Don Henderson Project
The Songs of Don Henderson CD Launch
Flames of Discontent – A Don Henderson Tribute
Woodford Folk Festival
Monday 28 December 2009
9pm – 10pm
MC: Sandy McCutcheon
Bernard Carney, Liz Frencham, Martin Pearson, John Thompson, Nicole Murray, Jeannie Lewis, Noel Gardner, John Schumann, Hugh McDonald, Tommy Leonard, Alex and Annette Hood
SCRIPT: by Dale Lorna Jacobsen
(sources: Wendy Lowenstein "The Boy from Moonee Ponds", Australian Tradition, September, 1970 and Sally Henderson and Edgar Waters (eds) "A Quiet Century": 100 Songs & Poems by Don Henderson, 1994)
"These are my songs. I have seen a few things and met a few people. I have tried to tell others about these things and these people because they are my life, and no one wants their life to go for nothing." - Don Henderson
Good evening. My name is Sandy McCutcheon. Tonight, we bring the Flames of Discontent full circle in a Tribute to one of Australia's most influential songwriters, Don Henderson.
In 1990, Don – "Hendo" to his mates – presented a workshop on the Union Stage at the Maleny Festival: to stoke the Flames of Discontent so people would not forget what they are fighting for. The magnificent hand-sewn silk backdrop behind us was created by Annette Hood for that concert, and it is with pride and great joy that we display it here tonight, at an event where it belongs.
This concert is sponsored by the Brisbane Labour History Association in recognition of the rich tradition of workers bringing songs to the people.
Don described himself variously as a guitar maker and a songwriter. Neither is an accurate description. He would be better described as a full-time individualist, a craftsman, an all-Australian casual bloke, a cynic and a romanticist. And, of course, a militant anti-establishment man. Or — a legend.
Legend is the title of our first song tonight.
Would you please welcome to the stage Bernard Carney and Liz Frencham.
Song "Legend" BERNARD AND LIZ
Don's songs are more like poems with a tune thrown in, and they are a delight of offbeat social and personal comment, militant trade union politics, and warmly sentimental pieces about life, love and responsibility.
He wrote "In My Time" after watching his father play with a very new baby. Don realised there was only one generation standing between the world his father had created and any hope this child might have to live a better one. The baby would inherit a world, not of his father's making, but of his.
Song "In My Time" MARTIN PEARSON JOINS LIZ FRENCHAM
In1970 the Westgate Bridge fell down; it just fell down. Don was asked by the Union Movement to go to Melbourne and write a song about it. He looked at the bridge with his father, who was an engineer, and they could see sound reasons why it had fallen down. He wrote this next song as a fitting memorial to those men who had died.
Please welcome John Thompson and Nicole Murray.
Song "Westgate Bridge Disaster" JOHN THOMPSON & NICOLE MURRAY
The headlines screamed: "Filthy Exam Paper!". Don thought it was good to see that kids in school could be taught something to a level where they could discuss it and then be examined on it, while some semi-senile senator thought it filthy.
Julie Rigg once wrote in "The Australian", that future generations "must first demand absolute right and access to the information we, in sum, possess." Don hoped that some bonehead, like the senator, or himself, or Julie, didn't blow the works before the kids got that chance.
Song "The Kids Will Grow" JEANNIE LEWIS, MARTIN PEARSON, LIZ FRENCHAM
In 1964 Mount Isa Mines refused to negotiate with their workers over working conditions, and so began unrest that culminated in the sacking of the underground workforce and the lockout of the remaining 4,000 workers. The dispute ran for 32 weeks
Over a beer in a kitchen, Hendo and his mate — activist and pacifist Geoff Wills — were lamenting their inability to help when Hendo said: ‘Bugger this, let's go!' They tossed their guitars and some clothes into the car and drove straight to Mt Isa writing songs as they went.
Their first performance, within hours of their early-morning arrival, was at a meeting of the Disputes Committee. The Henderson-Wills repertoire grew during their stay, as they learnt about local happenings and turned these into sly verses, which delighted the audiences. Hendo's song, Isa, was written during their visit
Please welcome to the stage, Noel Gardner.
Song "Isa" NOEL GARDNER
He said, "Don't hit me again. I'll be sick."
The detective sergeant bent over and shouted into his face: "If you're sick you'll lick it up."
The constable hit him hard in the stomach. The detective sergeant said, "I though you were going to be sick."
Song "Albion Street" JOHN SCHUMANN & HUGH McDONALD
It is not often that a songwriter gets his story line handed to him in such a manner as Hendo's "Basic Wage Dream". It was at a wage claims' case being held in Sydney when, during the recess for lunch, a group of building workers trouped into the court room in their hard hats and gum boots and conducted a mock trial, in which they awarded themselves the full rise asked for, in a record time of three minutes.
And a bit of trivia for you: this was the first Australian song transmitted by satellite. Gary Shearston sang it on a program called "The Union Man" which was compiled for the launch of Telstar in 1963.
Welcome back to the stage Bernard Carney for "The Basic Wage Dream".
Song "The Basic Wage Dream" BERNARD CARNEY, JOHN SCHUMANN & HUGH McDONALD
Don and a mate, Doug Rickard, were talking about social sparring as an old bush pastime; that having a bit of style and not much malice could make you quite a popular bloke around the place. Doug said he didn't believe in it; if anyone attacked him he would use a lot of malice — something he'd proved earlier in the afternoon by dropping two bouncers over a 30-foot jetty at Luna Park. Don said it would have been funny except that he was a songwriter, and Doug was a nuclear scientist.
Please welcome Tommy Leonard, a man who has recorded many of Don Henderson's songs, and with him, Noel, John and Martin: four men who cannot agree! It's On!
Song "It's On!" TOMMY LEONARD, NOEL GARDNER, JOHN THOMPSON & MARTIN PEARSON
Song "Time to Fight Again" BERNARD CARNEY & everyone in chorus
Tonight, as we launch this CD, we are taking the first step in introducing the songs of Don Henderson to a new generation and a wider audience. The CD was produced by Mark Gregory and Sally Henderson, under the auspices of the Queensland Folk Federation. It has been a long project, supported by folk clubs, festivals, unions and individuals.
I invite Mark and Sally to the stage to speak of the man and his work.
MARK GREGORY & SALLY ON TO STAGE. SPEAK FOR 5 MINS
We can't let this concert finish without acknowledging Annette Hood who created the magnificent "Flames of Discontent" backdrop.
ANNETTE TAKES A BOW.
In the mid '80s I was visiting Don and we were singing each other our songs across the dining table. Don showed me the words of "What Makes the Grass Grow?". "I can't write a tune for it," he said, "Can you have a go?"
It was almost instantaneous; I picked up his guitar and out it came. I had the perfect place for it in my play, "Beneath the Southern Cross": the night before the massacre.
Song "What Makes the Grass Grow?" ALEX & ANNETTE HOOD LEAD WITH ENTIRE CAST, PLUS SOME EXTRAS FROM THE AUDIENCE WHO HAVE BEEN INVITED IN ADVANCE.
Don said: "A generation can only take the blame for its own mistakes, but it must take the blame for that much."
We thank the Woodford Folk Festival, and in particular Bill Hauritz, for continuing to fan the Flames of Discontent. We also thank the Brisbane Labour History Association who made this concert happen.
We hope we have rekindled a small flame in your bellies tonight. Enjoy the rest of the festival, and take it with you when you return to the outside world.