THE GIRL IN THE SONG

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Throw Your Arms Around Me (M Seymour) and Say Goodbye (M Seymour) – Hunters and Collectors 1986

In late 1983 the group disbanded, but soon reformed with John Archer (bass/vocals), Doug Falconer (percussion/programming/vocals), Jack Howard (trumpet/keyboards/vocals), Rob Miles (sound engineer/art/design), Barry Palmer (lead guitar), Mark Seymour (lead vocal/guitar), Jeremy Smith (French horn/guitar/keyboards/vocals), and Michael Waters (trombone/keyboards/finance). hnters an collectors2

They re-emerged in mid-1984 smaller but re-invigorated, they had seen the band X at close quarters when they shared a bill with them at the Manly Tavern, and now sought to replicate the same grinding power that Ian Rilen’s three-man rock band had generated that night.hunters and collectors 12

The release of the band’s third album, The Jaws of Life, a concept ostensibly based on an incident in August 1983 when Douglas Crabbe drove his vehicle into a hotel at Uluru and killed five people, was the product of another recording session with Conny Plank (below) at Can’s recording studio in Weilswurst, Germany.

hunters and collectors7It heralded the transition of the band towards a more accessible pub rock aesthetic, away from the more elitist, even pretentious content of previous albums, to a more rootsie boogie-rock, spiced with Mark Seymour’s confessional lyrics. In retrospect Seymour said he thought that Jaws was” physically compelling… (but also) distant, arty, even pompous,” and that he wanted to personalize his songs, and dig deeper into his emotional core.    

As the band’s pub rock credibility grew, the Hunters songs were more characterized by urgent, violent, dramatic, passionate, all-consuming sexual intent. Embodied in the powerful physique, anguish, testosterone and in this song, the incongruous vulnerability, of front-man Mark Seymour. Throw Your Arms Around Me became a secular hymn of great emotional intensity, a sensitive love song about Seymour’s partner May, a smouldering torch song which exposed a latent tenderness, and subsequently it became a live performance favorite.

The intro is lyrically riveting “I will come for you at night-time/ I will raise you from your sleep/ I will kiss you in in four places/ I’ll go running along your street.” The song captures the fleeting nature of sensual love “…and we may never meet again, so shed your skin and let’s get started…” the ephemeral nature of personal contact and that brief moment of total immersion, in each other’s euphoria.

Carnality and male bravado are a potent mix and never more so than when embodied in a slow tempo, heavy bottom end, semi-acoustic refrain, recorded primitively live on two-track tape, which was the ultimate version of this song by the Hunnahs.

Mark Seymour contributed this coda to the song as part of the liner notes to the “The Great Australian Songbook “When she left me in the morning, I lay in bed for another hour. I stayed perfectly still because I could still feel her all around me – inside my muscles and bones. I got up though, had a shower to wash her off.”

A passionate love ballad, a paean to a one -night stand, a long- distance love affair, this song has many guises, yet each one can be appropriate and highly personal depending on when or where you hear it. In his memoirs Thirteen Tonne Theory, Seymour wrestled with the complexity of his relationship with May “She could cast a spell of sensory wonderment, she could make your heart float through the world as free as it ever could be, and then crush that spell with merely a glance , or a withering phrase seething with unbridled contempt.”hunters and collectors20Originally issued as a single, and then included on The Way to Go Out live album, and further revamped for their Human Frailty album, it was a song that the band were drawn back to, to re-interpret, searching for the DNA lurking in its musical nooks and crannies and lyrical metaphors. It charted #49 nationally and #30 when re-released in 1990, APRA rated this one of the best Australian songs of the modern era in 2001.The album artwork revealed the H&C symbol where the “&” is stylised with twin snakes entwined around a hunting knife, in a variation on the traditional caduceus symbol.hunters and collectors19Say Goodbye was the lead single from the band’s fourth album Human Frailty, and was pre-released in February 1986, this was the album that Mark Seymour felt was a watershed moment in his songwriting, where he found an expressive authenticity in his songs which resonated with the public. He abandoned the more surreal imagery that had preoccupied previous albums, and he wrote about the people who were close to him and part of his personal journey.

Say Goodbye was just such a song, about a conversation that Seymour heard through the walls of his rented flat in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda (Melb) that he shared with his girlfriend May. The opening verse is confrontational and places the woman in a dominant position as she tells her sniveling boyfriend, while grinding her finger into his breastbone, that “You don’t make me feel like I’m a woman anymore…”, and in so doing challenged drunken Aussie males in pubs all over the country to repeat that line, which they did, without any apparent hint of role confusion. The rhythm section of Archer (bass) and Falconer (percussion) was hard-driving and aggressive, the Horns of Contempt  took the band’s music took another level,  they were tight and united, the funkiness and grooves had been augmented by a more powerful and obvious masculinity, in the future the band would forsake existential Krautrock angst for a driving, semi-acoustic brand of pub rock, and dominate that market.

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