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Russell Morris is one of Australia’s most enduring singers. A major pop star in the late ’60s,
he went on to become one of the country’s first singer/songwriters. Both ends of his career feature predominantly in the soundtrack to the movie The Dish.
Morris’ career started in September 1966 with the formation of the Melbourne group Somebody’s Image, which rose to prominence with a local hit version of the Joe South song “Hush.” Morris was convinced to leave Somebody’s Image for a solo career. His manager/producer, local music identity Ian Meldrum, spent unprecedented hours and money to create a seven-minute production extravaganza around a song called “The Real Thing.” Once the result was released to shocked radio programmers who had never been
asked to play such a long Australian single before, it was up to Morris’ personality, singing, and performing talents to make the record work. It reached Australia’s number one spot in June 1969.Without any promotional support from Morris, “The Real Thing” reached number one in Chicago, Houston, and New York.
The second single — “Part Three Into Paper Walls” (“The Real Thing” revisited) and “The Girl That I Love” (a pop ballad more indicative of what was to come) — became a double-sided number one hit,the first time an Australian artist had scored consecutive number ones with their first two singles. Morris, in the meantime, had traveled to the U.K. to help promote the release of “The Real Thing.”
Morris had now decided to concentrate on his own songwriting and with the cream of Australian musicians, spent almost a year painstakingly recording and re-recording what became the Bloodstone album. It was one of the first Australian albums of its kind, the first from an Australian singer/songwriter, and a whole world away from the extravagant “The Real Thing.” The hit single from Bloodstone was the resonant, romantic “Sweet Sweet Love.” The following year, in 1972, Morris delivered the equally beautiful “Wings of an Eagle.”
In 1973, Morris moved to London to record an album only to discover there was no record contract waiting for him. He relocated to New York and set to work on an album there, including new versions of both “Sweet Sweet Love” and “Wings of an Eagle” and the single “Let’s Do It.” A second American album appeared in 1976. It was two more years before Morris was granted his green card, enabling him to tour America. But by then, any chance of an American career had bolted. Instead, Morris returned to a very different Australia than the one he had left behind five years earlier.
During his solo career, Morris had done limited live performances without a band of his own. He then formed the Russell Morris Band and threw himself into a busy round of live performances, writing songs designed to be played live rather than chasing radio airplay, but scoring a couple of minor hits on the way. Eventually, the band played and recorded as Russell Morris & the Rubes.
In 1991, Morris released another solo album, A Thousand Suns, and he spent the subsequent years as part of a highly successful performing trio with fellow ’60s heroes Ronnie Burns and Darryl Cotton of the Zoot, with a repertoire made up of their individual hits from yesterday, as well as new songs. In 2001, Jim Keays of the Masters Apprentices replaced Burns. Also in 2001, Morris’ “The Real Thing” and “Wings of an Eagle” featured prominently in the Australian-made movie The Dish (centered around man’s landing on the moon) and Midnight Oil released their version of “The Real Thing” as a one-off single, the first time this highly regarded band had chosen to record a cover.