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Before the Boomerang Came Back
Down By The Billabong
The World Turned Upside-Down
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Percy Grainger
Reg Lindsay
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Australian Hillbilly Radio Hits
Australian Stars of the International Music Hall Voume 1
Australian Stars of the International Music Hall Voume 2
Band in a Waistcoat Pocket
Mastertouch Pianola
Strike up the Band
Stars of Australian Stage & Radio Vol 1
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Yep! Records
Music Without Compromise


Jenny Morris
Michal Nicholas
The Lovetones
Saints of India
Screw the Pooch

Before the Boomerang Came Back
Musical Aboriginalia (1949-1962)
Before the Boomerang Came Back - Musical Aboriginalia (1949-1962) compiled by producer Michael Alexandratos is out on all digital music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music..

Presented together for the first time are rare sound recordings of musical misappropriations of Aboriginal cultures, spanning the genres of jazz, pop, rock n roll, country music and art song, mostly recorded in Australia and by white non-Indigenous artists and composers.

All tracks have been remastered by Grammy Award winning audio engineer Michael Graves (Osiris Studio) and features album cover artwork by Tony Albert, courtesy of Sullivan + Strumpf.

It is hoped that this release will stimulate new perspectives and interpretations on material that represents an uncomfortable and difficult legacy in Australian music history.

For more information & additional context, read Michael Alexandratos’ blog posts on Amnesiac Archive:

Various Artists
Before the Boomerang Came Back – Musical Aboriginalia (1949-1962)
Catalogue Number RRH93

Buy Buy

Image: Mid-Century Modern Woman Hunting, 2016. Pigment on paper 50 x 50cm. Edition of 2+1AP (kindly reproduced with permission from artist Tony Albert and his representing gallery, Sullivan & Strumpf)

Before the Boomerang Came Back - Musical Aboriginalia (1949-1962)

This compilation is the first of its kind and a landmark in Australian recording history. Compiled, researched and produced by Michael Alexandratos and released through Rouseabout Records, “Before the Boomerang Came Back” is a compilation of rare sound recordings from 1949-1962 of musical misappropriations of Aboriginal cultures.

The one theme tying the collection together is the often racist and misguided representations of Aboriginal peoples and cultures, through sounds, lyrics and music.

The album’s controversial recordings are set against the backdrop of the 1950s, a tumultuous decade in the struggle for indigenous rights, and during the same period when the first commercial recordings were made by Aboriginal artists.

Popular Australian acts of the day are featured on the album, including a track by the Horrie Dargie Quintet in 1960, with the title “Arunta the Hunter”.

The second track “Dreamtime For Jedda” is a popular song that was tied-in with the release of the seminal film “Jedda” (1954) directed by Charles Chauvel, being the first to star two Aboriginal actors in leading roles.

“The Square Dance by the Billabong”, recorded in 1951 includes lyrical imagery of “native” animals, plants (and of more concern) Aboriginal people, as they perform a “square dance” by a billabong. This side was originally backed with a recording by Canadian-born hillbilly artist Smilin’ Billy Blinkhorn, known in Australia for his 1939 song, ‘Poor Ned Kelly’.

“The Song of the Dijeridoo” recorded in 1949 and taken from a rare 78rpm disc, is a racist send-up of this iconic Aboriginal instrument. It was released at a time when there were no commercially available records featuring actual didgeridoo playing by Aboriginal musicians.

Famed band-leader George Trevare leads the next track “The Bunyip Will Get You”, recorded in 1952 and featuring a big-band orchestral accompaniment to lines such as “near the billabongs and the lonely creeks/the lubras shiver when the bunyip shrieks”.

The music to “Poor Fellow Me” was composed by Alfred Hill, who is well-known for his extensive “borrowing” of themes from Aboriginal, Maori and Pasifika cultures. The lyrics were penned by white-Australian writer William Edward Harney, who collaborated with anthropologist A.P. Elkin in a book called “Songs of the Songmen” whose sources were supposedly “authentic” Aboriginal myths and legends.

“King Billy’s Song”, which was issued on the same side as the previous track and recorded in 1951, is another problematic ditty penned by Richard Baylis and William G. James back in 1922.

