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Talking Heads -

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(generated from captions) Yep. Straight away. Yeah. Makes you suss. "Would you open that bag, sir?" (American accent) of being a star? How do you feel wearing the mantle Uncomfortable.

It's got its ups and downs. somewhere in public and read a book. It's very hard to sit quietly alone But on the other hand, much identification at airports. you don't really have to show you came through a shipping port Well, talking of airports, to Australia in the first instance. You weren't born here. We did, yes. Let's have a look where things began. 1949. JON: I was born in London in March, A postwar baby boomer. (Jon sings) # Born in '49 # Part of a long, long line... # Mum did a lot of different stuff. JON: she was a teacher for a was while. She was a hospital worker, for a while. She was an ambulance driver at the airport in air cargo. But Dad mostly worked actually. Which was why we came to Australia, in the early '60s He got offered a job with KLM out here. to run the air cargo section # ..Underneath southern skies (Jon sings) # Hearing words from the wife... # My dad's name's Sidney. And my mum's name's Sheila. As in 'a sheila'. really. So that was a bit of an omen there, growing old. # (Jon sings) # And we're all

This is Coventry Rd, Cabramatta. we moved into back in 1961. And this is the very house Looks exactly the same. history and geography. Well, this is C1, I wasn't much good at geography but I was pretty good at history. 2005. And this is Cabramatta High School, I went here - I left here in 1967. it hasn't really changed that much. And I have to say, smoking behind a toilet block. I can still see someone And this was my saving grace. This is the basketball courts. I gotta tell you. We had a pretty good team,

one Tuesday afternoon. We beat Merrylands 265 to nil here I think it's still a state record. I'll show you around. This is the famous F block. except that in 1967 It's not really that famous,

there for the school muck-up day. I did a striptease up on the roof forget about it, unfortunately. Um, they still haven't let me

understand you got a purple bikini." A new principal even said, "I It's true, it happened. the road in my hot FJ (Jon sings) # And when I burned up # I blew them all away... # for me 15th birthday. Dad bought me a guitar

fell in love with it, I sort of immediately 'cause I wanted to be a Beatle. at this school. Yes, I joined my first band called Zenith and they were crap. I was about 16, they were called Sebastian Hardie But later I joined another band and they were really, really good. for the last two years of school, And, you know, and Caesar's Place. we used to work at Whisky a Go Go the drummer and I, It'd finish so later, we actually - had to do our homework who were still at school, in a dressing room out the back, found highly amusing, I must say. which the Go Go girls

find a little love along the way... (Jon sings) # It's always nice to all the way through school. I knew my wife, Carmen, She was in the year below me. because we saw no reason not to, I mean, we got married in 1969 as opposed to the other way round. Somehow, we've stayed married. not mine. Which is mostly all of her work,

love song I'll be singing this... # (Jon sings) # Every time I sing a Well, tell us first of all, Jon, onboard the 'Orion'. about that journey out to Australia As a 12-year-old. The 'Orion', yes. that struck me about it was There's one thing

the places were that we visited. the more decrepit the further south we got,

and places like that. There Aden and Port Said south you get, the worse it is," But this theory of "The further about getting to Australia. we were terrified "What's it gonna be like?" We're thinking, it was wonderful, it was paradise. And we arrived in Perth and of my life, at that time. But it was a most exciting time Oh, definitely. Was it? Because of the discovery or...? and just the heat. Just the discovery and the distance it's a wonderful experience. It was just wonderful, when you went to school? So was there a crunch time face some realities Because you had to as a 12-year-old going to school. you would have got... And I imagine, being a Pom, about the Poms, Well, we copped a bit what a Pom was at the time. which, I didn't know of Australian-Australians at school But it wasn't a lot next door, 'cause there was a migrant camp non-indigenous people, if you like. so there was a lot of Everybody felt left out. So everybody felt left out. was a man called Lonnie Semanitz, My best friend whose parents were from the Ukraine. And he had lots of stories to tell. with Anglo names. It was very few people Where did it come from? Music in the family. Mum's a pretty good singer. musician I'd ever met, I think. But Dad was the most gifted natural

He taught himself. He was a piano lugger.

