15 December 2011

The Gibsons - Only When You're Lonely

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1968

Making it in Britain appeared to be the goal of most Australian bands in the sixties. Once they'd had one or two hit singles in their own country, they seemed to dart down to their local High Street travel agency to book tickets for the motherland, regarding their Australian fame as being an indication that they were in with a sound chance of British acceptance.

Sadly, a great many fantastic Australian acts were left disappointed. The Playboys and The Masters Apprentices were largely ignored in this country, and even The Easybeats only managed to chalk up two hit singles (despite deserving a great deal more). The arrival of Merseybeat had allowed the British to realise that their home-grown rock music could be just as groundbreaking and exciting (if not more so) than the American output, but acts from all other countries were still treated somewhat sniffily. Plus, the sheer competition on offer from the thousands of home-grown acts who had already spent years building up a following meant that even a great band had their work cut out whilst starting in a new country from scratch.

You could forgive Melbourne's The Gibsons for thinking that they were in with a shot. Their debut single in Australia, "That's What I Want" (issued under the name The Chicadas), performed strongly in most of the regional charts around the country, and actually hit the top spot in Brisbane. On the back of this they managed to pick up British management from Phil Solomon, owner of the Major Minor label. Changing their name to The Gibsons in an attempt to give them a more British-friendly name and also apparently in the hope that they might blag some free guitars in the process, their career never quite took off. Solomon did his level best to ensure they got their support from his pirate station Radio Caroline, so airplay was strong, but the public seemed disinterested despite high-profile tours around the nation.

Fans of psychedelic pop frequently cite the band's cynical stab at London "City Life" as one of the finer Australian examples of the genre. They're not wrong, but in reality (rather like The Montanas who we featured earlier this month) The Gibsons actually specialised in straightforward, uncomplicated pop with luxurious arrangements. "Only When You're Lonely" is a prime example of this, bringing to mind the fare of The Walker Brothers rather than Pink Floyd. It's a lovelorn ballad focussing on the selfish neediness of a pesky lady, and does sound as if it could very easily have been a hit. Sadly, this was not to be, despite having some striking harmonies and an unusually intricate chorus. The B-side "Ode To A Doll's House" borders on psychedelic pop, but climbs too high on the Twee-o-meter for my tastes. Perhaps you good readers will fare better.

For an interview with John Kaye and Geoff Dart of The Gibsons, please visit the relevant page on the excellent Peach Fuzz Forest blog where both go into depth on the topic of their British career with no hard feelings whatsoever.

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