Two great voices
Elvis Presley was the King, Michael Jackson was the King of Pop and John Farnham’s marketing tagline is every bit as apt and deserved — we know him simply as The Voice.
Farnham has been a musical constant in Australia throughout a career spanning 45 years, a feat achieved by very few.
From his early days as a crooning teen heartthrob, to his major- league apprenticeship fronting the Little River Band, to his reinvention as a stadium-draw solo artist, Farnesy has crushed it at every turn.
Now, at the age of 65, Farnham is still playing to win but on his own terms. It’s been 24 years since the release of Chain Reaction, arguably the last of his golden era releases.
Nonetheless, his brand has remained strong, a luxury that has afforded the English-born Aussie icon the ability to dictate his own path.
Suggestions of retirement, whether accurate or not, have become a playful footnote around every Farnham tour of the past decade after the singer stepped away from arena touring in the early Noughties.
If anything, this has only endeared him more to his ever-loyal fans. Farnham’s recent outings have been with fellow giants of yesteryear.
He toured nationally with Tom Jones in 2005 and more recently with Lionel Richie last year.
In 2015, the Voice will be teaming up with another member of Australian music royalty, the eternally youthful Olivia Newton-John. The Two Strong Hearts tour will see Farnham and Newton-John hit the road together for the first time since their hugely successful 1998 Main Event Tour with baritone Anthony Warlow, a prospect that has Farnham excited.
“Mate, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve known Livvy forever and she’s a lovely bird, and we’ve always gotten on pretty well, ” Farnham says from his Melbourne home. “We did the Main Event together with Anthony Warlow years and years ago and vowed then to do something together again. It just worked out that, when the time came, I was up for it, she was up for it and so we’re going to put it together. We’ve got a 60-piece orchestra, all the bells and whistles.”
Between them, Farnham and Newton-John have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide (with the latter doing the heavy lifting beyond our borders), cementing their places in the annals of Australian music history and garnishing a fan base contemporary acts can only dream of.
If ever there was an example of the long game and how to play it, look no further.
Farnham discusses the past decade, the retirement rumours (or more accurately the confusion around the retirement rumours) and the appeal that the co-headline touring format offers him as an artist.
“What it does for both performers, it just eases you a little bit, ” Farnham explains. “I always found it so stressful being responsible for the whole deal. It can be very difficult, so I decided I was going to work smaller venues, which is where ‘I’m retiring’ came from. “I never said I was going to retire, I just said I wasn’t going to do the big venues anymore . . . so I started working smaller venues which I thoroughly enjoy because I was able to eyeball everyone in the place, which was great.
“Having said that, going out with Lionel (Richie) into the bigger auditoriums and the entertainment centres, it’s fantastic, you do get contact with people, ” he continues. “I cannot tell you what it feels like when people give it back, it makes you want to bleed for them.”
With the artistic fire still burning, the conversation moves toward new material — perhaps not so much another rebirth, rather a consolidation of one of Australia’s most illustrious musical careers.
Will there be another original John Farnham record? “Absolutely, in fact I’ve been talking to Sony about it, and (manager Glenn) Wheatley and I are searching for songs at present. It all gets down to the songs, ” Farnham says.
“It’s difficult, I’m 65 years old and it’s hard to find songs for grown-ups now, so I’ve really got to search. I’m not going to make an album if I don’t think I’ve got some good songs. “Look, I’m never going to have a hit song again, fine, I can live with it, ” he adds. “But good songs, I’ll be quite happy to record.”
The Two Strong Hearts tour starring John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John hits Sandalford Estate, Margaret River on April 4, 2015. Tickets are available through Ticketek.
© The West Australian
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