We are the measure of all things. And the beauty of our creation,
of our art, is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls
– Jonas Mekas
From the Australian Stage Online, Tuesday 30 September, 2008
Written by lloyd bradford (brad) syke
It's been years since I last sat beneath the gaudy, gilt ceiling of the State Theatre. Too long. And a Sunday night means it takes that little bit extra to get me out. But what could be more enticing than unbridled nostalgia, in the form of a screening of Albie Falzon's seminal cult classic, Morning Of The Earth, to a live soundtrack by many of the original artists (Mike Rudd, G. Wayne Thomas, Brian Cadd, Tim Gaze, Terry Hannigan, Peter Howe, Brod Smith, Lindsay Bjerre, et al) and a few notable ring-ins, like Lior and the ironically-named Ol' Man River.
With slick-as musical direction by Jamie Rigg and arrangements by Guy Noble, plus the aforementioned, there wasn't much that could go awry. And nothing much did, apart from the muddy, lyric-obscuring, over-amplified mix (which was enough). So, all those feelings of freedom as a possibility, inklings of peace as predictable and love as inevitable were revived, to the tunes of the title track; the infectious and moving Open Up Your Heart; Simple Ben; Making It On Your Own; Sure Feels Good; In The End It All Depends On You.
Back to the very early 70s, when cars were red and convertible, girls were tanned, voluptuous and bikini-clad, we shaped our own boards and our own destinies. Well, in our dreams. That, of course, being the point of such an evening: to relive, for a moment, some groundbreaking culture. Yes, culture, of the most egalitarian, accessible kind.
Of course, on its release, in '72 (quite a year, with Sunbury, to boot), not even the makers would've or could've predicted iconic status for this humble surf-flick. it was Falzon's first time; he had nothing more than an inspiration to produce something beautiful. It wasn't a new idea to make a film of this type. But what was revolutionary was the idea to do away with narration, other than of a musical kind. G. Wayne Thomas was approached by Falzon and producer, David Elfick; the rest, as they say is history. Brian Cadd, a pop-rock god of the day, was a key collaborator and, like the film itself, the musical development was completely organic, spontaneous and unplanned. And, like the film, no-one could've predicted the success or impact.
The soundtrack went platinum, platinum, platinum; at a time when gold was the customary commodity for recording success. Out of it, emerged veritable anthems, like John J. Francis' Simple Ben, which has remained & retained its integrity as an earnest ode to alternative lifestyles.
It's heartening to see artists like Lior, so far removed, temporally, from the context of the film and music, totally getting it. His commitment, especially, was as palpable as, say, Mike Rudd's; a man who still knows how to exploit his distinctive vocal instrument, to the max.
There are strong murmurs of country-soul and prog rock, while the words worship this third rock from the sun in a way ripe for revival:
The forces of the universe
And the elements of space,
Conjured up your being
Your size, your time, your shape.
You were created
With all the beauty they could call,
And earth, you surely are
The measure of them all
No-one let the side down; the band, including luminaries like Victor Rounds on bass and Sunil da Silva on percussion, as well as a full string section, cooked and Taman Shud's Tim Gaze, as well as intergalactic session guitarist Mark Johns, were on fire. Brian Cadd looks suspiciously and uncannily like Santa Claus and he still knows how to ring all the bells on his pianistic sleigh.
There was a time, it seems, when we had time to dream; to sit on a beach and look out to sea. Now, we couldn't do that; not without our mobile ringing, or iPod blaring. We are not only consumers, but consumed. Not with shaping our own boards, catching the perfect wave, making a beautiful film, or writing a heart-rending song, but acquiring more. 1972 might as well be 1872, in terms of its proximity to life as so many of us now live it. Thank God we can go back, in our collective memories, consciousness and conscience, if only for an evening. Am I too naive and idealistic, even after all these years, to believe, if we could rekindle and harness the something of the spirit of that year and this film, we might be on a different, none too disastrous social and environmental course?
