Waltzing (Matilda) With The Band (At Last?)

Waltzing (Matilda) With The Band (At Last?)


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the classic film and album of the final concert by the hugely influential American group The Band, a number of new editions of The Last Waltz will be released on November 11.

The Last Waltz showcases The Band’s Thanksgiving Day 1976 concert at the Winterland Theatre in San Francisco. The show was the final concert (before subsequent reformations of course) and featured an all-star cast of guests including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Van Morrison and Neil Young. All of it was captured by Martin Scorsese, who made a celebrated concert film that was released in April 1978.

The official 40th anniversary edition will include the original soundtrack on two discs, featuring newly remastered audio from the original master tapes. The 54-track deluxe edition includes four discs and a Blu-ray, expanded to include rehearsals, outtakes and The Last Waltz film. There is a six-LP vinyl edition, and, coming December 9, a massive and strictly-limited collector’s edition.

The Band of course were one of the most hugely influential acts of all time; much more influential than their chart successes or mainstream profile would suggest. Not only were they there with Bob Dylan at one of the most important periods of his career, but their immersion in the roots of American popular music, and their debut album Music from the Big Pink in particular, had a profound effect on influence on the Beatles late in their career, and helped shape the music of the ‘70s via their influence on the likes of Eric Clapton, Elton John, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and countless others. Indeed, even Roger Waters called the album the second "most influential record in the history of rock and roll" (after Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and said that it "affected Pink Floyd deeply, deeply, deeply.”

In Australia it was no different. At the height of psychedelia, The Band’s music helped signal a turn towards the more rustic and rootsy. Perhaps tying for most overtly Band-inspired outfit in Australia at the time were Fraternity, who featured a young(ish) Bon Scott (and subsequently a very young Jimmy Barnes); and Axiom, featuring Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock and Chris Stockley. It went deeper and wider too: at the same time as Joan Baez’s version of The Band’s "The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down" was rising up the Australian charts, so was Olivia Newton John’s version of the old American murder ballad "Banks of the Ohio".  Soon-to-be hard-core blues outfit Chain were very-Band inspired early on, likewise Russell Morris’s Bloodstone album, and even the great early recordings of Colleen Hewitt – covers of Band-indebted artists Delanie & Bonnie and the Beatles, and of "Day By Day" from Godspell (it’s not a stretch to suggest that The Band’s love of old gospel music was an influence there) - revealed an earthiness and sonic richness that was in keeping with The Band’s influence.

The Band’s influence on Australian rock continued on through the ‘70s – the Dingoes, Cold Chisel, Stars – and returned every time there was a revival of interest in rootsier types of music.

Here’s 15 great Australian recordings we reckon bare the distinctive mark of being influenced by Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson - aka The Band.  

Axiom - Arkansas Grass (1969)

Cadd and Shorrock perhaps came to the band via the Beatles, but the Civil War uniforms suggest they fell pretty hard!

(The) Chain – Show Me Home (1969)

A superb Phil Manning song and Pat Aulton production, predating Matt Taylor’s involvement in the band.

Fraternity - The Shape I’m In (1971) & Livestock (1971)

Yep, a Band cover from Bon and the boys, and then a great Sam See-Bruce Howe original "Sommerville".

Olivia Newton John - Banks of the Ohio (1971)

An age-old ‘murder ballad’ (The Band had helped revive interest in that form with their cover of "Long Black Veil" on their first album), arranged by John Farrar and Bruce Welch. Olivia’s first number one hit here in Australia, and a #6 hit in the UK (and pardon our Dave Allen!)

Russell Morris - Lay in the Graveyard (1971)

The evidence of Russell’s mate Brian Cadd’s particular style of Americana is more than apparent on this great track from Russell’s underrated Bloodstone album.


King Harvest - Witchita Lineman (1971)

Yes it’s a Jimmy Webb tune (they also recorded a much–lauded cover of the Stones’ "Jumpin Jack Flash"), but the (short-lived) band, fronted by the great Leo De Castro took its name from the great track on the Band’s classic 1970 self-titled album.

Country Radio – Gypsy Queen (1972)

An all-time Australian classic from Greg Quill, Kerryn Tolhurst and co.

Colleen Hewett - Carry That Weight (1972)

It was just their newly grown facial hair in which the Beatles reflected the influence of The Band following the release of Music from Big Pink. Colleen Hewett’s version of this Abbey Road favourite (with its title perhaps inspired by The Band’s "The Weight" perhaps) shows how The Band’s influenced seeped into Australian music even indirectly.


Dingoes - Way Out West (1974)

Combining members of blues greats Carson together with already noted bands Country Radio, Axiom and Fraternity, American roots music was in the Dingoes’ blood.


Cold Chisel - One Long Day (1978)

Yes they were harder rocking but there is no denying the influence of The Band was there. Not only had Jimmy Barnes (and his brother Swanee actually) been a member of Fraternity late in the piece, but in both keyboard player Don Walker and guitarist Ian Moss  they had songwriting and playing that was highly proficient, intelligent and rooted in the same American roots music that The Band worshipped.

Stars - Land of Fortune (1979)

Following Chisel out of Adelaide, Stars were perhaps more of a Southern Rock thing but with "Land of Fortune" they created something that tried to do for Australian history what the Band did with American history in songs like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".


Richard Clapton - Get Back to the Shelter (1980)

Sydney’s Clapton was as intoxicated by American roots music as his English namesake. Whilst Eric was noted for his guitar-playing, Richard was a singer-songwriter, and there’s no doubt that Robbie Robertson was one of his favourites.

Black Sorrows - Hold on to Me (1988)

Joe Camilleri is one of Melbourne’s true roots music heroes and has been since the Kingbees in the mid-‘60s. He’s traversed all the terrain that The Band did – blues, country, Cajun, gospel, R&B – and shows no sign of letting up.


Badloves with Jimmy Barnes - The Weight (1993)

Melbourne’s young classic rock guns the Badloves teamed up with Jimmy to cover this classic by The Band in ’93.

Chris Altmann - Other Side of the Mountain (2011)

This Melbournian - a singing drummer, just like Levon Helm was - first appeared as a member of young rockers the Vandas before hitting the roots trail, which, in a manner that neatly concludes this playlist, has led him to take up residence in The Band’s old stomping ground of Canada! How great is this song hey? It’s already been covered by another Melbourne local, the wonderful Suzannah Espie, and it’s an evergreen in the making we reckon!


The 40th anniversary of The Last Waltz has rolled around and the occasion is to be marked with three new 40th Anniversary Edition releases. Set to hit shelves on November 11 and including the pairing of the audio and video for the first time, the formats range from the standard remastered offering, to Deluxe, to all the bells and whistles. Find out more here.

If you enjoyed this feature, we're reminded of a great collection of Australian artists of this ilk that you must check out, Boogie Presents: Silver Roads - Australian Country Rock & Singer-Songwriters Of The 70s - featuring Axiom, The Dingoes, Country Radio, Stars, Fraternity and more.

- DL

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