Graham Reid | | 2 min read
When I was in Newcastle, New South Wales recently -- a city I'd never been to previously and knew damn-all about -- I was walking along the boardwalk in the afternoon and looked over to see an old friend on Wharf Road.
It was Harry's Cafe de Wheels, a famous Australian institution which has provided pie'n'peas, hot chips, burgers and the like for hungry folks -- often those 4am-to-dawn nightcrawlers -- for decades.
The original Harry's was in Woolloomooloo in Sydney and the one in Newcastle was the first of their franchise outlets. There are about a dozen around Australia I believe.
But the thing about this Harry's was it looked exactly like the one on the cover of the Peter Blakeley album of the same name.
I would guess Blakelety -- being based in and out of Sydney at the time -- had the Woolloomooloo one used for the night-shot photo . . . but the Newcastle one in an old railway carrriage is an almost exact replica.
And that old friend reminded me of Blakeley's excellent album which I had not heard in years.
So I took a photo of Harry's in Newcastle (above) and when I got home pulled out Blakeley's album (to find it was signed by him, which I had forgotten and how or why I cannot recall) and started to play it .. over and over.
The hit single off it was Crying in the Chapel (an original) and he also covered Ewen MacColl's The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (beautifully).
Neither of those were "my song" as it were, but when I heard this one Quicksand (another original, next up after the excellent Crying in the Chapel) I knew I was in the presence of someone who could really channel the whole blue-eyed soul thing.
I was in good company in that regard: Apparently Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records described Blakeley as "the finest white soul singer I have ever heard" . . . and Ahmet (whom Frank Zappa respectfully named one of his sons after) knew a thing or two about soul.
And good lord!! There's some line-up of luminaries helping out on the album which was produced by Peter Asher when Blakeley was signed to Capitol: Linda Ronstadt, Waddy Wachtel, Lenny Castro, Andrew Gold, Jim Keltner, Larry Klein, Russ Kunkel, Jeff Porcaro ...
Now that would the creme-de-la-creme of LA studio musicians (and some Toto and Eagles' and Joni Mitchell and Warren Zevon et al players) right there.
Yes, the album sounds very Eighties these days but the songs are terrific (You Never Heard It From Me here is superb) and . . .
I have no idea what happened to Peter Blakeley after this album which seduced me for two years solid . . . and which only just came back into my life.
And it's only here now because I saw a familiar fast-food pitstop in an unfamiliar city where I least expected to recognise a damn thing.
Life's funny, innit?
For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.