Music fans around Australia will recall Saturday mornings in front of the TV, watching three hours of the latest music clips, news and interviews, when Sounds was brought into our lounge rooms by compere Donnie Sutherland. The show was essential viewing through the seventies and eighties if you wanted to keep up to date with the latest trends in the music scene. After a run that lasted just a month short of thirteen years, Sounds disappeared from our screens but now, two decades later, we have the chance to relive those days with Sounds Live on Stage. Donnie Sutherland is back on the couch for another round of interviews, as we get to see our favourite artists from the Sounds era perform their biggest hits again, ‘live’ on stage.
This stage incarnation of the popular music show is the brain child of producer John St. Peeters who, himself, was one of those many pop stars who appeared on Sounds back then. The whole project took shape when John was approached by RoCan, an organisation which raises funds for ovarian cancer research. They were in need of a good fundraising idea and bringing Sounds to the stage was something that John had been considering for some time. This seemed the perfect opportunity to do something about it. By linking both Sounds and RoCan together, this was a way to bring the beloved show back to life while raising much-needed funds for a very worthwhile cause.
The first show at the Palms in Melbourne’s Crown Casino was a sell out and, recently, the show was brought to The Enmore Theatre in Sydney for an amazing afternoon of entertainment, and some great rockin’ reminiscing.
Host Donnie Sutherland is delighted with the response to the recent show in Sydney. “From the very beginning,” he tells me, “with the announcement, ‘Coming up now, Sounds Live on Stage’ you could tell it was going to be a good afternoon. The reaction from that audience said they were ready to rock.”
And rock they did! There was a definite buzz in the air that Sunday afternoon at the Enmore, as we were
taken back in time by the violins and the opening strains of ‘Love’s Theme’ by Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra; that familiar tune that meant it was Saturday morning, time to sit back and enjoy the music for the next few hours. And, so, that’s what we did today… for the next four hours to be precise. It was like an extended version of the TV show, with one twenty minute commercial break in the middle.
Debbie Newsome opened the proceedings, breezing on to the stage, dressed in sparkling red and looking, for all the world, like she had barely aged a day since gracing our TV screens with co-host Greg Evans on Perfect Match way back when. I have to admit, I had never actually heard Debbie sing before and never realised what a great entertainer she is so I was pleasantly surprised by her performance.
The line-up also featured some of our favourites from the Sounds era with Jon English, Marty Rhone, Ray Burgess, Swanee, Tommy Moeller, John St. Peeters and Normie Rowe all performing a selection of their hits, while the big screen behind them showed original video clips of the songs to remind us what they were all like ‘back in the day’; songs like ‘Touch Me’, ‘Denim and Lace’, ‘Temporary Heartache’, ‘Turn the Page’, ‘Shakin’ All Over’... the list goes on. And we could all remember the words… well, mostly.
The set list was virtually a soundtrack to that golden era of Australian music, when we bought albums on vinyl and saw the cream of Aussie talent at our local venues (yes, they still existed back then… it was a different world!) almost every night of the week.
To some of us, it seems like only yesterday but, while the years have passed, our appreciation of good music sure hasn’t and there was certainly a lot to appreciate on this particular day. As John St. Peeters commented to me, “Everyone there was a special ingredient.” And every performance stirred a special memory. Ray Burgess really got things moving when he belted out ‘Gloria’ and Marty Rhone showed us he still wears a ‘Mean Pair of Jeans’. Normie Rowe still knows how to get everyone ‘Shakin' All Over’. And Jon English gave an outstanding performance, ably assisted by his band, including young virtuoso Emma Barlow on violin, delivering a beautiful rendition of ‘Six Ribbons.’
Swanee told me, before going on stage, that his knee was giving him some trouble following recent surgery but, in spite of his obvious pain, he gave an amazing performance, singing his heart out with songs like ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ and even jumping off the stage at one point, to wander through the crowd, singing to some lucky fans and giving some over-zealous punters a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity with their idol.
John St. Peeters was not only the man behind the scenes of Sounds Live. The former pop star also joined his peers on stage, performing a couple of his hits from the seventies, including ‘Deep Inside of Me’ and ‘So Many Ways’ and even demonstrating his accordion skills. (For those of you who aren’t aware, when he was young, John was once known as The Squeezebox Kid. But that’s a story for another day.)
