Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rachel.

How does a person imprint so comprehensively on someone that they almost haunt you, even when you have never met them? 

Back when I first started my website Dean from Australia, one of the first pieces I wrote was a love letter to the seemingly lost Pink Floyd backing vocalist Rachel Fury. That first post and its subsequent iteration "Oh Beautiful Fury" - which I reposted with additional information (and have since added more as new information comes to hand) - have become the most viewed posts at my site, racking up some 30,000 page views since I published them back in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In reality, it's probably not that impressive a number - but it is to me. It seems that I tapped into a world wide community of Rachel Fury devotees who were just as captivated by her as I am. Dozens of commentors to that original piece shared anecdotes, memories of seeing her live with Pink Floyd and asking the same questions that I was. 

What happened to Rachel Fury?

For the uninitiated readers here who are slightly creeped out right about now, let me recap.



Rachel Fury (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Rachel Fury was a backing vocalist on Pink Floyd's "Delicate Sound of Thunder" world tour which traversed the globe between 1987 and 1989. A U.S. segment of the tour was captured over five nights in August 1988 and became the double live album and film "Delicate Sound of Thunder" and it became a best seller. I first saw this concert video in 1990, as I recounted in my original piece, when my father purchased a copy and brought it home. We played it on our home stereo system one weekend night. Dad was something of a home theater aficionado - back in the days before decent systems and we got to see the concert in crisp stereo sound that lifted the roof off the house.

Rachel Fury began her career roughly 16 years earlier in 1971 as Rachel Brennock (her birth name), appearing in various British TV shows and films such as Mr Horatio Knibbles (1971) and Robin Hood Junior (1975). During this period, Brennock was building a career as a serious singer and In 1972, under the name "Weeny Bopper", Brennock recorded the single "David, Donny and Michael", a Pye Records release intended to capitalise on weenybopper enthusiasm for David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, and Michael Jackson. 



By 1978, having worked diligently within the British industry, Rachel Brennock was an established London session singer, known for a "sassy 'Ronettes' sound." Perhaps her most notable performance from that period was (allegedly) on the Buggles classic "Video Killed The Radio Star". In a 2009 interview with now defunct website Pop Junkie TV, former Typically Tropical (remember the one hit wonder "Barbados" anyone?) band member Geraint Hughes, Hughes describes Brennock as a superior vocalist who impressed everyone she met with her talent. It is also during this time that another Pink Floyd alum, Sam Brown and Rachel Brennock crossed paths though whether they performed together is impossible to know.



Rachel Fury (date unknown/courtesy Col Hancock).


Rachel Fury (date unknown/courtesy Col Hancock).


 Rachel Fury, Alan St. Clair, Howard Devoto circa 1983. (image credit Alan St. Clair).

I covered Rachel's - now Rachel Fury - early 80's period with Alan St. Clair and Howard Devoto of The Lover Speaks in my original 2011 post which, admittedly, was pretty sparse. Her movements through the New Wave era saw her travel widely in the U.S. and she continued to garner significant plaudits for her vocal talent. There was a collaboration with noted British singer/songwriter Phil Saatchi on an 1987 album called Wheel Of Fortune in which Rachel co-wrote a track called When We Dream. Around this time, she had come to the notice of Pink Floyd's personnel and this led to her signing with the band for the Momentary Lapse of Reason album and the Delicate Sound of Thunder tour. 

From the moment I saw her on screen in that concert, I was struck dumb - not in the least because, as a 15 year old, I saw her as something of a goddess! But perhaps more significantly it was because of her vocal performance - most notably on the Richard Wright penned track "Great Gig In The Sky". This song, which came from Pink Floyd's 1973 Dark Side Of The Moon, is particularly awe inspiring because it features no words. Rather, it is characterized by three verses of insanely powerful vocals in the form of ethereal wails and cries.



