Rhyming slang

It is a misfortune perhaps unique in the whole of popular music. Barry Crocker was an Australian pop crooner in the early 1970s: something in the style of Tom Jones or Englebert Humperdinck. He must have sold truckloads of records, because it is a rare op-shop in Australia which does not have several of his LPs. He is up there with James Last and Nana Mouskouri.

This means, of course, that Barry Crocker is now hopelessly daggy, a fossil, a man whose record covers could be used to define “uncool”.

barry-crocker-lp

They don’t make satin shirts like the used to …

But that is true of lots of singers of yesteryear. No, Barry Crocker’s singular curse is that his name was used as rhyming slang for “shocker”, and the term stuck. You will hear a sports commentator say of a football player “He’s having an absolute Barry Crocker. Can’t do anything right!” The expression is entrenched, used by people too young to get the connection. Like a “Dorothy Dixer”, (which is an unchallenging question asked by a sycophantic journalist at a press conference), the “Barry Crocker”, meaning dreadful performance, is just part of the Australian vernacular.

All a bit unfair, really. As this track, a single he released in 1973, attests, Baz could sing.

0160-crocker-aA piece of trivia: one of the singers on backing vocals is Olivia Newton-John. In the 1970s, it was considered hilariously funny to call her Olivia Neutron-Bomb. Unlike the Barry Crocker, that joke has  not lasted.

  • Artist: Barry Crocker
  • Single title: Suzie Darlin’
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Festival
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: FK 5087
  • Year: 1973

The alt + obscure litmus test

The true test of whether a record is both obscure and alternative? You should be able to pick it up and look at the cover, read the words on it, and have no idea what is the band name, and what is the record title. Equal Local (which turns out to be the band) pass this test with flying colours with their 1981 12-inch EP, Madagascar. The words tell you nothing. The cover design is interesting, but also tells you nothing.

equal local madagascarThe only thing I did recognise when I found this record, nestled next to a water-damaged copy of Barry Crocker Sings the Movies, was the label. Missing Link has an honoured place in the history of Australian music (obscure and alternative sub-branch). It was a little indy label, putting out all sorts of adventurous music in the late 1970s and 1980s. Lots of musicians passed through different groups under different names, flowering briefly and then moving on to new projects.

There is a website, www.punkjourney.com which has some information about the Equal Local, though the music is nothing like punk. The site uses the label “post punk”, whatever that might mean, but the description of the music is on the nail: “Utilizing a funky pulse-like beat as a base, the band was free to lay hypnotic textures and a rich tapestry of styles over the top.”

In this track, “The Cult Of Simplicity”, the base line sets the scene. It feels like nighttime in a dubious city. Over the top, what I think is a synth (clean, high-pitched, unvarying) and what is definitely a saxophone (sleazy, improvising, dark), engage in a call-and-response. It is stark, moody, troubling. Personally I would call it experimental jazz, but who cares about the label: it is inventive, exciting work.

  •     Artist: Equal Local
  •     EP Title: Madagascar
  •     Track: B1 “The Cult Of Simplicity”
  •     Format: 12” 45 rpm
  •     Label: Missing Link, MSD 519
  •     Manufactured in: Australia
  •     Year: 1981

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs. Mention this code “MSD519” before 1 October 2016 to receive a free 7” disc of your choice (up to the value of $5.00) with any purchase.