Australian singer songwriter Jeff St John has died at the age of 71.
I was there then and I was there again.
I was there in 1970 at Festival Studios in Paternoster Row when Kahvas Jute’s seminal album Wide Open was recorded, and I was there again thirty five years later at The Basement gig where the band revisited and reworked some of the material from that first album, as well as showcasing new songs that somehow fitted seamlessly with what had gone before. At the same time, these new songs offer a logical and natural evolutionary movement into a second album, as if the intervening years were merely a glitch in the creative timestream.
Kahvas Jute came together from the remnants of Mecca (Bob Daisley and Dennis Wilson) and Tamam Shud (Tim Gaze and Dannie Davidson), and in 1970 they were the first of their kind in Australia, maybe the world. In 2005, they are possibly the last of their kind and, though a series of heavy, guitar-based rock genres has existed in the years between, I would describe Kahvas Jute as one of a kind. Though they started in 1970 with intentions of emulating the music coming out of the UK at the time – The Hendrix Experience and Cream in particular – what they ended up becoming was something as unique as, yet apart from, those major influences.
The Kahvas Jute rhythm section began its journey as Bob Daisley and Dannie Davidson in 1970, experimenting with and extrapolating on Hendrix and Cream power pop constructions. In 2005 it is Bob Daisley and Mark Marriot, invested with a whole new set of influences and experience. This rhythm section exists in a parallel engine room universe of their own making, inhabited only by themselves.
When Kahvas Jute stepped out of the Tardis in 2005 and started playing “Free” from the Wide Open album, my skin tingled. The freshness, the enthusiasm, the clarity of intention, the shear joy of executing a creative vision, poured from the Basement’s little stage. In 1970, the songs on Wide Open represented a departure for Dennis Wilson from the power pop of Mecca, apparent in songs like “Black Sally” and “Side Street Man” from Mecca’s final single.
In the years since, Dennis has performed with numerous bands of his own (Dennis Wilson Band, Deltoids, Catch 22) and other people (Le Bop, Doc Span Band, Under Rapz with Steve Gilpin) as well as writing and recording material with Chariot and Swanee, and releasing two solo albums and singles. He features on recordings by Loaded Dice, Screaming Tribesmen, Electric Pandas, Ol’ 55, Jackie Orszaczky and Olivia Newton-John. His songs have seen live performances by the likes of ex-Steely Dan members Elliot Randall and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. His music appears in the Cannes award-winning movie “Going Down,” as well as the ABC TV series “Four Corners”, and episodes of Steve Irwin’s “Crocodile Hunter” and “Croc Files”.
Tim Gaze’s adventures since 1970 are no less spectacular. He has enjoyed a long career as one of Australia’s pre-eminent and most sought after session guitar players/vocalists. His music features on the surf film soundtracks “Morning Of The Earth,” (1972), “Band on the Run” (1982), “Sultans 2 – The Power Strikes Back,” and the subsequent “Sultans” 3, 4 and 5. He has written for, recorded and performed with Miss Universe, Ross Wilson, Ross Hannaford, Ariel, Stevie Wright, Tim Gaze Band, Rose Tattoo, Skin Game, Brothers of the Bell, Big Secret, Gyan, the Peter Wells Band, a re-formed Tamam Shud, The Bushwackers, The Blues Doctors, The Hoochie Coochie Men and Jimmy Barnes.
For Bob Daisley, his song “Ascend” represented the beginning of a songwriting journey that has taken him around the world, and his songs onto the albums of artists such as the patriarch from the reality TV sitcom The Osbournes, Widowmaker, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Mother’s Army, Warren DeMartini, Stream, Gary Moore, and of course his twenty first-century Australian projects, The Hoochie Coochie Men, Living Loud (not to mention guesting on kazoo and melody bass on a track on The Zarsoff Brothers 2005 album “Mixed Business”) and – full circle – the fresh-from-the-Tardis version of Kahvas Jute.