Rachel Fury (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

The live performance required a powerful interpretation of the original composition. In the hands of the three backing singers Rachel Fury, Durga McBroom and Margaret Taylor, it was elevated to something of a religious experience. It was Fury whose stewardship of the first 'verse' of the song struck something deep in me when I first witnessed it. Of the three vocalists, hers was the most powerful, the most passionate, requiring an insane amount of discipline to traverse the wide vocal range. It was an utterly captivating performance. Her duet with David Gilmour on "Comfortably Numb" is equally so and I said in my original piece that there is an undeniable chemistry between the two and perhaps a flirtatious one, as evidenced in their interaction on the track "Money" which is performed with such a playfulness by the whole band. 




Rachel Fury  with David Gilmour (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Of all the backing vocalists who toured with Pink Floyd, Rachel Fury is undoubtedly the most mysterious. And this is simply because at the conclusion of the DSOT tour in 1989 she, quite literally, disappeared. Pink Floyd returned to the studio to record a follow up album "The Division Bell" and when they announced their subsequent "Pulse" world tour in the mid 90's, I specifically looked for Rachel's name in the line-up. She wasn't there. In fact the only returning backing vocalist for that tour was Durga McBroom and accompanying her was noted singer songwriter Sam Brown, whose single "You Better Stop" did great business in the early 90's and noted British session singer Claudia Fontaine. 

Where was Rachel? What had happened to her?

The question kicked around in my consciousness for a while but it eventually faded. In those pre-internet days, any hope of finding any useful information was impossible and even with the advent of the web, accurate information was still impossible to come by. For years, I treasured my double cassette edition of the Delicate Sound of Thunder tour recording and remained enamored by Rachel's voice. When I came to write the original 2010/11 pieces, information was still sparse though a few sources of information - that checked out - allowed me to sketch a tribute of sorts to this magnificent singer. 


 




Rachel Fury  (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

Post 1990, there is precious little about Rachel Fury as a singer. I received some unconfirmed information back in 2010 suggesting that she had dropped out of the music business altogether, was living in London and was active in the animal rights community.  

It seems striking to me that a singer whose talent was undeniable, who had diligently built a respected profile throughout the late 70's and early 80's, collaborating with some serious talent and contributing to some important music - culminating in the Pink Floyd tour, could simply 'drop out'. What happened to her? Was it simply a case of having had enough after, essentially, 20 years of performing or was it something else. Her disappearance, from my vantage point seems so sudden - so final. It is a view shared by many who have visited my original post over the past 6 years. 


Rachel Fury  (image credit: Pink Floyd Music, copyright © 1987).

I wax and wane with my musical predilections and I haven't listened to the DSOT for several years. However, it was my 6 year old daughter, who accidentally tapped onto a YouTube clip of the DSOT "Great Gig" performance last week. And it has stirred up my fascination with Rachel Fury all over again. I'm pondering the same questions. I'm captivated by her beauty and her voice and hence I am revisiting her here. 

Where for art thou Rachel...

DFA.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

At The Fringe with Alice Fraser's The Resistance.

Melbourne based comedian Alice Fraser first came to my attention in 2015 when she featured on Wil Anderson's Wilosophy podcast. Over the course of a couple of hours Wil and Alice explored her life growing up in a Buddhist household in Sydney and how the influence of her paternal Jewish and maternal Catholic family informed and shaped her as-yet-to-be-fully-explored philosophy on life and how she fits into it. I was immediately taken by how Alice recalled the important people in her life, not the least of which was her grandmother - a Holocaust survivor - and I was equally moved by her experience of growing up with a chronically ill mother (who had M.S. and later cancer) and how her family had journeyed through that experience. 

Alice's appearance on Wilosophy lead me in the direction of her own podcast, "Tea With Alice", a weekly conversational in which Alice interviews her contemporaries, often in relaxed settings - be it her Melbourne flat, or a local cafe or even a back garden - the centerpiece of which is a nice cup of tea, of their own choosing. Each episode is a conversation about life and where each guest is in it. Sometimes comedic, often reflective and always satisfying, I always come away from an episode feeling as though I have learned something. Additionally, I find myself shedding previous orthodoxies of thought around beliefs and opinions I have held and I see things from different perspectives. 

