The Continuing Saga of Early Peter Allen Albums

I wrote earlier about the surprising difficulty of finding a copy of Tenterfield Saddler, Allen’s second solo album as a singer-songwriter, and then I reviewed the album.  But now that I’ve read a few bits of Stephen MacLean’s The Boy From Oz, permit me one minor boast:  I can pick a cabaret ballad.  I thought the song Harbour was asking for it, and it turns out Liza (Minnelli, that is) paid Allen the compliment of recording it, and More Than I Like You as well.  Moreover, the passages on the album that seem to be about their time together are, in fact, about their time together.  But any fool could have spotted that.

MacLean describes Allen’s penning of the album’s title song on the roof of the Shangri-La apartments, in the winter of 1971, on Campbell Parade, across the road from Bondi Beach.  Courtesy of Google Maps, here’s that building:

I don’t know if the landlords have put up a plaque, but they should.

MacLean also writes:

Peter chose minor, almost maudlin chords for this melody, and made mention of kangaroos, jackaroos and emus.  Australian songs had done this before, usually descending to the level of kitsch.  Peter’s song, in its honesty, side-stepped vulgarity.

This is, apart from the business about the chords, spot on.  Here is Tenterfield Saddler‘s chord progression, simplified for clarity:

Verse:  F               C/E         Dm

Bb             F            C7

Bb             C/Bb       Am7          Dm7

C7sus4    C7           C7sus4   C7    F

Chorus:  F       F/E     Dm7   Dm7/C    Gm7   C7   Gm7  C7

Gm7   C7   Gm7   C7   F

As you can see, there aren’t that many minor chords (those Gm7s in the chorus really function as a C7sus), and the song’s in a major key. 

If it makes you feel almost maudlin (because a person can be maudlin, but a chord can’t), I reckon it’s because of two things: the waltz time and that descending bass line, one of those step-at-a-time bass lines that falls and falls, and falls, until it ends up exactly where it started.  That’s the sound of a merry-go-round, that chord progression is, whirling around and around, ever moving, ever coming back to where it started.  It fits the lyric’s theme of time’s ever-meddling presence beautifully. 

It’s a very, very good song; I’d be proud to have written it.

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4 thoughts on “The Continuing Saga of Early Peter Allen Albums

  1. Liza’s versions of “Harbour” and “More Than I Like You” can be found most often on white-label promotional 45s, either through gemm.com or eBay. I managed (somehow) to find an original Metromedia copy of “Tenterfield Saddler” still sealed! The cover indeed has the saddler’s picture, with a long-haired, ghostly red pic of Peter on the back (as if shot through a whiskey bottle). I found it as well on eBay: nobody else was bidding, and I got it. Needless to say, it isn’t sealed any longer. For some odd reason, Peter’s 1st album for Metromedia is available on CD but “Saddler” is not!

    • No-one else was bidding? And I thought it was pretty poor that hardly anyone has blogged about these albums …

      I’ve not heard Peter Allen’s first album yet. I keep hoping against hope to find it on vinyl, but I suppose eventually I’ll cave in and buy it on CD.

      • I think you’ll enjoy Peter’s eponymously titled debut album (not counting Mercury’s “Chris & Peter Allen”), particularly a bitter-tinged popper called “Spit Before You Swallow”. Can you imagine Elton or Billy Joel getting away with such a title? The vinyl comes with a gatefold cover featuring a Scavullo portrait of Peter in hippie attire, long hair, and a fashionable hat. I don’t know about the CD packaging, I prefer the records as well, but this is quite a contrast to the Allen of “I Go To Rio”!!

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