The Painted Ladies: Plays Selections from The Loner

In Bathurst prison in 1973 Vic Simms wrote and recorded arguably one of the most important Australian albums of all time. Over 40 years on Australian musician Luke Peacock has assembled an A class group to reinvent songs from Simms’ The Loner, including Paul Kelly, Rusty Hopkins and Ed Keuper. The original album portrays Indigenous issues still relevant and it probably predates any other Australian album in exploring such things. They were, effectively, Australia’s first black protest songs.

Selections begins with an upbeat, classic country-rock tune that describes overcoming racial segregation in 1970’s Australia. With a chorus of ‘If you’re brown, stick around / If you’re white, that’s alright / If you’re black, get back, into the shadows’, Get Back into the Shadows cleverly pairs catchy country sounds with a sincere message. The album moves through several stories exploring issues of racial segregation, abandonment and suppression, however, Selections is broken up by a few little love songs in the middle.

Karens Song begins with that sweet country guitar twang that sounds so innocent. The lead male vocals are coupled with a female backing voice that brings a real sense of romance to the track. With the rolling snare and constant but gentle bass line, this beautiful dedication comes to a climactic end, quickly followed by the soft, acoustic tune Living My Life by the Day.

Selections slowly builds again with Stranger in my Country and flows into the true rock ‘n’ roll feel of I Wanna Bop, featuring plenty of brass in a driving bass line. The album closes with a high energy track Hey Sheriff that tells the story of having your lover stolen by another.

The Painted Ladies: Plays Selections from The Loner is a very important reinvention of a seminal album in Indigenous music. In the original album Simms describes life as an Aboriginal man in the early 1970s. Peacock and his band of merry bards, including Vic Simms himself, have breathed new life into those same songs.


Vic Simms: a background by Luke Peacock

Recently, I stood at a piece of ground where a rock’n’roll legend was born. “Right here by this gate” he told me. It was a rusted, crooked gate. A kind of back entrance to a home where the occupants priorities lay somewhere away from mowing the lawn and straightening the fence.

The beauty of this place is that it’s probably one of the most sought after pieces of real estate in Australia. Part of a small bunch of houses atop a wide open grass slope, serving as an amphitheatre to the stage of Botany Bay and, in a recent time, the arrival of the first boats. He owns it all, as a traditional tribal elder. It’s his birthright. Bidjigal land, on which he was born, raised and stringently confined, until Buddy Holly came to town.

The man’s name is Vic Simms. You won’t have heard of him. I’ll put a fifty on it. Though he is, undoubtedly, a national treasure. He is also my friend and I call him Uncle. We all should.”


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