Melborn and Sideny

Melborn and Sideny

Melborn and SidenyMelborn and Sideny"- The Idlers Five (CBS, 1968) -- Australian Top 40 hit, March 1968

Vocal folk quintet The Idlers Five enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1960s, but they are now virtually forgotten. They are by no means alone in this -- as Zbig Nowara points out in his article on Gary Shearston, the Australian folk scene has been unfairly ignored by popular music historians, discographers and collectors, simply because the music the falls outside the abitrary boundaries of the 'pop' genre.

The same is regrettably true of many Australian jazz and 'mainstream' performers of this era -- many who were famous in Australia in their heyday have since been effectively 'airbrushed' out of the history of Australian popular music. This historical bias also does a great disservice to the achievements of these performers. It's worth noting that 'folkies' Lionel Long and Gary Shearston were far better known and sold many more records than most Aussie 'beat' bands.

The late Lionel Long is a case in point -- he was a popular, nationally known musician (and an accomplished graphic artist) who hosted his own TV variety series, appeared as an actor in films and on TV, and earned gold records. Yet, despite his many achievements, there is very little information about him on the internet. By contrast, groups who even then were very obscure indeed (e.g. The Missing Links) and who might at best have sold only a few dozen copies of their records, are now feted as rock legends. And there is further irony in the fact that, as Australian folk music historian Malcolm J. Turnbull has noted, prominent folk artists like Long and Shearston often had to endure fierce criticism from folk 'purists' who accused then of "selling out"if they achieved any commerical success.

The Idlers Five were based in Melbourne, and performed during the mid-1960s. Like their Sydney contemporaries The Tolmen, there was evidently a comedic/satirical edge to their performance and repertoire. They were a popular act in their hometown and made several appearances on TV. Their first known recording was an LP, The Idlers Five Sing Folk and Gospel Songs, released in 1964 on the independent Tyr label. It is known to have included a cover of Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind", making it one of the very first covers of a Dylan song by an Australian act. By 1966 they had signed to EMI's HMV label for whom they recorded several singles.

Their only major chart success came in early 1968, by which time they had moved to the CBS label, which gave considerable support to Australian folk music. The Idlers Five single "Melborn and Sideny"(the misspelling was deliberate) was a light-hearted take on the perennial rivalry between the two state capitals, namechecking figures like AFL footballer Ron Barassi and Victorian Premier Henry Bolte:

"We'd rather live in Melbourne
Though some folks say it's faulty
Sydney's got its strippers
But we've got Henry Bolte
We've got Australian Rules
And the Melbourne Cup each year
Sydney's girls are way out front
But we've got stronger beer"(3)

The single became a significant local hit in Melbourne -- in fact it reached #1 on the 3UZ Top 40 in the week of 24 March 1968 -- and its popularity helped to get it into the lower end of the Go-Set Top 40 the same month, where it charted for seven weeks, peaking at #30. The B-side was a cover of the Jagger-Richards classic "As Tears Go By", a choice which would no doubt have been scorned by folk purists.

Their follow-up single "If Pigs Could Fly"evidently did not chart and the band apparently split up around the end of 1968, but not before releasing an EP and a second LP, both titled Melborn and Sydeny. Group member John Tickell (second from left, above) worked his way through his medical studies by performing with the band; he graduated as a physician, and is now also a noted motivational speaker and a successful entrepreneur.


"Fuzzy Memories": golden oldies you don't hear anymore

Norman Abjorensen
"Leadership in the Liberal Party: Bolte, Askin and the Post-war Ascendency"

Ross Laird / Screensound
The Sixties: Australian Rock & Pop Recordings 1964-1969

Zbig Nowara
"The Gary Shearston Story"

Globaldog Productions
45 Discography for CBS Records - BA 221000 series - Australia

❊ Web Links ❊

Melborn and Sideny

Leadership in the Liberal Party: Bolte, Askin and the Post-war Ascendency

The Sixties: Australian Rock & Pop Recordings 1964-1969

The Gary Shearston Story

45 Discography for CBS Records - BA 221000 series - Australia

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