Sunday, June 15, 2008

Listen To This Song Or I'll Rip Yer Bloody Arms Off!

With the central premise and star being a 300 pound motor-cycling transvestite boxer, The Aunty Jack Show was just the sort of radical shot in the arm that Australian TV comedy needed in the early 70s. The show ran for only two years from 1972 to 1973 (producing just 13 episodes), but has left a legacy as daunting as the threats uttered by its “big, bold and tough, but not so rough” lead character. The show starred Grahame Bond as the title character, Rory O’Donoghue as Thin Arthur, John Derum as Narrator Neville, Sandy MacGregor as Flange Desire and one Garry McDonald as Kid Eager/Norman Gunston (McDonald would soon go on to take Norman Gunston to iconic status in his own right- you’ll see a future post regarding his musical exploits).

Following on from the cult popularity of the TV show, Bond and O’Donoghue recorded the album ‘Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong’, which was released in 1974. The album featured a mixture of comedy sketches and songs - “an aural/visual experience” as the liner notes stated. It spent 21 weeks on the Australian album charts and yielded a #1 single with ‘Farewell Auntie Jack’. The song spent a mammoth 26 weeks on the charts, including three weeks at the top, going on to sell over 100,000 copies. It was actually credited at the time to Cool Bananas (initially anyway) and was Australia’s first vinyl picture disc.

But it wouldn’t be true to say that the song and album were recorded by a couple of actors looking for a novelty hit. Both Bond and O’Donoghue had an established background in music. Guitarist/vocalist O’Donoghue played in a band called The Pogs during the 60s and worked with his band Cool Bananas in the early 70s, releasing the single ‘Been And Gone’ in 1973. Together with Bond, they wrote the music and lyrics for the ‘Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong’ album, and in company with Garry MacDonald (and his infamous harmonica) and ensemble, played the music also.

Following the phenomenal success of both album and single, Bond and O’Donoghue took Aunty Jack & The Gong on the road for a national tour. The dynamic comic duo continued to make music and comedy into the 80s, including the Grahame Bond Show, and Rory O’Donoghue composed and played the music for the popular ‘Bush Tucker Man’ television series. Grahame Bond has continued to work extensively in television. The Aunty Jack Show has since been brought back to life through television repeats and release on DVD, and in 1996 Shock Records re-released ‘Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong’ on CD, and then re-released once again in 2006 as a special two disc edition.

Enjoy the madcap mayhem of Aunty Jack “me little lovelies”!

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