Wendy Saddington & The Copperwine
8 Track, LP (2011, Aztec Music)
Related: Wendy Saddington, Chain.
Wendy Saddington was one of the country's most popular live performers in the late ’60s and ’70s, but you'll struggle to find much evidence of her celebrated abilities, with her recorded output in that period amounting to a sole single and one collectible live LP on the Infinity label. But now the ever-dependable folk at Aztec Music have reissued both on one well-packaged CD, giving us an opportunity to hear her in full flight with a band, The Copperwine, one of the most accomplished on the circuit.
The concert portion of this CD was recorded at the Wallacia Music Festival and is a solid set of progressive soul music, offering compelling covers of Nina Simone's 'Backlash Blues', Dylan's ‘Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' and a delicate 'Tomorrow Never Knows', along with some strong bluesy originals that give all concerned an opportunity to stretch out a bit. The nearest international comparison is perhaps Janis Joplin though Saddington's delivery is more restrained, with none of the histrionics that blight some of Joplin's work. The playing is loose, almost sloppy, but no less compelling for that.
The singer herself dismissed the album completely upon its release in 1971 saying that "anyone who buys it is an idiot who is wasting their money", though it seems she's come around in time. In Ian McFarlane's informed liner notes, Saddington is quoted as saying she's happy that it's being re-released and only gave it such a hard time because she felt it was unrepresentative of The Copperwine at their best (the band had two lead singers, Saddington and the inimitable Jeff St John, but the album featured only her). If this record really does represent just a fraction of her and the band's power, then I hope that some entrepreneur hurries up and sorts out the rights to the unreleased film of the 1970 Ourimbah Festival that Saddington has said was one of the band's finest performances.
The tracks from her 1971 single included here are something different again. 'Looking Through a Window', a Top 30 hit written by The Aztecs' Warren Morgan and featuring members of Chain, is more psychedelic in feel; a six-minute epic that takes off into soaring orchestration that is pushed higher and higher by guitar solos and brass. 'We Need a Song' is an uncomplicated piano ballad that evolves into a gospel-flavoured singalong with Billy Thorpe and his band.
Saddington seems to have been a Zelig-like figure, turning up in not one but three of the era's best-known bands – The James Taylor Move, Chain (which she named) and the Copperwine - as well as appearing in the stadium concert of Tommy alongside Keith Moon, Jim Keays and many more, while Go-Set magazine hired her as a music journalist in 1969. She sang composer Peter Sculthorpe's 'Love 200' live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and appeared in one of Peter Weir's earliest short films.
She was voted the “Face of 1968”, and it's not difficult to see why. With an electric afro and an intense gaze of defiance – she looked like a cross between The Bellrays' Lisa Kekaula and Germaine Greer – photographs of her exude independence and an earthy kind of cool; you can bet that there would have been hordes of girls wandering around Darlinghurst and Fitzroy in 1970 whose entire look was based on Saddington. Not that such physical concerns were Wendy's bag. She soon tired of the pettiness of the music business and embraced spirituality through conversion to the Hare Krishna faith, which she is still involved with to this day, but we have this document at least of her in full flight.
by Aaron Curran