That, to me is a powerful thing.



Alice Fraser - The Resistance (image credit; Alice Fraser).

Last night, I got to spend an hour watching Alice Fraser perform her new show "The Resistance" for the Adelaide Fringe. Going into the show, I had a little bit of an idea of what to expect from the conversations Alice has had around her comedy on her podcast but I didn't seek out her previous material because I wanted to watch her show with a fresh set of eyes. 

The Resistance starts subtly, with a warm introduction that brings the audience into her sphere and encourages them to be a participant rather than an observer. Alice regaled the audience with song either played on a stubby little electric piano or strummed deftly on a banjo. And then Alice dropped an observation about the association between comedy and tragedy. It was a subtle one but it intrigued me.


  
Alice Fraser (image credit; Alice Fraser).

Over the course of the first half of the show, Alice took us on a conversational walk through her growing up in Sydney. It centered around her Jewish grandmother - an apparently wonderful and horrible woman who owned a block of flats in Sydney and who referred to a group of locals with varying degrees of derision and affection. Alice recalls one instance where a group of gays found themselves homeless after a fire burnt their house down. Her grandmother observed that the faggots were now homeless, but I must make them a lasagna! She apparently proceeded to house them until they were able to get back on their feet. 

Alice then recalls three key characters from the block of flats, a bi-polar Chilean gardener, an illiterate Hungarian woman who always wore a head scarf and twenty dresses and an Indian woman who donned luxurious, brightly colored dresses and espoused the need to make oneself attractive to men - but who always wore a veil to hide her face. How her grandmother and these three figures informed Alice's childhood and adolescence is hilariously sweet and breathtakingly inappropriate all at the same time and there wasn't a moment in that first half where the audience wasn't laughing or chuckling or appreciating the irony of these characters. 

And then the show took a turn. 

I'm unsure as to how much I should reveal here so, in respect to Alice, I'll keep it brief. The turn that came punched me in the gut. 

Alice's grandmother. The Chilean gardener. The illiterate Hungarian woman. The Indian woman. All of them came to circle in each others orbit through circumstances that are achingly powerful and emotionally bitter sweet. All of them had resisted in some way and it is this Resistance that salvaged them from particularly dark experiences in their lives. At one point, you could have heard a pin drop from the audience as Alice Fraser revealed to us all the powerful notion that the link between comedy and tragedy is such a small one - and indeed, even within tragedy, there lies comedy. And sometimes comedy is the only thing that preserves our sanity. 

At the conclusion, I felt privileged to be able to meet Alice briefly and thank her for such a wonderful performance and I left the theater feeling as though I'd learnt something about being human.

See. This. Show.     

Alice Fraser is an award winning writer, broadcaster, performer and comedian.

She's also an ex academic, ex-corporate ex-Lawyer and terrible banjo player (her words - not mine!).

Alice returned from her debut Edinburgh Fringe run last year with her critically acclaimed solo show Savage, which received four and five star reviews, as well as packed out audiences in Edinburgh after a run at the Sydney Comedy Store. Her weekly podcast "Tea With Alice" welcomes an eclectic group of like minds, artists, comedians and writers to discuss life over a cup of tea. Alice also contributes regularly to SBS Comedy.

Book tickets to The Resistance here

Visit Alice Fraser here

Tweet with Alice Fraser here

DFA.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Garry Lyon & The "Mental Illness" Defence.

In Australia this week, our mainstream media has been treated (???) to the odious spectacle of a good old fashioned sex scandal. 

The scandal involves two former Australian Rules Footballer's, Billy Brownless of Geelong and Garry Lyon of Melbourne. It has emerged that Lyon was engaged in a long term affair with the ex-wife of Billy Brownless and that it has effectively destroyed the friendship between the two men. Further, in the fall out from the revelations, Garry Lyon has stepped aside from his gig as the host of "The Footy Show" a national weekly television program that talks all things footy citing mental illness. Brownless is also a panellist on that show.



