Songs of 74: Farewell Aunty Jack / Grahame Bond

Radioinfo takes you back 50 years to the songs that were released and charted in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

Farewell Aunty Jack, the closing theme to The Aunty Jack Show, was No 1 on the charts this time 50 years ago, a position it held for 10 weeks. It is a one hit wonder and totally unknown to people outside this country. This television show was the career starting point for Gary McDonald (aka Norman Gunston), with the late Rory O’Donoghue playing Thin Arthur (and the singer of this hit) and Grahame Bond the eponymous Aunty Jack.

The character of Aunty Jack was loosely based around the ABC’s last tea lady Dot Strong. She served more than 2 million beverages during her 21 years in the role, telling recipients to return all cups or have their arm broken. My father, who worked for the ABC in Sydney for more than two decades himself, to this day diligently washes his cup and puts it away immediately after use.

If you get the chance to see The Aunty Jack Show (there used to be fairly regular reruns) there are natural comparisons to Monty Python. Perhaps you might think we ripped off the concept of naughty, sometimes violent, cross dressing sketch comedy from them. Actually, the two shows both debuted on Australian television on the very same night, with The Aunty Jack Show at 730 pm, and Monty Python at 9.

Aunty Jack was very nearly pulled after the first episode due to complaints. It ran for just two seasons. A few years later Bond and O’Donoghue paired up again for The Off Show. This time, half an hour before it was due to air, then ABC Head of Comedy Alan Bateman decided one of the sketches was too much and went as far as destroying the tape.

As a result the duo decided never again to work with ABC TV, though they did do a comedy program Nude Radio on the then brand new radio station Double J. Norman Gunston got his own spin off interview show and even charted, with a couple of his singles below.

Imagine what The Aunty Jack Show could have been if this unique brand of humour had been allowed to grow and evolve like the Monty Python crew were able to? The fact that this song was No 1 for so long is testament to just how many Australians did connect with the concept.

Over the years I’ve collected on vinyl everything the trio did. This picture disc was a gift from Tony Rasmussen while I was working at AFTRS, and one I treasure.

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.

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