But, of course, when he grew up, being a musician as a profession you've got to get a real job." was not - "Oh, no, down the pub. So he used to play on weekends Taught by ear.

and drums. And he played a bit of guitar All sorts, he just had the gift. a guitar, I guess. And that's why he bought me When you were still at school like Whisky a Go Go, and playing at places how did you get away with that? Well, we just didn't tell them. Oh, no, no, no. About being underage? but they didn't mind it. Well, they sort of knew,

the stage and the dance floor. They drew a line, I think, between And that was alright. a Beatle a bit flippantly. You've made mention of wanting to be lived and dreamed those ideas. But I imagine you must have to see the Beatles play live. Oh, absolutely, I was lucky enough to the Sydney Stadium. My sister took me along Yep, '64. What, would it be '64? What did that do for you? That was about the point where I said, "I want to be one of them." And immediately sort of got together with me mates, who were all bad musicians like me, and started making a racket together. And, you know, it's just something, I think, that's in you, that you've got to get out. Now, this friend, Lonnie. He might have been competition for you when it came time to meet Carmen? There was an after-school party they used to have to raise money for the fete. And...we'd left school by then. And we were going to university. We went along. Me in my white Ford Prefect and him in his black one. And...what ended up happening was we tossed a coin to see who'd ask her if she wanted a lift home. And I won. And so the rest was history. The rest is history, yeah.

Well, as it turned out, you ended up getting married

at an extraordinarily youthful age. We didn't have to, either, which was remarkable. Because you get married - she was 19, I was 20 - 'Shotgun weddings' they used to call them. Oh, that's right, that's right, they did, too. And it was, "Oh, you know why that is." "No." On that first night, I would have thought, you know, you would have put her to a test that no reasonable woman would have passed. Well, we got a gig that night. The night of the wedding, in Wyong. And we were going to go to Coffs Harbour for a bit of a honeymoon, anyway, at her parents' place. And we had to stop and do this gig at Wyong. And after the gig, we went north and the band went back south and we couldn't find a motel. And it was quite late, it was about three o'clock. So I slept in the front seat and she slept in the back with the dog. Who could blame her if she wanted a divorce the next morning? Well, exactly, yeah. Jon, let's take a look at your first big break. Well, this is the Capitol Theatre. In 1972, we opened a show called 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. And the house was full of hobnobs and I wish I was full, too, 'cause I was very, very nervous. But...it was a great success and a lot of very interesting things happened during that run. I'll tell you about them in a minute. I think it's the, sort of, the Antichrist, Judas is, in this. He's, more or less, not the villain, he's the man with the questions. with the answers. Whereas Christ is the man quite a controversial show, Well, because it was of the woodwork. all the loonies came out it was, And once at the end of Act 1

betrayed Jesus, where I've systematically just there, some nutcase from the balcony, of 20 cent pieces at me threw $6 worth over the eye. and gave me five stitches So he was bounced out I gotta tell you. and I was ready to rumble, 'JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR' PLAYS I'm scared of heights. Well, you see, and I really wanted to do it. But I loved the gig And when we got into the theatre, they said, "This is where you're gonna fly to." And it's that very top tower up there with a rope around my neck. But here he is, Mr Jon English with his band and this is gonna be a hit. Jon with 'Straight From The Heart'. Go, boy. JON: Well, 'Superstar' was the real door-opener for me because it allowed me to, sort of, explore other things a recording contract. and I got myself show on the road, ANNOUNCER: And to get this with The Foster Brothers here's Jon English live album, 'Beating The Boards'. and the title track from their new in a 10-ton Mack, SONG: # I've been drivin' out back from the central we-est... # # Eating dust

the big break, If 'Superstar' was like 'Against the Wind', then the next big break was probably TV show all over the world. it was enormously successful 'SIX RIBBONS' BY JON ENGLISH PLAYS You're a convict, aren't you? will you? Get something behind the wheels Speak up, man! Yes, what? Yes. Yes, I'm a convict. that I was actually... JON: I couldn't believe They'd cast me as a romantic lead. and I shall die... No, Frederick, I shall live (Pirates scream) in 'Pirates of Penzance' - JON: The Pirate King loved every minute of it. And it was such fun to do. CROWD CHEER how many times I've played it. I get asked all the time you know. It's got to be up over the thousand, But it's always fun. every night. See...you'd just change it please, please, no! No, no, no, no, no, I haven't finished yet. APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

