The history of Australian popular music in the 1960’s and 1970’s is littered with stories of promising local groups who naively made the pilgrimage to London seeking international fame and fortune only to find that they were unappreciated in a highly competitive and ever-changing musical scene that barely tolerated amateurish Antipodean intruders.
For every success story – the Bee Gees and the Seekers were highly successful in the UK at this time, the Easybeats had scored a hit record and AC/DC were set to emerge – there were many other Aussie groups whose spirit and resolve was crushed trying to sustain a precarious existence living in dingy squats, scrambling for poorly-paid gigs, combating union resistance to overseas acts, and surviving the English weather and homesickness.
Axiom, Sherbet, Masters’ Apprentices, (L-R above), Twilights, Mississippi, Groove and the Groop all returned home wiser but no wealthier, and promptly split up. Below – Python Lee Jackson circa 1969.
Python Lee Jackson would have seemed to be one of the more unlikely groups to take on the challenge of cracking the UK market, as they were not headline performers here, their several minor hits were covers of US soul/R&B songs – Hold On I’m Comin, and Um,Um,Um – and did not rise above #42 on the charts, and their capable lead singer Mal McGee had moved on to join the blue-eyed soul trio known as the Virgil Brothers, with Peter Doyle and Rob Lovett.
When the group arrived in London in 1969 they were Dave Bentley (keyboards), Dave Montgomery (drums), Mick Liber (guitar), expat Aussie bass guitarist Tony Cahill formerly of the Purple Hearts and the Easybeats, and Brit guitarist Gary Boyle who guested on their sessions. They gigged around London at such venues as the Vesuvio Club, the Arts Lab and the Bottleneck Club, before they went into the studio to record their debut album. Below Dave Bentley
Bentley had written In A Broken Dream as the title track of an album in the 1960’s, the song is cut from the same soul/blues template for which the group had been known, but there was an intriguing US West Coast psychedelia meets Procol Harum vibe about Liber’s psychedelic guitar work, and the bass and organ contributions from Cahill and Bentley respectively.
Bentley had intended to sing lead on the recording but after hearing Joe Cocker’s dramatic version of With A Little Help from My Friends realized that the song needed a more soulful treatment, and so DJ/producer John Peel procured a session vocalist to provide a demo guide. The session vocalist delivered a soulful, bluesy, mod rock rendition, subtle and nuanced, he captured the angst and despair in the lyrics and animated them in a way that would have seemed challenging when first read “Don’t push your love too far / Your words won’t leave a scar/ Right now is where you are/ In a broken dream”.
Issued in 1970 using the session singer’s demo vocals, the song did not chart, and the singer agreed to be paid an amount, equal to the cost of a new set of car seat covers, this was apparently the end of the road for Python Lee Jackson, and the song, but not for the singer.
The unknown session singer was a young Rod Stewart, before he joined the Faces, with no solo hits to his credit, pre-dating Maggie May and his “Rod the Mod” fame.
Stewart went on to become a global superstar, eventually In a Broken Dream assumed the cache of an early Rod Stewart classic recording, a definitive re-recording of the song by producer Mike Dallon of Youngblood Records was re-issued in 1972 and climbed to #3 on the UK charts in September for a substantial hit on the strength of Stewart’s new -found celebrity.
There was also a promo video which was essentially of the hippy, trippy, soft porn genre, with lots of bare breasts and bums and swirling psychedelic artwork which cannot be downloaded from YouTube because of its risque images, but a still photo from the clip is featured above. The song failed to really chart in Australia (#84 in ’72), and we are left to wonder if the famously tight-fisted Rod Stewart ever tried to renegotiate his session fee, after the record leapt into the UK top 5.
In A Broken Dream was also covered by UK band Thunder who took it back into the charts again in 1996, and Rob Stewart would re-record it again with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones for inclusion on his 2008 album Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-88. But the little Aussie battler song still had some life left in it, when in 2015 US rapper A$AP Rocky paid to sample Stewart’s vocals from In A Broken Dream for a new track entitled Everyday, and the royalty cheques started coming in again for Dave Bentley.