Monday, March 4, 2013

The Starstruck Jo Kennedy

During my teenage years there were a number of songs that, though I loved them at the time, seemed to fade to the periphery of my mind as 20s became 30s became…well, you get the idea.  But these songs never disappeared, as there would continue to be fleeting moments of a tune, a lyric here, a chorus there, and I would be lured back to thinking about how much these tunes meant to me, the energy, the vibrancy they embodied.  And over time I’ve tracked each and every one (well most) to obtained as pristine a copy as I could locate.  A lot of these songs have been by Australian (or Kiwi) artists, and occasionally I’ve managed to stumble across a compilation of rare hits, or a reissue of a seemingly long lost album.  One such uncovered treasure, which took me nearly 20 years to happen upon is the track ‘Body And Soul’, by female vocalist Jo Kennedy.

In 1982, the Australian motion picture ‘Starstruck’ was released in cinemas across the country early that year.  Australian cinema was in a healthier state in the early 80s, well healthier than it is in the 20teens.  Directed by Gillian Armstrong, it was a quirky musical, with more comic than dramatic moments.  Essentially the plot of the film centres around a search for fame and fortune as a singer, as pursued by the character Jackie Mullens, and her cousin Angus, both of who frequent the pub owned by her family.  Angus enters Jackie in a talent competition called the ‘Wow! Show’, and if she wins not only will it be her big break into showbiz via a showcase performance at the Sydney Opera House, but she can rescue the family pub from closure with the $25,000 prize money.  Needless to say she wows the judges and audience, and her dreams of being discovered come true, with a detour or two along the way.  Jo Kennedy played the role of Jackie Mullens, who breaks into song frequently throughout the film’s numerous musical numbers - she’s not the shy retiring type.  The two standout musical numbers are a performance of ’Body And Soul’ all the regulars at the family pub, and ’Monkey In Me’ during the New Year’s eve concert/talent show.  Most of the movie’s charms lay in the musical numbers, though there are sufficient laughs from the many and varied eccentric characters along the way.  Along with the Angels’ Graham ’Buzz’ Bidstrup as band director, and producer Matk Moffatt overseeing Jo Kennedy’s performances, the music coordinator on the film was one Phil Judd, ex of New Zealand music legends Split Enz.  Judd’s band at the time, The Swingers (see future post), also appear in several of the film’s music sequences, including performing the title song during the end concert sequence.

But the Split Enz connections didn’t end with Judd’s involvement.  The song Jo Kennedy sings to take out the talent competition, ‘Body And Soul’, was written in the non-cinematic world by one Tim Finn.  Originally titled ‘She Got Body, She Got Soul’, the track appeared on the 1979 Split Enz album ‘Frenzy’.  The Jo Kennedy adaptation also featured vocals from, then Mondo Rock front man, Ross Wilson.  The film ‘Starstruck’ enjoyed moderate box office success, and was spruiked on Countdown by Molly Meldrum - it was a rarity for contemporary Australian popular music to be featured in a big screen vehicle.  Jo Kennedy also appeared on Countdown, helping to propel the Mushroom released ‘Body And Soul’ to a chart high #5 in mid ‘82 (spending 19 weeks on the charts).  The follow up single, ‘Monkey In Me’ didn’t climb higher than #76, but saw Jo Kennedy sit comfortably on the charts for another 22 weeks.  The soundtrack to ‘Starstruck’ also impressed film goers and music aficionados sufficiently to elevate the album to #13 nationally during mid ‘82.

As featured in the film, enjoy the video clip for ‘Body And Soul’ by Jo Kennedy.

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