The Seekers ‘The Legendary Television Specials’ DVD has given the iconic Australian band their first number one in 50 years.
The last time The Seekers had a number one was with ‘The Best of The Seekers’ in 1968. The current number one ‘The Legendary Television Special’ (through Ambition Entertainment), features the three TV specials ‘The Seekers At Home’ (1966), ‘The Seekers Down Under’ (1967) and ‘The World of the Seekers’ (1968).
Lead singer Judith Durham is humbled by the current chart accolade. “It is absolutely mind boggling. The fact that all four of us are still alive and around to enjoy it,” Judith tells Noise11.com. “This is a big thrill that we have gone to number one”.
In one futurist scene filmed in the 60s the four members are made up to look old to look like it is 50 years in the future. “In the action on the plane I wake up from a dream and say “Perhaps we’ll never break up”. It is just a classic that it was filmed like that. I was made up to look so old. The make-up lady did me up with all these lines down my face. I looked really old compared to how I do now”.
‘The Seekers At Home’, made in 1966, was filmed in black and white. The next special, ‘The Seekers Down Under’ from 1967, was filmed in colour. “We had our first three chart toppers. “I’ll Never Find Another You’, ‘The World Of Our Own’ and ‘The Carnival Is Over’ and we were in England,” she said. “We were going back to Australia for the very first time. We went into the studio to film this and it was in black and white but had quite a few hits. It was remarkable that we had the opportunity the following year to film another special and it was in colour”.
A lot of the footage for the television specials was filmed around Melbourne. “I was singing at Blackrock and then we went on Puffing Billy,’ Judith said. “No-one thought we’d still be around the following year and doing even better. Dear old Puffing Billy is still going, of course”.
In 1967, the colour ‘The Seekers Down Under’ had a big budget of $100,000. At the time the average house price in Melbourne was $9400. The special cost as much as 11 houses at the time to make. “That’s fantastic. Don’t forget that when The Seekers went to England it was cheaper to go by boat with all your meals included for five weeks rather than flying. Nobody could afford to fly then,” Judith said.
Judith’s green dress from the Myer Music Bowl performance in ‘The Seekers Down Under’ is now a museum piece. It is on display at the Australian Music Vault at Arts Centre Melbourne. “There is a lot of funding that has gone into the Australian Music Vault. It was only recently launched. I think its on display for about six months. In New South Wales the National Library launched an exhibition called ‘1968 Changing Times’. Athol launched it. It was a really interesting year for The Seekers”.
The Seekers exploded at an organic time in music. At the same time people were discovering The Seekers they were also discovering Simon & Garfunkel and just before that The Who, The Kinks, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. “It was changing times,” Judith recalls. “On this DVD The Seekers are singing The Times They Are A-Changing. We are in Canberra and just driven around Canberra in open top cars driving around the embassies sitting in the blazing sun singing ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’”.
It was a time when they mixed with not only the famous but also the powerful. Prime Ministers wanted to associated with The Seekers. “You may have spotted Harold Holt in the special,” she says. “In the old Parliament House they timed it so that we would be at the stairs just as Harold Holt was exiting from Parliament and we all shook hands with Harold Holt as he was heading to his car. It was very soon after that John Gorton became Prime Minister and the Australian of the Year was made. We went to Melbourne Town Hall to accept the award from John Gorton and Robert Menzies was also there and so were all of our parents”.
Judith says it was the former Prime Minister who got her thinking about the lack of patriotic Australian made songs at the time. “John Gorton was very nice to me. I was very shy. I never talked on stage. I hardly spoke. It was quite a big thing when John Gorton turned to me and said ‘why don’t you say something’. All I could think was ‘somebody should write a song about Australia’,” Judith said. “All there was at the time was Waltzing Matilda. The amazing thing is Bruce then wrote ‘I Am Australian’ and I have also written some Australian songs myself. That’s all I could think of to say. There are no speeches of mine in the DVD”.
The original location of The Treble Clef, the upmarket coffee lounge in Toorak Road, South Yarra where The Seekers played their first ever gig, to this day has not been marked with a plaque to honour the historical significance of the location. “I was living in Toorak for quite a while and whenever I passed what was The Treble Clef, I would think that it should have been set in stone with a blue plaque,” Judith says. “It has still got a row of four restaurants but it is no longer The Treble Clef. I am very reminiscent of that place”.
The DVD has footage of the band in the venue and it was tiny. “That was pretty true to life,’ she said. “You could go through to the back through that archway was a continuation where you could eat. Recently I met Clive Palmer and he told me he was once under the table at age 8 listening to The Seekers because his parents had taken him. I’ve lived a long time. The Seekers are pretty old now”.
The Seekers The Legendary Television Specials is out now through Ambition Entertainment. Contact Frog at Songland Records to order a copy.