Lyrics for Emerging Tradition: (Fairly) Contemporary Australian Songs

And When They Dance
Roy Abbott

And when they dance their dresses spin round,
They travel so light that they scarce touch the ground,
And the smiles on their faces would win any crowd
The lasses who dance ’til the morning.

I play in a band, I’ve played all around,
From Perth in the west to old Melbourne Town,
But one thing delights me each time I look down
It’s the lasses who dance ‘til the morning.

I’ve played for the gentry I’ve played for them all,
From the old bush hut to the debutante’s ball,
But one thing unites them the great and the small
It’s the lasses who dance ‘til the morning.

And when the dance ends and they all leave the floor
Their legs are so weary tired and sore
But who are the ones that keep yellin’ for more?
It’s the lasses who dance till the morning.

So, long may I travel and far may I roam
Around this big country we call our home
Playing for people that I’ll never know
And the lasses who dance till the morning.

Weevils in the flour
Dorothy Hewett

On an island in a river,
How that bitter river ran,
We lived on scraps of charity
In the best way that you can.
On an island in a river,
Where I grew to be a man.

And just across the river
Stood the mighty BHP,
Poured pollution on the water,
Poured the lead of misery,
And its smoke was black as Hades
Rolling hungry to the sea.

Chorus For dole bread is bitter bread,
Bitter bread and sour.
There’s grief in the taste of it
There’s weevils in the flour,
There’s weevils in the flour.

In those humpies by the river
We lived on dole and stew,
While just across the river
Those greedy smokestacks grew,
And the hunger of the many
Filled the bellies of the few.

On an island in a river,
How the bitter river ran,
It broke the banks of charity
And baked the bread of man.
On an island in a river
Where I grew to be a man.

Final chorus

For dole bread is bitter bread
There’s weevils in the flour,
But man grows strong as iron on
Black bread and sour,
Black bread and sour.

The New Road
John Beavis

You who puzzle on the Saviour’s deeds, will you
Stop, and listen where the New Road leads;
First born child of the refugees, He was
Raised in Nazareth, schooled in charity and
Found salvation on his knees.

Manhood brought Him to the Jordan shore, where the
Baptist shivered in the rags he wore;
Plunged his cousin in the pilgrim stream, and the
Dove descended and the Old Road ended and the
New Road wakened from a dream.

Red sun sinking over Galilee saw the
Stranger walking by the inland sea;
Four young fishermen around entwine, with the
New Road heading to a Canaan wedding where He
Turned the water into wine.

Thousands listened on the mountain slope, as they
Dined on miracles and breathed in Hope;
Blind men followed with the light restored, as the
Sightless Pharisees condemned as heresies the
Wide-eyed working of the Lord.

Alleluja, how the people cheer, and the
Palm leaves rustle as the King draws near;
Woe, Jerusalem, the Truth you shun, and the
Sins ensuing are your own undoing till your
Stones lie broken in the sun.

Thirteen gathered in the upstairs room, as the
High priests plotted at the Saviour’s doom;
Blood and body in the wine and bread, then He
Kissed His enemy in sweet Gethsemane and
Twelve hours later he was dead.

Mary wondered at the stone flung wide, and the
Tomb rang hollow as she stepped inside;
Angels seated where the Christ had lain, bid her
Quit the prison for the Son was risen and would
Speak in Galilee again.

Show by living what the Lord had done, in the
Selfless giving of his only son;
Chart this passage to the last amen, for the
Climb is steady if the pilgrim’s ready and the
New Road reaches out again

The song of the sheet-metal worker
John Dengate

Oh, when I was a boy in Carlingford
All sixty years ago,
The eucalypts grew straight and tall
And the creeks did sweetly flow.
But times was hard when the old man died
And the orchard would not pay,
So I left the land for the fact’ry bench
And I’m working there still today.

I’ve earned me bread in the metal shops
For forty years and more,
My hands are hard and acid-scarred
As the boards on the workshop-floor,
My soul is sheathed in Kembla steel
And me eyelids have turned to brass.
And the orchard’s gone, and the apple trees
Where the wind whispered through the grass.

The workbench is my altar
Where I come to take the host,
Copper, brass and fine sheet steel –
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The sacramental wine of work
Grows sour upon my tongue.
And the fruit was sweet on the apples trees
When my brothers and I were young.

Sixteen million people
Don Henderson

Have you ever had the feeling, being introduced to someone
That you think you’ve already met,
But you really can’t be certain, for the name is unfamiliar
But there’s something about the face you can’t forget.
And it turns out that really, after quite a bit of talking,
You went to kindergarten and such,
And the people that surround you, well there’s only sixteen million
And sixteen million people isn’t much.

Well you walk into a bar and a bloke says “G’day Charlie”
And you tell him that Charlie’s not yer name,
Well he says that he is sorry but he thought yer name was Charlie,
But he reckons that he knows yer just the same.
And it turns out that his sister’s married to your uncle’s second cousin,
Yes, of course now he remembers you,
You were seated three rows down at the table in a grey suit
At the wedding in nineteen fifty two.