Well, let's begin back there 'Jesus Christ Superstar', with that big break, which was such a memorable show. Did they audition you for Judas? audition for Judas. No, no, I didn't actually maybe even just get in the chorus I was just hoping to, was like. or just see what doing an audition and said, "Can you come back again?" And they called up the next day And there were some dangers. having those coins thrown at you. I mean, you mentioned But what happened to Trevor White? at the stage. Some idiot threw a Molotov cocktail But the wick came out, fortunately. Was it picketed? were waiting outside In Melbourne, Christian Television

with television cameras, saying,

"What did you think of the show?" and all this. And I came out the stage door and they thought I was just a spectator. And you thought it was very good. Yeah, I said it was great and the guy who played Judas is fantastic, you should all go and see it. and actually shirt-fronted me. And the guy found out who I was It was really like, gee. "Don't you make fun of...!" Yeah. Don't you make fun of television. completely, didn't it? Well, it did, it changed your life It was, you know, 'the big break'. I mean, that success. Five years, I think, yeah. It was to run for years. that it opened for you. Tell us about the doors out of it. Well, I got a recording contract So I started making records and people started thinking, "Oh, it's Jon English," not "that guy that gets hung". So they actually knew my name. And then, obviously a few people from Crawfords went and saw it.

because they rung me and said,

"Can you come and do a 'Homicide' episode?" in which I played a drug-crazed, axe-murdering hippy. You seem to get typecast a bit along those lines, don't you? Well, that was fine because there were a lot of police shows in those days. I got to do them all. And I was always a drug-crazed, axe-murdering hippy. Well, that was odd because in 'Against the Wind', you got this romantic role.

pulling me leg at first. I thought they were "You play a convict" When they said,

Yeah, that's right, you know. I said, "Yeah, that'd be right." marrying the heroine." "But you wind up And I said, "You're joking." and everything." "Yes, oh, yes. You have to kiss her "You're kidding! Me?" with an axe?" "Don't I get to kill anyone into the end if you like." They said, "Well, we can write it Let's go on to comedy

in 'All Together Now', because you had a role was going to run 13 episodes. which started off as being - It ran 100, didn't it? 101, yeah.

Yeah. Amazing.

And again, over a number of years. we did that for. About three years You played Bobby Rivers. Bobby Rivers. Who was Bobby Rivers? He was a strung-out 'one-hit wonder' rock star from the '70s. That's not the sort of image you'd want, is it? Well...there's a blurring there from reality.

But the kids copped it at school though. They copped a terrible time with the, "Gee, your dad's dumb." Rivers and all this stuff. They'd start calling her Jessamine They didn't find it amusing at all. So the kids would just see the show "Oh, well, that's who you are." and think,

of the beast, I think. Yeah. But, then, that's the nature what about 'Pirates of Penzance'? Now, Gilbert and Sullivan. That's been one of your mainstays, Well, as it turns out, it has, yeah. here's another one. When you talk about versatility, It's a big leap. I thought they were kidding again. This was 1984. Noel Ferrier, bless his heart, suggested that I do the Pirate King. it was the Victorian State Opera, Of course, we need a proper opera singer." so they - "Oh no, no, And I got down there and the American director and the producers were there, 'cause we were basically doing the Broadway version. They loved it, they said, "That's great." What did Gilbert and Sullivan have? There's something there, isn't there?

I mean, they're big hits these days and its been sustained for a century now. tongue firmly planted in your cheek Well, if you do them with your and have fun with them, they were written. which, I'm sure that's the way It's only some years afterwards terribly seriously that people used to take them and lots of fat people doing that.

the humour's sort of paled a bit And, of course, because, well, times have changed. Times have changed, too. over the audience anymore. You can't swing out

I have to wear a flying harness I'm not allowed to anymore, no, ready to catch me. and have four men in white coats That's it, yeah. That's workplace safety. all these things, you are a writer. Well, as well as taking on that was a big hit song. With 'Against the Wind',

Ah, the 'Six Ribbons', yeah. And you had Logies, too. Out of all of those things, I mean, what were the things that sustained you most, gave you most pleasure or most sense of achievement? Well, you can't beat four children. Let's take a little look at some of the things

that you do now, including with your children. JON: Carmen and I will have been married for 36 years in September. gonna do about it. Probably nothing. And I don't know what we're Two girls, two boys. We've got four kids. And three grandkids. Oh, did you make the bed? Oh, good. Yep. two boys living at home. JON: Today I've still got I can't see them going anywhere, their own room and space. 'cause they've got Pub on every corner. This string slips. I'm just in my son's bedroom. Um, he lets me in every now and again. Occasionally. And we sit around and just have a bit of a play and a chat about life in general so that we're not exactly stone cold by the time we get up on stage. Follow me.

