The most obscure hit songs in Australian history: Part five

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The most obscure hit songs in Australian history: Part five

Obscure hit songs
Words by John Phillips

Here are three more cracking Australian rock/pop songs from hard-working bands and artists of the late 60s, 70s and early 80s. They get very little airplay on commercial radio these days but definitely deserve a rehearing.

‘Golden Miles’ – Healing Force (1971)

Highest Chart Position – 31 (Kent Music Report)

Golden Miles was the A-side of the only single recorded by Melbourne-based progressive-rock band Healing Force. Formed in Adelaide in late 1970, the band’s four founding members were Australians Lindsay Wells (guitar) and Laurie Pryor (drums), and New Zealanders Mal Logan (keyboards) and Charlie Tumahai (bass and vocals). Guitarist John Pugh joined just prior to the single’s release in July 1971. 

Written by Lindsay Wells, Golden Miles is widely regarded as the best Australian progressive-rock song of the era. The song glides along on a wonderful melody featuring Logan’s uplifting Hammond organ, Pryor and Tumahai’s crisp rhythm section, and Wells’ tasteful and understated guitar playing, topped brilliantly by Tumahai’s distinctive lead vocals. The song charted on 2 August 1971, spent 19 weeks in the charts and reached a top of 31.

Widely considered one of Australia’s first “super-groups”, Healing Force was riven by line-up changes, breakups and reformations over its two-and-a-half-year history. In an extraordinary display of bad timing, shortly after the release of Golden Miles and while on the verge of chart success, Tumahai, Pryor and Wells left the band to join Melbourne blues-rock band Chain. 

Keen to capitalize on the success of the new single, Logan and Pugh pushed on, recruiting Ray Findlay on bass and Eric Cairns on drums, but by year’s end the band had split. Healing Force later reformed in November 1972 with a line-up of Logan, Pugh and Pryor, plus Mal Capewell on reeds, and Gus Fenwick on bass. They were joined in early 1973 by Charlie Tumahai in time to play at Sunbury 1973 before finally splitting up in April.

‘Dear Prudence’ – Doug Parkinson In Focus (1969)

Highest Chart Position – 5

Doug Parkinson In Focus, formerly The Questions, was formed in March 1968 by its eponymous Newcastle-born lead singer and guitarist. The band split up in August 1968 before reforming in Melbourne a month later with a highly-regarded line-up of “musician’s musicians”, comprising original members Parkinson, Billy Green (guitar), and Duncan McGuire (bass), joined by former Max Merritt and the Meteors drummer Johnny Dick. The band quickly established a huge following on the vibrant Melbourne live scene.  

Dear Prudence is a cover of the John Lennon classic from the Beatles’ self-titled double album, commonly known as the White Album. The single was originally offered to Festival Records, who shocked Parkinson by turning it down in an act reminiscent of Decca’s 1962 rejection of the Beatles. The song was then offered to EMI, who loved it, signed the band up and released the single in May 1969 on their Columbia label. Parkinson’s soulful interpretation, delivered with his unique vocal power and feeling, was an immediate hit and the song shot to a peak of No.5, staying in the charts for four months and becoming Doug Parkinson’s signature tune and most successful single.

This was an eventful period for Doug Parkinson In Focus. In July, the band shared first prize in the annual Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds with Adelaide’s Masters Apprentices. In October they released their second hit single Without You, which also peaked at No. 5. In November McGuire and Green left to briefly join the short-lived band Rush, only to return in February 1970. In May 1970 the band released their final single, Baby Blue Eyes, which peaked at No.42. 

Doug Parkinson In Focus disbanded in June 1970 when Parkinson and Dick moved to England. Parkinson continued to record and perform in bands and musical theatre until his death on 15 March 2021. 

‘Seasons Of Change’ – Blackfeather (1971)

Highest Chart Position – 11

Blackfeather is a Sydney rock band which originally formed in April 1970 and, despite a mind-boggling number of personnel changes over the years, continues to perform today. The band’s original lineup comprised founder John Robinson on guitar, Neale Johns on lead vocals, Leith Corbett on bass and Mike McCormack on drums. 

Seasons Of Change, the first single from their debut album At the Mountains of Madness, was released in May 1971, and first charted on 14 June 1971. It peaked at No.11 and was in the charts for 22 weeks. Written by Johns and Robinson, the song features a haunting recorder melody within a captivating arrangement that moves effortlessly from folk to rock and back, driven by up-front drums and lead singer Neale Johns’ distinctive vocals.  

Bon Scott (later of AC/DC) and John Bissett from the Adelaide band Fraternity helped out on the track, Scott playing the recorder and providing backing vocals and percussion, and Bissett playing keyboards. Fraternity released their own version of the song as a single in 1971 after reaching a handshake agreement that Blackfeather would not release its version in competition. When Fraternity’s version began to chart in Adelaide, Blackfeather’s recording label Festival reneged on the deal against the band’s wishes. 

Seasons Of Change brought Blackfeather deserved success but was not the band’s biggest hit – the piano-thumping rocker Boppin’ The Blues, which hit No.1 on 2 October 1972 and stayed in the charts for 28 weeks, takes that gong.  

Next time:  Axiom; Dugites; Kids In The Kitchen  

The most obscure hit songs in Australian history: Part three