Humpo Bompa (with a dadada da da over the top)

6th March, 2019

Hello Riff Raffers,

“Well I remember when I was young the world had just begun and I was happy. I used to wonder about the earth and how it moved around the sun so snappy.” (Matt Taylor)

Back when I was young you could venture down to the local milk bar and purchase sixteen aniseed balls for a cent. One of my first records bought from ‘Brashs’ in 1971 was the 45 rpm single ‘Judgement’ by Chain for ninety nine cents. I’d heard it on the bakelite ‘trannie’, station three eggs why (3XY). Singles were great as there was a bonus, a flip side. You would travel in expectation for another great tune from your favourite band. In this case it was the harmonica instrumental entitled, ‘Blow In D’.

It was around this time I picked up a vinyl album from my state school fete for ten cents. I’m not sure what the attraction was. It may simply have been the cover that displayed a large toothpaste dispenser with rainbow paste flowing, or was it because Blues Burger appeared on this long play record. Who was the Graham Bond Organization? I hadn’t heard them over the airwaves. The album included the Animals. I was aware of their song ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and then there was someone named Sonny Boy Williamson. He played the breath harp as did Jack Bruce. Never heard of him either.

The only Sunny-boy on my horizon was a popular five cent treat from the schools tuck shop/canteen (depends on what school you went to) on a hot summer’s day. Far more popular than the warm bottle of milk with cream on top at playtime. A rush to be milk monitor was the opportunity to drink it cold on their arrival. Sunny-boys were orange flavoured ice, packaged in a pyramid shaped vessel. The best part was where the flavour had concentrated to a particular point of fracture that would flake off (and of course, the juice at the bottom). Don’t throw the pack away-look inside you may have a free one. Nothing better than one immediately after a game of Humpo Bumpo and not just for the reasons already outlined. The hard icy section that you couldn’t break with your teeth, but could break your teeth on could be applied as an ice pack on your bruises. A game of Humpo Bumpo begins by standing on the bench seats that lined the interior of the shelter shed. On the ground a school mate(s) waited for a cue word (probably go) ready to bump you out. When the command was released with exclamation off you hopped (and your cohorts who weren’t out) with arms crossed in a frantic endeavour to reach the other side without putting your hopping foot down. If your foot went down you were in the middle helping bump the others out. I don’t believe such an activity would be allowed in these heavily regulated and sanctioned days.

Now Sonny Boy Williamson had a tune on the album with a fascinating title, ‘Fattening Frogs For Killing Snakes’. What’s that all about? I believe it has something to do with you doing all the hard work and someone else benefiting. Well this blew a fuse for the black man’s blues as Matt Taylor had so eloquently written in his hit song of 1973. What happened to his band Chain? They were there one minute and gone the next. In fact when ‘Judgement‘ had been released the classic line up had vanished. They didn’t even last a year. Matt Taylor, vocalist and harp player, sold all his material possessions including all his expensive guitars (except one beaten up acoustic) to search for higher meaning and to live a commune life under the influence of Fred Robinson’s ‘Universal Brotherhood’. Matt and his wife Gillian moved to an acreage in Beechworth, which he and the other members of Chain had bought. Matt apparently had been introduced to Fred Robinson and his simpler way of living by Hans Poulson at a concert at the Myer Music Bowl where they appeared on the same bill.

It was here at the commune while contemplating his navel (remember it should always be your own) at his properties dam that the lyric of when I was young entered his thoughts. Matt sought out his beaten up guitar, tweaked the lyric from when I, to back when I, then finally to I remember when I was young. Matt put it to a bompa-bompa in the key of ‘G’ and that’s how an iconic Aussie hit was born.

Matt and Gillian moved away from the commune lifestyle and bought Kingston farm in Frankston. The song was recorded there in a paddock at the insistence of Matt with backing from his mates from Chain and slide guitarist Greg ‘Sleepy’ Lawrie. I believe it was Sleepy who originated the term bompa-bompa to describe a blues shuffle. Perhaps Matt added the dadada da da over the top? Over the journey Matt has produced many versions of this classic. Some with harp (cross in ‘C’) and some without.

img_1778My personal favourite is a live version he recorded with his Western Australian band, Western Flyer. Hear part thereof here ‘Remember‘. Even John Farnham recorded a cover. I love the harp intro Matt used on ‘Rockwiz’ an SBS music television program. He uses the whole harp, 8, 9 and 10 blow holes included and then a descending back and forth run from the eighth hole. You can see and hear on YouTube. I remember when I was young, I surely do, I hope you do so too.

