He’s a true icon of Aussie Rock and Roll and, as usual, this all-round entertainer is bringing audiences to their feet with his amazing show. I spoke to Jon English while he was out and about, enjoying his ‘constitutional’. The constantly inclement weather in northern New South Wales recently meant that the singer had to take advantage of whatever short bursts of sunshine there were. He was lucky enough to get at least half an hour of it that particular day, although I believe that ‘dry spell’ didn’t last long. Jon was talking to me about his Rock Revolution show which, he says, has been on the road for about a year now and is on its final leg of the tour. “Before Rock Revolution,” he explains, “there was the Rock Show and everyone kept asking us when we would do it again so we came up with this one which covers the same time period and some of the same artists and some of the tracks we didn’t do in Rock Show. We’ve got a bit of Motown in this one. It’s a bit of fun. Some of the same artists are covered but they are different songs. We’ve got a lot more ‘girl songs’ this time. It was a bit male orientated last time.”
Jon is joined on stage for the Rock Revolution by a young cast, none of whom would have even been born when these songs were written. He says that this gives them a fresh approach to the music but he is quick to add that the production is just as slick and just as much fun. “It’s extraordinary how well the kids know this stuff. I guess maybe because of the baby boomer factor that has been alive all the way through the sixties and seventies. We started off as teenagers in the early sixities and we were responsible for the popularity of those massive groups. You know, someone was saying to me ‘Do you think there will ever be another Beatlemania?’ And I thought about Justin BIeber and One Direction and I said ‘No, there never will be,’ simply by virtue of the fact there will never be the same population base for teenagers. The Baby Boomers gave us the largest demographic in the history of the planet so when we were teenagers in the early sixties, Beatles music was hugely popular, simply because there were so many of us. And I think that is basically the reason why that music is still so popular. We’re still around and we still want to hear it so it’s on the radio all the time.” Aside from the numbers, Jon believes that the music’s longevity also lies in the relevance of the lyrics. “There was a lot of change in the world at that time, culturally, but all teenagers have crushes, and broken hearts. The emotions of teenagers are always on a high – as you would remember. (I think I do – Ed) And that sort of influence comes through in the music. The show is quite theatrical as well. We each have turns at having a ‘theatrical bit’ in the show. We do a bit of David Bowie and Queen and a bit of Alice Cooper as well this time.”
After this tour winds up, Jon will be reuniting with his old band mates, the Foster Brothers, for a series of shows to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their classic ‘live’ double album, ‘Beating the Boards’ and he is quite excited to be taking that memorable show on the road again. But there will be no time for rest before the singer heads off for Sweden to perform at a Swedish Rock Festival. English enjoyed some chart success there with his single ‘Six Ribbons’. “And then,” he informs me, “I come back and I do Edna in Hairspray for about three weeks, which I’m really looking forward to. Then I’ll do some more Foster Brothers gigs.”
Certainly a busy schedule. “I like to keep busy,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons for this fitness kick I’m on. I’ve got to get into shape for all the stuff that’s coming up.”
Jon is well known as a great all-round performer. He sings, plays guitar, writes music and stage productions, as well as acts both on the stage and TV. There never seems to be a shortage of something to do. “I’ve been really lucky that way,” he admits. “Forty years ago, I said ‘I’m going to be a guitar player and an occasional singer in a band’. That’s what I wanted to be. And then other things just seemed to come out of the blue. I’m actually doing Jesus Christ Superstar again this year and that’s really what started it all for me, back in 1972. I got the gig because I was a rock singer and it is a rock musical. There’s no point in trying to do a Les Mis (Les Miserables) with it. It’s a rock musical and it needs rock singers to give it that bit of grunt. I just walked in off the street and I looked right and sounded right for it and that was the proverbial door that opened and after that, it’s interesting how many other doors opened, like the acting thing for instance.”
Although acting was not necessarily part of Jon’s original grand plan, he is definitely very grateful for that opportunity and it has certainly paved the way for so many other opportunities in his life. “You learn a lot of discipline doing a show like Superstar because, while it’s a good dramatic rock concert with not so strong musical boundaries, and you can stretch your own limits, there’s certainly a lot of discipline that comes from doing a show eight times a week, over ‘x’ number of years, as it turned out. There was so much I learned from that. Stuff I could never learn from playing in the pubs and that certainly stood me in great stead as well. And then, apparently, I looked like a drug crazed axe murderer in the Indies so they kept ringing me up to do Homicide episodes and things like that. So that was when I started standing in front of a camera and actually saying words rather than singing them. And that stood me in good stead for later on too.”
No one could deny that Jon has a great and varied body of work behind him and, judging by his schedule for the rest of this year alone, that seems set to continue. “Well, I hope so,” he says. “I’m still enjoying myself a great deal. I think I’d be a pretty rotten retiree, to be honest.” There is one thing that the singer/actor/producer/songwriter hasn’t done yet. “Everyone keeps on at me about doing a book, an autobiography, and I’m not sure that I want to do it. I think I’d rather just do a series of anecdotes really. I want it to be good and I want it to be accurate, more to the point.” It would make a good story, I tell him. “Yes, I guess it would,” he agrees. “There is a lot to tell. I have had a pretty blessed life so far.”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved.
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Last updated by Sharyn Hamey Apr 5, 2016.