Saturday, July 16, 2022

Doug Parkinson - In And Out Of Focus (1966-75 australia, excellent varied sounds compilation)

As Glenn A. Baker put it, Doug Parkinson (b. 1949) is recognised as one of the great, distinctive Australian voices and one of the country's most respected musical mainstays. Indeed, Parkinson conveyed considerable charisma with his imposing presence, `Lucifer' beard and gruff, raspy voice. He also surrounded himself with mature, seasoned musicians who added to his appeal. Yet between 1966 and 1997, Parkinson only scored six hit singles.

Parkinson's first amateur band was Strings and Things, which he formed in 1965 while still at high school. By the end of the year, the band had evolved into amateur folk group The `A' Sound. The line-up comprised Parkinson, David Lee (guitar), Helen Barnes (bass) and Syd Barnes (drums). Syd (junior) and Helen were the son and daughter of cricketer Syd Barnes. In 1966, The `A' Sound issued one pleasant folk single (in The -Seekers vein) for Festival `Talk About That'/ `Tomorrow I Meet You' before breaking up at the end of that year. Parkinson went on to join The Questions which comprised Duncan McGuire (bass), Billy Green (guitar), Rory Thomas (Hammond organ) and Bill Flemming (drums; ex- Midnighters, Roland Storm and the Statesmen, Max Merritt and the Meteors). McGuire had started out in the late 1950s in The Phantoms before joining Roland Storm and the Statesmen in 1963.

McGuire first teamed up with Green in instrumental band The Epics during 1964. Peter Maxworthy (drums) completed the line-up. As well as backing singer Roland Storm on the single `Zip a Dee Doo Dah'/`Shakin' All Over' and Peter Wright on `I Couldn't Keep Your Heart'/`Once I had Your Love', The Epics recorded two singles for HMV `Caravan'/`Around and About' (September 1964) and `Too Late'/`Please Tell' (June 1965). By the end of 1965, McGuire and Green had moved on to The Questions. The Questions were a musically substantial bunch, but their one album, What is a Question?, and single, `Karelia'/`Wheels' (October 1966), were sub-Herb Alpert pastiches and failed to chart. Parkinson joined in early 1967. With his facility for soul and blues, he immediately lifted The Questions into the premier league of Australian mid-1960s pop alongside the likes of Max -Merritt and the Meteors and The Groop. In July 1967 The Questions were placed second to The Groop in the Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds final.

The Questions with Parkinson issued three singles that remain minor psychedelic pop classics, `Sally Go Round the Roses'/`Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)' (#14 in Sydney, July 1967), `And Things Unsaid'/`I Can't Hear You' (October) and `Something Wonderful'/`We Got Love' (February 1968), plus the EP `Sally Go Round the Roses' (`Sally Go Round the Roses', `Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)'/`Deep Purple', `How High the Moon') (all on Festival). In January 1968, Ray Burton (guitar; ex-Delltones) and Les Young (bass; ex-Chessmen) replaced Green and McGuire respectively. The new, short-lived Questions line-up toured as support band to the `Big Show' tour of UK visitors The Who, The Small Faces and Paul Jones. By February 1968, The Questions had disbanded; a month later, Parkinson, Green, McGuire, Thomas and newcomer Doug Lavery (drums; ex-Andy James Asylum, Running Jumping Standing Still) relaunched themselves as Doug Parkinson In Focus.

The band swiftly issued the psychedelic-tinged `I Had a Dream'/`Advice' single (May 1968), and then came in third at the 1968 Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds final (behind The Groove and The Master's Apprentices). Doug Parkinson In Focus Mark I fell apart in August 1968; Thomas joined The Affair and Lavery joined The Valentines. By September 1968, Parkinson had In Focus Mark II on the road with Green, McGuire and Johnny Dick (drums; ex-Max Merritt and the Meteors, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs). Fired by Green, McGuire and Dick's superb musicianship, the new In Focus was perfectly in sync with the tempo of the times. The band became one of the most popular outfits on the Melbourne suburban dance/ inner-city discotheque circuit.

Doug Parkinson In Focus signed a new deal with EMI/Columbia, and the band's version of The Beatles' `Dear Prudence'/`This Must Be the End' (May 1969) shot to #5 on the national chart in June. A month later, the band took out Australia's premier pop prize as first placegetters in the Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds final. EMI deemed the band's proposed new single, `Today (I Feel No Pain)'/`Theme from Twelfth House', to be non-commercial and withdrew it from release. `Today (I Feel No Pain)' was an inventive slice of psychedelia replete with Green's backwards guitar, and it duly appeared on the rare Doug Parkinson In Focus EP alongside `Dear Prudence' and the band's next single, `Without You'/`Hair'. `Without You' returned the band to #5 on the chart in October. A month later, just as the band was riding the crest of a wave of popularity, Green and McGuire left to form short-lived `supergroup' Rush with Malcolm McGee (vocals; ex-Wild Cherries, Python Lee Jackson, Virgil Brothers), Steve Yates (keyboards) and Kevin Murphy (drums; ex-Wild Cherries).

In December 1969, Parkinson and Dick recruited two guitarists, Englishman Mick Rogers (ex-Procession) and Melbourne legend Les Stacpool (ex-Chessmen, Merv Benton and the Tamlas, Levi Smith's Clefs, Rockwell T. James and the Rhythm Aces, Browns), for a new line-up. With Rush having unceremoniously folded, Green returned to the fold in January 1970 and the reconstituted In Focus line-up appeared at Australia's first rock festival, Pilgrimage for Pop at Ourimbah (NSW). In February, McGuire also returned, and Rogers and Stacpool duly departed. The band issued another excellent slice of psychedelic pop as its next single, `Baby Blue Eyes'/`Then I Run', but it only reached #36 on the national chart during May 1970. In June, guitarist Vince Melouney (ex-Aztecs, Bee Gees) invited Dick and Parkinson to join his new band, Fanny Adams, in the UK. Green and McQuire joined Leo De Castro in King Harvest.

