One Crowded Hour (G Richards) – Augie March 2006
Country kids were jumping on the musical bandwagon set rolling by silverchair in Newcastle in the early 90’s, as Killing Heidi (Violet Town, Vic), Thirsty Merc (Dubbo, NSW)and Grinspoon (Lismore, NSW) staked their claim to fame and were joined by indie pop band Augie March from Shepparton (Vic).Formed in 1996, ten years later they had won an APRA Award for Song of the Year with the beguiling One Crowded Hour lifted from their Moo You Bloody Choir album, redolent with the artful and poetic lyrics of front-man Glen Richards.Richards (rhythm guitar, vocals), Adam Donovan (lead guitar), Edmondo Ammendola (bass) David William (drums) and Rob Dawson (keyboards) were signed to the Roo Art label and released five singles and one album between 1999- 2003 with little commercial success, tragically Rob Dawson was killed in a car crash in 2001 to be replaced by Kiernan Box (brother of radio presenter Fifi Box) on drums.Richards studied English at university and had literary leanings, he was inspired to name the band after a Saul Bellow book The Adventures of Augie March and was the creative force within the group. His songs are intricate, lush, densely constructed evocations of life in the Lucky Country, the bittersweet reality of isolation, inequality, and dispossession at odds with the shimmering ideals of optimism, egalitarianism and matey bonhomie.The title One Crowded Hour was appropriated from the title of a biography of war photographer Neil Davis (above) who was killed in battle and who had scribbled in the front of his diary the line “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.” It is a beautifully constructed song, beginning with an artfully simple, spectral keyboard chord and single guitar, an almost waltz-like refrain exposes the love and longing embedded in the song, and the glorious chorus lifts us up to believe that there is hope, only to deceive, and then brings us crashing down “And for one crowded hour, you were the only one in the room/ And I sailed around all those bumps in the night to your beacon in the gloom/ I thought I had found my golden September in the middle of that purple June/ But one crowded hour would lead to my wreck and ruin.”Richards (above) wrote the song when he was house-sitting for Deborah Conway in Williamstown (Melb), he was inspired by her collection of books and records, particularly her Bob Dylan collection, which is reflected in the lyrics and chord progression for this song, the Conway’s piano and other instruments also assisted the creative process.
Glen Richards lyrics have been variously described as breathtaking, labyrinthine, and refined on the one hand, and on the other as artsy, pretentious, and indulgent, they were in fact indulgently Dylanesque, and therefore in stark contrast to much of the dross that masqueraded as lyricism at the time, One Crowded Hour was a substantial hit, charting at #28 and occupying the charts for an amazing 62 weeks. Moo You Bloody Choir was also a hit, at #7 and charting for 23 weeks, their follow up album was a troubled project, with much friction around producer Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Elton John, Beck, below)Watch Me Disappear did climb to #7 but its title became a self-fulfilling prophecy, when it exited the charts after only seven weeks.After an extended hiatus the group released their fifth album, Havens Dumb in October 2014 which was recorded in studios at Melbourne and Hobart, where Richards had relocated with his wife (below).In 2018 the album Bootikins, produced by Tony Cohen was released, and while both of these albums were critically praised, they failed to impact on the charts..