Paul Langford Lever

August 5th, 2019

Hey there Riff Raffers,

Floating on a cloud with a cosmic shroud. Play your music loud Chetarca.

“He was one of the pioneers.” (Matt Taylor)

“Paul was the best harmonica player I had heard and a lovely man with a beautiful soulful voice and a great sense of humour.” (Andy Vance)

“Paul Lever was a great blues harp player.” (Kerryn Tolhurst)

“He was a good harp player, actually a very good harp player for the time.” (Brod Smith)

“I knew Paul Lever well and considered him to be an outstanding blues/rock harmonica player.” (Billy Pinnell)

“He was a great guy, funny, engaging and a great storyteller.” (Bruce Bryan)

(Is there another band member in the flying saucer. Perhaps it’s a light fitting for you sceptics)

Paul had his own band performing around the Melbourne nightclubs under the name Langford Lever (Langford was Paul’s middle name) and would later be named the Langford Lever Blues Band. When Kerryn Tolhurst returned from National Service duties in 1969 he recruited Paul for the reformation of the Adderley Smith Blues Band. All was not rosy and Paul would leave the band due to personal issues and would be replaced by Joe Camilleri. Paul, who had developed quite a sizeable fan base was involved in an unfortunate incident which occurred at the Dallas Brooks Hall on May 14, 1970 during a blues show with Dutch Tilders. With Joe as their new frontman he strutted the stage like Mick Jagger wearing a garish outfit consisting of a green shirt and pink strides, much to the band’s dismay and Adderley’s fans. Paul was in the audience and on the fans insistence Paul mounted the stage grabbing the microphone and professed “this is not the blues” and then took over the show. That was Joe’s last stand and Kerryn’s last encounter with Paul. Kerryn reflecting on this, commented, “He was a troubled and beautiful soul and certainly needed support, but I loved his passion and it’s so sad that he couldn’t get help.”

Briefly in 1970 Paul joined the Carson County Band formed by Greg ‘Sleepy’ Lawrie. Bass player and vocalist Ian ‘Fingers’ Ferguson for the band said that, Paul was a nice guy, but was nervous and unsure of himself constantly asking is that okay, when it was fine. It just got too much for Greg.”

In 1971 Paul had Langford Lever gigging again. They competed in Hoadley’s Battle Of The Sounds of that year finishing unplaced behind Fraternity. They appeared on GTK and Sunbury ’72 and ’73. Langford Lever would morph into Chetarca a progressive rock band that were way ahead of their time. Chetarca was a phonetic word first put forward by band member Ian Miller believing it reflected the band’s sound. It did, however cop some flack as a Shitaki mushroom. Paul, along with drummer Geoff Gallent and the amazing guitarist Ian Miller (who would later be with John Paul Young’s All Stars) were joined in Chetarca by keyboardist Andy Vance, his friend bass guitarist John Rees (who was a key member of Men At Work) and Bruce Bryan on synthesisers (and album producer). They released a seminal self titled album in 1975 along with the single ‘Another Day’. The album is highly sought after today by avid vinyl collectors paying between $200 and $300 and their music is extremely popular today in Eastern Bloc countries including Russia. The single peaked at number 75 on the hit parade.

On the album’s liner notes Billy Pinnell is credited for his help. Andy Vance explains, “Billy managed us for awhile to get us going and he encouraged us incredibly, but he was really like a wonderful mentor and friend to us all who introduced us to all sorts of nice people in the music industry.”

Billy was glowing of Paul’s involvement in Chetarca, “While out of his comfort zone in ‘Chetarca’, whose influences included classical music, ‘Emerson Lake and Palmer’ and ‘Frank Zappa’ he adapted extremely well to a band with no other soloists (apart from Andrew Vance’s keyboards) offering subtle harmonica solos on quieter songs, exciting flurries on other. Paul was also a versatile singer and a great front man.” Andy Vance reflected, “We were a progressive rock band and Paul’s vocals and versatility on the harmonica gave the band a style of music that was very appealing to a wider audience. I still get enquiries about the music and particularly Paul’s contribution.” Bruce Bryan has fond memories of his time with the band and Paul. He remembered Daryl Braithwaite being asked in an interview who he thought was Australia’s best singer and replying with Paul Lever. Bruce agreed, “He was right. Paul had great range and could put so much emotion into each song.”

Chetarca would go on to support international acts Electric Light Orchestra and Frank Zappa. They were on stage at Sunbury ’75 and were the backing band for Gerry Humphries. The band’s breakup was a bit of a mystery to some of the band members as Bruce Bryan suggests, “Okay, yeah the breakup was kind of a coup, most of us did not see it coming, but Ian Miller did not want to continue and had some artistic differences with some of us. Also he was in Sydney most of the time. Andy also had some marital and health issues, as did Paul, which probably influenced the whole scenario. It wasn’t exactly unfriendly, but a couple of us did feel like we were kept out of the loop and were quite dismayed at the outcome.”

It appears the musical talents of Paul were lost then and there. Paul had issues that were compounded when medicating with alcohol. Bruce felt Paul may have been dyslexic as he had learning difficulties which resulted in a troubled childhood. Bruce stated that, He struggled to express himself in general conversation, but could write lyrics or sing a song that could be almost erudite.” Paul was a printer by trade and moved to Western Australia where he spent three years primarily sober.

Paul returned to Melbourne and in the late nighties was tragically killed crossing the road from a Collingwood Hotel where he had just bought some takeaways. The driver failed to stop.

In finishing I would like to relate this anecdote and insight on Paul provided by Kerryn Tolhurst.

“I remember he was in tears after seeing the movie ‘Midnight Cowboy’. He really related to the Dustin Hoffman character, Ratso Ricco.”

Hear some of Paul’s harp work with Chetarca‘.

Ch SD

PS: Thanks to everyone who went back in time to recall and contribute to Paul’s story.

 

 

 

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Goanna Man Of Mystery

7th April, 2019

Hi Riff Raffers,

Within my substantial vinyl record collection there is a twelve inch extended play by ‘The Goanna Band’ titled, ‘Living On The Razor’s Edge’. Released in 1979 there was a limited print of 500 (maybe 1000?). It was produced by Broderick Smith on the Custom Press label a subsidiary of EMI. Two of the four tunes were reworked on Goanna’s (band name was shortened to Goanna) highly successful debut long play release of 1982, ‘Spirit Of Place’ and another appeared later on their follow up album of 1985, ‘Oceania’. The tune that has never seen light of day again is ‘Sometimes’ which has harmonica blown by first named band member, Ian Morrison. Ian also sings lead on this song. Who is this mystery Goanna man? His name pops up again on the liner notes as co-writing ‘Living On The Razor’s Edge’.

The Goanna Band evolved from humble beginnings back in ‘sleepy hollow’, the country town of Geelong in 1977. They had emerged from a folk trio named The Ecto-Plasmic Manifestation Concert Band whose three members were students of Deakin University and included Shane Howard from Dennington. The Goanna Band had an ongoing residency at the ‘Argyle’ hotel where they would play Shane’s originals, but also cover a couple of Dingoes classics, the Kerryn Tolhurst penned ‘Singing Your Song’ (a personal favourite) and ‘Goin Down Again’. Kerryn had a strong connection with the band over the journey. Playing the ‘band in the hand’ on the Dingoes tunes was Ian ‘Morrie’ Morrison perhaps emulating his idol Broderick Smith. Brod even provides backing vocals on the EP’s title track. The band was managed by Ian ‘King Of The Coast’ Lovell who owned the Eureka hotel in Geelong. Later, at the Eureka, a fledgling Goanna would support Cold Chisel who were on a National tour promoting the 1979 ‘Breakfast At Sweethearts’ album.

In May 1981, Shane on Doctors advice took time off and ventured to Uluru (Ayres Rock). Here, close to ancestral spirits, an awakening occurred which later would manifest itself into the writing of an Australian classic. A significant event occurred around this time which raised their stocks, they supported James Taylor on his national tour in 1981. From there they signed to the WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) record label and an album was in the making. ‘Spirit Of Place’ was chock full of top tunes from the anthemic hit single ‘Solid Rock’ (which WEA were reluctant to release as the lead single), the melodic follow up single ‘Razors’s Edge’ right to the rocking finale ‘Children Of The Southern Land’. The reworked ‘Razor’s Edge’ (also with a shortened title) featured Ross Hannaford on lead guitar and Ross Wilson on backing vocals. Goanna reached the lofty heights within the fickle music industry quickly, maybe too quickly, however a band with a message about our nation and it’s heritage was just what the doctor ordered. I met Shane briefly in 1982 at ‘Goanna Manor’ a two story building in St. Kilda just opposite the ‘Junction’ oval-the home of the mighty lions (Fitzroy Football Club). He was shy, friendly, very humble and gracious. Recently I asked Shane about the writing of ‘Razor’s Edge’ and the mystery Goanna man Ian Morrison. Shane responded,“Living On The Razor’s Edge is an old song. I wrote it when I was hitchhiking up the East Coast of Australia back in 1975. Many years later, Ian Morrison, who was in Goanna, added the lyrics for the the third verse, Lulu’s too tired of living down beside Torquay. She’s getting herself together, financially. She says, One of these days I’m just goin’ to lie in the Sun, But right now I’m wondering if that day ever comes. Ian lives in Geelong and works in Melbourne.” In 1979 the last part of the third verse was sung as, ‘She’s gonna have a holiday and lie down in the sun. Well I don’t really know (yeah), but I’d say she’s on the run.’

It was interesting to look back at old footage for the mystery Goanna man. Couldn’t see him at ‘The Venue’ in September 1982 when Solid Rock was belted out, but hang on there he is singing, front and square on the Kerryn Tolhurst penned ‘Underfoot, Underground’ (features on the remastered deluxe version of ‘Spirit Of Place’). Viewing Countdown in 1983 there he is strumming an acoustic guitar (was it plugged in?) on ‘Razor’s Edge’. Was Ian at the Myer Music Bowl for the ‘Stop The Drop’ concert? Yep. There he was stage left dancing and providing backing vocals on ‘That Day Is Coming Sooner’ (sooner than you think). Hanna’s there too.

Shane and Ian must have been close buddies. In 1984 they travelled overseas together visiting Europe and the United States. The ‘Goanna’ boys searched LA for Billy Payne, former keyboard player for ‘Little Feat’ (in the early days they covered some of their tunes) to produce their follow up album. They had met Billy earlier on the James Taylor tour. Initially Mark Knopfler was tendered for the position, however he became unavailable due to commitments with his band ‘Dire Straits’. With Billy on board ‘Oceania’ was in the making. The album was considered by many as a failure. It never had a chance, it could never measure up to the debut album. Shane reflected later, we tried to change and stop being too commercial, but we changed too much and it failed.” (Canberra Times, 8th December, 1988). Not sure if Shane was referring to the first album being commercial (I wouldn’t have thought so) or the tunes that followed, but it was a shame that ‘That Day Is Coming Sooner’ a single they recorded in 1983 wasn’t represented on the new album. The band toured intensively promoting the album spending enormous energy and money. They would never recover. By 1985 Shane suffered a breakdown leaving his wife and four children and the band. He eventually would reside in a caravan at the Gulf Of Carpentaria sorting out his thoughts and place in the cosmos. His return to mainstream existence would not be for another three years.

Shane on his comeback trail released a warts and all solo album ‘Back To The Track’. The title track was a cracker, an up tempo tune featuring Steve Gilbert on the mouth harp. This would be the first tune since ‘Sometimes’ that we would see Shane combine again with the most owned instrument in the world. A few more solo albums would see Shane pair with some of Australia’s harmonica royalty. Jim Conway in his own inimitable style blows harp on ‘Without You’ from the 1990 ‘River’ album and Chris Wilson wails away on the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Silvio’ on the 1993 album ‘Time Will Tell’. Shane even has a crack in a rack, Bob Dylan style on tunes throughout his solo catalogue. Okay! I hear you ask what about ‘Morrie’. Not sure he was involved in any of Shane’s solo projects, however he returns on Goanna’s 1998 album, ‘Spirit Returns’ (Kerryn Tolhurst produced) singing backing vocals. ‘What Else Is A Life’ is a ripper tune from this hard to obtain release. The last we knew of Ian Morrison was as a ‘Lobby Ambassador’ for ‘The Westin’ Hotel (part of the ‘Marriot’ group) in Melbourne.

