- Just In Time
- This Is Always
- Don’t Jettison Everything
- Rainbow Cake
- Our Town
- Oh My Love
- Winter In America
- The Parting Glass
Vince Jones played two shows over a weekend at the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine.
He speaks lovingly of playing in the vintage venue, built during the 1850s gold rush and still features hanging lamps and vintage tiling.
“It added to the ambience of Vince’s music,” sound engineer Simon Glozier points out. “You get a great sound onstage.
“Some of these players are so brilliant, it amazes me they maintain such a high level of passion. It doesn’t become just a job for them.”
Such musicians personify the best live shows – when the performance is in the moment.
Vince Jones says, it’s made more so because “I have a Doctor Jekyll and a Mister Hyde inside me.
“In my everyday life I’m a normal person, a Doctor Jekyll, but when I’m singing I become Mister Hyde and anything can happen.
“I listen back to my live recordings and can’t believe I sang that song in that way.
“I’m not allowed to be in Mr. Hyde’s head or do much thinking.
“The less I perceive what he’s going to do, the better the result.”
The shows were not by Jones’ regular band. But he’d played frequently individually with each of the players.
Their performance throughout is superb, each giving the other their space and never overplay.
“Nothing noble ever comes from competition,” Jones shrugs.
“It’s a conversation on stage, each of us four adding to that conversation, it’s a great feeling.
“Eyeballing is an important element. You’re listening and watching. You have empathy with that player, you know where he’s going…and you get excited when they don’t go there!
“After all, Miles Davis used to say, “Don’t play what you know, play what you don’t know”.”
It is not difficult to mix such an outfit.
Simon Glozier explains: “You know where their groove is. My philosophy as a sound engineer is less is more. The band create their own dynamics.
“Once they have a good sound on stage, they are in control of their own dynamics and they are in effect mixing themselves.
“So the best engineers just leave it to them. It’s getting everything set up to facilitate that.”
While the players are looking at each other onstage, the engineer’s role is to listen.
Castlemaine is a town in country Victoria with a large contingent of creative people.
Vince Jones’ crowds were respectful and musical. There was great expectation for the concert
He tells the crowd their town is a “beautiful place, I love the psyche.”
“I’m an organic gardener, I live on an acreage a lot like you cats and breathe a lot of fresh air.
Before a version of folk singer Iris De Ment’s ‘Our Town’ he drawls, “I love these old towns, like this one, which the powers-that-be didn’t demolish and put up Westfields (shopping centres).”
‘The Parting Glass’ is an ancient UK folk song, which was sung on New Years Eve, before it was superseded by ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
The songs on the tape are there because they struck a chord, not just for their beauty but because they say something about his brand of environmentalism and politics.
Before ‘Don’t Jettison Everything’, he makes the wry observation, “We’d definitely struggle to get our bond back from our landlord Mother Earth.”
He first heard Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Winter In America’ when he visited New York for the first time in 1982 and saw the US musician and social activist perform at Central Park.
“No other song says more about America today even though it was written in the 1970s,” Jones tells ARCA.
On a flight, the singer and trumpeter was seated behind two businessmen. One was reading The Australian, the other The Daily Telegraph.
Lamenting on how Murdoch media has such a stranglehold on the way we think, he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote ‘Wonderworld’.
‘The Rainbow Cake’, about a sister who nursed her brother after his return from war, leads to his observation that bravery medals be given by the government to their families “because they’re the ones who have to pick up the pieces when the soldiers come home.”
Vince was born near Glasgow in Scotland. His parents John and Mary were in a folk duo, she singing and he playing piano accordion.
John also played jazz. Only jazz was allowed in the house. Sinatra was an exception, there were 20 of his albums at home.
This is how ‘Just In Time’ is on the tape.
But Elvis Presley and The Beatles were banned. Vince had to go to friends’ houses to hear them.
John Lennon’s ‘All My Love’, written for The Beatles’ White Album in 1968 but emerged on his second solo album Imagine three years later.
“John was a beautiful soul, tortured at times, and I’m drawn most to his songs in The Beatles.
“I love the way he was seeing things ahead.
“‘Oh My Love’ was a preface to ‘Give People A Chance’ and all the bed-ins.
“As we get older we get to see life clearer.”
The Jones family arrived in Wollongong from Scotland on April 19, 1963.
His father had tossed up between Australia, Canada and Africa.
Would Vince music have been different if the family had gone to the other two places?
A major producer from A&M Records in America told me, ‘The most refreshing about your work is the mixture. In America, the bluegrass guys only do bluegrass, the jazz guys play jazz, and the blues guys play blues.
“You’ve got all the colours in you, because of the isolation you’re allowed to become whoever you want to be.
“He offered me a deal but on the proviso that I moved to America, which I wasn’t going to do.”