When the ill-fated Fanny Adams fell apart in February 1971, Parkinson recalled Green and McGuire for a new In Focus line-up. McGuire brought in drummer Mark Kennedy (ex-Spectrum, King Harvest), and the band picked up where it had left off the previous August. Fable Records issued a new In Focus single, the adventurous hard rock outing `Purple Curtains'/`Pour Out All You've Got', which had already been in the can for a year and featured the previous line-up. The Fanny Adams break-up meant that Parkinson was unable to record for two years. This effectively hampered In Focus's progress, and in December 1971 McGuire and Kennedy left to join Friends and Green joined Gerry and the Joy Band. Parkinson spent the next two years attempting to get his solo career off the ground. He issued one single in August 1972, `Lonely'/`Taking It Easy'. In March 1973, he appeared in the Australian stage production of The Who's rock opera Tommy alongside Billy Thorpe, Daryl Braithwaite, Colleen Hewett, Broderick Smith, Jim Keays and Keith Moon.

With the help of John Capek (piano; ex-Carson), drummers Graham Morgan, Peter Figures and Russell Dunlop, Tim Partridge (bass), guitarists Kevin Borich, Billy Green, Ross East and Jimmy Doyle, Roger Sellers (percussion), Don Reid (flute, sax) and Terry Hannagan (vocals), Parkinson completed his debut solo album, No Regrets (May 1973). Parkinson also formed Life Organisation to play 1940s-styled big band jazz. The line-up included the likes of Teddy Toi, Graham Morgan, Peter Martin (guitar; ex-SCRA), Warren Ford (guitar, piano), Bill Motzing (trombone, keyboards) and briefly Wendy Saddington (vocals). The Life Organisation single `In the Mood (Forties Style)'/`Beyond the Blue Horizon' (June 1973) reached #36 in Sydney. The second single, `Boogie Woogie'/`Little Brown Jug' (November), was not successful. Life Organisation also backed Parkinson on his second solo single (lifted from No Regrets), `Love Gun'/`Dear Prudence' (April 1973). Parkinson also worked as A&R; manager for WEA during this period.

In 1974, Parkinson contributed vocals to two songs, `Cosmic Flash' and `Do Not Go Gentle' (based on a Dylan Thomas poem, and a song In Focus had also played), on Billy Green's film soundtrack to Sandy Harbutt's cult Oz biker film Stone. Parkinson's 1974 touring band comprised Mick Liber (guitar; ex-Python Lee Jackson), Ray Vanderby (keyboards), Rod Coe (bass) and New Zealander Bruno Lawrence (drums, ex-Max Merritt and the Meteors, BLERTA). Lawrence later earned acclaim as an actor in such films as The Quiet Earth and The Delinquents, plus television series Frontline. Parkinson enjoyed his first solo hit single with a cover of Love Affair's `Everlasting Love'/`All I Need is a Song' (November 1974). The single peaked at #22 in Sydney and #14 in Melbourne during March 1975. He issued two singles in 1975, a cover of Vanda and Young's `Love is Like a Cloudy Day'/`One Track Mind' (May) and `Raised on Rock'/`I'm Gonna Get You' (September), but neither charted. Doug Parkinson passed away suddenly at home, on March 1st,2021, 
1. Sally Go 'Round The Roses (Lona Stevens, Zelma Sanders) - 3:14
2. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) (Donovan Leitch) - 3:01
3. And Things Unsaid (Doug Parkinson) - 2:35
4. I Had A Dream - 3:50
5. Advice - 2:26
6. Dear Prudence (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:24
7. Without You - 3:10
8. This Must Be The End - 4:08
9. Hair (Gald MacDermot, Gerome Ragni, James Rado) - 3:07
10.Baby Blue Eyes - 3:48
11.Then I Run - 3:00
12.Today I Feel No Pain - 2:32
13.Purple Curtains - 5:09
14.Pour Out All You've Got - 6:07
15.Got To Get A Message To You (Doug Parkinson, Johnny Dick, Teddy Toi, Vince Melouney) - 4:43
16.Do Not Go Gentle (Dylan Thomas, Billy Green) - 5:21
17.Caroline - 3:59
18.Gotta Get A Groove - 3:24
19.Love Gun (Ray Burton) - 3:08
20.Love Is Like A Cloudy Day (Harry Vanda, George Young) - 3:22
21.Everlasting Love (James "Buzz" Cason, Mac Gayden) - 3:42
All songs by Billy Green except where stated
Tracks 1-3 as The Questions, 1966-67
Tracks 4-5 as Doug Parkinson In Focus I, 1968
Tracks 6-14 as Doug Parkinson In Focus II, 1968-70
Track 15 as Fanny Adams, 1970-71
Tracks 16-17 as Doug Parkinson In Focus III, 1971

*Doug Parkinson - Vocals
*Billy Green - Guitar (Tracks 1-9, 12-17) 
*Duncan McGuire - Bass (Tracks 1-9, 12-17)
*Rory Thomas - Hammond Organ (Tracks 1-5)
*Bill Flemming - Drums (Tracks 1-3)
*Doug Lavery - Drums (Tracks 4,5) 
*Johnny Dick - Drums (Tracks 6-15)
*Mick Rogers - Guitar (Tracks 10-11)
*Les Stacpool - Guitar (Tracks 10-11) 
*Teddy Toi - Bass (Track 15) 
*Vince Melouney - Guitar (Track 15)
*Mark Kennendy - Drums (Tracks 16-17)