Australia / UK 1967-74

New World (pictured here in the cover photo for their 1971 hit "Tom Tom Turnaround")
demonstrate why The Seventies is aptly described as "The Decade That Style Forgot".

John Kane (vocals)
John Lee (vocals)
Mel Noonan (vocals)


Vocal harmony trio The New World are one of the genuine curiosities of Australian pop. If they're remembered at all today, it's most likely for their 1971 hit "Tom Tom Turnaround". However, they scored an impressive run of chart success in the early Seventies, their story intersects with some of the biggest names in British music, and they were instrumental in launching the career of one of the most successful writer-producer teams in pop history.

The group formed in Brisbane in 1967. In 1968 they signed with Albert Productions, whose recordings were released on EMI's Parlophone label. They achieved national prominence with their debut single, a version of the MOR standard "Try To Remember", which was a Top 20 hit (#19, Jan. 1969). Their next and last Australian single, "Feed The Birds", was released in December 1969, but it did not chart. They also recorded a self-titled LP for Parlophone; it was first released during 1969, but it was reissued on Columbia (Aust.) in 1971, following their UK breakthrough, and again on EMI's budget label Axis in 1975.

According to Noel McGrath, the trio headed to Britain in early 1970, but like so many other Australian acts of the period, they found it hard going on the cut-throat English music scene. Their easy-listening repertoire was out of step with the growing popularity of heavy rock and glam, and they were given a hard time in the recording studio, where they were told their music was out of date.

Fortunately, their luck changed when the owner of a club where they were playing offered to sponsor them to compete in Opportunity Knocks, Britain s renowned national TV talent quest. In startling contrast to the earlier criticisms, New World was an immediate success on the show -- they were voted back onto the program a record number of times and gained an average of 30,000 votes per show.

Their TV success led to a contract with the British Columbia label (owned by CBS in the UK, unlike Australian Columbia, which was owned by EMI) and they scored their first UK hit with a version of Joe South's "Rose Garden"; it had recently been a hit for Lynn Anderson but New World's version made the UK Top 20, peaking at #15 in February 1971.

Their next single, "Tom Tom Turnaround", is the song for which they are best known today. It was a big success in Britian, just missing the Top 5 (#6, July 1971) and it was also Top 40 in Australia (#24, Sep. 1971).

"Tom Tom Turnaround" is also of particular interest for pop history aficionados. It was produced by Mickie Most -- presumably because Most was also a regular judge on Opportunity Knocks at the time -- and it is also notable as the first charting song for the now-famous team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the writer-producer duo who dominated the British and Australian pop charts in the mid-Seventies with a string of hits they wrote and/or produced for RAK acts, including Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Smokie and Racey.

Mike Chapman was born in Queensland and began his music career on the Brisbane pop scene. He went to the UK in the late Sixties and he met musician Nicky Chinn in 1970 while working as a waiter in a London hotel. They struck up a friendship and soon became writing partners but their big break came in 1971 when leading indepedent producerMickie Most hired them to work for his newly-established RAK Records label. Most (who died in 2002) was one of the most successful independent producers of the Sixties, whose credits include a string of chart-topping singles and albums for Herman's Hermits, Lulu, The Jeff Beck Group and Donovan, and he also produced the 'farewell' single by The Seekers in 1968.

Wikipedia's article on Mike Chapman includes an excerpt from a press interview with Nicky Chinn, who relates the remarkable story of how the duo made the connection with Mickie Most and how "Tom Tom Turnaround" became a hit for New World:

"We decided to meet someone who was making hit records instead of going round to publishers offices and playing our songs to people who didn t know what they were talking about. I got hold of Mickie s home number because I thought a secretary might block the call at the office. His wife, Chris, put him on and I said, We write hits and it would be great to meet up. Mickie said, Okay, 11:30 tomorrow morning. We played him some songs, all of which he didn t like, until the last one which was Tom Tom Turnaround . He gave it to New World and it was a Top 5 record."

In the wake of their success on Opportunity Knocks and their two hits, New World became a popular drawcard on the English club and cabaret circuit and over the next two years they scored several more Top 20 hits in both Britain and Australia.

Their next single was "Kara Kara" (UK #17, Dec. 1971). In May they released their biggest selling record, "Sister Jane", which was a Top 10 hit in Britain (#9, May 1972) and Top 20 in Australia (#16, Aug. 1972).

Their next single is another fascinating bit of pop trivia -- it was the original version of Chinn and Chapman's "Living Next Door To Alice". Demonstrating the fickle nature of pop succes, New World's version failed to chart at all in the UK, despite four previous Top 40 hits -- although it did make the lower end of the Australian Top 40 in , reaching #35 in March 1973. Ironically, the same song became a UK Top 5 hit for Smokie in 1976.

"Alice" was the first of three New World Singles released on the RAK label. Their next release, "Rooftop Singing" just missed out on the UK Top 50, only getting as high as #51. Ineterestingly, the single's B-side, "Lady Sunshine", has the same title as the classic track from Tamam Shud's 1969 debut album, but as yet we don't know if it's the same song.

New World also recorded an LP for RAK, Believe In Music, initially released in the UK only in 1973. Their final RAK single, the sentimental favourite "Old Shep" (1974), failed to make the charts, and this appears to have been the end of their association with RAK.

New World then switched to EMI label, for whom the recorded two more Singles, "Do It Again" and "Sweet Dream", both released in 1974. The latter seems to have been their last recording.

Unfortunately, we've been unable to locate anything more aboutwhat became of the members of New World in later years, but we'd love to hear from anyone who has more information.



"Feed The Birds" / "The Water Is Wide"
(Parlophone A8952)

"Try To Remember" / "The World I Used To Know"
(Parlophone A8952)
(Aus. #12)

"Sister Jane" / "First Steps"
(Columbia DO 9913)
(Aus. #16)

"Rose Garden" / "Ain t Nobody Gonna Wonder Why"
(Columbia DO 9432)

"Tom-Tom Turnaround" / "Lay Me Down"
(Columbia DO 9580)
(Aus. #24)

"Kara Kara" / "Lord Of The Dance"
(Columbia DO 9740)

"Living Next Door To Alice" / "Something To Say" (RAK 10061)
(Aus. #20)

"Rooftop Singing" / "Lady Sunshine" (RAK 10182) 1973
Aus. #51

"Old Shep" / "Sally's A Lady" (RAK 10384)

"Do It Again" / "Guitar Happy" (EMI 10532)

"Sweet Dreams" / "Happiness Is You" (EMI 10586)


Believe In Music (RAK)

References / Links

Joyson, Vernon
Dreams Fantasies & Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)

McFarlane, Ian
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)

McGrath, Noel
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock (Outback Press, 1978)

Mike Chapman article