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Eric Bogle

Son of a bagpipe player, Australian emigrant ERIC BOGLE (born 23rd September 1944, Peebles, in the Borders of Scotland), has become synonymous with the resurgence of the 80s folk scene, while keeping the traditions – whether British or Australian – strictly in line with his music and manners of old. One song in particular (written by Eric in the early 70s), the epic `The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, was a biting anti-war commentary adapted from a traditional Australian folk song and inspired by an Anzacs march in Canberra. Although it remains his most famous work and signature tune, BOGLE has consistently followed a songwriting agenda centred on political and humanitarian issues, especially anti-war themes. Which isn’t to say he lacks a sense of humour, far from it, as a cursory listen to any of his live efforts will attest.
At the age of 25, BOGLE, like so many Scots before him, emigrated to Australia, where he initially lived in the city of Canberra. After a period working as an accountant, he eventually took up singing/writing/performing full-time; the strength of his work, and of course, his aforementioned classic (but no official recordings as yet), resulted in a few unofficial bootlegs (e.g. the ERIC BOGLE LIVE IN PERSON series.
However, NOW I’M EASY (1980) {*7} was issued as his domestic debut album proper, a record that contained both `No Man’s Land’ (better known as `Green Fields Of France’ when first recorded by The MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG) and `The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’. While Larrikin Records in Australia released several subsequent sets, Topic Records, Plant Life, Sonet and Flying Fish were responsible for his overseas material. With sidekick guitarist/mandolinist John Munro always in tow, BOGLE’s 80s albums were somewhat of a hit and miss affair, but generally each had a foothold in folk’s finest ground, namely PLAIN AND SIMPLE (1981) {*5}, SCRAPS OF PAPER (1982) {*6}, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (1984) {*6}, IN CONCERT (1985) {*6}, SINGING THE SPIRIT HOME (1986) {*6} and SOMETHING OF VALUE (1988) {*7}; of these one must at least listen to the penultimate LP’s title track, a harrowing yet uplifting true story about a black prisoner’s execution in South Africa.
VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS (1991) {*5} highlighted further evidence of his political awareness, while two cues stemmed from Andy McGloin (`It’s Only Tuesday’) and Bruce Watson (`Amazon’). 1993’s MIRRORS {*5}, meanwhile, railed against both the modern-day horrors of Brazil’s murdered street children and the ghosts of Nazi Germany; double live set I WROTE THIS WEE SONG… (1994) {*7} is as good a starting point as any for BOGLE beginners, featuring a clutch of his most enduring songs and a heavy dose of between-song banter.
A contemporary folk protest singer in the mould of WOODY GUTHRIE, PHIL OCHS et al, rather than a purely folk traditionalist, BOGLE rarely relies on anything other than an acoustic guitar for accompaniment although he regularly performs and records with longstanding friends John Munro and Brent Miller. Virtually all of BOGLE’s 90s and 00s recordings were released in the UK via Scots label Greentrax (more at home to folk-ceilidh acts), the most enduring being THE EMIGRANT & THE EXILE with Munro (1997) {*6}, SMALL MIRACLES (1997) {*6}, ENDANGERED SPECIES (2000) {*5}, THE COLOUR OF DREAMS (2002) {*6}, OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN (2005) {*5}, THE DREAMER (2009) {*6}, A TOSS OF THE COIN (2013) {*6} with Munro, and ditto for 2016’s VOICES {*6}.
© MC Strong 2002/GSM-2011-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Dec2013-Oct2016

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