My Classic Singers 2 – James Reyne

So who to pick after Susanna Hoffs? Well, I’ve made a bit of change of direction, and gender, for the second in this series. We travel half way around the world from Los Angeles to the east of Australia. James Reyne came to prominence as the lead singer of the band Australian Crawl. Aussie released their first single Beautiful People in 1979 and went on to become mainstay of the music scene through first half of the 80s having two No. 1 albums. James Reyne then carved out a solo career with his self-titled first album in 1987 and has carried on since.

He doesn’t have a silky smooth voice of many singers but he has a distinctiveness that remains in the memory and an ability to put a lot of, for want of a better word, angst and feeling into his performance. One of my memories of listening to him was when, in 1992, I was working in a warehouse doing the 4pm to 1am shift loading car exhaust part so on to trucks when we had Radio 1 on and his song Slave was echoing through the rafters. I don’t know whether James Reyne is likely to get played a lot outside Australia, but he deserves to.

So on to the 5 songs I have chosen:

1.    Slave  – This was from his Album Any Day Above Ground. It is a song that has laid back quality that allows him to use his voice to its best, in my opinion. The melody and verses move along nicely building to a catchy chorus. I go back to this one regularly and included it on my post 20 Songs to Relax to on a Hot Summer’s Evening.

2.  Always the Way – I think this is a masterpiece from the 80’s – all 7:24 of it. A slower tempo than Slave, but it allows James Reyne to really shine as a vocalist. Add in to that one my favourite guitar solos as it builds towards the end after about 5 minutes.  Could also have made my list of 20 summer songs, but one per artist was enough!

3.  Counting On Me – A bit more of a classic aussie rock song than the first two.  There’s a lot more in this than just a catching guitar riff – basically great lyrics. An opportunity to use his voice in a more in your face way.

4.   Downhearted– What a mellow song, with a good bit of 80s saxophone. Released in 1980 this song is one of the smoothest from Aussie Crawl with James Reyne in top form caressing the notes with suitable tension in his voice. Shame about the video, but hey this was 1980.

5.   I struggles with choosing the 5th song. I thought about Things Don’t Seem, Unpublished Critics, and particularly The Boys Light Up, still the signature song for Aussie Crawl, and others. I thought it had to be one from Aussie Crawl. I had an upbeat number in mind until I came across Hootchie Guccie Fiorucci Mama. That sealed it for me. The piano intro is great, the lyrics great, shame that the mullet haircut is almost too much in the video, but this was the 80’s. This is a great showcase for James Reyne’s voice even though he looks half asleep. Nuff said.


I hear people screaming ‘How could you have missed out Reckless?’ Yeah, I know, but something had to give, just like not using Dover Beach for Susanna Hoffs.

Next I am going to look at some singers who might have had a couple of songs but I couldn’t really find 5 that I wanted to talk about, or maybe it’ll be Graeme Bonnet, or Gerry Marsden, or Deborah Conway. I don’t know…too many decisions to make and I’m still really distracted by James Reyne’s  mullet – in awe of it in fact….it was pretty spectacular.


See ya





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