Ch SD

Postscript: You may notice the plane identification on the wing of the ‘Razors Edge’ single (seen above) is FRE-DDY. This relates to the unusual disappearance of twenty year old pilot Frederick Valentich in October of 1978 in the Bass Strait ‘Triangle’. Goanna believed he had been living on the razors edge. The story held some significance for me as the airport he flew from was only minutes from my family residence and Frederick was only a year older than myself. If it was a hoax, as many maintained at the time, it’s strange that to this day there is still no sight of the plane or Freddy. Funny sort of hoax!

Here’s the final part of Fred’s radio transcript with flight service.

9:11:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet – The engine is, is rough idling. —I’ve got it set at twenty three—twenty four… and the thing is—coughing.

9:12:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What are your intentions?

9:12:09 DSJ FS My intentions are—ah… to go to King Island—Ah, Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again //open microphone for two seconds// it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft. 9:12:22 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.

9:12:28 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne //open microphone for 17 seconds// [A very strange pulsed noise is also audible during this transmission.]

Over & Out!

By Dingoes

January 17, 2019

Hello there Riff Raffers,

 My mother said I was an animal for my wild and wicked ways. My father said I was an animal cos I would not wash for days. My girlfriend said I was a dog and I guess she oughta know. A man’s best friend in human form I’m a D-I-N-G-O.” (Ross Wilson)

If you were unsure of the spelling of Canis lupus dingo, Australia’s wild canine, Ross Wilson penned a tune for Aussie seminal band, ‘The Dingoes’ to help you. For the record Dingo is spelt D,I,N,G,O, Ross is correct. Nomenclature spelling can be difficult at the best of times, so Ross’ efforts are appreciated. Even the President of America has issues and also with the linguistic process of correct writing with the necessary letters and diacritics present in a comprehensible, standardised order. He spelt forest with two r’s not once, but twice in the same tweet a week or so ago. The etymology of the name Dingo emanates from the now extinct language of indigenous Australians located near Port Jackson and was recorded by Watkin Tench as the name for the wild Australian dog in his 1789 narrative. A dingo bitch was known by the locals as a Tingo. That’s spelt T,I,N,G,O.

Dingo band member, Kerryn Tolhurst, recently explained to me the origins of the tune: “I ran into Ross (Wilson) one day and he told me he had a song for us. So I went around to his house with my mandolin and we worked on it together, although it was his song. It was suggested we include it on the first album, but we thought it was a bit obvious. We did, however perform it live on stage.” Indeed they did! At the third Sunbury Rock Festival In 1974 Brod wentoff his chopsor as Kerryn proclaimed, “Brod really made a meal of the harp on the recording.” And we are all the better for it and so say all of us. Grab two bob out of the till and get yourself a cigar Brod.

A $3.99 album purchased from ‘Brashs’ entitled, ‘ Highlights Of Sunbury ’74 Part 1’ documents this energetic performance and is, as far as I can tell, the only recording of the song. Brod is blowing an ‘F’ tuned harp in cross position. I have posted the intro with a wee bonus on YouTube hear here, ‘Dingo’. The article pictured above (part thereof from the ‘Tharunka’ Tuesday 4th 0ctober, 1977) of the Dingo pack was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors (see how many you can find). Ross obviously didn’t edit the piece. We can be a little forgiving as it is a student publication of the University of New South Wales.

Ch SD

Postscript: Enjoy Geoff Pryor’s 1981 ‘Dingo’ cartoon below – they had a bad name there for a while. 

R.I.P Chris Wilson, Australia’s Blues Harmonica Legend. A tribute here CW.

Crystal Captured Chris

 

27th August 2018,

Hey Riff Raffers,

I wanted to post a wee tribute to one of my favourite harp men, Chris Blanchflower. Sadly he passed away earlier this year. Chris developed a harp style all his own. In the upper octaves it was both sweet and pure. Today it would probably be known as upper octave extension. Chris played cross harp and he would transfer what he was playing on the lower holes to the upper holes in a melodic line. He did so with great success.

img_0168-2Chris was a late starter, honing his craft or should I say ‘cutting his gums’, in his early twenties. Having gate crashed a party in London in 1966, he hooked up with a guitarist and hitchhiked to Paris. It was in Paris that he teamed up with Boz Scaggs and would busk up to eighteen hours a day. Chris was one of only two harmonica players in Paris amongst thousands of guitarists. He became the only harp player when the other player, a junkie, fell out of a two storey window.

