Aust Crawl - Reckless

No. 5 Reckless (Don’t Be So) (J Reyne) – Australian Crawl 1983

The band reconvened in 1983 to record their four-track EP Semantics, produced by Mark Opitz, the band were aiming for a more contemporary sound, moving on from their catchy surf rock-infused songs, and nowhere was this more evident than on the stand out single, Reckless.

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James Reyne was clearly staking out new territory for his future solo career here, moving on from the upbeat, exultant, signature sun, surf, and sardonic lyrics take on life of Australian Crawl, to Reckless, a slice of cleverly-crafted pop/rock from a more soulful, contemplative Reyne, which merged brooding synths, gated reverb drum beats and acoustic guitar, in a way that no Crawl song had ever attempted. Its central motif is a resonant snare-drum that pulses like a heartbeat throughout the song, as bass and cello merge in a synth pattern that surprisingly gives way to an affecting acoustic guitar solo, Mark Opitz (below) produced a song with a vast spaciousness, and a ghostly persona.

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The song was a musically sparse metaphorical homage to such historically adventurous, tragic and doomed heroes as Scott of the Antarctic and Burke and Wills, who all perished in remote locations, amid casual references to such Australian icons as the Manly Ferry, that resonated with fans.

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 Australian locales like Circular Quay, and Burke and Wills tragic “dig tree”, are counterpointed with  “Russian subs beneath the Arctic” – a reminder that the nuclear-powered K-27 Soviet era sub, had been deliberately scuttled by Russia in 1983 in the Arctic Ocean, contrary to the policy of the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time.

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Reyne had been on the set of the film Escape to Eden and during a break in filming he was strumming his guitar and noticed the Manly ferry passing by and the pontoons on which passengers were waiting, the verses literally fell out but it hardly resonated with him at the time, it was something he believed he would finish in the future, he thought it might be a good B-side! Above left to right – James with co-stars Wendy Hughes and Rebecca Gilling.


Reyne had however been separated from his girlfriend Kim Ellner, (left to right Kim, her son Jamie- Robbie Reyne, his wife Louise van De Vorst, and baby Roosevelt) for almost a year, and consciously or unconsciously the themes of loneliness and abandonment were discernible, the repeated line “she don’t like that kind of behavior” is more revealing about the state of their relationship, Reyne’s philandering was now threatening the relationship so much, that he admonished himself, “Don’t be so reckless”.

bob starkie

Reyne has claimed that the early verses were written very quickly, he demoed an early version of the song to Bob Starkie (above) of Skyhooks at his Middle Park (Melb) studio, Reyne was underwhelmed with his efforts but Starkie was enthusiastic and encouraged James to record it.

Australian Crawl – Reckless 1983

APRA acknowledged the simple grace and refinement of Reckless, it was listed as one of the best songs of the period 1926-2001, and it was the 12th biggest-selling record of 1983. There were no Reyne mondegreens here, although some fans incorrectly translated Russian “sub” to be “sun”, it was recorded and produced by Mark Opitz at the Rhinoceros Studios (Syd) and AAV Studios (Melb), and lifted from the Crawl’s #4 EP Semantics

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The band would release three more albums as they wound down the act, a compilation of greatest hits titled The Crawl File proved popular and charted at #2 in 1984, their last studio album Between A Rock And A Hard Place, climbed to #11 in 1985 and their swansong live album, The Final Wave in 1986, charted creditably at #16. The band were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1996 along with bandleader and harmonica player extraordinaire Horrie Dargie, and James Reyne would go onto an illustrious solo career in the coming years.

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