R.I.P. ROCK CLASSICS- SPECIAL ISSUE

sharon o'neill2

Maxine (S O’Neill) – Sharon O’Neill 1983

 Sharon O’Neill was born in Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand in 1952, she taught herself to play guitar and to write songs, after joining the trio Suitewater, they subsequently made the finals of the 1970 Mobil Song Quest with one of her compositions entitled Life Upon Life, she again made the finals of the NZ version of New Faces in 1972 and then joined covers band Chapta who performed throughout NZ in 1972-77. Upon joining rock-pop outfit Shine she met her future husband guitarist Brent Thomas and toured with Mark Williams and Jon Stevens, her debut NZ chart success was another self-composition Luck’s On Your Table which climbed to #27 in NZ, she followed up with another of her songs Don’t Say No to Tomorrow for a #6 hit in NZ, and her debut self-titled album charted #3 in 1980, in 1981 she relocated to Australia.sharon o'neill5Sharon she was promoted as one of the lurexed bad girls of the era and became a regular performer on Countdown, she aspired to a Suzi Quatro persona but unlike Suzi Q she was not being fed a production line of hits by Chinn and Chapman. She did however possess a curious charm, decked out in fishnet stockings and gold lame bomber jackets, she contrived to produce unusual lyrics that occasionally rose above the banal, even if some were weird  “ We like movies, we like rock and roll”, she sang “We like anything that occupies our spare time/ I like your car so why don’t we go driving/ Phone New York and tell them we are arriving.”john boylan1In 1983 she would hook up with US producer John Boylan (above) (LRB, Boston, Charlie Daniels Band) in Los Angeles to record her fourth album, Foreign Affairs, the session musos included saxophonist Tom Scott (L A Express, The Blues Brothers) and guitarist David Lindley (Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Warren Zevon, Cutis Mayfield) who both played on the recording of Maxine, and Eagles Don Henley and Timothy Schmit who provided backing vocals on several other tracks.sharon o'neill1Maxine chronicled the life of a Kings Cross prostitute who O’Neill had seen working in the area, it was the second single lifted from Foreign Affairs and at #16 it was her biggest hit, the album charted well for a #17 here and #12 in NZ.bobbie gentry1The red light hooker music genre has a long history with references to sex workers in blues songs pre- dating the modern era and since then such performers as O.C.Smith (Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp), Bobby Gentry(Fancy) (above), The Animals (House of the Rising Sun),The Police (Roxanne), La Belle (Lady Marmalade), Donna Summer (Bad Girls), Lou Reed (Walk On The Wild Side), Cher (Gypsies,Tramps and Thieves),and locally Richard Clapton (Girls on the Avenue) and Paul Kelly (Darling It Hurts) have continued to musically underscore the lives of the working girls.

The promo video features Maxine plying her trade; in conversation with O’Neill; trying to escape men intent on pack rape, cutting drugs in a toilet, being arrested, and ultimately a scene at her graveside – the imagery was heavy-handed but musically Tom Scott’s steamy sax solo set the appropriate mood…”On a rain-slicked avenue/ Long shadows in the night/ Take off your spike-heeled shoes/ You’ve got to run for your life…”sharon o'neill3O’Neill was a ubiquitous chart performer in the period 1980-88, taking six songs into the top forty including Maxine, How Do You Talk to Boys, Maybe, Losing You, Power, and Physical Favors.sharon o'neill

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