Melbourne, 1960s

The Idlers Five was one of several Australian 'folk' acts of the 1960s who enjoyed considerable popularity at the time, but who have since been largely forgotten. As Zbig Nowara pointed out in his article on Gary Shearston, Australian folk performers have been unfairly ignored by historians, discographers and collectors of popular music, simply because their music falls outside the abitrary boundaries of the 'pop' genre. This is most regrettable because, as time passes, it is becomes increasingly difficult to find out any information about these performers. It's also does a disservice to their achievements, because some of these 'folk' artists  -- most notably Lionel Long and Gary Shearston -- were far better known and sold more records than most local beat bands. This is doubly ironic because, as Australian folk music historian Malcolm J. Turnbull has noted, prominent folk performers like Lionel Long were often strongly criticised by folk purists and accused of "selling out" if they achieved any commerical success.

The Idlers Five were based in Melbourne, and performed during the mid-1960s. The full lineup is not yet known, but we have established that physician, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Dr John Tickell was a member of the group and that he worked his way through his studies by performing with the band (1). They were evidently quite a popular act at the time and made appearances on TV. 

Their first known recording was an LP, The Idlers Five Sing Folk and Gospel Songs, released in 1964 on an unknown label; it is known to have included a cover of Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind", which may be the first cover of a Dylan song by an Australian act. By 1966 they had signed to EMI's HMV label for whom they recorded two singles. Their only known chart success came in early 1968, by which time they had moved to CBS. Their single "Melborn and Sideny" was a light-hearted take on the perennial rivalry between Sydney-Melbourne, which namechecked footballer Ron Barassi and Victorian Premier Henry Bolte:

"We'd rather live in Melbourne
Though some folks say it's faulty
Sydney's got its strippers
But we've got Henry Bolte
We've got Australian Rules
And the Melbourne Cup each year
Sydney's girls are way out front
But we've got stronger beer" (2)

The single was a modest success; it presmuably charted well in Melbourne and managed to get into the lower end of the Go-Set Top 40 in March 1968, charting for seven weeks and peaking at #30. The B-side was a cover of the Jagger-Richards classic "As Tears Go By", a choice which would no doubt have been scorned by folk purists. The follow-up single "If Pigs Could Fly" evidently did not chart and no other information about the group has been located so far.



"Kind Of A Girl" / "Lands Of Yesteryear" (HMV EA-4776) 

"Stay With Me" / "Green Valley" (HMV EA-4798) 

"Melbourne To Sydney" / "As Tears Go By" (Jagger-Richards) (CBS BA-221474)

"If Pigs Could Fly" / "Colour My World" (CBS BA-221478)


Melborn and Sideny (CBS BG-225217)


The Idlers Five Sing Folk and Gospel Songs (label unknown)

References / Links

1. Norman Abjorensen
"Leadership in the Liberal Party: Bolte, Askin and the Post-war Ascendency"

Ross Laird / Screensound
The First Wave: Australian Rock & Pop Recordings 1955-1963
The Sixties: Australian Rock & Pop Recordings 1964-1969

Zbig Nowara
"The Gary Shearston Story"

Globaldog Productions
45 Discography for CBS Records - BA 221000 series - Australia