Frank Ifield pictured with with fans, 1962. Photo: National Library of Australia
Most performers who get called blasts from the past are seldom blasts at all, but usually only puffs or minor gusts. But Australia's Frank Ifield, in Canberra for the National Folk Festival and giving a concert at the National Library of Australia on Thursday, is a true gale-force blast from a past that this aged columnist, a teenager in Ifield's heyday, knew well.
For a while in the early 1960s the Beatles were his support act (yes, his support act, second in importance to him) on tours of Britain that exploited Ifield's terrific popularity. The album cover shown here, from that time but with the Beatles blossoming, is for a recording of a joint Beatles/Ifield gig.
In an ABC Radio National interview on Tuesday morning Ifield reminisced amusingly about how in those days, on tour, the four shaggy Liverpudlians didn't (yet) go down particularly well with audiences. But, he said, he had always rather envied the foursome the brotherly ''camaraderie'' they enjoyed together while his own touring experience, as a solo performer, had been a bit lonesome. He also implied, but modestly, that his own uses of falsetto and yodelling may have been influences on the way in which the Beatles often shrilled a falsetto ''Ooooh!'' in their hit songs. Their She Loves You is an ''Ooooh!''-enriched example of them doing something Ifieldesque.
Album cover: The Beatles & Frank Ifield on stage. Photo: Supplied
No wonder Ifield was the star attraction. After a sluggish start in Britain, his seventh recording made there, I Remember You, an easy-listening ditty which showed off his effortlessly lovely falsetto and which hinted at the powerful steam-driven yodel up his sleeve, was top of the charts for seven weeks in 1962.
This columnist was living in England that summer and can remember how every jukebox in every amusement arcade in my seaside-resort town was serially throbbing with spinnings of this million-selling platter. Nothing else got played. The experience tattooed the song's otherwise forgettable lyrics (in which Ifield anticipates going to heaven and being asked by the inquisitive angels what has been ''the thrill of them all'' of his mortal life) to my receptive young memory. I have been singing it to myself, and sometimes to my flinching dogs, ever since.
His next single, showing off his virtuosic yodelry, was She Taught Me To Yodel and it too streaked to No. 1. To my horror, I know all of its lyrics, too. It has to be heard to be believed (try it on yourself by going to it on YouTube). Then his next single, Wayward Wind (the song of a cowpoke who, a footloose wanderer with tickets on himself, fancies he is the next of kin to that meteorological phenomenon the wayward wind), also bustled to No. 1. This made Ifield the first British-based warbler to reach No. 1 three times in succession there. The only person to have done it until then was Elvis Presley.
Model Melissa Obst wears Something Borrowed, from Amelia Thompson's fashion label, appearing in The Kitchen Table exhibition at M16 Artspace. Photo: Peta Rudd
Quite what the phenomenal success of these songs (yodelling? cowboys?) says about the popular musical tastes of 1960s Britain is unclear, but it suggests that it and the world were ready for the Beatles and that they were a godsend.
One had hoped to hear at least the ghost of Ifield's old best-in-the-universe yodel at Thursday's concert but he says that, born in 1937 and with a history of health problems that cut his career short, his yodelling days are over.
His audience at the National Library on Thursday is bound to be made up of nostalgia-seeking sixtysomethings and even seventysomethings entirely sympathetic to notions of no longer being able to do things we could when we were spring chickens.
The reverse view of Something Borrowed. Photo: Peta Rudd
Bridal beauty from bygone eras
Lots of readers gasped at the sheer glamorous gorgeousness of the photograph used here last week of an apparently naked-to-the waist model, her bare back to us, adorned with a new work from Amelia Thompson's fashion label Stranger than Fiction. The gallery where this is to be displayed asked me if we'd like as well (since we were so besotted by that image) the photograph of the ''front view'' of the damsel and the work she's wearing.
This columnist's response, blushing, was that yes, personally, as a boy I'd love to see it but couldn't imagine it appearing in a family column. But as you can see it turns out to be less blush-making than the back view.
The work is Something Borrowed, 2013, and employs polyester, cotton, glass pearls and a brooch. It will be part of the exhibition The Kitchen Table that opens on Thursday at the M16 Artspace in Griffith.
The artist explains that Something Borrowed refers to items from three generations of wedding dresses (of the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s) of just one Canberra-based family.
''Design features from three distinct fashion eras merge to create a delicate and evocative lace neckpiece.
The use of detailed lace is inspired by the intricate lace scalloping and light tulle decorating the 1920s wedding dress.
The strings of pearls are reminiscent of those worn by the 1950s bride, while the neck detailing in the piece makes reference to the high collar in the 1970s wedding ensemble. Something Borrowed is both romantically modest and sensually revealing.
Detailed cream lace ascends the wearer's neck and sweeps down the bust, white pearls decorate the neck; a cameo brooch adorns the decolletage and strings of dusty pink pearls cascade down the wearer's bare back.
''The vintage-inspired silhouette evokes nostalgic feelings of a washed-out memory or a half-remembered dream. Images of our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers on their wedding days are seen throughout our lives but are often stored in our minds as disjointed memories - pieced together by family stories and half remembered anecdotes. Something Borrowed simultaneously signifies vintage glamour and romance as well as sentimental and fragmented notions of the past.''