THE SEEKERS 1964-68

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A World of Our Own (T Springfield) and Sinner Man (L Baxter/W Holt) – The Seekers 1965

The Seekers were emerging as international stars with a huge global debut hit to their credit and a catchy follow-up already released, when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (below) and toured Australia with the Dave Clark Five. A World of Our Own was another Tom Springfield composition cut from the same template as I’ll Never Find Another You, Durham’s velvet soprano anchors the vocals, the melody is simple and highly accessible, the lyrics are heartfelt and sincere. Potger’s 12-string acoustic guitar, Woodley’s six-string steel guitar, Guy’s bass and Tom Springfield once again providing percussion backing on conga drums, ensured a musical blending that would become the signature Seekers style.seekers13The song resonated internationally for the Seekers, hitting #2 locally, #1 in the UK and knocked the Beatles Ticket to Ride off in the process, it also climbed to #19 in the USA. By the end of 1965 the Seekers were rated second by the New Musical Express, just behind the Rolling Stones, so relegating the Beatles to third place, this apparently infuriated Brian Epstein, who had been critical of the Seekers music. But now he sought to exploit their popularity, at the time he was managing the American group the Cyrkle so he got them to record the Paul Simon/Bruce Woodley song Red Rubber Ball, which became a #2 hit in the USA. He then conspired to create a Seekers-sound-a-like group in the UK with three males and female singer called Silkie (below), who recorded the Beatles song You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, with Paul McCartney and George Harrison playing on the track, their star power helped to push the song to #28 in the UK and #10 in the USA, but after that Silkie sank without a trace.seekers15In Tom Springfield the Seekers had found a person who respected their talents and could creatively guide them to the middle of the road musically in a world market dominated by Beatlemania, the Merseysound, rhythm and blues and R&R. Described by Australian Rock Encyclopedia author Lillian Roxon as “one cuddly girl next-door type …and three sober cats who looked like bank tellers” the universal appeal of the group and their blissful four-part harmonies proved to be irresistible. The Seekers were clean cut, wore suits, had neat haircuts, and were indeed oddities in a sea of hairy heavyweights, yet they carved out a musical niche that defied fads and transcended demographic profiles and international boundaries.lillian roxon1A World of Our Own as composed by Springfield was originally entitled Downhearted Blues and was not as optimistic as the final version. The original lyrics repeated the line “I’m so downhearted, oh so downhearted, wasting my lifetime away over you”, Judith Durham liked the music but not the lyrics or the gloomy trajectory of the song. She suggested the name change, and the use of the last line of the verse “a world of our own”, as the chorus, so changing the whole tenor of the song, Potger provided another 12-string acoustic guitar solo and Durham contributed autoharp to the backing track.

Promo videos were rare in 1965 but one does exist for A World of Our Own, HSV 7 had budgeted $100,000 to film a special about the group under the title The Seekers Downunder, and took them around the country filming the Seekers  performing their songs in various locations. In Canberra the four Seekers are perched on the rear ledge of a white open top limousine, taking a busman’s tour of the various embassies in Canberra, driving past each embassy consular sign – USA, Philippines, Japan, Germany – and into the driveway, up to the front door and then straight out. As a metaphor for the song it was naff, but as a cameo of the absence of any real security precautions at embassies in a more innocent time, it was intriguing.

The earliest recording of Sinner Man was in 1956 by the composers, bandleader Les Baxter and folk singer Will Holt, although the song owes a debt to the melody and lyrics of the traditional gospel song On the Judgement Day which was originally recorded by the Sensational Nightingales in 1954. A version of this song by American folk group the Weavers, was an inspiration for the Seekers who were now enjoying considerable chart success recording pop/folk crossover hits, and in a nod to their gospel/folk origins, they made Sinner Man the flipside of their international hit A World of Our Own. The gospel cadences of this song are delivered in the minor key throughout, and the elemental two chord structure of the song encouraged Bruce Woodley to sing lead vocals. Keith’s opening riff on his 12-string acoustic guitar is precise and Bruce also plays banjo at the intro and again at the outro of the recording.seekers21Keith and Athol provide dynamic vocal assault in support of Bruce’s lead and Athol’s double bass is bold and resonant with tambourines enriching the overall percussive attack. Sinner Man ensured that the fans got a double-A side record, but one of the Seekers biggest worldwide success awaited them later that year, when the Carnival Is Over was released and took the Seekers back to the top of the charts and sold over one million copies.

 

 

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