Friendships Destroyed (image credit: News Limited).

Lyon has gone into hiding, leaving his representatives to make various vague statements publicly about his mental health in an effort to diffuse the situation that has already blown up around him. 

I call bullshit.

Garry Lyon no more has a mental illness than I am an aquatic humanoid with gills.

I find it increasingly apparent that people in the public eye - especially those who have been caught out for their particulary tawdry behaviour, quickly throw up mental illness as defence in order to protect their reputation. 

Having cultivated a certain image over a long period of time, ensuring that they only show the side of themselves that they want the public to see, when they transgress and expose their true nature, they do anything they can to explain away their actions. It's called damage control, harm minimization. 



Let's get it on (image credit Uproxx).

Garry Lyon, the former AFL hero, the respected football commentator and all around "top bloke" gets caught in a salacious, sexual tryst with his best mate's ex-wife with all the froth and bubble of a Bold & The Beautiful plot line. It blows up in the mainstream press like a roadside bomb with shrapnel hitting the TV news, internet portals and print newspapers. To mitigate the damage to his oh-so-carefully constructed personal image, his people quickly strategize and throw out the mental illness defence in order to garner sympathy. 

Mental illness is a serious issue, afflicting many thousands of people everyday. We struggle with it - often in silence - although many great strides have been made in growing awareness and reducing the stigma for sufferers.



When public figures default to the mental illness defence in order to explain away their shitty behaviour, it diminishes the gravity of mental illness, makes it a topic of derision for FM shock jocks and glossy magazines who all snigger at it with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Gary Lyon is a shit head who couldn't keep his dick in his pants. He's destroyed two marriages and a friendship in the process and by engaging in this selfish act of damage control, deferring to the "mental illness" defence, he damages the credibility of a silent scourge that afflicts so many. 

Garry Lyon should just front up and tell the truth - that he's an inconsiderate prick.

DFA.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Recipient - International Teaser Trailer.

This May - You Will Meet The Recipient.

Central Avenue Publishing and I are proud to present the International Teaser Trailer for my forthcoming psychological thriller "The Recipient".

When a young heart transplant recipient discovers a terrifying secret about her donor, she is drawn into a deadly conspiracy that will threaten the life she has only just gotten back.

Featuring music by Scottish band Eleven Eleven and show casing the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, Australia, The Recipient International Teaser Trailer hints at a kinetic and absorbing novel which fans of Dean Mayes will be instantly gratified by.



DFA.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Feeling the Pull - A Look At Pull by Anne Riley.

On my book shelf at home, sits a title I bought a few years ago called "The Clearing". It was written by Alabama based author Anne Riley who, at the time, released the novel herself and it made waves back in 2011 - 12 as an exciting YA entry filled with suspense, action, engaging characters. 

Having sought to pursue a publishing deal with an established house, Anne Riley spent the next few years working diligently on her writing and her pitches - all the while raising a young family and forging a career as a teacher. Now, all that hard work has paid off and I write this on the eve of Anne's debut release for Spencer Hill Press - an equally exciting YA actioner called Pull.



 (image credit: Spencer Hill Press).

From the cover notes;

Rosie Clayton witnesses a mugging on her first night in London—and then the scene rewinds itself.

She finds herself standing in the same place again, with the mugging happening just like before, except this time a stranger steps in and stops it. There's no way the same incident can have two outcomes. Rosie thinks she’s losing her mind, until just a few days later, the stranger saves her.

The stranger, Albert, and his band of misfit crime-fighters, have the special ability to Pull, which allows them to rewind just enough time to undo a recent event. Someone is hunting Albert and his crew– and now that Rosie’s been seen with them, she’s a target too. Rosie is left with no choice but to trust Albert to keep her safe.

As Rosie learns more about this unbelievable ability and the people – if you can call them that – who want them dead, she discovers that the group’s desire for her blood might be more than mere coincidence. Each step into this magical side of London introduces Rosie to a family history that she never knew existed, and dangerous forces that could unravel her world in an instant.


Her family may be the reason they’re all being hunted—and she may be the only one who can figure out how to save them. Sure, between the lot of them, they have a few shots to get it right. The thing about Pulling, though, is you have to be alive to do it.



(image credit: Anne Riley).

With its London setting and its exploration of the other worldly abilities that Anne Riley has bestowed on her cast, Pull promises fans of taut, YA fiction  - and broader science fiction - a unique and refreshing thrill ride. Anne Riley's immediately accessible style, her attention to crisp and quick fire dialogue and her skill at world building. In the run up to the release of the novel, Anne Riley's commissioned a trailer that typifies all the great things I have come to know about her style and, in the context of generating a buzz for this release, it hits a home run. 




In addition to the trailer, take a look at this very cool interview Anne put together in support of the novel.



I really like Anne Riley and I think that Pull has the potential to be a major success for her. It's well deserved. Having followed Anne for several years now, she strikes me as an author who is really passionate about her work - and her work ethic. In Pull, she has crafted something really special. 

Pull is available everywhere from 2.2.2016.

Visit Anne Riley here.

Tweet with Anne Riley here

Purchase Pull here

DFA.

Harvest Day - A Look At Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney.

Ex-pat Australian author Georgina Penney has quickly become one of my favorite romance authors and my affair with her work, which began with Fly In/Fly Out back in 2013, is one that I'll gladly tell all and sundry about - even my wife. 

Georgina returns with what promises to be her most accomplished work to date in "Summer Harvest" which has just been released by Penguin Books. 

Summer Harvest revisits the general world Penney created in Fly In/Fly Out and its prequel Irrepressible You offering readers a glimpse into the gorgeous Margaret River region of Western Australia.


(image credit: Penguin Books Australia).

From the cover notes;

From the author of Fly In Fly Out comes this entertaining and touching story about family, friendship and love among the grapevines. 

English dog trainer Beth Poole is having trouble getting her life back together after beating a life-threatening illness and divorcing her husband. When her Aussie-soap-obsessed grandma sends her to Australia to recover, it seems a great opportunity for some rest and relaxation while she figures out what's next.

But when Beth arrives in Australia things get off to a rocky start. To begin with, she's on the wrong coast and there are deadly creatures everywhere. And if that weren't enough, her neighbours are driving her crazy. She's staying in the beautiful Margaret River wine region, right next door to a family-owned vineyard. It should be perfect, but the boisterous Hardy clan just don't seem able to leave her alone. The usually reserved Beth is soon reluctantly embroiled in their family disputes and romantic entanglements. And eldest son Clayton Hardy is proving surprisingly persistent.

The more Beth gets to know Clayton and the Hardys, the more she sees what she wants for her future. But as the end of summer approaches, her past comes back to haunt her and will test her newfound relationships to the limit.


(image credit: Georgina Penney).

Taking characters that existed on the periphery in those previous stories and giving them their own chance to shine is something Georgina accomplishes with aplomb and Summer Harvest promises to deliver on that score. Strong, well drawn characters are a strength of her writing and you quickly come to identify with them. From the pre-reading I have done, Georgina also tackles serious issues of serious illness and divorce in this new work. Balancing those in the context of a romantic core narrative can be tricky but again, Georgina is no stranger to exploring heavier plot threads in her works and finding heart and soul in them.

Summer Harvest promises a reading banquet - offering delicious courses and robust accompaniments that will leave you filled and wiping your mouth with your fancy serviette and wondering if you can just fit in a little more. 

Summer Harvest is out now. 

Visit Georgina Penney here.

Tweet with Georgina Penney here.

Catch up with Georgina on The Bookish Tarts Podsnuggle here

DFA.