Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Castanet Club

I was searching youtube recently for clips of The Castanet Club. The Castanet Club was an anarchic ensemble of Aussie comedians, musicians and singers that had a successful career in cabaret in the 80s and very early 90s. Their shows were famous for the characters they created (some such as Angela Moore's "Shirley Purvis" went on to have a life of their own outside The Castanet Club), their camp taste in music, kitschy style and especially audience participation. (Here's a little bio of them put together by Radio National in 2001.)

One of my favourite stories is that in the early days they helped finance their shows by baking and selling lamingtons to the punters.

Their show even spawned two hit singles on the Aussie music charts, a cover of the Italian classic "Tintarella Di Luna" and Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On". Both of which I still have on vinyl. Treasures.

Sadly I didn't find the music clips I wanted, but I did discover two clips from a 1990 Castanet Club docu-drama movie that I didn't even know existed! There is an extremely bare bones imdb entry for it, and I've also seen it listed as being called "Big Night Out". The best news, it's due for release on DVD late this year apparently!

"Viva Las Vegas" by Glenn Butcher and the Castanet Club ensemble.

"River Deep, Mountain High" by Lena Caruso and the Castanet Club ensemble

I never saw the Castanets live, but I did once go to a comedy cabaret show by the spin-off character Shirley Purvis. Sadly no clips of her on youtube, otherwise I'd show you. Think demented Aussie housewife that spoke a million words a minute and you are part way there. During the show she left the stage and went around giving everyone in the audience little nips from a giant flagon of cheap sherry. Now that's entertainment!

But a lamington would have been nice.


worldpeace and a speedboat said...

I looooooooooooooved the Castanet Club - I was googling them a couple of weeks ago myself. there's really not much about, is there?

I need to get a copy of Tintarella and Beat Goes On - great songs. who was the chick who sang with Mark? I remember seeing them so vividly on Countdown, they were the maddest people I'd ever seen on telly (yes, even topping Iggy Pop wearing nothing but orange spandex leggings). I knew as soon as I saw Bob Downe years later than I had seen him before but it took me ages to make the connection!

Angela does Play School concerts, we've seen her twice now. it's funny because she does actually have that Shirley edge to her voice sometimes and it's a cack. first time round I got her autograph for The Dinghy but when I asked how Shirley was she gave me a funny, wry sort of look and said something about Shirley being put to rest.

the concept of Shirley and the Sandman married with children still makes me giggle ;-)

B.Trousers said...

Oh wow...You've just opened a memory box!
I had that movie! I'm sure of it! Dad and I were mad about them. He taped The Big Gig for me too, let me even watch the rude bits...
I wonder if he still has it.

Anonymous said...

For those into the Castanet club, some sad news. Rodney's Dad, George passed away last week (he featured sometimes singing Love is a Many Splendored Thing).

alison said...

I was at university in Newcastle and saw the Castanet's live a few times. They were genius.

I googled Castanet Club a few months ago looking for any recordings of theirs - I have a tape from one of their gigs, which I've just converted into mp3's so I can listen to it without dragging the old walkman out!

I did find Maynards website, but it does'nt look too current.

Maynard said...

The two singles you mentioned were from The Globos, Melbourne based group featuring Bob Downe among others.

Kim Flintoff said...

I was lucky enough to catch several performances by the Castanet Club at the New Fortune Theatre at the University of WA. Even bumped into Rodney Cambridge at the beach after one performance. I seem to recall Mikey Robbins also doing "Elvis" as part of the show. They were a hoot and a pity there are so few archives of the work they created...