Daryl Braithwaite also couldn’t resist being a part of the show, regardless of the fact that he had previous commitments interstate on the day. A special video link was arranged so that Daryl could perform his hit, Horses, complete with audience participation; the wonders of modern technology making it all possible.
There were some decidedly emotional moments throughout the afternoon. One was Vicky O’Keefe’s performance which included a very touching duet of ‘Counting on You’, with her father, the late Johnny O’Keefe, courtesy of archival footage on the screen behind her. His last public appearance was on Sounds performing this song, Donnie informed us. The episode was taped less than a week before his passing.
There was also a very moving tribute to Darryl Cotton, by Teresa Vee. Theresa’s association with Darryl began when she entered a singing competition in Melbourne at the tender age of eleven. Darryl was the compere and judge, and he took her under his wing. As Teresa explains, “Darryl was to perform at the Sounds show in Melbourne and he said to his manager at the time, ‘Even if I’m in a wheelchair, I’m going to be there.’ Sadly, Darryl passed away two days before the show." But Teresa’s tribute to her friend and the man who was so respected by both his peers and the public, will ensure that he is a part of the show.
The song ‘Fight for Life’, performed by Michael Yule at the concert, was written by Michael and John St. Peeters, especially for RoCan. Copies of the CD and DVD can be purchased via either Michael’s website or the RoCan website (links at the bottom of this page) and all proceeds go to RoCan to help fund research into ovarian cancer. “We are getting positive feedback from it,” he reveals. “It’s great when people are getting the message, or they can relate to it and want to support the cause.”
After each performance, there was the usual ‘chat on the couch’ with Donnie, during which the artists would answer questions put to them by members of the audience. This interaction between the performers and the audience, with a little help from Debbie Newsome, gave the afternoon that extra special touch of 'intimacy’ and the crowd were given the opportunity to be an integral part of the show.
We also had the chance to see some very special video taped messages from a number of international acts that Donnie had interviewed during his time hosting Sounds; people like Suzi Quatro, Olivia Newton-John, Status Quo, Kim Wilde, Corey Hart, Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate, to name but a few and Donnie was very touched by the messages of gratitude and good wishes from those he had supported along the way. “That was lovely,” he says, explaining that it was, once again, John St. Peeters’ idea and that John had kept the details a secret from Donnie. “He wouldn’t tell me who he had. I just knew that it was going to happen at some stage. So that was as much a surprise to me as it was to you.”
Gloria Gaynor whose hit from the seventies ‘I Will Survive’ has become something of an anthem for those who have battled cancer, is an advocate of cancer survival and hers was a special message, asking us to support RoCan. “Help me,” she urged, “Help me and help RoCan.”
A guitar was also auctioned at the event. Signed by the guests who took part in the show, the guitar fetched $5,000 and T-shirts, also signed by the artists, raised further funds for the cause.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep the punters happy, the entertainment was followed by a meet and greet with the performers in the theatre’s foyer, giving fans a rare opportunity to mingle with the stars, collecting autographs and posing for photos. A perfect end to a fantastic day.
The whole afternoon was like a breath of fresh air, transporting us all back to simpler and happier times, with musical memories and familiar faces, all freely giving their time and talent and pulling together to support a good cause. Everyone was there for the same purpose and you could feel the positive vibe in the air, as producer John St. Peeters acknowledged. “The atmosphere backstage was beautiful,” he agreed. “It was a very special feeling. It was just like a big family.” And I have to admit, he is right. That’s how it felt; like we were all part of a big family.
Now, with two successful shows under their belt, the Sounds Live team are gearing up for an even bigger and better year in 2013. Producer John St. Peeters has big plans! “It doesn’t stop there,” he promises, “We are going to tour this show.” Not only does he plan to take the show on the road nationally but he has plans to take it all the way to London as well and Donnie has complete faith in John and his ability to see his ideas become a reality. “Well, that’s one thing about John St. Peeters,” he assures me, “When he gets a plan, he pulls it off. He’ll work twenty hours a day to make something happen.”
And the producer is determined that it will happen. “My goal is uniting the UK and Australia for RoCan,” he declares, “and we can make this screening test for ovarian cancer happen. My dream is not over.”