“Jabbin Jabbin” is a song of Aboriginal origin that was translated, arranged and published in a sheet music folio in 1937. Most notably recorded and performed by Aboriginal tenor Harold Blair in 1956, this track is performed by singer Lionel Long, raising serious questions as to the ownership and appropriation of Aboriginal themes by white folk singers.

Country music star Reg Lindsay sings the lead vocals on the track “The Walkabout Rock and Roll” with lyrics full of racist stereotypes about Aboriginal workers on rural cattle stations.

“The Story of Wilga Mia” was marketed as a ‘souvenir’ record in the late 1950s and features sound effects and ominous voice overs by white performers, drawing on the “authentic” Aboriginal legend of Wilga Mia (or ochre house).

“Corroboree Rock” is a rollicking, rock n roll number with singing by white blues and jazz singer Joan Bilceaux. With the naïve and benign refrain of “rock rock rock/Corroboree rock/everybody is doing the Corroboree rock” this song is particularly concerning when viewed in light of the ongoing destruction of cultural practices and traditional ceremonies throughout the 1950s and beyond.

“Mine Tinkit Gibbit Love” is recorded by notable jazz and popular musician Les Welch, with a song based loosely on a racist advertising campaign of the 1920s/30s by Pelaco Ltd.

The final track on the album “Cooee Call” by country stars The Le Garde Twins, is a fitting farewell to the contentious imagery and sounds presented across the album’s duration. It also raises serious questions about the use of traditionally Aboriginal practices in constructing a national image of what is “Australian.”

Michael Alexandratos comments: “The roots of this album project lie in an index of ‘Musical Aboriginalia’ that I started documenting on my research blog “Amnesiac Archive.” As I began to uncover more and more songs and compositions, I thought that it was important to present a sample of this difficult legacy in the form of a reissue album. I argue that the benefits of reissuing this material outweigh the potential negatives in re-circulating these racist songs.”

“Just like the contentious novelty song “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back” (1960) was set to a dance routine in Stephen Page’s film “Spear” (2015), I thought that these recordings too could be reclaimed and re-purposed by Aboriginal artists. The problem was that because these tracks were so obscure and rare, they could literally not be “heard” or easily accessed, so my index and reissue album were attempts at addressing this.”

“I then sought out artist Tony Albert – whose own work features Aboriginal kitsch objects – for advice on my projects. With his positive encouragement, he allowed me to use an original artwork from his series “Mid Century Modern” for the album cover.”

It is hoped that once this album is in circulation in the form of a digital reissue, that more perspectives – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – can be shared around this difficult legacy.

Previous Rouseabout heritage reissues produced by Michael Alexandratos:

Hawaiian Music recorded in Australia:
Keith Branch & His South Sea Islanders
(1947) – EP
Johnny Wade – Hawaiian Crooner,
Vol. 1 (1937-1946) and Vol. 2 (1949-1956)

Michael Alexandratos is a researcher, writer and record producer based in Sydney. He runs a website dedicated to his music and recorded sound research, titled Amnesiac Archive and an informal art blog titled Noise Gauge.
Image Gallery: Michael Alexandratos image

Here's what the media have to say...

Michael appreared in the Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum: On my mind: Michael Alexandratos and SBS Greek

CD Listing:

  1. Arunta the Hunter - The Horrie Dargie Quintet
  2. Dreamtime for Jedda - Bob Gibson & His Orchestra
  3. The Square Dance by the Billabong - Bobby Limb & His Band
  4. The Song of the Didjeridoo - The Harmoniques
  5. The Bunyip Will Get You - George Trevare & His Orchestra
  6. Poor Fellow Me - Alan Coad with Albert Fisher Orchestra
  7. King Billy's Song - Alan Coad with Albert Fisher Orchestra
  8. Jabbin Jabbin - Lionel Long
  9. The Walkabout Rock and Roll - Reg Lindsay & His Coltbreakers
  10. Boomerang - Ted Heath & His Music
  11. The Story of Wilga Mia - Australian Aboriginal Legends
  12. Corroboree Rock - Joan Bilceaux with Tom Davidson & His Orchestra
  13. Mine Tinkit Gibit Love - Les Welch & His Orchestra
  14. Cooee Call - The Le Garde Twins