Spellbound - Vol IV Iss IV
© June 2000
The Ghost of Time CD was released in Australia on
6th December. It received critical praise all around and charted
respectably. The reports that Spellbound received indicated that
The Ghost of Time reached #63 on the ARIA chart, #28 in
New South Wales, and #14 on the Australasian Artist Album chart.
Here are a few examples of the reviews for The Ghost of Time:
The Age - 17 December 1999 - Stephen Cauchi
Iva Davies, the singer-songwriter of '80s Aussie pop band Icehouse,
has dabbled in many eclectic projects this decade, including modern
dance production Berlin. But this work would appear to
be the jewel in the crown.
Davies has been commissioned to perform the music for New Year's
Eve at Sydney Harbour, and the result is this 45 minute, four-movement
reworking of his 1982 hit, "Great Southern Land." Enjoyable listening?
If you like a hefty dose of soaring, occasionally spooky ambience, reminiscent
in parts of Brian Eno's better mood pieces, then yes. The
conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Gordon, co-wrote
much of the new music and the Japanese avant garde techno unit Rom=Pari,
Taiko drums and Davies' electric guitar have added enough edge to
sustain interest, particularly on the 23 minute title track. The
live performance of The Ghost of Time will be telecast nationally
in the last hour of the old year.
Rolling Stone - March 2000 - David Nichols
Former Main Man of rippingly successful '80s band Icehouse writes
a symphony harkening back to his hit "Great Southern Land."
Iva Davies' music doesn't pander to trends or critics, and few
listeners will be able to sit through The Ghost of Time - recorded
before its debut performance at the Sydney Opera House on 31st December
last year - without all those old prejudices about mixing rock and classical
music rising to the surface. The fact that so much of the work dips
its lid to the old song which inspired it is also a little unnerving/irritating.
Nevertheless, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra are put to excellent use;
Davies still has a way with a tune and musical dynamics; and the whole
is ultimately pretty impressive. Give it a go.
The Ghost of Time was then performed in the forecourt
of the Sydney Opera House before an audience of two and a half billion
people on New Year's Eve!
The Australian ran an article on the
final day of 1999. Here's a couple of excerpts from "Timely ghost
of a great anthem" by Iain Shedden:
For Davies, the landmark concert and the recording of
an accompanying CD has been one of the longest and most complex projects
he has undertaken, but he says he's undaunted by the magnitude of the
millennium performance. "I'm happy at this stage," he says, "but
I'll be happier at one minute past midnight on the night, having hopefully
gotten from the beginning to the end without any major accidents.
The concept of a camera having 2.5 billion people on the end of it is
less daunting than having 40 thousand in front of you. I'll say
that now, anyway."
…and further on…
"Great Southern Land" has come to be recognised as one
of the few Australian pop songs to capture the spirit of the country
- and without mentioning any of it by name. "To sit down and measure
words, that's what I found difficult when I wrote the song in 1982;
to not bias the song in any direction, to not refer to even the inhabitants.
I can't remember why I would take on such a task," he admits.
"It's not like me to dive in at the deep end to something I knew I could
get horribly wrong."
The song came about after Davies and Icehouse had spent their first
tour overseas, and he was feeling particularly patriotic on his return.
It's a feeling, a sense of pride, he says, that hits him every time
he comes back to Australia.
"I have remained proud of Australia and what Australia produces ever
since that first experience. I've always come back admiring how
well Australian bands are able to perform. I've had a certain
amount of pressure over the years to move overseas and operate out of
America or England, and I've always resisted."
The performance of The Ghost of Time was a fantastic
event, but not without its moments of nervous nailbiting! The weather
looked to be uncooperative during the week leading up to New Year's.
Rain poured out of the pre-Millennium skies but, on a wing and a prayer,
the clouds broke up in time for the event to go on. Many who attended
the celebrations said it was quite magical with Iva's voice ringing out
across the harbour and the fireworks lighting up the sky at midnight.
The entire show was broadcast live in Australia on Channel 9. Portions
of the performance could also be seen around the world, with the US catching
roughly five minutes of The Ghost Of Time on CNN. PBS showed
an even shorter portion during their broadcast.
Spellbound asked Iva how he felt about performing on this
very special night:
I think it went well - the reaction's been great.
A lot of people saw it, obviously. Between that and the rebroadcasting
the next day.
So what was the highlight for you?
I think with hindsight obviously, the recognition of the
When you started to sing? That's actually the
one bit we got to see on CNN. You really lit up, you had a great
smile on your face then.
Technologically speaking, there were lots of things that
had to be ticked off the list. There were a lot of critical things
so as soon as I heard the click track and knew that the conductor had
the click track and that Richard had the click track, there was a great
sigh of relief. And that was before the first Taiko drum hit anything.
And then the first three minutes of it were quite anxious in terms of
the monitoring which was all very strange. Once that settled down,
then it was OK. To be honest with you, I was just sort of relieved
to get from one end to the other without any disasters occurring.
It was more of a case of relief rather than excitement.
Apparently the sound was really good. I went to a lot of trouble
to make it a kind of surround sound system down there. So that
was only to the benefit of the guests, obviously. The reports
have been great all round. It achieved a huge profile. It was
a strange thing that occurred because where we came off the stage, we
ended up being in an area which didn't contain most of the guests so
in actual fact I didn't go to where the guests were at all that evening.
And we sort of ended up staying there because the next thing that happened
were that the fireworks went off. That was the best place to look at
it from. Apart from people like the Lord Mayor and people who
were involved who ended up in that area, we didn't really see anybody
much. That was my own fault. We could have easily gone wandering
but I was quite happy to stay in one spot and keep my head down at that
The fireworks were pretty spectacular, weren't they?
