Today’s song is by Australian rock gods The Masters Apprentices, a band renowned the land over. (When an Australian rock fan over the age of 30 hears the name “The Masters Apprentices”, the usual response is “Yeah!”). It’s their 1969 hit, “5.10 Man.” But before I let you listen to it, there are a few things I want to mention about both the band and the song…
Of all the bands sitting in the Pantheon of Australian rock history, I think The Master’s Apprentices are the weirdest. There are so many things that are odd about the band and their songs that I don’t quite know where to begin. But I’ll try. (I have a feeling I could write an entire thesis on the weirdness of this band, but I’ll limit the contents of this particular post to just the band’s name and today’s song. I’ll unleash my thoroughly unwarranted views on the band’s other songs as they appear on the blog in the future.)
OK, let’s start with the name. The band’s name varies depending on who you consult. Wikipedia calls them The Masters Apprentices. “So what? It’s a good name,” I hear you say. It is – but where’s the apostrophe? One of my pet linguistic hates is the inappropriate use of, or missing, apostrophes. It bothers me to see no apostrophes anywhere in this band’s name. To people who have better things to do with their time this will be no problem whatsover, but it bothers me. Are they (the band) apprentices of one master or a number of masters? In other words, are they The Master’s Apprentices or are they The Masters’ Apprentices? Or is Wikipedia messing with my mind?
This just occurred to me:
“The Masters Apprentices” (TME) = “The Missing Apostrophe” (TME)
Wikipedia’s definitely messing with my mind.
And so is Milesago. I love Milesago, as it’s probably the most authoritative online Australian rock encyclopedia, but they also call the band The Masters Apprentices. No apostrophe again. Grrr.
It seems that Wikipedia, Milesago, and plenty of others have all decided that the band’s name is The Masters Apprentices. Well, I decided to go to the source and consult the band itself.
“5.10 Man” was first released as a single in 1969 then appeared on the band’s second album, 1970’s Masterpiece. If you have a look at the album’s artwork, you can see how the band spelled their own name:
It’s “Master’s Apprentices”. Now, that makes sense.
Okay. I’m feeling much better now. (And I’ll try not to use the word “now” any more.)
Now, where was I? Oh yeah.
And another thing (I will get to the song eventually)…
The band’s many fans affectionately call the group The Masters. That’s wrong. The band aren’t The Masters. They’re The Apprentices. (It’s the apostrophe.)
OK, on to the song.
I find “5.10 Man” odd, odd, odd.
First, there’s the song’s introduction. It lasts eight seconds, and when I first heard it I was convinced the band was going to launch into “The Great Pretender.” Unfortunately, courtesy of that first hearing, every time I hear “5.10 Man”‘s introduction my brain automatically switches into “The Great Pretender” mode, ready for the wonderful voice of The Platters‘ lead singer Tony Williams accompanied by the fabulous harmonies from the rest of the group (I can hear it now: “O-ho, yes, I’m the great pretender / Oo-woo-oo-woo” etc). However, instead of “The Great Pretender,” “5.10 Man” settles into a standard boogie song. Well, a standard boogie song, that is, until the backing vocals appear…
Here’s the second weird thing about the song. Throughout the verses the backing vocals go “shoo-do-be-do-be-do-be-do” that go up and up and up, and I find them unsettling. I honestly don’t know if those voices are male or female. And I don’t know if they ought to be in a boogie song.
Third, there’s the minor-to-you-but-major-to-me bass note in the song’s middle eights. The bass guitar plays the wrong note at the end of each middle eight (at 1:12 and at 1:53), which I find distinctly unnerving (I was a bass player in a former life, so bass playing is precious to me – good bass playing even more so).
I will stop going on about this and actually let you listen to the song, but there are a couple more things I want to let you know about.
Fourth, there’s what seems to be a very clumsy edit at 2:06. The entire sound of the song changes right there. And it’s incredibly noticeable. If I didn’t know better (and I don’t), I’d say a completely different song was grafted on to the existing one.
After that clumsy edit comes, without a doubt, the weirdest part of the song: the band goes all 50’s a cappella on the listener (at 2:09), like they’re in a doo-wop group. I don’t know why.
And it’s around here that this song is starting to freak me out in a big way.
Anyway, as the doo-wop continues, the boogie music comes back in and then they all fade out.
OK. I think that’s it. I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say about the song.
By now, you may have the impression that I don’t like the song (I know I would), but that’s not the case. I like it, but…
It weirds me out, man.
And now, finally, the song. Hopefully you’ll still want to listen to it, despite my unhelpful nitpicking. Thanks for perservering.
Master’s Apprentices – “5.10 Man” (1969)
(Thanks go to Col who reminded me that I hadn’t posted anything at all about the Master’s Apprentices. As Col said: “What, no Master’s Apprentices? And this is supposed to be an Australian power pop blog?”)