Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This Girl In The Mirror Ain't That Girl On The Wall

For mine one of the stand out Aussie pop-rock songs from the mid 1980s has to be Jane Clifton’s ‘Girl On The Wall’ from 1984. It would prove the only solo hit for Clifton, but represents just a fraction of an extensive multi-faceted career in arts and entertainment.
Jane Clifton was born in Gibraltar and grew up in Cardiff, Wales before emigrating to Australia with her family in 1961, aged 12. Her family relocated to Melbourne when Jane was 16, and she would make the city her creative base. She graduated from University with intentions to become an English teacher, but was drawn in to the exploding theatrical and music scene. She cut her acting teeth on stage at venues like Carlton’s ‘La Mama’ and ‘The Pram Factory’ during the early to mid 70s.

Not content with one string to her artistic bow, Jane Clifton gained invaluable experience as a singer with several local bands throughout the 1970s. She first fronted Lipp And The Double Dekker Brothers during 1971 and 1972, and a folk/rock vocal trio called Myriad during 1973. This landed her a gig as a support act on Frank Zappa’s 1973 Australian tour. Clifton then sang with Carlton ‘alternative’ rock outfit Scumbag during 1973, the band featuring a pre-Skyhooks Red Symons. The short lived band Toads (1975) was followed by new wave band Stiletto, who played from 1976 to 1978 and released several low key singles ‘Debutantes’ and ‘Licence To Rage’ on the independent Oz label, and even appeared on Countdown. Throughout this period Jane Clifton found time to keep an active role in local theatre productions with the A.P.G. (Australian Performing Group), and started to appear in guest roles on Australian TV dramas such as ‘Division 4’ and ‘Skyways’.

In 1980 Clifton scored the character role of Margo Gaffney in the popular Australian TV drama ‘Prisoner’, and would reprise the role intermittently over the next five years. During 1981 she fronted the R&B covers band Nighthawkes, and the following year saw the frenetic performance schedule for Clifton include minor roles in the motion pictures ‘The Clinic’ and ‘A Slice Of Life’ (which was apparently never released).

1982 must have been a full diary for Jane Clifton as Joe Camilleri invited her to join the latest line-up of his group Jo Jo Zep (now sans Falcons). She had worked with Camilleri back in the mid 70s at the musical theatre venue T.F. Much Ballroom. Clifton provided backing and co-lead vocals on the classic 1982 album ‘Cha’. The album featured the quirky brass-driven Latin-styled track ‘Taxi Mary’ (OZ#11), on which Clifton traded lead vocals with Joe Camilleri (see Jo Jo Zep post from April). Clifton remained with Jo Jo Zep until Joe Camilleri called an end to the band’s tenure during the second half of 1983.

Following Jo Jo Zep Clifton once again collaborated with Joe Camilleri in the recording studio on her first solo single ‘Girl On The Wall’. The Camilleri produced track was a fantastic pop-rock song with really clever lyrics, which took a sharp edged look at the whole question of self image for women. The inspiration for the song came from Jane Clifton’s role in the Robyn Archer penned cabaret show ‘Pack Of Women’. The song achieved a peak position of #13 on the Australian charts in mid ‘84. The follow up single ‘My Machines’ sadly flopped, and for the remainder of 1984 Clifton fronted the band Jane Clifton and The Go Go Boys (which also featured former Jo Jo Zep and future Black Sorrows guitarist Jeff Burstin). In 1985 Joe Camilleri worked with Clifton once again, this time playing on the jazz single ‘Turn To Dust’ released on Spirit Records.

The second half of the 80s saw the regular television work continue with roles on the popular TV dramas ‘The Flying Doctors’, ‘Sweet And Sour’ and ‘Home’, and a starring role in the ABC TV series ‘Dancing Days’ in 1985. During 1985 Jane Clifton also returned to stage in the cabaret show ‘On A Clear Day You Can See Jane Clifton’. The comedy/musical was written by comedienne Wendy Harmer and ran for over four months in Melbourne, with a six week season following in Sydney. Clifton also scored support roles in the films ‘As Time Goes By’ (1987) and ‘Garbo’ (1990).

The energetic balancing act across television, music, stage, film and radio continued through the 90s. Highlights included contributing songs to the ABC Records compilations ‘Moon Over Melbourne’ (1993) and ‘Going Home’ (1993), and recording work with So Nice, a nine piece Brasil ’66 covers band, the nationally touring stage production ‘Mum’s The Word’ (1998-2000), a role in the 1999 film ‘Trapped’, regular presenter on Melbourne radio station 3RPH, and roles in TV shows ‘The Passion’ and ‘Janus’.

