Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Mar-Apr Contents 104 Rhythms
Just over 20 years ago Natalie Merchant recorded her
first solo album, ‘Tigerlily’, which sold millions of copies
and launched her post-10,000 Maniacs career. In those
two decades both she and the songs from that debut
In 2014 Merchant re-recorded the 11 songs with a string
section and different arrangements and made a film about
it. The resultant CD + DVD is titled ‘Paradise Is There’ and
it’s a beautiful album. The accompanying documentary is
This is not a new strategy. Last year Steve Earle put together
a great DVD on the making of his album Terraplane. There
was also the excellent Keith Richards doco, ‘Under The
Infuence’ (how apt is that title?) on the making of ‘Crosseyed
Heart’ – and which you can find on Netflix. These bonuses,
which usually come with deluxe versions, are often well
worth searching out.
“Tigerlily is the most significant album I’ve done,” says
Merchant. “It went on to sell five million copies and really
established me as a songwriter. I never tire of playing those
songs. They are so resilient. Even though I’ve played them
on stage thousands of times, they still have this emotional
pull for me, they’re still very relevant”.
Not only does the film chronicle the new recordings in all
their glory there is also a number of interviews – but not
with the usual suspects who tend to be rock critics making
weighty pronouncements on the importance of an album.
Here we have Merchant, along with fellow musicians and
fans who share how the songs have affected them.
There is a great story about guitarist Jennifer Turner who
was recruited to play on the original album when she
was only 20. Then there are the fans who seem to have
developed a really personal connection with the album.
And not all of the fans are who you might expect. There is
one who confesses to being a heavy metal fan until he was
turned on to ‘Tigerlily’. That’s some conversion!
The first time I met Billy Thorpe was at Bluesfest in the
‘90s. The legendary Aussie rocker was there as a guest
and everyone wanted to know him. A friend of mine who
was there with me likes to tell the story of how Thorpe
introduced himself to me by saying, “Gidday, ****!”
In reality, Billy actually said it to a well-known promoter who
was passing by but it makes a much better story the way my
friend tells it. In fact, it captures some of the lively spirit of
Thorpe. I interviewed Billy a few times after that and he was
always full of energy. He may not have had a lot of money,
I don’t know, but he sounded as if he was a millionaire. You
will see the character of the man in a variety of television
interviews that are included here and that cover decades
of his career. He talks to Don Lane, Ernie Sigley & Denise
Drysdale, Ray Martin, Derryn Hinch and Kerrie-Anne
Kennerly (three times!).
These provide an interesting history of Thorpe in his own
words. You see his changing image across the years – short
hair or long hair and ponytail he always looked great. This
DVD also collects performances from those TV shows and
also many of his Bandstand appearances in the ‘60s. This
is by no means a documentary but if you are interested in
having a collection of interviews and clips in one place, then
this will work.
In the mid-60’s Thorpe was as popular as The Beatles and,
with The Aztecs, he topped the charts with songs such as
‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Mashed Potato’ and ‘Somewhere Over The
Rainbow’. In the ‘70s he played the first Sunbury Festival,
had the hugely successful hit ‘Most People I Know’ and
virtually pioneered the pub rock scene in Melbourne.
Thorpe was a true survivor and when he finally did play at
Bluesfest we all understood how much he was loved, how
much he had contributed to the Australian music scene and
how many of his songs had become iconic.
Billy Thorpe died at the age of 61 in 2007, just as he was
about to release another album, ‘Tangier’. Billy would have
turned 70 on March 29 this year and he no doubt would have
celebrated with a headline show at Bluesfest!
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