“Sometimes I think  about it, it happens every day. I should think of the present ‘cause the presents now.” (Matt Taylor)


PS: More updates to last months post titled ‘Aussie Models’ including a new found model.

Forpies’ Blues Burger (No Mashed Potato)

8th November, 2018

Hello Riff Raffers,

Most people I know are not aware that Billy Thorpe blew the gob iron. There’s a few who think I’m crazy, but here is the evidence that Bill did indeed play the harmonica. Who would have thought that a clean cut ‘Mod’ with songs like, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ and ‘Mashed Potato’, would transform into a long haired hippie playing loud blues rock and the mouth harp. For a short period in the early seventies Billy delved into the realm of harmonica. The first single of the new Aztecs in 1970 featured their rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s, ‘Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl’ with Bill wailing away. The same year he provided some harp on a Jeff St John’s Copperwine album track, ‘I’ve Been Treated Wrong’. From there he let loose on two tunes off the four track, 1971 LSD induced album, ‘The Hoax Is Over’, ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Truth’. Then on the classic 1973 album, ‘More Arse Than Class’ we hear it again on the driving, ‘I Wanna Know’ and at the Sunbury Rock Festival out came the pocket harp on, ‘Jump Back’.

I wasn’t sure who may have helped Billy with a few chops on the ‘Mississippi Saxophone’ so I sent out a few emails to those in the know. Here’s what transpired. First cab off the rank was Matt Taylor as I knew Bill was a big rap for Matt’s harp and in keeping the blues alive in Melbourne. Their first encounter had been at a gig where Matt was playing with, ‘Horse’ a band that preceded both ‘Genesis’ & ‘Chain’. Lobby Loyde, Matt’s good friend from Brisbane and the band, ‘Purple Hearts’ had brought his school mate, Bill to meet up with him. Here’s how Matt responded to my query. Bill used to soak his harps in Whiskey. I jammed with his bands a few times and played his harps there was always a few holes unresponsive. He believed the spirit changed the tone and couldn’t believe I just took the harp out of it’s box and it sounded okay.” In a previous interview with Matt he emphasised that, Bill was an incredibly competitive person. We were always friends, but never bosom buddies. ‘Chain’ and the ‘Aztecs’ were always close, though.” Looks like Matt didn’t pass on any tips.

I’ll try ‘Spectrums’ Mike Rudd as I knew Billy liked to play the ‘I’ll Be Gone’ riff. The thought of Billy Thorpe asking me for advice about anything makes me chuckle. We weren’t that close for one thing. I’m sure he got expert advice on the harp (as he did with guitar from Lobby) but I don’t know who that might’ve been. He never asked me about the intricacies of IBG.
I think I may’ve told you this story. When we did the Tsunami Concert with him at the Myer Music Bowl some years ago (don’t remember exactly which year) he did phone me – it was Billy who got Bill (Putt) and me on the show. He wanted to do IBG and thought it would be neat for him to start playing the riff (he was dismissive of his own playing of the riff BTW) and then I would take over from the wings and Bill and I would saunter onto the stage and play the song with the band.
Which is how it worked out and it went very well, of course. However, we didn’t realise that our drummer Robbo was in the audience and he was utterly crestfallen for the next week that we hadn’t invited him to join us. You can’t please everybody.”
Mike followed back with that it may have been somebody from the Sydney scene where Bill resided.

Next on the list was ‘Dingo’, Brod Smith, he was playing boogie blues with ‘Carson’ way back then. Brod had no idea that Bill was an exponent. Here’s what he concluded, I found a track of Bill playing. Sounds like he was listening to Sonny Terry (there’s a double time rhythm in there that’s very reminiscent of him-the most complicated part in the track). I would have thought that Matt was the closest to him (Chain/Aztecs thing) in terms of showing him something, he lived in Sydney for a while around the time of his heavy rock beginnings (late sixties) so maybe it was Shane Duckham or someone like that.” Brod thought that it sounded like someone who may have been a bit ‘rootsy’, that’s why he had suggested Shane. I was aware Shane had played with Dutch Tilders in the early sixties and I’m sure they would have covered a Sonny & Brownie tune. This coupled with the fact that Bill plays a Sonny Terry lick on the Jeff St John song further enhances the probability of Shane providing some tuition. Hear Bill’s Sonny Terry lick here However contacting Shane was going to be difficult as he had passed away in the early eighties. I believe after a fight on a boat off the coast of Cairns.

