Monday, November 26, 2012

Cover me in four places

The subject of this post is a song that, since its first release, was dying for a cover. In fact the original band had 2 more cracks at it over the course of their career.

Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters and Collectors was originally released as a single in 1984. However when it appeared two years later on the band’s 3rd album, Human Frailty, it was re-recorded and re-released as a single.

He never names the four places

(Note that I couldn’t dig up a copy of the 1984 version, but this one is most people are referring to when they say the “original” – if you have a link to the 84 version, please put it in the comments).

In 1990, when it came time for the band to release a compilation of Collected Works they re-recorded it a second time, slightly slower:

I bet the bridge of her nose is one of them

Either version of this song (and they really are quite similar) is an “Oz Rock” classic. Every guy with a guitar and a campfire can, and will, sing it. But I was never a huge fan. It has a certain feel to it, musically, that a lot of Australian Rock from the 80s had, which I have never liked. People call it “raw” but to me it just feels a bit empty and hollow. And I’m not sure if Mark Seymour is deliberately singing bum notes in some of the verses but I physically wince a couple of times with how off key he is. (Again, maybe that’s part of the “raw” but I just don’t get it).

So it will come as no surprise that I much prefer this version of the song, performed by the Australian comedy trio The Doug Anthony All-Stars, made up of guitarist Richard Fidler, tall guy Tim Ferguson (who isn’t actually that tall) and lead singer Paul McDermott.

(Audio quality isn’t great, but beggars can’t be choosers)

I will admit to some bias here, as I loved DAAS from the moment they burst on to my TV screen in ABC TVs The Big Gig in 1989. They had a mix of satire, irreverence, abuse, immaturity and sweet harmonies that appealed to me instantly. I’ve been to see them multiple times, and own a couple of their albums. The above live cover comes from their 1994 album Dead & Alive (which also contained such lovely tracks as Skinhead Sooty and I Fuck Dogs).

What I like about this version is that it doesn’t feel at all empty. They are only 3 voices and a 12 string acoustic, but there’s a real depth to the sound. There is passion in the voices – and although there is probably more passion in Seymour’s voice there is strength behind the passion in this version. Which is odd, as there’s not a lot of expression on their faces. They are singing this, as they did with a lot of their serious songs, “altar boy” style. Standing up straight, looking forward (or slightly upward) and hands still.

Most live shows that DAAS did had one serious song, nestled among their other ruder works. This song was Dead & Alive’s and for the 3 or so minutes it took everything stopped and the atmosphere changed. Then the show continued. It was partly because it was unexpected and incongruous that it has such an effect. But, even when it stands alone - not contrasted against the rest of their material, it is still an amazing version.It is a pity, then, that Paul McDermott went on to milk this song for all it was worth, to the point where it became as much a standard for him as it did for the original band.


  1. I'll never agree with you on this. The DAAS version was such a contrived attempt to "normalise" their otherwise rather unimpressive repertoire of puerile swear-songs for a mainstream audience, it was ridiculous. The extent to which Paul McDermott has milked hell out of it proves the point.
    Richard Fidler's capable but uninteresting guitar part doesn't do much, the harmonies are pretty uninspiring but by far the worst elements are McDermott's over-cooked trills and ornamentations. Appalling.

  2. I prefer the DAAS one because Paul at least looks as though he is thinking about a girl. Mark Seymour has a girl throw her arms around him and barely glances at her.
    And he sounds bored.

  3. I've always thought the whole 'four places' thing was too dodgy for words - especially since he plans on doing it "as I go running along your stree-ee-ee-eeeet". Obviously a pair of talented athletes.

    As for the song, tough call. My opinion is biased because I've always found Paul McDermott just a little bit annoying, even though I'm prepared to admit that they were very, very good live. I suspect that he's not thinking about a girl though - he's more than likely thinking about himself.

    I'm giving it to the original single because I prefer the manly, workman-like harmonies of the 'Hunners' to Paul's "trilling". DAAS comes in second, and the remake single version in third because it was over-produced and redundant.

  4. Perhaps the four places are "On the footpath outside the neighbour's house", "Just round the corner", "Three blocks away" and "Down in Queen's Way".

  5. I really liked the DAAS version until i'd heard it just that one or two hundred too many times.

    I'm going to dredge up an argument I didn't think i'd ever use this century and say that on most of their albums, the hunters were fine to middling. Live, they could be really very good.

    When you stood in a sweaty, slightly drunken crowd having shouted "You don't make me feel like I'm a woman any more." at the top of your lungs and then they dropped into a slightly loose version of the first few bars of 'throw your arms' , it was a different experience all together from the tightly wound single.

    So my vote would be for that.