Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Warman Launches His Screaming Jets!

In late 1981 a song hit the Australian airwaves that stood out on the popular music battlefield. Johnny Warman’s ‘Screaming Jets’ took flight on the Oz singles charts in October ‘81, eventually reaching an altitude of #9. The song also experienced a successful flight inside the Canadian Top 40, yet remained grounded outside the U.S. and British charts.

Englishman Warman had recorded the song ‘Screaming Jets’ with the assistance of Peter Gabriel’s backing band, featuring none other than Gabriel himself delivering the chorus vocals, along with various atmospheric background chants and screams. All the more reason why it’s strange that the song didn’t register a blip on the U.K. chart radar. Warman appeared to launch this one off chart attack out of nowhere, but in fact he had already enjoyed a long and moderately successful music and stage career prior. After performing with some distinction with choirs as a child, Warman caught the rock bug in the early 70s forming the band Bearded Lady and then signing with Ringo Starr’s label to release a solo album ‘Hour Glass‘ (in Germany only).

After the failed band experiment 3 Minutes in 1980, Warman recorded the 1981 solo album ‘Walking Into Mirrors’. The album reached #68 in Australia, on the back of ‘Screaming Jets’ popularity, but the follow up ‘83 album ‘From The Jungle To The New Horizons’ didn’t leave the hangar, and Warman hung up the flying goggles to concentrate on a career in song writing - contributing tracks to Asia and Cheap Trick among others. He has since returned to stage work and has dabbled with the rock scene with band projects such as 4 Bills And A Ben, and the Mods.

I didn’t purchase the song originally on 45, though I was blown away by the promo clip, which by today’s standards was low-tech, but by 1981 standards was very futuristic looking - it kind of had a ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ feel about it.

My first copy of the song was via a double cassette copy of an Australian compilation called ‘Wired’ which I purchased in 1982. ’Screaming Jets’ was a stand out track and many a time I played it with the lights out, sinking into the atmospheric post apocalyptic dystopia suggested by both lyric and music - though I didn’t really know what that was at the time (I was a teenager after all) - and wondering at the time if that really was Peter Gabriel in the chorus. I finally tracked down two separate CD copies of the song, the single mix on the Australian double CD compilation ‘From The Vaults’ and the full album mix on a Canadian compilation ‘Hard To Track Hits Volume 2’, and it was on the liner notes to the Canadian release that my suspicions of Gabriel‘s involvement were finally confirmed. Warman's CD 'Walking Into Mirrors' is currently available on the Angel Air label.

And witness a low budget yet compelling view of a post apocalyptic future circa 1981, via the promo clip here:

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