Now you’re at the country-dance and you’re dancin’ with a stranger
To tell the truth you wouldn’t know from Eve,
But with faint heart and all that stuff you say, ‘’aven’t we met somewhere?”
And she says, “Why yes! I do believe.”
And it turns out that once you were on a train to Brisbane
And it didn’t have a dining car, don’t cry,
And she was the waitress at South Grafton Station
And you ordered black coffee and a pie.

So you’re in the one horse town and the horse has long since bolted,
There’s nothing but a hotel and a jail
And a copper and a publican and a liver-coloured kelpie
And the dog comes up to you and wags his tail.
Now it turns out that really the dog’s never met yer
Just thought that he’d come over and say hi!
But the copper and the publican, they reckon they both know yer
But they didn’t want to say so, they were shy

Newell Highway
John Warner

Awake before the dawn, within the spires of range
Where magpies ornate melodies
Engrave the chilly morning breeze
Beneath the towering stone,
Beneath the towering stone.

On nights of silver moon, too rich to waste on sleep,
In silence make your way to seek
The choirs of frogs in swamp and creek
That sing beneath the stars,
That sing beneath the stars.

Out on the Western Plain beside the roaring road,
Where trucks snarl by without a care,
Are billabongs with ibis there
And wedge-tail eagles soar,
And wedge-tail eagles soar.

All you that love the earth and make her ways your choice,
Cry out against the noise of trade
Demand that silence should be made
So that all may hear her voice,
Her ancient, matchless voice.

Mothers, daughters, wives
Judy Small

The first time it was fathers, the last time it was sons
And in between your husbands marched away with drums and guns,
And you never sped to question you just went on with your lives,
For all they’d taught you who to be was mothers, daughters, wives.

You can only just remember, the tears your mothers shed;
As they sat and read their papers, through the lists and lists of dead.
And the gold frames held the photos that the mothers kissed each night,
And the doorframes held the shocked and silent strangers from the fight.

And twenty-one years later with children of your own
The trumpets sounded once again and the soldier boys were gone,
And you drove their trucks and made their guns and tended to their wounds,
And at night you kissed the photographs and prayed for safe returns.

And after it was ove, you had to learn again,
To just be wives and mothers when you’d done the work of men,
So you worked to help the needy and you never trod on toes
And the photos on the pianos struck a happy family pose.

Then your daughters grew to women and your little boys to men,
And you prayed that you were dreaming when the call-up came again.
But you proudly smiled and held your tears as they bravely waved goodbye
And the photos on the mantelpiece, they always made you cry.

And now you’re getting older and with time the photos fade
And in widowhood you sit back and reflect on the parade,
Of the passing of your memories as your daughters change their lives,
Seeing more to their existence than just mothers, daughters, wives
The last chorus ends… and you believed them.

No man’s land
Eric Bogle

Well how d’ye do Private Willie McBride
D’ye mind if I sit here by your graveside?
And I’ll rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day man and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your grave stone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in nineteen sixteen,
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or Willie McBride was it slow and obscene.

Did they beat the drum slowly did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o’er ye as they lowered ye down.
Did the bugles place the Last Post in chorus,
Did the pipes play the Floo’ers o’ the Forest.

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some gallant heart is your memory enshrined?
And though you died back there in nineteen sixteen
To that loyal heart are you always nineteen?
Or are you just a stranger without even a name?
Enshrined forever behind a glass pane
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame.

The sun’s shining now on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance,
The trenches have vanished, long under the plough,
No gas, no barbed-wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it’s still no man’s land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand;
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
To a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can’t help but wonder Private Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause,
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride it’s all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again!

The Red Fox
Lynne Muir

Where the red fox runs we will hunt him down
We will chase him o’er the mountains ‘till the sun goes down,
Poor old fox, we mean no harm
But the fire’s in our blood and so we must follow far from the lights of home.

Chorus For we’re men of the bush
And we’re part of the land
And we do not kill for pleasure
That we’d have you understand.
With the sun on our brow and the moonlight on our path,
We will follow the tracks of our fathers gone before.

We roam the plains and we’ll set a rout
Be it fair or stormy weather we must seek and hunt him out,
Where the rabbit runs, we will set our snare
But you must not think us heartless men or men who do not care.

For we do not thrill to the blood and the kill
But we live from the land and so we will eat from it when we can,
We’re tired old men on a worn-out trail
When the tables are turned, maybe the fox will be hunting for the man.

Now I’m Easy
Eric Bogle

For almost sixty years I’ve been a cocky,
Of droughts and fires and floods I’ve lived through plenty,
This land of dust and mud, had seen my tears and blood,
But it’s almost over now and now I’m easy.

I married a fine girl when I was twenty.
She died giving birth when she was thirty,
No flying doctors then, just a gentle old black gin,
But it’s almost over now and now I’m easy.

She left me with a two sons and a daughter,
And a bone dry farm that’s crying out for water;
Though my care was rough and ready, they grew up fine and steady,
And it’s nearly over now and now I’m easy.

My daughter married young and went her own way,
My sons lie buried by the Burma railway;
So on this land I’ve made me own, I carry on alone,
But it’s nearly over now and now I’m easy.

The city folks these days despise the cocky,
They say with subsides and all we’ve had it easy,
But there’s no drought or dying stock on a sewered suburban block,
But it’s nearly over now and now I’m easy.

Thirty ton line
Don Henderson

Purpose-built tugs with line boats attending
Berth big, bulk coal-carriers in open seas,
To fulfill that function, the union contended
Required four deckhands, Fenwick’s said three.
Three deckhands and a motorman just couldn’t handle
Sixteen inch polyprop double dead-eyes.
When the tow-hook was blacked, the company gambled
On a tension winch, ten inch calm sea compromise.

Chorus Broadsound, Belyando, Nebo, Serina
The sea snaps your hawsers like thin strands of twine.
Broadsound, Belyando, Nebo, Serina
Hundred-tons bollard-pull thirty-ton line.

At two in the morning we made fast the Martha,
At nine the Academy Star had been berthed;
Then all tugs and line-boats returned to the harbour
Their work being finished the crews then dispersed.
But at five the same evening storm warnings were sounding
Cyclone approaching, no time for delay,
At their berths the big bulkies were taking a pounding,
Broadsound and Belyando must get them away.

To Hay Point all on the two tugs went thrashing,
Got lines in the Martha at wharf number two,
Though twelve foot green water on their decks was crashing
The order “Use maximum power” had come through.
With the whole hull vibrating and the tension winch screaming
Then came the moment all tug-men dread,
The sudden lurch forward and the broken line whipping
The thoughts of old ship mates, the injured, the dead.

The Martha was cleared just as our line had parted,
The Academy Star was on wharf number one,
Though the help we could offer might be but a token
In her state, that help would be better than none.
Time and again we tried to position
To get her away with all possible speed,
But with jury-rigged lines and in such bad conditions,
Two deckhands and a motorman couldn’t succeed.

Only part loaded and riding high in the water
The Academy Star could not be controlled,
The strong on-shore wind had her hard on the quarter
She slammed at the pylons ‘till her hull had holed.
But still Utah’s bosses and those who do their will,
Put tugs to sea short on gear, undermanned;
One million dollars will be the repair bill,
They’d pay that in preference to one more deckhand

Cock of the North
Dorothy Hewett

O Cock of the North with a dream in his hand,
My love has come back to this beautiful land.
He bursts through the door like the rays of the sun
And his kitbag stuffed full of the treasures he’s won.

A coral from Broome and a tall Darwin tale
A clam and a pearl and the tooth of a whale.
My kitchen is filled with the smell of the sea
And the leaping green fishes my love brought to me.

Come tumble your treasures from Darwin and Broome
And fill with your glory this quaint little room.
With the sun of the morning ablaze on his chest
My love has come back from the north of northwest.

And deep in our bed we will lie and we’ll be,
We’ll kiss and we’ll listen to the rain on the sea,
As warm as the summer, we’ll live winter long

My love has come back like King Solomon’s Song.

Hey Rain
Bill Scott

Hey rain, rain coming down on the cane
On the roofs of the town.

Rain in me beer and rain in me face
Old Innisfail is a bloody wet place, hey rain, hey rain.

Rain in me beer and rain in me grub
And they've just fitted anchors to the Gurradunga pub, hey rain, hey rain.

Got a Johnson River crocodile livin' in me 'fridge
And there's a bloody great tree down on the Jubilee Bridge, hey rain, hey

The monsoon sky's so dark and big,
And there's an old flying fox in a Morton Bay Fig, hey rain, hey rain.

A bloke from the west nigh died of fright
The river rose thirty five feet last night, hey rain, hey rain.
It's the worst wet season we've ever had,
I'd swim down to Tully but it's just as bloody hey rain, hey rain.

Bring out the banners
John Warner

In a faded photo like a dream,
A locomotive under steam
Rolls with the ranks of marching feet
And union banners on the street

Bring out those banners once again,
You union women, union men,
That all around may plainly see
The power of our unity.

I’ve seen those banners richly made
With symbols fair of craft and trade,
The union names in red and gold
Their aspirations printed bold.

Boilermakers, smiths and cooks
Stevedores with cargo hooks,
Declare their union stout and strong
Rank on rank before the crowd.

They won the eight-hour working day,
The won our right to honest pay,
Victorious the banners shone
How dare we cede what they have won?

Today, when those who rule divide,
We must be standing side by side,
Our rights were bought with tears and pain,
Bring out those banners once again.

Garry Gillard | New: 10 May, 2008 | Now: 20 December, 2018