MICHAEL YULE TALKS ABOUT SOUNDS LIVE
When Yvonne Moon from RoCan approached John St. Peeters for help to raise funds for research into ovarian cancer, John immediately thought of singer/songwriter Michael Yule . They had worked together on various projects in a recording studio and John was also aware of the young man’s family history. “My father is actually an obstetrician/gynaecologist and he deals with these things more commonly than you might think of course,” Michael explains. The connection did not escape John who approached Michael to write a song for ovarian cancer research, and to be the voice of it as well. “I thought about it for a few days and I got back to him and said ‘Yes, I’d love to be a part of this.’ All cancer is a terrible tragedy and being able to help in any way that I could is a fantastic opportunity.”
And so the two set about the task of writing a song that would relay the message that Yvonne was trying to get out there; a message that would help to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. The song they created was the deeply moving ‘Fight for Life’.
Michael performed the song at the recent Sounds Live concert. “We are getting positive feedback from it,” he reveals. “It’s great when people are getting the message that we are trying to portray and hearing people say that it did affect them or that they could relate to it or it made them want to support the cause, is fantastic.”
Michael says that being on that stage, as part of such an event, was a surreal experience. “It’s been such a big project,” he tells me, “being backstage all day, talking to the artists, hearing everybody else perform. It was very, very exciting. And, then, finally getting up on stage right at the end of the day, after Glenn A. Baker did his introduction, and looking out into this crowd of people and just hoping that the performance is going to come across in the right way and that people are going to get the message. For me, it’s not so much about being on stage and putting myself out there but I’m really trying to put the message out there for RoCan and ovarian cancer research as well. It’s very important to me that it comes across with the right emotion and in the right light so that it puts across the message.”
“Music has been part of my life for a long, long while,” he tells me “and it’s always been a passion that I’ve wanted to follow through. I recorded an album before the RoCan song came out. It’s called ‘Holographic Lover’ and that was a solo album that I put together myself with all original tracks.” The singer/songwriter will also be putting out a new EP in support of RoCan, he reveals. “Just with some original songs and probably a reworked acoustic version of ‘Fight For Life’.”
There is also a DVD/CD pack available, with proceeds going to support RoCan. It is available through Michael’s website. The song ‘Fight for Life’ is available on iTunes and can be downloaded for just a dollar. All proceeds go directly to RoCan.
Stay tuned for more Sounds Live interviews over the coming weeks...
A WORD FROM YVONNE MOON, FOUNDER OF RoCan…
Yvonne Moon lost her best friend to ovarian cancer over twelve years ago. The experience gave her the passion and drive to start RoCan, which raises funds to help researchers develop early detection screening tests for the disease. At this point in time, no such test exists. “And that is my function,” she explains, “to raise awareness of the disease, which is what we’re doing and my ultimate goal is to raise enough money to help research find an early detection screening test. There is a blood test that is inconclusive but there is no reliable test that we have, not like mammograms and cat scans. A lot of women are of the understanding that a pap smear will show ovarian cancer but it doesn’t. So that is my ultimate goal.”
It is her friend’s battle with ovarian cancer that has given Yvonne the strength to pursue her dream to give other women the opportunity of an early detection screening test for the disease. An opportunity that her friend never had. “I think she’d be very proud now and I think that things seem to be going a lot better and a lot quicker than they were ten or twelve years ago, but there’s no government funding,” she tells me. “All our money goes to research.”
Yvonne is excited about the relationship that RoCan has developed with the Sounds Live team. “I think having the music behind it is a great partnership so we are not all just doom and gloom. This generation, we all love music. We all love those old songs and we get into it. And the cause is good.”
She is being positive about the future for those who are diagnosed with the disease. “There are ladies who have survived it,” she says. And, with earlier detection, perhaps those numbers will increase. “It’s about creating awareness and that is what we need. “ I’m no medical specialist,” she admits, “But I know that there are too many women dying from this. Finally, it’s starting to get some awareness now.” And, if Yvonne Moon has anything to say about it, it will…
For more information about RoCan and to donate to the fight to fund research into ovarian cancer and establish an early detection screening test for women, please go to: http://rocan.com.au/
by Sharyn Hamey