I’ll Be Gone (M Rudd) – Spectrum 1971
Formed in Melbourne in 1968 by ex-Party Machine member and expat Kiwi Mike Rudd, who recruited bassist Bill Putt, drummer Mark Kennedy, and keyboard player Lee Neale, collectively they became the classic Spectrum lineup.
I’ll Be Gone emerged in 1971 as a Matryoshka nesting-doll of a song, which revealed itself to be at once wistful and bluesy; folksy and meditative; and at its solid core, overlaid with a guileless country rock sensibility coaxed along by the breezy harmonica of Rudd.
Recorded in August 1970 at the Armstrong Studios in South Melbourne, the song was not released until January 1971 because of a ban on local original records being played, due to a pay-for-play dispute between APRA (Aust. Performing Rights Association) and FARB (Federation of Aust. Radio Broadcasters) which was not resolved until late 1970.
The lyrics are classic 70’s nihilism, carefree and naïve, tinged with a spirit of cautious optimism about the future, “Someday I‘ll have money/ Money isn’t easy, but by/ By the time it’s come back, I’ll be gone/ I’ll sing my song, and I’ll be gone.”
This was white boy blues and soul of the highest order, with one of the most recognizable harmonica riffs in Australian recorded music, Rudd invites us to delve beneath the surface of this Russian doll of a song to experience its spirituality and karmic understanding of life and how to live it.
The song recalls the harmonica-driven, bluesy rural hippie anthem of On the Road Again by US blues rock band Canned Heat, and the seminal delta blues of John Lee Hooker.
Manfred Mann Earth Band covered the song but replaced Rudd’s harmonica with fuzz tone guitar and flute and lost the breezy charm and endearing naivety of the original. When released it climbed to #4 nationally, APRA subsequently declared the song worthy of inclusion in their list of the top 30 Australia songs of the era 1926-2001.
The song was promoted by one of the early monochrome music videos, directed by Chris Lofven, which has a Jack Kerouac- meets – Banjo Paterson “on the road’ feel to it, and captured what was quintessential about an Australian summer- the beach, the dusty back road, the heat, the Kombi van, and the rhythm of the surf. Mike Rudd in double denim traverses country roads and rivers, encounters girls in a jeep waving balloons, reminiscent of a scene from an Antonioni film, breaks bread with a mother and child commune-style, and finally joins his bandmates in the recording studio, hippie odyssey completed.
The record became this unique band’s claim to fame although it was not entirely representative of the prog rock catalogue for which Spectrum were generally known.
Spectrum also cut a series of albums which are amongst the most adventurous progressive “art rock” works to emerge in this country- Spectrum Part 1, Milesago and Testimonial which would favorably compare with the prog-rock albums of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
The lanky twin towers, Mike Rudd and bassist Bill Putt later formed Ariel and subsequently The Heaters in 1980; and throughout the 70’s Spectrum also performed as their alter ego disco dance band the Indelible Murtceps (gettit?) and enjoyed a minor chart hit with Esmeralda (#36 in 1972).Bill Putt sadly passed away in 2012.