An amazing line-up of beloved, talented and lost entertainers await us at the Arts Centre, Melbourne, later this month. Conceived and directed by Robyn Archer, and brought to wonderful life by the incredibly versatile Cameron Goodall, The Sound of Falling Stars, is a deeply respectful homage as well as a joyful celebration of the music that formed and informed generations. From Hank Williams, through Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, and Bobby Darin to Tim and Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Bon Scott, Kurt Cobain and more, this beautifully constructed one-man cabaret is a sweet and lasting amalgam of sound, vision and emotion.
With stars such as these, the set list itself becomes a template for trouble – which songs are in? Which are out? And artists themselves – how to choose? Cameron Goodall gives us his top Five Favs!
It is so hard to pick only five artists. And I remember it was a hard enough process picking the songs for the artists that made it into the show… It’s such a huge quantity of amazing material. Lucky we had some thematic throughlines that Robyn was clear on to help us narrow down our selections! Collectively it represents some of the most influential and most treasured music ever recorded. It charts a course from too-sweet crooners and heartbreakers through to diabolical trailblazers hell-bent on destruction. And it’s all music I grew up with, either force-fed to me by my Dad (like Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin and Sam Cooke) or introduced to me by my older brother (we formed an AC/DC cover band when I was 7), or it’s music I came to love because I identified with it so strongly. So it’s hard to choose. Anyway, here goes.
Hank Williams – The Angel Of Death.
I found this one and brought it to Robyn. It was just so right lyrically for our show. She’s very clever at putting a twist or an angle on things to give them extra meaning and she did this with our approach to this song. We build to a jaunty version with the guys in the band joining in almost gleefully with the back up vocals “When the Angel of Death comes down after you, can you smile and say that you have been true?”
On a side note, my old band The Audreys took our name from Hank’s wife Audrey. We figured if he wrote Your Cheating Heart about her she must be someone worth naming a band after.
Elvis – That Old Rugged Cross
Studying Elvis for this show was a revelation. He’s clearly become a figure of parody because of the spiral of the last five years of his career, but he was just incredible. He’s also important because in a sense he paved the way for the rock’n’roll suicides that followed: Sid Vicious was actually a massive Elvis fan, and Kurt Cobain in turn was a fan of both Sid and Elvis. There is no available recording of Elvis singing That Old Rugged Cross (that I’m aware of!) but we put it in the show cos it’s right. It’s a great challenge to sing a song as Elvis when you don’t have one of his recordings to use as a guide. He loved gospel but he was torn between the side that wanted to be pure and the side that wanted not to be. I disappeared down many Elvis YouTube wormholes during my research for this show and I regret precisely zero of them.
John Lennon – Mother
I find this song very difficult to sing. It is such a raw and perfect bit of songwriting. His primal-therapy-induced screaming at the end is genuinely cathartic though. Mamma don’t go. Daddy come home. The best of his music, in my opinion, was always about a deep deep loneliness and the concomitant need for love. A lot of the singers in The Sound Of Falling Stars fit that bill. The song is the first in a sequence in our show that are summative. Each singer starts to sing songs that really become about the group of dead rock-stars and our relationship to them as an audience.
Phil Ochs – When I’m Gone
An amazing folk/protest singer. Played gigs with people like Bob Dylan but struggled with bipolar disorder. He wrote about a lot of things, mostly political, but this is my favourite song of his because it is a universal perfect poem about wanting to make something of your life. The song also has a sharpness that could well come from Phil Ochs’ acute awareness of his own mortality- he took his own life in the end. And like some others by troubled troubadours Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley, this song has a sort of prescience, and it somehow skirts a line between darkness and light, with just a hint of whimsy. I consider myself very lucky to share this one with audiences. Often this is one of the lesser known numbers that people are introduced to through the show, smuggled in amongst familiar songs they know and love. They go and check out his music afterwards and I reckon that’s a brilliant outcome for our show.
I don’t want to spoil what we do in the show but all I will say is that while they were alive both Elvis and Sid Vicious recorded ‘versions’ of this song, which most people associate with Frank Sinatra (who incidentally lived way too long to be included in our line-up: they all had to die younger than Elvis to make the cut) What a song. Sid’s reworked lyrics are a blast to sing. The original French lyrics are worth a google too actually… radically different. But in the end the chord changes are irresistible. And it actually carries you as a singer on these big waves with the ascending chord pattern.
And that’s my five faves… today. Tomorrow might be a different five altogether.
Wednesday 28 February – Saturday 3 March 2018 at 8pm