Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Ghostwriters Pen An Instant Classic

In early 1991 Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst finally found a window in his hectic schedule that coincided with bassist Rick Grossman (Hoodoo Gurus/ex-Divinyls) and ex-Do Re Mi drummer turned Popstuds guitarist Dorland Bray. The trio had known one another since 1979 and had planned to record something together for several years. Hirst encountered a degree of resistance from his Midnight Oil band mates, who weren’t that keen on extracurricular activities. As a result Hirst agreed to certain conditions, most notably that for any album to be released neither his name nor likeness could appear on the cover art, music video or any associated promotional material - you have to wonder if that was what inspired the name of the band, Ghostwriters.

The Ghostwriters project was essentially a studio band, due in part to another restriction placed upon Hirst by Midnight Oil, that his new band not perform live. Regardless of the conditions, Hirst undertook drumming and vocal duties on the Ghostwriters debut album, with Grossman, Bray and ex-Nates guitarist Andy Dickson rounding out the sound. The lead out single was ‘…Someone’s Singing New York New York…’ which was released in October ‘91. It had all the hallmarks of a classic Midnight Oil song, with cutting, politically sharp lyrics wrapped inside an engaging rock melody. Hirst’s vocals were as strong as ever (I always felt he was underused in that regard within Midnight Oil). ‘…Someone’s Singing New York New York…’ peaked at #29 on the Australian charts and spent 19 weeks inside the top 100 (it was also one of the earlier CD singles I purchased - just after a brief flirtation with cassingles). The ‘Ghostwriters’ album was released in December 1991. The Leszek Karski/Rob Hirst produced set (released on Virgin) sold modestly and peaked at #81 nationally. It spawned two further singles in early ‘92, ‘Runaway Bay’ and ‘World Is Almost At Peace’, but neither could repeat the early success of ‘…Someone’s Singing New York New York…’.

The trio of Hirst, Bray and Grossman returned to their respective bands and it would be another three years before Ghostwriters was resurrected. Second time around it was the duo of Rob Hirst and Rick Grossman, as Bray wasn’t involved. In Bray’s place the Ghostwriters’ sound was augmented by session players Mark Moffatt (guitar), Chris Abrahams (organ/mellotron), Jan Preston (piano) and the horn section from a little band called Hunters & Collectors. Ghostwriters’ sophomore album ‘Second Skin’ was released on the Mercury/Polygram label in August 1996, but neither it, nor the singles ‘International Rules Of Love’ and ‘Impossible Shame’, made an impact on the charts.

All but free of his Midnight Oil shackles, Rob Hirst expanded the range of Ghostwriters activity for their third album ‘Fibromoon’ in 2000 - credited to Rob Hirst and The Ghostwriters. Rick Grossman was still on board and the project was joined by Lee Moloney (drums/percussion) and Beau Young (guitar/keyboards) - and the Ghostwriters finally hit the road.

In April 2007 the Ghostwriters unveiled their latest album ‘Political Animal’ (on Sony/BMG), which was a mix of earlier material re-recorded live in studio, along with four new tracks. The title was appropriate given the album’s explicit themes dealing with political, social and ethical issues. The sound of the album is a harder edged rock style in keeping with the passionate nature of the songs. Ex-Midnight Oil guitarist Martin Rotsey joined the fray to add his own unique high energy sound to the mix. The band played a killer set at the 2007 ‘Live Earth’ show. Over the last several years Rob Hirst has balanced his time and energy between the Ghostwriters and his drumming duties with the Australian blues outfit The Backsliders. The Backsliders have released three albums ‘Hanoi’ (2002), ‘Live’ (2005) and ‘Left Field Holler’ (2007) (I was lucky enough to see them on a couple of occasions during 2003).

No comments: