original promo clip for ‘Waterloo’ by Jon English, but did come across this clip on YouTube which features the song (albeit a poor quality copy) played over a nice little visual montage telling of the facts surrounding the historical event that was the Battle of Waterloo:
To learn more about the man Jon English and his music check out his webpage at:

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