I’m Talking enjoyed a short but extraordinarily successful period at the forefront of Australian dance music in the 1980’s and by the middle of that decade had three bona fide hit singles in Trust Me, Lead The Way and a monumental cover of the Rose Royce song Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. The resulting album Bear Witness was first released in August 1986 and was appropriately recognised in ‘The 100 Best Australian Albums’ almost 25 years later in 2010.
I’m Talking‘s only official album has now been totally remastered by Don Bartley using mainly analogue processes, including the use of 1/2” tape to keep it smooth, maintain the punch of the original mixes and create some natural harmonics; and is proudly re-released available now through Bloodlines. Formats include a 10 track 12” (180gm) vinyl album and a deluxe 2CD package, which features extra songs and live recordings that allow the band to tell its own story, and provide a peek under the bonnet of what we think was a slightly unusual but nonetheless memorable Australian band. A 36 track digital version, including remixes and rarities, will also be available.
To give some musical context, the end of 1970’s saw incredible chart dominance by American artists such as Chic, Grace Jones, Rick James, Patrice Rushen, Chaka Khan and Rufus, with labels like SalSoul and Prelude in full swing. It was the golden age of the 12” mix, where a multitude of new ways to extend and warp musical form was being played out. As the ‘70s made way for the ‘80s, new technology like drum machines, synthesisers and samplers became cheaper and more widely available, leading to an explosion in both the types of dance music being produced and the number and variety of musicians able to pursue it.
Pel Mel, Rockmelons, Asphyxiation, Bang and Washington Wives were among the Australian bands experimenting in the style. Essendon Airport had also been one, beginning in the late ‘70s with minimalism and repetition, with one foot in the art scene, associated with the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre and events like the 1982 Popism exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, and the other in grungy St Kilda venues like The Ballroom.
When Essendon Airport broke up in 1983, Ian Cox, Barbara Hogarth and Robert Goodge then decided to pursue the dance/funk trajectory as a fertile area that held more interest than the fringes of the art scene and recruited like-minded musicians in Stephen Charlesworth and Cameron Newman, telling them they were forming a disco band and comparing notes on favourite artists. Add I’m Talking’s mesmerising lead singers in Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne and the result was potent dance/pop band with instant international appeal.
Founding member Robert Goodge says, “Even though I’m Talking‘s musical inspirations came from club music, we were never strictly just a dance band, due to our shared love of pop music. We weren’t really thinking we could be a chart act at the time, but with the two strands of dance and pop in our music and the power and charm of our two vocalists, Kate and Zan, we found ourselves gaining success just as a wave of dance music hit the early 80s charts with artists like Madonna, Miami Sound Machine, Rocksteady Crew, Deniece Williams and Break Machine.”
The release of their debut album Bear Witness was pre-empted by another top 10 hit in Do You Wanna Be, and the hits kept coming with yet another top-tenner (and the bands’ fifth consecutive hit) in Holy Word, this time with Zan assuming lead vocal duties. But by 1987 it was all over. Robert continues, “I think it’s fair to say we felt there was a lot of unfinished musical dialogue to be had between us. But we never thought how unwieldy a seven-piece group which had plenty of pop appeal, but also aspired to a genre style, could be when we formed and the difficulties it might present to the thought processes of record labels, managers and each other.” Founding member Robert Goodge has narrated a track-by-track, telling us about the stories behind the songs, available to read here.
Bear Witness tracklist
(10 track album and vinyl):
01. Do You Wanna Be
02. Holy Word
03. How Can It Be
04. Baby Baby Baby
05. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
06. Stay With Me
07. It’s Over
09. Love Means Everything
10. Trust Me
Deluxe Edition tracklist available here
Collector’s Edition tracklist available here