JON: Jonathon quite often plays with the band and fills in when one of the others can't do it. He's a really good guitar player. He's better than me. Told you he was better than me. JON: And, in fact, at the Bald Rock, on Mother's Day,

they had three generations of us up there, 'cause my grandson got up and played tambourine as well. It's fantastic. So, you got any gigs at the moment? Yeah, yeah, start again at the end of the week. Doing Para Leagues on Friday night. JON: The Bald Rock hotel is probably... ..well, it's our meet and greet place, really. It's only a couple of minutes walk, so. And we've got lots of friends down there. It's very laid-back, nobody hassles me. They're quite protective actually, as a matter of fact. It's good. That's right. You said you went over New Zealand. Yeah, I got crook in New Zealand. Did you? A burst abscess on my teeth. Aw, nice one! Went all down there and I wound up with septicaemia, you know.

They had him in the induced coma and all that for a couple of days

and he came out with the whole coma patient... Three-day growth on it. Yeah, that's right. JON: That was a bit frightening.

'Cause apparently I was pretty close to dying, in fact. So, that's a bit sobering. So I tend to sort of enjoy myself a bit more now. JON: I'm still on the road. Australia's such a big place. The managed decided, "Look, let's do the whole hog." So we did, we spent eight weeks just going right round the Top End, all through Western Australia, Karratha, Canarvon. Places like that. It was really terrific and we covered about 20,000km all by road on that tour. (Jon sings) # Mama tell me why # Some people have all the fun... # JON: But at the thought of retirement, I just, I don't know what I'd do. So I really can't see the point in even contemplating retirement at the moment.

I'll just keep working till I fall over, I suppose. 'Cause I like it. (Jon sings) # Some people have all the fun. # Well, hopefully you're a long way from falling over. Yeah. 36 years married, that's a pretty good innings. I mean, it's an amazing thing. It's probably the longest marriage of any rock star in world history. No, I think there's a couple there. But...you can blame it all on Carmen, if you like.

She's the one that's hung in through the bad times and the weird sort of mood swings that all rock stars get, I suppose. She's been very supportive and puts up with me. And, yeah, I still love her a lot. Well, there's always, obviously, been a core there. Oh, I think so, yeah. Yeah. What's that about for you? Um, we're different.

We're very different, we think differently, she has no interest in show biz at all. She's very, basically very shy, I'm quite extroverted. And she's very... So, they're differences. What brings you together, then? I think the differences. I think that opposites attract in some ways. And that's why we're still there. Now, have you noticed that all your kids names, they start with 'J'? And 'Jon' starts with 'J'. Yeah, and not just my kids. My brothers and sisters and sister as well. My little sister's Jill, my older sister's Janet, my brother's name is Jeremy. And I'm Jonathon and my eldest girl is Jessamine. Joseph, then, there's Josephine. And then there's Jonathon and Julian. Not up to 'K's yet. (Laughs) Why are you so stuck on 'J's? Oh, I don't know, we just, we were too... ..we were the next ones to have the next generation.

We got too nervous about changing it it just sort of carried on. and then, from then on, It's starting to change now. you see in there, I mean, the little nipper the grandson, his name's Jarwo. believe it or not. So we are running out of 'J's, now, with with your son. Must be an interesting thing to play, to East Timor. And you also went touring Yes, we did, Jonathon and I over in East Timor. went to entertain the troops experience, I think, for him. And that was a very enlightening a third world country before. Because he'd never seen And it really did open his eyes. the journalists were executed They took us to the spot where and he was just horrified. it's part of the growing thing. But, you know, If you'd not been this sort of actor/singer/songwriter, what might you have done? I think I'd have been

a very frustrated school teacher, to be honest.

