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The Newcastle Song (B Hudson) – Bob Hudson 1975

Bob Hudson (1946) is an Australian singer, radio presenter and archaeologist, who was born in Sydney and grew up in Grafton (NSW); he graduated from the Newcastle Teachers College in the 1960’s and commenced work as a geography teacher. Switching to nursing, he also moonlighted as a gag writer for Paul Hogan, and lead singer for the Electric Jug Band, which played at the Star Hotel, Newcastle during the early 1970s, a location that would be immortalized in the Cold Chisel song of that name, following a riot there in 1979. Below L-R – Glenn Cardier, Margaret RoadKnight, Chris Neal.

By 1973 Hudson was part of a rock/doo wop trio known as the Teen Angels, and he also toured with the Rock “N’ Roll Refugees, whose members included folkies Margret RoadKnight and Glenn Cardier, by 1974 he had teamed with ABC musical director/producer Chris Neal to record his debut in-concert album, entitled The Newcastle Song. The album was a mixture of satirical /protest/zany tracks which included such titles as Jonathon Livingston Budgerigar, Living It Up On the Dole, Clarissa (about teenage acne), Librarian Lady (about stereotyping woman by their occupation), Never Was Born Like Mel, Girls in Our Town (also brilliantly recorded by Margret RoadKnight) and the title track The Newcastle Song.

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Hudson has cited Chad Morgan, and Americans Phil Ochs and Jon Hendricks as his musical influences and much of this album was developed as part of a concert/drama production in collaboration with actors Arthur Dignam and Jane Harders, jazz pianist Judy Bailey, guitarist/composer Roy Richie, bass player Dave Ellis, and backing singers Graham Lowndes, Starlee Ford and Bobbie Gledhill.

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The title track, The Newcastle Song was a comedy monologue, originally recorded live in front of an audience and edited down from the ten-minute album version to become a more radio-friendly single. It is a time capsule of suburban mating rituals in the 70’s, and when released in March 1975 rose to #1 where it stayed for four weeks after knocking the Skyhooks Horror Movie off the top spot, it was also a #1 hit in New Zealand.

“The main drag of Newcastle was called Hunter St, for reasons that will become obvious later in the song…”

Hudson wrote about Newcastle from an insider’s perspective, he had lived and worked there and brought a verisimilitude and authenticity to his gently satirical narrative of young Novocastrian Normie, as he and his mates cruised the “main drag” of Hunter Street on Saturday night, in his hot FJ Holden “…with chrome-plated grease nipples and double reverse overhead cam door handles…”looking for love “…sitting eight abreast in the front seat, as they lean out of the window, and say real cool things to the sheilas on the footpath, like “Aah g’day”. Hudson brilliantly embodied the persona of Normie in a casual, laconic, guileless version of a young man growing up in a country town, and being part of its working class youth culture. Below – Normie working the strip on a Saturday night, Hunter St. Newcastle circa 1970.

Normie was our fearless guide through the mean streets of Newcastle, until he is monstered by a “nine foot Hell’s Angel”, who claims prior rights to a pretty local at the Parthenon Milk Bar, whereupon Normie’s challenge is quickly answered, there is a break in the traffic, and our young Lothario beats a hasty retreat in the aforementioned FJ. Below- Astoria Milk Bar, Newcastle.

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The Parthenon did not actually exist in 1975 when Hudson wrote the song, but there was another Greek milk bar in town called The Astoria and it was probably this glittering homage to the American malt shop, with its private booths, individual selectomatic juke boxes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, milkshakes, hamburgers, milk chocolate and hard-sugar candies, that was the inspiration for Hudson’s original Parthenon. Since that time an entrepreneur has seized the opportunity to establish a Parthenon Milk Bar on Hunter St. near the Cambridge Hotel, to cater to the tourists who seek to emulate the exploits of young Normie.    

Hudson took his debut album to #6 but subsequent releases, After Me Cat Left Home (1975) and Party Pieces (1980), failed to chart, he became one of the original on-air team at the ABC’s rock radio station 2JJ in 1975, he is also is a published author, and has completed a PhD in archeology at the University of Sydney, where he conducted research on ancient Myanmar (Burma). Below Dr. Bob Hudson 2017.

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In 1975 singer Maureen Elkner released the single Rak Off Normie, which told of the famous Parthenon Milk Bar encounter from the young lady’s point of view, and her later life of regret with the Hells Angel, after spurning Norm’s advances, it charted #11 in June 1975. Below- Hudson and Elkner.

Bob Hudson

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