The turn of the millennium did nothing to slow the pace of Jane Clifton’s creative endeavours. While the television and film work switched to the back burner, they were replaced with Clifton’s first published novel ‘Half Past Dead’. The comedic crime story was short listed for the prestigious Ned Kelly Award for ‘Best First Novel’ in 2002. Clifton’s second novel was 2005’s ‘A Hand In The Bush’, a comic thriller set in Melbourne, whilst a third novel ‘Flush’ is set for publication later in 2008. In 2003 Jane Clifton released her first (amazingly enough) solo album ‘The Marriage Of Style’ with a live tour in support. In amongst the creative chaos she’s also found the time and energy to raise a family.

It’s fair to say that this ‘girl on the wall’ has built an impressive career across the entire gamut of entertainment/arts mediums. While most of us would be rapped to excel in just one creative endeavour, Jane Clifton has spent the last 35 years excelling in several.
You can see the video clip for Jane Clifton's 'Girl On The Wall' via the following link (and just below it is the clip to the brilliant 'Taxi Mary' by Jo Jo Zep) -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwOUJSYiXS0A big thankyou to YouTube user gnowangerup for uploading the above clip for Jane Clifton's 'My Machines'.


Anonymous said...

Classic song " Girl On The Wall " suppose it's only come to life in recent years really since the input into both YT & on various artist CD ( Cool World ).. the only one i know of ? .
Though i'd never forgotten this song myself, many had, and it was one of those song's that brought back strong memory's of that particular time i guess, songs that seemed to appear & then disappear just as quick.I liken this flash in the pan scenario with songs like ( and maybe it's just me,but lol )
* Jo Jo Zep - Taxi Mary
* QED - Everywhere I Go
* Tim Scott - Swear (non OZ)
* Monty Video & the Casettes - shoop shoop ...... etc etc

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

G'day Mickster,
thanks again for the comment. I agree with you about 'Girl On The Wall'. I only had a copy on vinyl via the record compilation 'Shakin' 84' - that was until I bought the 2CD 'Cool World' set that you mentioned. There were some great finds on that one. Pretty sure that's the only CD copy I have of 'They Won't Let My Girlfriend Talk To Me' by Jimmy & the Boys. Come to think of it, I don't think I have 'Big Girls' by Electric Pandas anywhere else.

I agree with what you're saying about strong memories being conjured up by certain songs from that era. 'Shoop Shoop' was one of those - finally picked up a quality copy of that via the EMI 'Where Were You' series. Dear Enemy's 'Computer One' is another,'Rhythm Of The Jungle' by the Quick, Jo Kennedy's 'Body And Soul'. Hmmmm, there's a seemingly endless list possible there lol.

Anonymous said...

Hi A Flock of Seagulls

Thankyou so very much for the info on Jane Clifton. Very very interesting. I take it you are a big lover of the 80's, possibly especially the aussie bands from this era.

I am just wondering if you are also interested in any music videos as well as CD's, I have i think every Icehouse video made and many others. If you are interested in checking out any of the aussie videos I have uploaded then you can check out my youtube channel if yu like. It Is http://www.youtube.com/user/gnowangerup and it has Jane Cliftons My Machines and many others like Monty Videos video. If you would also like to email me then the address is gnowangerup1@yahoo.com.au



A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Hi Lee,

many thanks for your comment, and you're welcome re. the Jane Clifton post - I learned a bit myself researching and writing that one. We must have grown up listening to much of the same music - well we're the same vintage judging by your YouTube channel profile. You have an amazing collection of music videos, and some I haven't seen since they first aired (many of them on Countdown). The Orphans' 'Hop, Skip, Jump' is one. I have to say a big thanks to yourself and other music video enthusiasts, for taking the time to upload videos to YouTube. When I first started my blog I was including links to share MP3s, but was warned my blog would be shut down if I didn't remove them. Ever since I've relied on embedding YouTube music videos as a way of sharing the music I'm writing about.

I'm a huge Icehouse fan, as you probably noticed by me writing three posts on them. I have their 'Masterfile' video collection on VHS and dubbed it across to DVD, but would be stoked if they released a remastered version on DVD (preferrably with a 5.1 audio remix option).

When I have some time I'll very much enjoy thumbing through some of the videos on your YouTube channel. Always happy to correspond with like minded fans of classic 80s music, especially Aussie stuff. Will contact your email shortly.
Cheers :)