ROCK OF AGES – 1955-1963 – JUDY CANNON

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Hello Heartache (B Ruskin) – Judy Cannon 1962

Melbourne singer Judy Cannon was one of Australia’s best female rock and rollers whose musical inspirations included Elvis Presley, Johnny Ray and LaVern Baker, she was only matched by such local contemporaries as Betty McQuade, Del Juliana, and Laurel Lee. Her early appearances at Coburg Town Hall and Preston Town Hall dances and Earl’s Court. St. Kilda, in Melbourne in the late 1950’s and 60’s with the Thunderbirds kickstarted her career and thereafter she regularly featured on such TV shows as Stairway to the Stars, Teenage Mailbag, Bandstand, and Six O’Clock Rock. Judy’s local releases included Uptown (1963), The Very First Day I Met You (1965), If She Should Come To You (), and while they were all perfectly executed pop songs, these records never really captured the dynamism and rock chick bravado that was so evident at her live performances.

Uptown was originally a hit for the Crystals in 1962, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and produced by Phil Spector, Judy didn’t have access to talent like that when she recorded, but still produced a convincing version.

She supported Cliff Richard and the Shadows on their tour here in 1961 and was encouraged to try her luck in the UK by Coral O’Neill, whose father Terry compered a variety show on British television, Judy relocated to London in 1963 and landed a regular spot on Terry O’Neill’s One O’Clock Show. Judy also did session work with the mercurial and mysterious Joe Meek (real name Robert George Meek), legendary producer of classic British rock and pop in the late 1950’s- mid 60’s, his records included Telstar (Tornados), Just Like Eddie (Heinz), Johnny Remember Me (John Leyton), What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For (Emile Ford) and Have I The Right (The Honeycombs). Below – Joe Meek

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Meek was a trailblazer in a period when recording technology was in its infancy, he was the first to use the clavioline, a keyboard instrument which imparted a unique sound to the instrumental hit Telstar, which sold 5 million copies globally in 1962; was the first UK record to top the US charts and has been described as “Percy Faith on acid”.

It didn’t really chart but it should have, a superb Joe Meek production, Judy’s vocals were great, and some guy called Jimmy Page was OK on guitar.

He was the Phil Spector of the London scene, the first of the freelance producers and a pioneer in exploring compression sound techniques and sound layering, Hello Heartache was recorded at 304 Holloway Rd, London, Meeksville Sound Ltd. with Joe Meek at the production console, and a young pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page on guitar. It was a classy production with the full orchestral backing of the Ivor Raymonde Orchestra including, strings, brass, percussion and ringing guitar riffs. Judy is in fine voice and although the song fairly bounces along, the lyrics are about lost love and regret at ending a relationship, it was Judy’s best record, and got close to capturing her vocal strengths on vinyl in a way that wasn’t evident on many of her local studio recordings. Below L-R Judy at far right in West End production of Gypsy, Judy at far right in the London production of Guys and Dolls, and performing in cabaret back in Australia in the 80’s.

Judy was also a backing session singer while in London and featured on many recordings including the Jimi Hendrix debut hit record, Hey Joe, in addition to the vocal trio the Breakaways, she also went on became a successful performer on the West End in London starring in the productions of Gypsy, Oh What A Lovely War, Guys and Dolls, Bordello, and many others, in a thirteen- year career there; she returned to Australia in the early 1980’s and became a member of the Play School cast for several years.

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Judy also performed at NATO shows and for Australian troops in Borneo and Malaysia, (picture above Judy second from the right after being choppered into a camp with fellow performers), as well as on the local R&R heritage circuit, before pursuing a successful career outside the entertainment industry in real estate. Hello Heartache, appears on several Joe Meek compilation albums issued under the Pye label, including The Joe Meek Story: The Pye Years.

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Joe Meek was a troubled gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK, he was also a recreational drug user and obsessed with fears that the Kray twins, London’s notorious gangster brothers, wanted to take over his business. On February 3rd. 1967 Joe Meek surrendered to his demons when he murdered his landlady and then turned a shotgun on himself, he was only 37 years old when he died.

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Above – L-R – Jimmy Little, Judy Cannon, Colin Cooke, Col Joye.

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