Comic Conversation (J Bromley) – Johnny Farnham 1970 and Baby Without You (M Settle) – Allison Durbin and Johnny Farnham 1971
In October 1970 Johnny followed up Raindrops… with the John Bromley song Comic Conversation, Bromley was a Manchester tunesmith who had cut a demo of the song but never released it commercially. His publisher Tony Roberts of Warner Bros. played the demo to Farnham when he was in London and he agreed to take it back to Australia to record as part of his second studio album, Looking Through A Tear.
In 1970 Johnny was working with Alison Durbin on an album of duets, called Together, which was being produced by Alison’s then-husband Howard Gable, who also produced Comic Conversation. Lyrically it was a slyly sexy song about infidelity “I’m going to ask your friends your number/ And I’ll call when your man is out of town/ And if I say the right words at the right time/ Then perhaps you’ll even have me ‘round/And wouldn’t it be a funny situation/The two of us and a comic conversation.”
It was a string-drenched ballad with an MOR instrumental arrangement that was reminiscent of recent hits by John Rowles and Engelbert Humperdink, it climbed to #10 nationally and would be one of only two top ten hits for Johnny in the next ten years, but it remained a favourite number at live performances for Johnny over the years.Allison Durbin (above) was part of the Kiwi invasion of performers who came to Australia in the 60’s, in 1966 she relocated to Sydney as lead singer of the Mike Pejanic Band, and with her powerful and engaging voice, and trademark waist-length auburn hair she stood out at a time when male performers were dominant. The period 1969-71 were Allison’s golden years, and with Johnny Farnham they were the reigning King and Queen of Australian Pop, so an album of duets by the two was inevitable.The album Together, was released in late 1971 and the lead single was the Mike Settle (Kenny Rogers First Edition) composition Baby, Without You, which had originally been recorded by Terry Williams in the US in 1969. It was a country-tinged outing which Johnny and Allison delivered in a sincere, harmonious if slightly schmaltzy rendition which charted at #27.
But by this time Durbin was having a white-hot affair with former Zoot guitarist Rick Springfield, who had just had his first solo hit with Speak to the Sky, and rather than tour and promote it as he should have, he became Durbin’s backing guitarist, so they could be together, Howard Gable (far right below) and Durbin separated.Springfield left for the States in 1971, and his tell-all memoirs Late, Late at Night, revealed the intensity of the extra-marital relationship between him and Durbin, who subsequently developed a serious drug addiction, almost losing her life to a heroin overdose in Sydney, but for the intervention of a police man who saved her life, after finding her unconscious and slumped in her car, in Elizabeth Bay (Syd).She undertook rehab at Odyssey House (Melb) but after discharge was involved in a motor accident and seriously injured. In the 1980’s Durbin re-invented herself as a C&W performer, but major chart success eluded her, her marriage to Gable had been dissolved and in 2007 she was charged with growing and trafficking marijuana and along with her co-accused, Joe Barbaro, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.