Back to stark reality. As of now, I'm anticipating the merch: CDs; DVDs. I can't see Chuggy missing that boat and I'll be catching it as well, like the perfect wave I never, all those years ago. But one shouldn't be too cynical about the odd shark that might lurk in murky waters, since there was genuine and palpable philosophy underpinning this project and, I think, there still is. Arguably, best summed-up by a quote, from Jonas Mekas, that's come to symbolise and encapsulate the film itself: "We are the measure of all things and the beauty of our creation, of our art, is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls."
But, perhaps, the final words should go to Falzon, from way back when: "The film has no commentary. The songs are the statements, the information the viewer will hear. They are songs of the sun, moon, sky and sea. They are the songs of people, places and ideas. They are songs of freedom, peace and waves."
From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Thu Aug 14, 2008
When Morning Of The Earth was released in 1972, nobody predicted that the low-budget surf film and its soundtrack would be considered a classic more than 35 years later.
"All I wanted to do was make a beautiful film," said film-maker Albe Falzon.
"We didn't have story boards. We didn't have a plan for it. We really just made it up as we went."
First-time film-maker Falzon says his aim was to capture surfers in their natural environment and pay homage to the beauty of the sea.
"I was fortunate enough to have a camera and just document it," he said.
What made Morning Of The Earth different from other surf movies of that time was the lack of narration. Instead the images were complemented by a soundtrack of songs written specifically for the film.
G Wayne Thomas is the man behind the music.
"I was working for Warner Brothers and these two guys (Falzon and producer David Elfick) just came into any office, said they were looking for G Wayne Thomas," he said.
"We knew what we were trying to say but we didn't want to necessarily be specific, like preach or anything like that.
"We wanted to capture the feeling of it more than the actual specifics of it."
Musician Brian Cadd was an established name in rock 'n' roll and was brought into the project by Thomas.
"I came down to Melbourne and he said, 'Caddy we are doing a surfing film and we need songs, we need a band and an orchestra. Let's go'," Cadd said.
"We just sort of threw ideas up in the air and if they landed and somebody played something to them they would be finished. If they didn't work we would throw another one up."
The film's success was helped by the huge popularity of its soundtrack. It went platinum several times over.
Songs like Simple Ben by John J Francis became anthems for those who were living or dreaming about living an alternative life.
"[Simple Ben] was so fantastic because it had a rawness to it. That was, to me, was one of the best tracks in the film because it was totally in sync with what we were filming," Falzon said.
Now some of the soundtrack's original musicians and a few newcomers are preparing to stage a live concert of Morning Of The Earth.
"After shows that I do, I meet people afterwards who will stay to me, 'Why didn't you play any Morning Of The Earth?' or 'I wish you had played...' and you know that that culture is alive and well," Cadd said.
"Even though these people are sometimes now 50 or 60 years old and they don't own a surfboard anymore, but in their minds and hearts they're still there."
Australian singer Lior believes the reason the soundtrack's lived on is because it is quality music.
"[Also] in terms of the lifestyle that the film portrays, I think that is something that is very much lived on and still relevant and important today," Lior said.
"At that point in time, there were things that were being said lyrically that are still relevant today," Cadd added.
"I mean we still talk about the rainforests and we're still talking about a lifestyle that doesn't relate necessarily to corporate constraints and all of the personal freedoms that surfers fought for and enjoyed."
Falzon counts himself lucky that he is still part of the lifestyle that Morning Of The Earth documented more than three decades ago.
He's made 37 films in his career, on a broad range of subjects, but it's his first film that has stood out and stood the test of time.
"[The film] reminds them of something that is absolutely basic in their lives. I mean we get young kids that come up, 15-year-olds that are born way after when the film first came out, [and] they love it," Falzon said.
"They can identify with something in it, and I think it's that natural beauty – and everybody can relate to that."
The movie, as well as new documentary footage from Falzon, will screen during the live performances to be held in Sydney and Melbourne later this year.
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