Chris headed back to the United Kingdom and after hearing a folk band rehearsing in a basement, he dropped in and ended up as a member of the folk outfit, ‘The Race’. The band was managed by Hilton Valentine, guitarist for the ‘The Animals’, and they would go on to record a single.

Chris then joined the ‘Slow Water Jug Jooks’ where he met and became friendly with the legendary Duster Bennett. Duster had taught him straight harp, first position, jug harmonica in the back of a van on a two hour trip to a gig. Two weeks later they won a Jug band competition, known as the Kings of the Crown, in Chris’ words, a full contact sport,” at the Crown Hotel in Twickenham. Their win was attributed to Duster’s lesson. From there they transitioned into ‘Panama Limited Jug Band’, they had success playing at local blues joints in and around London and they also recorded for ‘Saydisc’ in Bristol. Their music can be found on an album entitled, ‘Blues like Showers Of Rain’. Chris went under the stage name then of Chris Anderson.

He headed to Australia as a ten pound Pom in 1968 and formed the ‘Stove Pipe Spasm Band’. Greg Quill, the then President of ‘The Shack’, a folk music joint in Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches in New South Wales, was about to audition with the ‘Stove Pipe Spasm Band’, but had a car accident en-route and ended up in hospital with a broken leg. When Greg later won a song writing contest, which included three hours of studio recording and a single release with EMI, he invited Chris to play on his song, the fantastic, ‘Fleetwood Plain’. The song was produced by Gus McNeil and backed by members of his former band, ‘Gus and the Nomads’. From the success of the single, ‘Country Radio’ was formed.

With Michael Chugg managing the band; a place was obtained at the first Sunbury Festival. They went on just before sunset on the Friday and because of their originality they received immense radio coverage in Melbourne, where a new fan base was soon established.

img_0173The introduction of Kerryn Tolhurst (ex-Adderley Smith Blues Band) to ‘Country Radio’ and with the promotional expertise of Molly Meldrum, with no financial recompense, led to the release of the single, ‘Gypsy Queen’, in 1972, to great acclaim. The basis of ‘Gypsy Queen’ came from a chord progression Kerryn had performed earlier at his audition for a place in ‘Country Radio’; the song went to number twelve on the charts and was there for thirteen weeks.

When Festival saw the bill for the production of ‘Gypsy Queen’, they nearly had kittens and because of this the ‘B’ side for the single was written and recorded in ten minutes. It was an instrumental entitled, ‘Radio Rag’. Country Radio would play the next Sunbury Festival, but after being at the top of their game, in December 1973, just over three years after their formation, it was all over.

Greg went solo and moved to Canada, Kerryn went on to form ‘The Dingoes’ with Broderick Smith and Chris, well, that was it. He was married with a young daughter, and he didn‘t pick up the harmonica again until 30 years later, when he joined up with former keyboard player from ‘Country Radio’, John A Bird. Many current harmonica players, with the emergence of the Internet, have all the techniques and tricks you could possibly have, but sound so similar. In Chris’ day they had early recordings of harmonica greats like, Noah Lewis on vinyl to listen to. Although trying to reproduce his style, Chris developed a sound that was all his own. There‘s much to be said in making something your own.

I’ve posted a quick riff lesson of Chris’ opening lick to, Greg Quill’s 1975 tune, ‘Outlaws Reply’. It has that nice little flick on to the draw seven. There’s part of my chat with Chris on the Greg Quill tribute album, ‘Lonesome Picker’. You can hear part thereof here https://soundcloud.com/sheppa59/greg-quill-tribute and lookout for an up and coming ‘Riff Hits & Bits’ where Chris blows a bit of harp on ‘The Mermaid’ by ‘Albatross’ and maybe another one to, ‘Oh Boy’ by Renee Geyer.

Rest In Peace Chris

Ch SD