Various: Come & See Me – Dream Babes and Rock Chicks From Down Under

Two discs of prime femme pop from the Antipodes.

During a decade when inter-continental air travel was still the domain of the privileged few, Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s remained a literal half-a-world away – a fact that coloured their post-war pop and rock music industry. With visits from British and American acts rare, and satellite television broadcasts still in their infancy, domestic artists were given the stage and the opportunity to carve out careers for themselves – careers which could occasionally lead to wider international success, as it did for the likes of The Bee Gees and The Easybeats.

Many acts were actually British exiles who’d emigrated with their families (a million Brits moved Down Under in the first couple of post-war decades) and who proved to be familiar – yet exotic – enough to find favour with local audiences. Those roots – which were obviously maintained by family connections – meant Australian music tended to echo more of what was happening back home than Stateside, with tours by The Beatles and Rolling Stones only solidifying that influence further.

As such, the music from the first wave of the post-beat boom differs little from that being produced in the ‘old country’. The slightly disingenuous (and tacky) title of this new 2CD set aside  – there’s nothing here that even sniffs of being ‘rock’ music – Come & See Me does, however, cast a wide net over the period, with selections of beat, Euro pop and more folk-y fare.

Both discs dispel any notion that the local scene was any less sophisticated than its European counterparts. The harder Kinks-riffing of Toni McCann‘s ‘Saturday Night’ and late-period girl group stomper ‘The Rebel Kind’ by The Chicks (“They make fun of our tight clothes!”) would sit happily in any Soho club playlist of the period. Sandy Edmonds‘ run through the The Pretty Things’ fuzz monster ‘Come See Me’ might not hit the heights of the original but comes close, and the influence of Swinging London is heard on sides by Allison Durban (a sexy take on Neil Diamond’s ‘Working On A Groovy Thing) and the melancholy psych pop of The Executives‘ ‘Moving In A Circle’ (“Dogs and cats and bowler hats”). It’s also easy to imagine a few exiled Scots shedding a few tears over Maggie Hammond‘s take on folk standard ‘Go Laddie’.

As is often the case with such sets, it’s the minor details that intrigue. Are there earlier mentions of a skateboard in a pop record than Gwynn Owen‘s ‘Hard Loving Loser’? Why did the ‘it-shouldn’t-work-but-it-sorta does’ bagpipe beat of all-girl group The Fair Sect not inspire a wave of soundalikes? And who would have thought Lynne Randell‘s wall-of-sound heartbreaker ‘Stranger In My Arms’ would precede a brief fling with The Monkees’ Davy Jones and a career in music journalism that saw her conduct the last interview with Jim Morrison on US soil?

With a tracklisting likely to be unfamiliar to even the most hardened femme pop fans, Come & See Me … has top tunes, smashing sleevenotes and some great period photographs – what’s not to like?

About Douglas Baptie (208 Articles)
Editor at Words & Guitars. Lives in Carlisle, far away from 'that London'.
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