A Letter from Dr Steven Farram:
When I was in Singapore recently, I brought Andy a number of Australian 1960's pop singles and EPs. Andy wrote about those records in a recent post on this blog:
Australian Influence: Ray Brown and The Whispers Part 2
Andy finished up that post by saying ‘I am not an expert with 60s Australian pops so I have left Steve to elaborate on the records he provided’. Well, I’m not an expert either, but I am a fan. I was born in 1961, so I was pretty young when most of these records were released, but I do remember hearing most of them on the radio and all of them were very popular, so they were playing a lot.
I am also a collector and I buy 1960's records whenever I come across them. Because those records were so popular, I found I had doubles of them in my collection and so I was able to give copies to Andy.
Anyway, here is a bit of what I know about each of the artists that featured on those discs.
Ray Brown and the Whispers was a Sydney-based outfit. They had a large number of hit singles in the mid-60s. They also released a number of LPs. Unlike, say, the Easybeats or the Bee Gees, they didn’t write their own material and most of their songs were copies of ones that had already been hit songs in the USA, although some of them were quite obscure.
Also, Ray and the Whispers often presented them in totally new arrangements and really made them their own. Ray left the band in late 1966, formed a few short-lived groups and then left for America.
He returned to Australia at the end of the sixties as a country-rock performer. I’ll admit I do not recall any of Ray’s later recordings. By all accounts, they are quite accomplished but had little commercial success. Ray Brown died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1996.
Normie was the undisputed King of Pop in Australia from 1965 to 1967. He had numerous hit singles and several albums. Normie’s face was everywhere, even in Singapore. If anybody has a copy of Lara and the Trailers first EP (This Is My Song, Love Potion No. 9, etc.) you can see Lara on the back cover standing in front of a photograph of Normie Rowe.
Were his records ever released in Singapore? Normie went to England in 1966 and recorded a number of records there, including the one I gave Andy. The records were hits in Australia, but he didn’t set the UK alight.
Normie’s reign came to an end when he was conscripted into the Australian army to serve in Vietnam. When he returned to Australia in 1970 he was unable to recapture the old momentum, but he continued on and became a more all-around performer, appearing in clubs, TV and variety programs.
He also took to the stage and screen. I just checked Normie’s website and it seems he spent most of 2017 playing shows all across the east coast of Australia and over to Perth. He never made it near Darwin though.