21 April 2008
Russell Morris - The Real Thing
Year of Release: 1969
One of the many peculiarities of the international music industry is how enormous hit singles which clearly have "classic" written all over them in one territory can be forgotten flops in another. There are few more pronounced examples of this than the fate which befell Russell Morris' superb 1969 single "The Real Thing", which was the best selling single of that year in Australia, but failed to chart at all in the UK.
If "The Real Thing" had been recorded by Traffic or The Small Faces at their trippiest, it would probably be a Radio Two staple by now. We almost certainly wouldn't have the need to discuss it on this blog, and doubtless Mojo would bring it up every now and then as a fine example of the psychedelic period. Seemingly only two things stood in the way of it storming the charts - firstly, it was six minutes long in its full version (rather than the rudely truncated video above) which was a daring thing to do in the British market at the time. Anything longer than three and a half minutes struggled to get airplay on the radio.
Secondly, it was issued by Decca, a label which had almost entirely lost its way by this point and couldn't have promoted a new act if its life depended on it - which by the early seventies it did, since The Rolling Stones (their biggest selling band) upped sticks and left. Really, it didn't have a hope in hell of getting heard.
That's a real shame, because "The Real Thing" is stunning. Starting out acoustic and gentle, it builds and builds until it can go no further, turning into a pounding, demanding groove and eventually an instense, full throttle whirl of sound effects. It's been periodically used to soundtrack sports coverage in Australia, and Morris is still a popular draw on the live circuit over there nearly forty years on, having followed this up with a brace of other hits. In the UK, this was his solitary release.
Download the full-length version below, which really gives you the full impression of what we missed out on.
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