It's been years since I last sat beneath the gaudy, gilt ceiling of the State Theatre. Too long. And a Sunday night means it takes that little bit extra to get me out. But what could be more enticing than unbridled nostalgia, in the form of a screening of Albie Falzon's seminal cult classic, Morning Of The Earth, to a live soundtrack by many of the original artists (Mike Rudd, G. Wayne Thomas, Brian Cadd, Tim Gaze, Terry Hannigan, Peter Howe, Brod Smith, Lindsay Bjerre, et al) and a few notable ring-ins, like Lior and the ironically-named Ol' Man River.
With slick-as musical direction by Jamie Rigg and arrangements by Guy Noble, plus the aforementioned, there wasn't much that could go awry. And nothing much did, apart from the muddy, lyric-obscuring, over-amplified mix (which was enough). So, all those feelings of freedom as a possibility, inklings of peace as predictable and love as inevitable were revived, to the tunes of the title track; the infectious and moving Open Up Your Heart; Simple Ben; Making It On Your Own; Sure Feels Good; In The End It All Depends On You.
Back to the very early 70s, when cars were red and convertible, girls were tanned, voluptuous and bikini-clad, we shaped our own boards and our own destinies. Well, in our dreams. That, of course, being the point of such an evening: to relive, for a moment, some groundbreaking culture. Yes, culture, of the most egalitarian, accessible kind.
Of course, on its release, in '72 (quite a year, with Sunbury, to boot), not even the makers would've or could've predicted iconic status for this humble surf-flick. it was Falzon's first time; he had nothing more than an inspiration to produce something beautiful. It wasn't a new idea to make a film of this type. But what was revolutionary was the idea to do away with narration, other than of a musical kind. G. Wayne Thomas was approached by Falzon and producer, David Elfick; the rest, as they say is history. Brian Cadd, a pop-rock god of the day, was a key collaborator and, like the film itself, the musical development was completely organic, spontaneous and unplanned. And, like the film, noone could've predicted the success or impact.
The soundtrack went platinum, platinum, platinum; at a time when gold was the customary commodity for recording success. Out of it, emerged veritable anthems, like John J. Francis' Simple Ben, which has remained & retained its integrity as an earnest ode to alternative lifestyles.
It's heartening to see artists like Lior, so far removed, temporally, from the context of the film and music, totally getting it. His commitment, especially, was as palpable as, say, Mike Rudd's; a man who still knows how to exploit his distinctive vocal instrument, to the max.
There are strong murmurs of country-soul and prog rock, while the words worship this third rock from the sun in a way ripe for revival:
The forces of the universe
And the elements of space,
Conjured up your being
Your size, your time, your shape.
You were created
With all the beauty they could call,
And earth, you surely are
The measure of them all
Noone let the side down; the band, including luminaries like Victor Rounds on bass and Sunil da Silva on percussion, as well as a full string section, cooked and Taman Shud's Tim Gaze, as well as intergalactic session guitarist Mark Johns, were on fire. Brian Cadd looks suspiciously and uncannily like Santa Claus and he still knows how to ring all the bells on his pianistic sleigh.
There was a time, it seems, when we had time to dream; to sit on a beach and look out to sea. Now, we couldn't do that; not without our mobile ringing, or iPod blaring. We are not only consumers, but consumed. Not with shaping our own boards, catching the perfect wave, making a beautiful film, or writing a heart-rending song, but acquiring more. 1972 might as well be 1872, in terms of its proximity to life as so many of us now live it. Thank God we can go back, in our collective memories, consciousness and conscience, if only for an evening. Am I too naive and idealistic, even after all these years, to believe, if we could rekindle and harness something of the spirit of that year and this film, we might be on a different, none too disastrous social and environmental course?
Back to stark reality. As of now, I'm anticipating the merch: CDs; DVDs. I can't see Chuggy missing that boat and I'll be catching it as well, like the perfect wave I never, all those years ago. But one shouldn't be too cynical about the odd shark that might lurk in murky waters, since there was genuine and palpable philosophy underpinning this project and, I think, there still is. Arguably, best summed-up by a quote, from Jonas Mekas, that's come to symbolise and encapsulate the film itself: 'We are the measure of all things and the beauty of our creation, of our art, is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls.'
But, perhaps, the final words should go to Falzon, from way back when: 'The film has no commentary. The songs are the statements, the information the viewer will hear. They are songs of the sun, moon, sky and sea. They are the songs of people, places and ideas. They are songs of freedom, peace and waves.'
MORNING OF THE EARTH
The State Theatre
Saturday 27 September & Sunday 28 September, 2008
The Palais Theatre
Friday 03 October & Saturday 04 October, 2008
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or on 136 100