Educating Peter # 17

October 14, 2012

This week Michael decided to sent me two songs to try and persuade me the 1980s weren’t a barren musical wasteland. Both songs are by The Piranhas, who, according to Michael, were a ska-punk band. I’ll take his word for it, because I don’t remember any band called The Piranhas.

Of the two songs, “Tom Hark” is Michael’s favourite, so that’s the one he put forward for The Song To Be Dismantled Analyzed.

Before I get stuck into the song, I’ll let Wikipedia give you a bit of background to it:

“[The Piranhas] achieved their biggest success with their cover version of the South African kwela song “Tom Hark”. This had been an instrumental hit in 1958 for Elias & His Zig Zag Jive Flutes, and had already been covered in a ska style by Millie Small. With new lyrics written by the band’s frontman “Boring” Bob Grover, it was a Top 10 hit in the UK in 1980. It was the first song to feature on BBC Television‘s pop music programme, Top of the Pops, when it returned in 1980 after being blacked out for several months by industrial action.”

OK. There were approximately eight things there I didn’t know.

Off we go:

The Piranhas – “Tom Hark” (1980)


0:00-0:03 – The swing beat at the very start of the song reminded me of the music of the 1940s. I like the music of the 1940s.

0:03-0:35 – Now it’s gone South African. This very cute. I’m enjoying it. But…

Considering it’s a song that had new lyrics written for it, after the 35-second mark I started wondering where those lyrics had gotten to.

0:35-1:00 – The cuteness continues. Still no sign of those lyrics.

1:00-1:04 – The lyrics have arrived. Ugh. Talk about a mood-spoiler. The lyrics begin: “Does anybody know how long ’til World War Three?” Can I have a different set of lyrics please?

1:04-1:07 – But at least the lyrics are played for laughs. Next line: “I wanna know, I gotta book me holidee.” That’s better.

1:07-1:14 – Next two lines: “They want me in the army, but I just can’t go / I’m far too busy listening to the radio.” That’s fair enough.

1:14-1:27 – The words of the chorus sum up the sentiment of the song:

“The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why,
You have to laugh, or else you cry,
You have to live or else you die,
You have to laugh or else you cry.”

1:27-1:39 – This a very jolly song. What ho!

1:39-1:52 – Next verse. More of the same “Knees up Mother Brown! Oi!” stuff.

1:52-2:05 – It’s gone a little quieter for this chorus. (The drummer stopped drumming.) I wasn’t going to comment on any aural aspects of this song, mainly because I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, but there is one thing about this chorus. Usually in a song of this nature (loud, cheerful, and singalong) there’d be handclaps on the offbeat. In this chorus, though, instead of handclaps there’s something that sounds like a suction cup, or a plunger – or something. I don’t know what it is, because I haven’t heard anything like it before.

2:05-2:18 – The drums have started up again, but suction cup thing is still there on the offbeat. Now I wondering if it was always there in the song. Time for a quick rewind… Ah, I’ve discovered it was there earlier in the song. It made its first appearance at 0:48.

Right. Back to where I was…

2:18-2:42 – Here’s where the entire band does a little accent (first time at 2:20). It’s like a cancan dancer kicking out her leg.

That’s about all I can think to say about “Tom Hark”. Not very interesting, but there it is.

Now for the other one:

The Piranhas – “Zambezi” (1982)


0:00-2:44 – Great song, so-so performance.

Both those songs were cover versions. Now it’s time for the originals…

Elias And His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes – “Tom Hark” (1958)


Lou Busch & His Orchestra – “Zambezi” (1956)


Which reminds me of New Zealand Australian band Dragon‘s song:

Dragon – “O Zambezi (1978)


Musical coincidences # 101

March 21, 2011

I couldn’t get a hold of the MP3 of one of the songs on offer today, so I’m afraid that you’ll have to be content with the full versions of each. But for this coincidence that’s no big problem because there are no three-second sections to ponder or any hidden bass riffs etc – it’s simply a matter of listening to both tracks. You’ll hear the similarity in no time:

Charles Jenkins – “Across The Nullarbor” (2009)

Dragon – “Get That Jive” (1977):


Song of the day: Dragon – "Love’s Not Enough"

February 7, 2011

Today’s song was requested by regular reader/commenter pb669 (Hi, pb!). After I posted a song by New Zealand Australian band Dragon, pb669 asked for another one. I’m more than happy to oblige.

Here’s Dragon with their 1979 non-hit “Love’s Not Enough”:

Dragon – “Love’s Not Enough” (1979)


Dragon released this after they had begun their slow slide down the charts after their initial burst of success. It was the first single to be released after they’d sacked their lead singer Marc Hunter and replaced him with somebody else. As far as the fickle Australian music industry was concerned, Dragon’s boat had already sailed. They had their three-year run in the Top 10, and that was that. Little did anyone know that ex-lead singer Marc Hunter would be reinstated a couple of years later, and Dragon would come roaring back up the charts with the irresistible “Rain” (which, rather handily, was Song of the day some time ago).

Although I don’t think it’s a great song, I’m certainly not going to stand in the way of someone else (like pb669) enjoying it. You might like it much more than I did.

Thanks, pb669, for giving people the opportunity to listen to something they probably haven’t heard before.

Song of the day: Dragon – "This Time"

January 22, 2011

Here’s New Zealand Australian band Dragon with their (Australian) debut single:

Dragon – “This Time” (1976)


Before Dragon relocated to Australia and recorded a whole swag of superb pop songs, in New Zealand they were a not-so-successful prog rock band.

Here’s Dragon back when they were a New Zealand prog rock band:

Dragon – “Darkness” (1975)


It’s amazing what moving to Australia can do to a band.

Song of the day: Dragon – "Rain"

September 15, 2009

Dragon had a fantastic run on the Australian charts in the mid-70’s, but by the end of that decade Dragon were pretty much a forgotten entity (their 1979 single, “Love’s Not Enough,” just scraped into the Top 40, peaking at 37). As the 80’s began, the hits dried up for Dragon. They had a break, then in 1983 decided to stage a comeback, and did so in the best manner possible: with a great song.

Their comeback single was “Rain” (1983). And what a single it was. This song demands to be played loud. It has hooks a-plenty, and sucks you in with its build-up. It starts with the verse minus the vocals, creating a mood with its subdued beat (well, subdued by 80’s standards) and a spare guitar line. The vocals then come in with a good tune. The verse builds to the bridge which has a better tune, then it’s back to the verse, and on to the bridge again. It builds and builds until you hope for a big chorus – and when the chorus does arrive, it explodes with a magnificent tune. What a comeback single:

Dragon – “Rain” (1983)


“Rain” put Dragon back on the Australian charts in a big way (it peaked at number 2). And I’m glad it did, because Dragon were one of the great Australian Top 40 bands of the 70’s.

Now, depending on how you view that distinctly 80’s practice of “extended” versions of hits, this may or may not be a bonus for you. Nevertheless, here’s the extended remix of “Rain” for you to either enjoy or ignore (your choice):

Dragon – “Rain (Extended)” (1983)


Song of the day: Dragon – "Get That Jive"

July 15, 2009

Here’s New Zealand Australian band Dragon with “Get That Jive” (1977):


If you want an example of superb songcraft, look no further than Dragon. They had a string of hits in Australia in the mid-70’s, were forgotten for a while, and then came back in the 80’s with a bang (their comeback single will be Song of the day another day).

If you also want the right recipe for a highly entertaining band, then Dragon has all the ingredients – they had a flamboyant front man in Marc Hunter, the band members were volatile, and Marc’s older brother Todd was on bass. (Nothing says “in-fighting” quite like having brothers in the same band.)

You can follow their epic adventures on Wikipedia. Just the first three paragraphs let you know you’re in for a wild ride. For example, you’ll read about how various members were either addicted to, or dead from, a variety of pharmaceuticals. And that Dragon started out as a prog rock band in New Zealand, and when they moved to Australia promptly metamorphosed into a pop band. And that they were named in an Australian Royal Commission as being implicated in an Asian drug syndicate. And much, much more. Dragon was a modern publicist’s dream (but a 70’s publicist’s nightmare).

Incidentally, “Get That Jive” was Dragon’s second Australian single. As a bonus – and because I can’t get enough Dragon – here’s their first Australian single:

Dragon – “This Time” (1976)


Great songs.