The “classic” line-up of Chain was only together for eleven months, but in this time they enjoyed a National Top Ten hit (number one on Melbourne’s radio charts) in 1971 with its debut single on the Infinity label, ‘Black And Blue’. At the end of the band’s first rehearsal, guitar guru Phil Manning was playing a riff that vocalist and harpman Matt Taylor was gob smacked by. He suggested to Phil to slow it down a wee bit and while the other band members were off having a cup of tea (or something more medicinal), he went and penned some lyrics to a work song that reflected our convict past. An hour later ‘Black And Blue’ emerged.
You work me so hard that my back’s near broke (we’re groanin’)
My brow is wet and my throat’s a-choke (we’re groanin’)
You send me here for ten long years (we’re groanin’)
I miss my whisky and I miss my beer (we’re groanin’)
Chain was Michael Gudinski’s (Vale – 2 March 2021) first signed act and he used his entrepreneurial ingenuity by buying up the single and distributing it to Chain’s huge fan base at gigs. From there the tune had airplay, chart success and no one looked back (gonna walk). ‘Black And Blue’ was the first and only blues song to top the local charts. The album Toward The Blues peaked at number six and remained in the Top Twenty Go Set charts for fourteen weeks.
Matt’s cross harp in the key of ‘C’ mimics the guitar riff. The fantastic response to the guitar riff vocal is a feature of the tune and is a classic mondegreen (misheard lyric). We’re Groaning (which was the original title) chanted by a few of the roadies on the recording has been misheard as We’re Groan Men and even Red Roses. The roadies also supplied the chain gang effects on the recording by striking and shaking heavy metal chains.
Hear’s the riff.