Tucker’s Daughter (I Moss/D Walker) – Ian Moss 1989
Cold Chisel had disbanded in 1983 and they went out on top, the Steve Prestwich/Don Walker-penned classic Flame Trees charted #26 and the album Twentieth Century although variable in song and sound quality, would be their third consecutive #1 album, Cold Chisel had quite simply been the best live band in the country for most of the decade.
Jimmy Barnes quickly segued to a successful solo career, Ian Moss slowly began re-kindling his love of performing with the Ian Moss Band, doing session work, and writing songs that varied from the Cold Chisel template. But he did not record for five years after the split, and initially struggled to convince record companies to take a chance on him, Barnesy put in good word for him with Michael Gudinski and he was signed to Mushroom Records.
In 1988 Ian was looking for inspiration in the USA, meeting producers and demoing songs, finally he settled on American producer/engineer Chris Lord-Alge (James Brown, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Tina turner) who was supportive of Ian’s quest to re-imagine his music in a way that was not just a rehash of the Cold Chisel canon of work. Former band buddy Don Walker came on board and together the songs for Moss’s debut album, Matchbook, began to evolve, of the ten tracks Don Walker wrote six and three were co-written by Walker and Moss, including the lead single Tucker’s Daughter.
Moss had developed the melody for Tucker’s Daughter and several lyrics that he liked, these included the lines “Hey there motherfucker…” and “build me up, tear me down…” which Moss felt had a desired percussive effect, he express-airmailed the cassette from Los Angeles to Don Walker back in Australia. The opening line was ultimately changed to the less offensive “hang me for a sucker…” Walker completed the musical arrangement and the song was produced in time for its pre-release, before the album, in November 1988.
Tucker’s Daughter was recorded at Ocean Way Studio in LA, it emerged as a radio-friendly perfect pop song, Moss’s exemplary, precise guitar-playing was well-known, but his soulful vocals, rarely heard on Cold Chisel records, were an added highlight, it hit #1 early in January 1989 and stayed there for three weeks, occupying the charts for 24 weeks and selling over 70,000 copies. The follow-up, Telephone Booth was a creditable #9 when lifted from the Matchbook album, which was also a big hit, charting at #1 and ultimately selling over 200,000 copies during its 39 week- long stay on the charts.
Tucker’s Daughter is set in north-western NSW at Narrabri, the centre of the local cotton-growing industry, a fact further reinforced by the curious lyrical reference to “CAL-cotton row…” which described the preferred spacing of cotton rows on Californian plantations to achieve the most productive crops with the least amount of irrigation. The lyrics tell the story of a farm hand who finds himself the object of the attentions of his employer’s only daughter, a la Roy Orbison’s Working for The Man, the “daughter” in question was played by actress Tasma Walton (wife of Rove McManus) in the promo clip. She is depicted strolling through the fields in the intro, intercut with several scenes featuring Moss singing and playing guitar inside a barn – but while lyrically the farm hand does not apparently welcome these overtures from the boss’s daughter, the promo video however suggests otherwise.
Mossy’s debut album won ARIA awards for Best Album of the Year, Best Male Artist and Breakthrough Artist (Album) and the single won the prestigious Song of the Year Award, shared by Moss and Walker. Of the former Cold Chisel alumni Barnes would carve out a stellar solo career, Walker would continue to write and produce brilliant songs, usually for others, but Ian Moss would not enter the charts again after 1989 when Cold Chisel would ultimately reform in 1997 and release another studio album, The Last Wave of Summer, which would become their fourth consecutive #1, and their last album of original songs.