Very bad, frustrated English teacher, I could see myself winding up. I'd still be playing in bands on weekends, put it that way.

And I'd probably join an amateur theatre group, you know. Just to get it out.

one of the interesting things is, Well, did you? you never planned any of this, Just whatever happens happens. No. No. And so far it's all been good. like we saw, When you go on a big road trip that teach you about Australia? right around the country, what does

Oh, heaps, heaps. What impresses you? at least once. Everybody should do it from Darwin to Katherine, It was funny, we were driving checking out of the hotel in Darwin, "Be careful on road. and the guy said, "Lots of terrorists around." We said, "What?" this time of year. Terrorists." "Lots of terrorists around "Terrorists?" "Yes, terrorists with caravans, you know?" He was saying "tourists". And so now anyone with a caravan is called a terrorist. Jon, the creative juices, you know, when you reach 50,

are they as sharp as before? Never thought about it, to be honest. I haven't yet experienced the 'writer's block', if you know what I mean. But thanks for asking me that, you've got me worried now.

in fact, you've got plenty happening, Well, you've taken - including this rock opera, 'Paris', which is based on Helen of Troy. Tell us about that. Yeah, yeah, that's right. Helen of Troy Paris was the guy that ran off with and lasted for 10 years. and caused the war that started And we all know how it ends. and Bob's your uncle. They build a big wooden horse But David Mackay, my friend and I, as opposed to about Helen of Troy. basically made it about Paris heavily in it, as you'd imagine. Although she features prettily and expensive album, And we recorded a rather large Symphony Orchestra and all that. over in England with the London Lots of good singers. and now it looks like And released it something's gonna happen with it, which is great. So what are your hopes for it? There's some Americans talking to our people at the moment about staging a very large production in America in about two years, 'cause it'll take that long, but they're deadly serious, I think. One of the things that being a stage actor/singer/songwriter like you must involve, also, to be persistent and resilient. is the ability To perform when you're not well

quite recently, and you've done that too, with pretty dramatic results.

Yeah, well, that's right. the musical, would you believe We were doing 'Dad's Army', and I burst an abscess on my tooth. in Auckland, until I got back to Australia. Kept it down with painkillers did you do in this state? And how many performances About four. It was pretty hard work. who is also in it. I mean, the director, Chris Betts, at the end of the show I'd have to actually go up to him and say, "Was I alright?"

'Cause I wouldn't know. "Yeah" "Oh, good." And then just go back and fall over. But it's amazing what you can do once the footlights come on. Do you need it? Do you need the applause? Yeah. Everybody does. I'd be a liar if I said, "No, I could live without it." Nah, nah, it's great, you know. The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd.

I mean, the aftermath of this illness in New Zealand was you ended up being in an induced coma, wasn't it,

back in the hospital in Sydney? Yeah, 10 days. I didn't even know it. Wow.

for 24 hours I thought I was only there it was pretty frightening. and, yeah, it was, from a bad tooth. I didn't know you could nearly die 'Cause that's what the guy told me. you're five hours off dead." He said, "You know, Does that make you stop and think? Yeah, it does. First taste of mortality, really. All those times I swung on ropes and nothing happened. So...that first taste, what does it make you... ..how does it make you reassess? I'm determined to enjoy myself even more. Because you don't really know how much time you've got left. I'm making a new album and trying to leave a bit of a legacy. I've got another show called 'Buskers and Angels' that we're gonna get up again next year. Hopefully 'Paris' will kick ahead once all the legals have been done. There's a contract like a phone book. It's unbelievable. And they said, "Read this" and I went, "Where do I sign?" It was just too hard. and write yourself in? Sure you can't rewrite 'Paris' As the years go by, the part you thought you'd play, you realise you're too old for, so you have to write another part. I'll probably be third handmaiden from the back, how's that? (Laughs) Jon, it's great talking to you, thank you very much. Thanks for having me. Cheers.

Next week on Talking Heads, Christine Nixon. I wasn't really all that concerned about the idea I was the first woman police commissioner. I was concerned that I'd actually got the job. I think the reason I got it

was really to do with Victoria looking for a change.

And perhaps to leave some of the past behind. Tomorrow night on 'Second Opinion', breathing easy with Buteyko. Can acupuncture ease a serious pain in the neck? And will naturopathy help a little boy with autism. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd