A while back – quite a while back, actually – I wrote a song for a band when I was half in, half out. The song was In A Broken Dream and the band was Python Lee Jackson.
Python Lee Jackson had enjoyed cult success in Sydney during the late 60s. We played at Rhubarbs, then Sydney’s most popular rhythm n blues club. Our following comprised the beautiful, the hip, the artistic and the wasted. We cut records, appeared on television, toured occasionally.
I’d helped get the band off the ground. It had been great fun but after six months I decided to exit the noisy end of show business. Then, in 1969, three members of the original lineup invited me to rejoin them for an assault on the British pop scene.
In London, Richard Neville, who was then editing the British incarnation of Oz Magazine, put us in touch with CBS A&R man Clive Sellwood who, in turn, put us in touch with BBC radio presenter John Peel who produced the original Python Lee Jackson track for his label, Dandelion Records. (Miki Dallon would later acquire the track for Youngblood Records and, after that, John Fogerty for Minder Music …)
Portents in that winter of ’69 were promising, but gigs were few and far between. To make ends meet, I returned to my parallel profession as a journalist. I was about to knock off for the day when Python Lee Jackson guitarist Mick Liber, phoned to say that Dandelion had scheduled a session in two days. The band needed a hit. Could I write one?
I happened to be sitting in front of a typewriter and knocked out the lyrics to In A Broken Dream on the spot. Later that same night I hammered out the melody on an L100 Hammond organ. Once I’d finished, I realised that I didn’t want to sing my own song. I still wonder about that. Perhaps I was enjoying working on Fleet Street. Perhaps I’d become hooked on striped suits, spotty ties and regular pay packets. Either way, while I was happy to play Hammond on the track, the band would have to find someone else to handle vocal chores.
That someone turned out to be Rod Stewart, fresh from a stint with Jeff Beck’s band, Truth. He sang In A Broken Dream with power and passion, his vocals the perfect foil for Mick’s soaring guitar. With studio lights dimmed for atmosphere, Rod missed the lyrics for the last verse, repeating the first verse instead. Peel decided it couldn’t get any better than it already was– and called it a wrap.
An agonising five years would pass before In A Broken Dream became a hit. It finally broke in Denmark, then Los Angeles. Sanctified by American approval, it ascended to number three in the British charts and then around the globe.
In A Broken Dream has been the subject of many cover versions. Even Rod Stewart has had a crack at it. My favourites are the tracks by high energy rock band Thunder and the sensitive, introspective reading by singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. I was tickled when Python Lee Jackson’s original version turned up on the art house film, Breaking The Waves and gob-smacked by A$AP Rocky’s recent take. It’s amusing to find the old tart wearing a new dress.
Like I said, welcome to my website. For now, it will enable access to all of the tracks on my new album Everyday Songs, the four accompanying videos and a film of my 70th birthday bash at Brisbane Jazz Club – as well as two previously issued albums and some archival originals from Bentley’s Boogie Band, recorded in the late seventies.
Everyday Songs carries my name but also represents the work of the talented musicians who helped create it. Not least of these is my cellist daughter Danielle who put together the various string sections. Nor would it have been the same without the brilliant bassist Andrew Shaw and versatile drummer Kerry Jacobson who comprise the other two thirds of my trio lineup. The fat brass section you hear on Black and White and In A Broken Dream comprises just two talented players – John Hoffman and Greg Aitken – doubling on trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and tuba. As well as creating remarkable videos Grev “Groove” Patterson contributed song ideas and lyrics. Well Under Way, which is one of the album’s highlights, is largely his conception. Guitarist/engineer Paul Cheeseman came in at a crucial stage to record live acoustic bass and drum tracks as well as some of the string arrangements. The album was recorded in Brisbane, Australia, at Leopard Lodge, an 1880s terrace house that I called home for 14 years. I sang the songs, played various keyboards and wrote the string and brass arrangements.
During the recording process, I played at my own 70th birthday bash at Brisbane Jazz Club – an event enlivened by guest spots by the renowned didgeridoo player William Barton, Paul Cheeseman and mouth harp whizz Mick Walker. The event was recorded by sound engineer Mark Smith, filmed by my daughter-in-law Eva Lunde-Bentley and Tonje Pinel and edited by Bob Blasdall (Bob@thepostworks.com). Tony Gwynne-Jones shot the stills. Mark, Tony, Eva and Tonje had no idea that their work would end up as a film – and it is a monument to Bob Blasdall’s brilliance that he was able to turn it into one.The string players on this film are Eugenie Costello and Sallie Campbell (violin), Bethan Lewis (viola) and Danielle Bentley (cello). Grev’s film clips accompany Well Under Way, Spring Will Come and The Shadow – all of which appear on Everyday Songs. There’s a fourth clip that has nothing to do with the album. It’s a sort of bonus. Titled Beach, it features Grev’s images accompanied by my solo piano.
For those who don’t know me… I’m Brisbane-born but left for Sydney in my teens to see what could be gleaned about modern jazz. That was in the early 60s. Great modern jazz musicians were playing at El Rocco in Kings Cross but traditional jazz was more popular. I joined a very good Chicago-style jazz band which, by the late 60s, had transmogrified into a very good New Orleans rhythm n blues band called The Id. I later joined Python Lee Jackson, moving to London where I wrote In A Broken Dream. By the mid-70s I was back in Brisbane where I formed Bentley’s Boogie Band with drummer Don Lebler and bassist Peter “Dr Rock” Wragg. The group continued, with some lineup changes, for about 15 years….after which I decided to pursue piano jazz. It was during this period that I played piano with some of my boyhood heroes – alto sax player Phil Wood, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, singer Mark Murphy and more. About this time, I began seeking ways to fuse my songwriter/singer style with jazz/blues piano – an ongoing pursuit. I’ve played a lot of blues, toured with guitarist Mick Taylor (now reunited with Rolling Stones) and performed at a lot of jazz festivals. My favourite gig is still the Brisbane Jazz Club where the piano is in tune, the sound fantastic and audiences warm and responsive. Oh… and I’m still a journalist – one of the very few freelancers to be awarded journalism’s most prestigious award, the Gold Walkey. Thanks to journalism, I’ve met some of the world’s most remarkable people and been to some of the world’s most interesting places. I’ve been a feature writer, a travel writer, a food reviewer, an entertainment writer, a columnist and a foreign correspondent.
Recently I collaborated on an animated book for smart young readers titled Jambo!Jambo! What can I tell you? Join the adventure. Buy or gift your favourite young person a copy from iTunes or Amazon – or download a free sample at jambojambo.com.au.
Meanwhile…music is as important as it ever was. I’m up for gigs: festivals, concerts, functions. I prefer gigs with cool in-house sound systems and in-tune grand pianos but I can provide my own equipment if need be.