Where to now? Why not an Aztec? I contacted the amazing bass player from the outfit, Paul ‘Sheepdog’ Wheeler for his insights. Shane Duckham was a name from back then. Billy didn’t learn by being taught Shep, he pretty much bootstrapped everything guitar included. He was many things our old mate but he was definitely a self taught musician, he had a wonderful ear and if he wanted to do something he would just sit in his bedroom and do it all day until he felt ready. That’s my take anyway.” Paul followed on further with, Lobby was a huge influence and of course mentor although he didn’t say anything he just did it, the volume competition between those two was horrendous, Lobs would got to Strauss so then Bill would go to Strauss so then Lobs would go to Strauss and so on and so on until we were drowning in Strauss.”

Well there you are Riff Raffers, nothing definitive, but an interesting peregrination. I have posted a little mishmash of Bill’s harp work here Forpies. Check out his train rhythm performance with the Aztecs on ‘Happening 72’, an ATV 0 television show hosted by Ross D Wylie


Smoked Some Dope

28th September, 2018

Hello Riff Raffers,

Here I stand before you Lord with my life’s work in my hands. Lord you come in judgement to see if I go up or down. Smoked some dope and joined a four piece band that’s as bad as I’ve been.” (Matt Taylor)

Chain’s follow up single to their number one hit, ‘Black & Blue’ was the sensational ‘Judgement’. Released in July 1971 by the ‘classic’ Chain line up of Matt Taylor (vocals and harmonica), Phil Manning (guitar) and the rhythm section of Barry ‘Big Goose’ Sullivan (bass) and Barry ‘Little Goose’ Harvey (drums). They would perform together for a meagre eleven months.

This harmonica driven, high powered blues rock tune was based on a guitar ‘wah wah’ riff formulated by exceptional guitarist Phil Manning. It would become the impetus for my lifelong passion for the most owned instrument in the world. Like many of the Chain songs it was rehearsed once and developed as a ‘blow’ on stage where each member added input to create the final arrangement as we know it today.

Matt says the song means more to him today that it did way back then. Heaven knows where it came from.” Not sure if Matt was being funny, but certainly that’s where the the lyrics could have been derived. It is one of their hits that is seldom played live today. It is in the key of ‘A’ (cross harp in ‘D’) and sung in the highest register which Matt’s voice struggles with. There is an inferior recording in ‘G’ (cross harp in ‘C’) which Matt likes, but the band doesn’t. Sometimes when Matt plays solo he does a version in ‘E’ (cross harp in ‘A’). Matt stated,  I’m less into technique, but more into melodies. When I play a solo at some stage they will fall into a melodic pattern. As the singer I know the melody and I try to make it that when the vocals come in its had a really nice push from the harp, I call them counter melodies.”

Matt mimics the ‘wah wah’ riff on the ‘gob iron’ with a unique and intricate chordal 234 hole rhythmic draw and I particularly like the way he resolves the final pattern with a draw on hole one, the fifth, which is an octave lower than where he jumps to next the half step bend up to the clean draw on hole five, the flattened seventh of the blues scale.

It is the authors view that ‘Judgement’ was better than their first hit and if the band had remained intact to promote the tune live it would have reached greater heights on the charts. It still managed to peak at number two here in Melbourne. An unusual video clip supported the single. Phil Manning commented, The video was meant to represent a band with a manager raking in the money while we were stoned or something along those lines anyway. The manager was played by our roadie of the time, CliveJivaLawler.” I love the connectedness of the band through touching index fingers and Big Goose arriving with a few chips wrapped in newspaper. Judge for yourself here

A fantastic version of ‘Judgement’ appeared on the ABC’s ten minute television program GTK (Get To Know), which was broadcast before ‘Bellbird’ that preceded the seven o’clock news. After the break up of the classic Chain line up Matt recruited Lindsay Wells (guitar), Charlie Tumahai (bass) and Laurie Pryor (drums) from Healing Force. Another short lived outfit that produced an outstanding hit of their own, the progressive rock tune, ‘Golden Miles’. It is this band that played live on GTK. Check out my production of an instrumental version of the tune with this band. Hear here .

Also for you Chain and harmonica buffs, back in 1971 Matt used a two hundred watts double column ‘PA’ with eight speakers. He was after magnification rather than amplification. Jiva, Chain’s roadie would turn the ‘PA’ down when Matt was playing the harmonica to reduce feedback and when he sang he would pump it back up again. Matt also played the Hohner ‘Super Vamper’, Australia’s version of the ‘Marine Band’.

I have posted another song of Matt’s on YouTube, ‘Roberta’ with Greg ‘Sleepy’ Lawrie backing on guitar.

Cheers for your Peepers