Monday, 28 May 2012

Australia's Shirley Jacobs - Shirley Jacobs (197?)

Shirley Jacobs was a folk singer and anti war activist who was active in Melbourne during the seventies and eighties. She regularly performed for the inmates of Pentridge Prison and eventually fell in love with a prisoner who had been incarcerated for blowing the whistle on police corruption in Victoria. On this record Jacobs sings songs aimed at children, but her social consciousness comes through very clearly on most tracks. On 'Sad Eyed Teddy Bear' she sings about a young boy who grows up to fight in a war and dies. On 'Tribal Girl' she sings about an indigenous girl, a 'dreamtime girl' and 'the songs your people know'.

The social commentary mostly works okay in the children's song format, however there are some missteps such as 'Friendly, Green, Luminous Bear', a ham-fisted equating of the mistreatment of the titular bear with racism. (Also on this track, the bass player seems to be completely unfamiliar with the progression - it's amazing that they kept this take.) My favourite is 'I Know A Girl Who Looks Through Windows' - a lovely folk melody with a great interplay between major and minor sections. This is an interesting folk album although the lack of variety in melodies and arrangement can get a bit samey after a while.

Label: RCA Camden
Released: Unsure, probably early seventies.
Players: Shirley Jacobs - 12-string guitar
Ade Monsbourgh - recorder, melodica, trumpet
Doug Wallace - guitar
Peter Hayes - 5-string banjo
Jim Beal - drums, maraccas, glockenspiel, bells, triangle, tambourine
Frank Taylor - piano
Allan Pope - electric bass
Children of Essex Heights State School, Victoria join Shirley on the choruses of 'Sad Eyed Teddy Bear', 'Topsy On The Truck', 'Friendly, Green, Luminous Bear'.


  1. Just listening to this LP as I write - looked to the internet for some more info about the artist. I picked the record up in an op shop, knowing nothing about the artist. I agree with much of what you say, the didactic creep (perennial problem of the socially conscious song writer!) is there, but overall a lovely album - she sings beautifully, and what bravery and persistence must have gone into making this album happen. Thanks for your entry here - nice to know I am, not wholly alone in treasuring obscure vinyl :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this, had this album in the seventies, loved it then and still do today, am sorry to hear that Shirley has passed, my condolences to her family and many fans!