Her long green tail danced like a surfer. The scales reflecting golden from the sun. As she combs her hair and she sings.
You never know where an inspiration for scribing a new article may arise. It was Christmas Eve last year. After our morning stroll down by the creek we hopped back in our automobile and when the engine purred, our popular local radio station 3MDR 97.1 fm roared back to life. It was past mid track, nearing its finale and my ears were instantly pricked (of course there was harmonica) as it was most pleasurable aurally. I requested my wife to Shazam It (for those who are not aware Shazam is an app that identifies a tune), however, the contraption had no idea. There was no point contacting the studio as the presenter is a silent panel operator and thus does not answer the phone or provide a pre or post announcement. Then I had an inclination I knew it. Of course I did! I had it placed in the data base of 3MDR – you idiot! When presenters are not operating, Larry Lyrebird as we know him, plays tunes off the computer. In fact Larry is the most popular presenter on the station, receiving more fan mail than anyone else.
On one occasion a listener, Geoff from Kew, pledged $500 dollars to the station because Larry played a favourite of his, The Gully by Healing Force – the flip side to the amazing Golden Miles. Originally I didn’t think it was I that had placed this in Larry’s machine, even though Golden Miles was one of the first singles I ever purchased – 99 cents from Brash’s (if memory serves correctly). But I’m starting to consider it may have been my good self as I had spun the vinyl on my ‘45 Flip’ segment on ‘Whammer Jammer Cafe’ – my follow up radio program to ‘Harmonica Riff Raff’. I loved the 45rpm vinyl single as you had the bonus of an unheard tune from the artist on the flip side and often they were a cracker like The Gully. Nowadays, as I have just recently found (after my release on Bandcamp) a single is just that on streaming or download platforms. Two toons would be known as an extended play or in some quarters as a double single – now that’s an oxymoron.
The Christmas Eve song on the car radio in question was Mermaid my favourite track off Albatross’ one and only album, ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’. To me it stands the test of time and would have been a standout single if they had released one. Delicious harp was added by the legendary Chris Blanchflower of Country Radio fame. More than likely Chris was given the guernsey due to his connection with Albatross’ drummer Kevin Bryant (ex Country Radio) and the producer of ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’ Gus McNeil (ex Gus & the Nomads), who also produced Country Radio’s brilliant first album ‘Fleetwood Plain’.
Thanks to Nigel Macara, drummer for Tamam Shud, I was able to canvas Lindsay on the background to the writing of the tune and Chris’ involvement. Hi Shep, not a lot to say about the track Mermaid. It’s semi fictional inspired by my then girlfriend Simone. We met at Whale Beach in summer and became very close. She would sing along to tracks on the car radio and Peter and I were quite impressed. Later she joined the band doing backing vocals from the album. I think I decided that the track would lend well to harmonica and Chris was asked to come do the session. Great player! Lindsay”
Albatross was a by-product of the progressive rock band Tamam Shud. Their head honcho, Lindsay Bjerre, decided a simpler lifestyle was warranted away from the multi stack amps and intricate equipment for a more acoustic, rootsy sound. Bigger isn’t always better as their album testifies.
Peter Baron from the Shud joined Lindsay in Albatross, as did Kevin Bryant (mentioned previously). The band formed in September 1972 playing locally in the Northern Beaches and regularly in Mona Vale.
They gigged at the infamous Bungool festival ‘The World’s Largest New Year’s Party’ in NSW playing a set on the Saturday. The lads gained some notoriety when they supported Frank Zappa in his 1973 Sydney June concerts held at the Hordern Pavillon, but before the year was out, and the album’s release in November, they were no longer. Lindsay was on a search for higher meaning. Aren’t we all?
I believe Lindsay had suggested the genre of ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’ was “salt water music – thing’s about the sea.” If you are after a copy of the album they are few and far between and, as I pen this article, you can buy one of two being offered for $200 on a well know online auction site. It is also possible to listen to the album on YouTube.
Chris also blows some sweet harp on another song, Nimbin Stopover and this tune, along with the opening track Full Moon, completes the trifecta (in my humble opinion) of best songs off the LP.
Lindsay’s search for a greater purpose found him in the company of the Hare Krishnas. He resided in their Double Bay temple for a short period of time before, would you believe, reinventing himself as a bohemian performer under the guise of Bjerre. He even performed on Countdown with a charting single She Taught Me How To Love Again.
In conclusion, you never know where Larry will lead you and it was a pleasure to soar again on the wings of Albatross. I suggest you might also like to head over to the headquarters of Tamam Shud, who are well worth a listen. They were a fine progressive rock band that are possibly better known for their improvised surf sound, which featured on several surf movies including the classic, 1971 film ‘Morning Of The Earth’.
You should do yourself a service and check out these other great tunes written by Lindsay for the Shud.
Sea The Swells (love the bass line)
Stand In The Sunlight
A Breath Of Fresh Air – Albatross
Side 1: Full Moon, The Drowning Song, Escher’s Door, Drop Me a Line, Bouzouki Boogie
Side 2: The Games Cards Play, Nimbin Stopover, Mermaid, A Message To You, Seashell Secrets, The Angel & The Boy
Kim Bryant (drums), Peter Baron (bass), Lindsay Bjerre (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), Simone Bjerre (vocals), Richard Lockwood (sax, flute, clarinet), Keith Greig (keyboards), Gary Fredericks (slide guitar) String Section leader: John Lyle
String parts written by Lindsay Bjerre, arranged by Richard Lockwood All songs by Lindsay Bjerre. Recorded at ATA Studios, Sydney; mixed at EMI Studios, Sydney. Produced by Gus McNeil. Recording Engineers: Bruce Brown, Gerry Stevens. Mixing engineer: John Lee Photography & design: Frank Pitchers
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This article is written in memory of John Beauchamp (JB) who passed this life on January 5th 2023. JB was the producer and presenter of the fabulous, ‘The Korniest Show’ (10am to 1pm Mondays), for nearly thirty years on 3MDR 97.1 fm. His program was a favourite of mine, not only because of the music and the English humour, but the fact he had segments (with intro’s) – it truly was a show. He was also the man in charge of the OTS system and responsible for Mermaid having a spin on Christmas Eve.
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