I’m Talking

“Basically the dancefloor’s the be-all and end-all of the area we work in – like, if it doesn’t work in that context, we’re not interested.” That was I’m Talking’s Robert Goodge talking to Rolling Stone’s Clinton Walker in 1986, a time when very few Australian bands were talking about the dancefloor, let alone its definitive importance. But I’m Talking, originally a six-piece out of Melbourne, were not just an anomaly, they set a new benchmark for Australian club music. (In some places they arrived before the clubs)

Their strength came from their diversity, although that probably also contributed to their comparatively brief life span of a little less than four years. The foundation was guitarist Robert Goodge, bassist Barbara Hogarth and saxophonist Ian Cox, all whom had come to Melbourne post-punk independent scene, where they were part of experimental group Essendon Airport. Determined to pursue disco they took on vocalist Kate Ceberano, keyboardist Stephen Charlesworth and drummer Cameron Newman. They began playing Melbourne’s venues, including the beer barns, in December 1983, and, as their profile grew, soon added a foil for Ceberano in vocalist Zan Abeyratne.

As a genre, disco had been a brief, gaudy fad in Australia. – Many copies of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack were sold, but few real seeds were sown. It was the underground scene, where rhythm was another element to be dramatically recast and art theory allowed the possibilities of manipulation, which fostered domestic dance music, with I’m Talking the most visible example of a generation that outgrew squat gigs and moved into the studio.

The band, directed by the song writing partnership of Goodge and Cox, aimed high, and they had overseas producers in the control room for their only album Bear Witness, with Scritti Politti’s Fred Maher starting the album and ABC’s engineer Martyn Webster finishing it.

The songs were richer than the first wave of Madonna’s hits which were breaking concurrently, and both Ceberano and Abeyrante were more powerful vocalists. The necessity of playing live grounded the compositions.

The music was upbeat (close to the pre-House dance genre Freestyle), but the lyrics were rarely celebratory. The relationships described on Bear Witness are generally unbalanced – one party controls the other. When they’re equal there’s simply mistrust.

The group never really recovered from their first international tour where ambition and differing agendas came to the fore (and came to a halt by early 1987, leaving an area soon to be populated by a new) generation of electronic artists and DJ’s.

Taken from the book,  “The 100 Best Australian Albums” by Toby Creswell, John O’Donnell, Craig Mathieson.