For the first time since the heyday of Molly Meldrum’s “Humdrum,” the collected recordings of the masterminds behind the uneasybeats of BEAUT, BRANDED and BRITISH JETS - DAVE BURNETT & LEE CUTELLE - are available for less than collectorscum prices, including the first single cut by the duo at the beginning of their decade-long partnership. That none of these songs set the charts alight at the time of their release is less a pronouncement on their musical quality and rather an indictment on the short-sighted taste-makers and star-chasers of the era. Fitting that they will now be exonerated and reverse-Transported to a world that is perhaps finally ready for them.
Our take: I’ve been listening to this podcast called A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs. They’re a little over 100 episodes in, and the first 99 episodes covered the pre-Beatles era of pop and rock music. There was a heavy emphasis on Motown, girl groups, and Brill Building pop, and the podcast focuses on how each song came to be. Back then there was a heavy division of labor in the music industry, with songwriters, producers, performers all having distinct roles alongside other important people like engineers, label executives, arrangers, and countless other roles. While, on some level, these operations seem very complex and sophisticated, when you take a step back you see that everyone was just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something would stick (in the commercial sense). Our idea of pop music these days is tied up with this Dylan / Beatles idea of the auteur creating a grand artistic statement, but in that pre-Beatles era it seems like everyone was scrambling for some kind of hook—a dance craze, a vocal melody, a lyrical idea—that would resonate with the record buying public. This long preamble is to say that the music collected on this LP from Dave & Lee reminds me of that era. Dave & Lee are Australians Dave Burnett and Lee Cutelle, and the LP collects singles from four of their projects: Dave & Lee, Beaut, Branded, and British Jets. The Dave & Lee single came out in 1969 and the British Jets in 1980, so the music here covers a pretty wide stylistic swath. The Dave & Lee single is psychedelic pop with string arrangements a la the Zombies, while British Jets sound like riffy ’77 punk with a bootboy glam edge. While the window dressing differs from track to track, the big hooks make it hang together and sound like a playlist from a very eclectic but awesome radio station. Dave & Lee don’t sound like folks noodling around and experimenting in the studio; they sound like they were trying to write a hit. While I don’t think they hit commercial pay-dirt, they got close enough to get power pop collector nerds all hot and bothered, and now there’s this compilation, which is a treat for those of us who love a pop hook and a compilation full of hot tracks by unknown artists. If you fall into any of those categories, I encourage you to investigate this LP further.