Don’t Give Up (P Gabriel) – Shannon Noll and Natalie Bassingthwaighte 2006
Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Shannon Noll were white hot when they teamed up to re-create the soulful ballad Don’t Give Up, originally a duet hit for Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush in 1986. In the period 2002- 2006 Natalie had fronted electro-rockers Rogue Traders and taken them to five top ten hits and two top ten albums, and after Shannon Noll had placed second to Guy Sebastian in the first series of Australian Idol, he subsequently set an industry record, taking his first eight singles into the top ten as well as his first two albums to #1.
Don’t Give Up was written by former Genesis front-man Peter Gabriel after he was inspired by a collection of Depression-era photographs taken by Dorothea Lange, showing poverty-stricken Americans in depressed dust- bowl rural communities in the 1930’s, barely eking out an existence. In the mid-80’s the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher had resulted in the decimation of traditional mining and manufacturing industries throughout the north of England, and Gabriel, a committed supporter of the British Labor Party, drew a parallel between the disintegration of working-class communities he saw in the UK and the images so graphically depicted by Lange over fifty years before. Below L-R – Depression Era America – Breadline Queue, Dorothea Lange, Dustbowl Mother and Child.
Gabriel wrote the song from the perspective of a man feeling isolation and despair, seemingly stripped of his pride, hope and dignity, unable to find a job to support his family.” No fight left or so it seems/ I am a man whose dreams have all deserted/ I’ve changed my name, I’ve changed my face/ But no one wants you when you lose.”
His rendition of the verses is anguished, forlorn, discomforting, yet prideful at the same time, while Kate Bush offers solace, support, encouragement, hope, and cautious optimism as she soulfully responds to her partner in a call and response refrain, as the couple struggle towards healing and reconciliation, it was one of Kate’s most nuanced vocal performances. “Rest your head/ You worry too much/ It’s going to be alright/ When times get rough/ You can fall back on us/ Don’t give up/ Please don’t give up.” Below L-R Striking UK Miners 1985-86, union leader Arthur Scargill in centre.
It is hard to imagine anyone else singing this song with Gabriel, but he did initially invite Dolly Parton to duet with him, as he had originally written the song from an American roots perspective, but fortunately Parton turned him down, and his good friend Kate Bush took her place. Her gently keening vocals were a world apart from the brassy, “aw shucks”, syrupy, country inflexions of Dolly.
The original version was produced by Gabriel and Daniel Lanois and formed part of Gabriel’s legendary album So, it is performed as a conversation between the man and his wife/lover, slowed down for dramatic effect and runs for over six minutes, the atmospherics and introspection of the song are enhanced by a slow low-pitched drum pattern, piano, bass and Fairlight Synthesiser.
The Gabriel/Bush video clip featured the two singers in a close embrace throughout the song, while the sun behind them enters total eclipse and re-emerges via the magic of chromakey green screen technology – of the shoot, with the luminous Kate locked in a tight embrace throughout, Gabriel wryly remarked “There are worse ways of earning a living.”
The Noll/Bassingthwaighte version begins with keyboards and a snare drum, it is a much faster tempo than the original and lacks real intimacy and drama, orchestration floods the production about halfway through, Natalie struggles with her vocals, neither singer seems to be aware of the original narrative which inspired the song, everyone seems to be in a hurry to get out of the recording studio, where the promo clip was unimaginatively filmed.
Recorded to raise funds for beyondblue, it charted #2 nationally, and became Noll’s ninth consecutive top ten single, a feat he would better with his tenth consecutive top ten song, Loud in 2007, when lifted from his third album Turn It Up which charted #3, and sold 70,000 copies. In the same year Noll made his theatrical debut as Parson Nathaniel in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds, a role he would return to in 2009.
The next year he left Sony and signed with Universal Music, and released his fourth album A Million Suns in 2011, it peaked at #8 with sales of 70,000 copies, but there were no successful singles forthcoming. At this time there was a serious hiatus in Noll’s chart success, he would issue no less than 13 singles between 2011-2021 and only Switch Me On in 2011 would penetrate the top 40, he switched labels again to Warner Music in 2018 and released his fifth album Unbroken which climbed to #7 but sold less than 15,000 copies, his last album was Raw released in 2021 on the Red Dog label and it charted #2 but again sold less than 15,000 copies. Despite little chart success Noll continued to tour off the back of unsuccessful albums/singles, for ever- diminishing returns, he dabbled in reality television with appearances in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (2018) and Dancing With The Stars (2012) where he seriously injured his spine attempting a lift with his partner. Below L-R – Shannon and Rochelle Wedding Day, Leaving Court after DUI Hearing, Tabloid coverage of Adelaide Club Bouncer Incident.
The post-Idol years for Shannon Noll have been distinguished by the career highs and lows experienced by many of the Idol alumni, he has sold over 1.5 million records, many in the years when he capitalized on his Idol momentum and celebrity. He has been an enthusiastic live performer and toured the country extensively, his personal highs would include marriage to his partner Rochelle Ogston (2004), the birth of his third child Sienna (2006) and his third son Colton (2019). His personal lows would include a DUI conviction in 2004 (0.11) and 9 months license disqualification, arrest for assaulting an Adelaide strip club bouncer in 2017, an expletive-laced rant at an unruly member of the crowd at a Picnic Race meeting at Nyngan (NSW) captured on phone camera, and in 2018 he would plead guilty to a charge of possessing cocaine, and was placed on a 12- month good behaviour bond. Shannon and Rochelle with their family – Cody, Blake , Sienna and baby Colton.