Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Allusions - Anthology 1966-1968

The Allusions were an Australian band that never made any impression outside of their homeland but left behind some great Merseybeat-style records. The quintet was formed out of the memberships of two previously existing groups, the Leemen and the Delawares. Guitarist Terry Hearne, already a five-year veteran of the music business at age 20, and an ex-member of the surf instrumental groups the Dave Bridge Quartet and Dave Bridge Trio, joined the Leemen in 1964 and began to move away from leader Lonnie Lee's Bakersfield sound country repertory. With rhythm guitarist Michael Morris, who had previously played in an outfit called Dennis Williams & the Delawares, he split off from the Leemen. Hearne's ex-Dave Bridge bandmate Terry Chapman came in on bass, and Kevin Hughes of the Delawares took the drummer spot, with John Shaw, who also doubled in a very limited way on organ, taking the lead vocals on the ballads. The new group's influences and models came from the Beatles but also the early Zombies and the Fortunes, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and other lighter, pop-oriented rock & roll outfits being heard at the time in England.

When they made their debut at the end of 1965, they were a pure cover band, performing nothing but established British acts' songs. They moved into creating original material when they realized that it was the only way that they would ever get to record. Morris became their in-house mainstay in that regard, not because he was particularly good at it but because, in Hearne's view, he was better than the other four. "We couldn't write a shopping list," he remarked to David McLean in a 1994 article. They developed a modified Merseybeat sound, almost reminiscent of Gerry & the Pacemakers but with the harmonic subtleties of the Beatles and the Searchers, and got a contract late in 1965 with EMI's Parlophone Records imprint, by way of their production deal with Leopold Productions, for whom their producer, Robert Iredale, worked.

From the beginning, they sounded more Merseybeat than the actual surviving Merseybeat bands of 1966 did, in some ways paralleling the early Australian work of the Easybeats -- both had what was, essentially, a delightful throwback sound to the slightly more innocent years of 1964-1965. Their debut release of "Gypsy Woman" was a nationally charting Australian single that reached the island nation's Top Ten in a nine-week chart run. They sounded so English that it was a surprise when they discovered that The Allusions were from Australia. By that time, Chapman, a co-founder, had quit and was replaced by Bruce Davis, former lead guitarist of the Delawares. Their second single, "The Dancer," did even better than its predecessor, peaking at number eight on the charts. The sky seemed the limit at that point -- with the exception of the Easybeats, no Australian band was doing anything like The Allusions' business, and they found themselves something of cultural heroes to anyone under the age of 21; they even rated a spot on the support bill to the Easybeats' final Australian concert before the latter group set out for London. It was at that point that their initial success fizzled out along with their third single, "Looks Like Trouble." The latter was a bit derivative of "I Feel Fine" in its opening and perhaps less than inspired in its beat and lyric, except for a catchy chorus with an interesting modulation, and a cool garage punk guitar break. The single's failure, coupled with behind-the-scenes political maneuvers that kept them out of the best venues in Sydney, also cost them some momentum.

Their fourth single, "Roundabout," made the Top 30 in early 1967, rescuing the group from immediate decline -- that single has been compared to Paul McCartney's better ballad work, though it's closer to a really, really good Monkees song (and one worthy of Micky Dolenz's vocal talents). Davis's "I'll Be Home" is actually more interesting, with some offbeat modulations and a curious mix of downbeat mood and catchy tune, all of it recalling Ringo Starr's vocal performance on "Act Naturally," which fit doubly since Hughes, the drummer, sang it. At this point, the group also cut a self-titled album of covers, ranging from pleasant but unexceptional renditions of American soul ("Shop Around") to a killer version of the Kinks' "I Gotta Move."

Time was working against the group by then, however. Morris' songwriting output was never fully adequate to keep them competitive in the singles marketplace, and their inability to break through to the best clubs in Sydney, or to get the best bookings elsewhere in Australia, coupled with the bare trickle of money that they ever saw from their records (the revenues from which went first to the production company), all wore on the members. Attempts to crack Melbourne and Brisbane never paid off, and then the sales of their records fell off and the group gave up along with the record label. By the end of 1968, The Allusions were history, albeit a history very much worth seeking out and discovering, based on the quality of most of their records.

1 comment:

Everyone who knows the blog "Old Melodies" or earlier "Wings of Dream" for many years,knows that there are large archives of music here since 2007 ... 98% of the links up to 2015 are dead. I will gradually be engaged in their recovery. This takes a very long time, so the answers to requests will be minimal and in no way will be accepted from anonymous users. I spend a very long time on my uploads. Please,find a couple of seconds to sign your comment or message. I hope for understanding...