Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Feel Good Start To The Day

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a morning person. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge the beauty and freshness that the dawning of a new day can bring. It’s just that I’m yet to convince both mind and body to function at anything near peak capacity prior to lunch. So given that tenuous relationship with the AM, it seems a little strange, even to me, that one of my favourite songs from the mid 70s is ‘Good Morning (How Are You?)’ by The Moir Sisters. I guess it says something for the exceedingly high quality of the song itself, and the sublime vocal harmonies of The Moir Sisters, that I can overlook my disdain for the title.

The song actually evokes some pleasant memories of a simpler time in my life (at least it seems simpler in retrospect). When it hit the Australian charts in early August of 1974 I was fast approaching my sixth birthday, so it would count as one of the earlier songs to etch a permanent mark on my memory banks, and over three decades later ‘Good Morning (How Are You)’ sounds as pristine and dewy fresh as ever it did - the best music remains timeless in that way.

As for the angelic voices behind the song, The Moir Sisters were born in Scotland but emigrated to Australia at a young age in the early 60s. Jean (b.1957), Margot (b.1959) and Lesley (b.1962) began singing together soon after settling in to the Australian way of life in the Melbourne suburbs. With their parents support the trio began performing regularly and soon developed their distinctive high pitched harmonies. They competed successfully on a number of television talent shows (‘New Faces’ and ‘Showcase’) and soon major record labels were jostling to sign The Moir Sisters to a recording deal (things really haven’t changed over the years). EMI signed the girls to a record deal, whilst all three were still in high school.

Their debut single was the uplifting ‘Good Morning (How Are You)’. It was released in mid ‘74 and was soon a favourite on breakfast radio across Australia. Television appearances soon followed, and in a strange juxtaposition of image and sound, audiences were witness to three teenage girls sporting David Bowie style ‘sharpie’ haircuts, singing the cleanest, purest brand of pop music imaginable on national television. They must have overcome their initial shock because the song debuted on the Australian national chart during the week ending 5th August and went on to peak at #8. ‘Good Morning (How Are You?)’ also proved to have substantial longevity and spent a total of 27 weeks inside the top 100.

While ‘Good Morning (How Are You?)’ was still inside the charts a low budget weekly music television show started on the ABC network. ‘Countdown’ would go on to redefine the Australian popular music scene and kick start dozens of artist’s careers. Sadly The Moir Sisters didn’t benefit long term from the ‘Countdown’ treatment, though ‘Good Morning (How Are You?)’ received a boost from the girl’s performance on 27th December 1974 - which happened to be the last of six b/w episodes of ‘Countdown’ before colour television finally hit Australia. The Moir Sisters’ second single ‘Harmony Blues’ hit the charts in March of ‘75 but stalled at #68, despite a performance on ‘Countdown’ and a support slot for The Osmonds national tour. It was taken from their debut album ‘Lost - Somewhere Beyond Harmony’, which itself lost momentum at #69. Reviews were positive for the album, and it was said to be a quality showcase of the trio’s confident vocal harmonies applied to a strong selection of songs. The album had been recorded during November/December ‘74 and featured a number of high profile session players including guitarist Phil Manning (ex-Chain) and keyboardist Mal Logan. The third single ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ missed the charts altogether and by the end of ‘75 The Moir Sisters were already being thought of as a one hit wonder.

The girls finished their studies, then set off overseas to try their luck in both the U.S. and U.K. During 1978 they recorded the album ‘State Of Shock’, which was released in both American and British markets on Elton John’s Rocket label, and credited to The Moirs. ‘State Of Shock’ was produced by John Farrar (of Olivia Newton-John fame) and boasted bass work from Mike Porcaro and piano from James Newton Howard. Despite the talent on board the album tanked, but The Moirs resurfaced in the early 80s, this time on the WEA label. With female vocal groups like the Nolans (see future post) having some success, Jean, Margot and Lesley had one last tilt at scoring another hit. The singles ‘So Excited’ (1982) and ‘Running Scared’ (1983) both forgot to set the alarm, slept in, and missed out on the earlier acclaim afforded ‘Good Morning (How Are You?)’.

Despite the well drying up in terms of record sales, The Moirs continued to perform together. Margot Moir released the solo single ‘Scarlet Skies’ in 1989 and the album ‘Loving You’ in 1996. She still performs regularly in a band called Celtic Spirit, alongside her daughter Rae-Emma, and also works as a vocal tutor.


Anonymous said...

Good Morning (how are you ).. what a great tune! - only seen it on 1 various CD so far ... so i snapped it up.
* Did'nt they go to Pembroke high school in the mid 70's in Mooroolbark, Vic ?

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Was it an EMI compilation called 'One Hit Wonders of the 70s'? That's where I scored my copy. Honestly, I'm not sure about where the girls went to school, but Pembroke sounds as good as anywhere lol. When I wrote the post I couldn't find a whole hell of a lot of info. on the period leading up to the Moirs signing with EMI, and even less info. post their recording days.