They were, yeah! So we stayed there and then ultimately
ended up back in the dressing room - believe it or not - with the Lord
Mayor and a few other notable people. So it was like a gig really,
we ended up back in the dressing room with a bottle of champagne!
It's too bad Tonia couldn't be there. She was
home with the children.
Yeah, but they had a great time. They got up and
sat through it and had their own little party, so that was great.
That's fabulous! Did you get any feedback from
Well, yeah, it's made a huge impression on Evan.
Daily we have to play "Salmon Land," which is his version of "Great
Southern Land". Evan can't say "southern."
That is too cute!
We have the violin and the guitar…
And you do it together like that?
We did - that only started occurring recently, but he's
been hassling for weeks. So it's made a huge impression on him.
The lantern boats did, too. It so happens that they were going
to destroy all the lantern boats. There was a bit of an outcry
and there was a public auction. I think some of them went for
five hundred dollars - pitiful amount - but they've all been bought.
One of them was bought by the local shopping mall and has been installed
as a kind of statue in the center of the square. It's three dolphins.
He's seen that when he's been shopping so he's obviously got vivid pictures
of the lantern boats.
What did Brynn think of it?
Ah, well, she loved it. There'd been the Channel
Seven broadcast that happened for Australia Day that they watched as
well. But Evan's had it emblazoned on his memory - the thing he
identifies me with at the moment is "Salmon Land."
He's obviously just proud of you!
He's besotted by instruments. He's like me in that
he's not even vaguely interested in the piano, but he just loves instruments.
His idea of a rage is to surround himself with things that he can bang
and play. My prediction is that he'll end up being a cellist, so we'll
see in time.
The first month of the new year found Iva performing the
new "Ghost" version of "Great Southern Land" twice. The first event,
held on 21st January, was an Australia Day launch at the Darling Harbour
Convention Centre. Iva brought along Paul Wheeler, Steve Bull, and
the Australian Youth Orchestra to help him out. The performance
was for 1600 dignitaries and sponsors.
The second performance was on the 25th of January at the
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney Showground. Paul and Steve went along for
this special event as well. It was another celebration for Australia
Day, with other acts involved. This program was televised on Channel
7 in Australia. Between the two shows, Iva had further nailbiting
moments and also stirred up the whispers of his possible involvement with
the Olympics. Here's what he had to say about these two events and those
The shows were great. Both of them were a bit fraught
for me because I couldn't hear because of an ear infection. So
they were difficult. On Australia Day, the closed function was
great. I've just got some photos of it with the acrobats.
The artistic director is the dancer that played in the lead role in
Boxes, Kim Walker. They did all sorts of aerial things
while I was singing the song. I think that singing a verse of
the National Anthem was probably the most horrific thing I've ever done
in my life.
You really did that?
I really did that, and really badly! As a matter
of fact, I think I forgot the lyrics but I'm not sure. Singing
the National Anthem and forgetting the lyrics in front of the State
Premier and the Lord Mayor and a whole bunch of other notables.
And because I couldn't hear the orchestra because I was deaf, it was
completely free form - it was a very jazz version of the National Anthem.
That was pretty horrible! Apart from the fact that it's a completely
unsingable song anyway.
The Channel Seven thing was fine. That was also a bit odd because
we were all supposed to sing bits of Peter Allen's "I Still Call Australia
Home." That's another song that I've completely missed.
I wouldn't have a clue. So that was going to be very exciting
for me as well (laughter). Luckily we found out halfway through
the telecast that it wasn't going to air. I'm sure everybody on
the stage, including me, breathed a sigh of relief because none of us
were all that keen to attempt it.
Who else was involved?
A girl called Vanessa Amorosi who has had a couple of
huge singles here in a sort of dance/pop vein which are very good, and
she's very good. There were The Seekers, a whole bunch of country
people, James Blundell, Adam Brand, and Christine Anu who was great.
The buzz is that you may be performing at the Olympics.
There may have been something like that going on, but
it is completely unfounded. It's complete speculation. Certainly
there for a while "Great Southern Land" was everywhere all the time.
It's my guess that it would have been logical for a lot of people to
make that suggestion, but the Olympics have been shrouded in secrecy.
Apparently, a lot of it has already been organised, and certainly nobody's
been talking to me, so I'd say it's doubtful.
News broke that Iva was signed on to be part of the cast
for the stage show that was being put together by Sir Tim Rice.
Called the "Tim Rice Musical Spectacular," Iva was going to be performing
with Kate Ceberano, Anthony Warlow, David Essex, Bachelor Girl, and INXS.
There were press conferences held in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
Photos from the 3rd February press conference, featuring Iva, can still
be seen on the official INXS web site at inxs.com.
Here is the text of the Iva Davies Biography from the Tim
Rice Musical Spectacular website:
From the late Seventies, Iva Davies has carved a niche
for himself in the Australian music scene which began with the formation
of the Aussie pub band Flowers and grew with the band's reincarnation
as the world-renowned Icehouse.
With eight Top Ten albums; 20 Top 40 Singles; sales in excess of 18
platinum albums in Australasia; and Number One hits in the USA, Britain
and Europe to his credit, Iva Davies is a musician's musician.
Either in a solo capacity or as part of Icehouse, Iva has worked with
the cream of the world's performers including David Bowie, Brian
Eno, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, Yukihiro Takahashi, Elvis Costello,
Simple Minds, Peter Tosh, Robert Palmer, XTC and The Psychedelic Furs.
Over the years, Iva's experience with written music has produced
classic songs which deeply touch music lovers the world over. Compositions
like "Can't Help Myself," "Love In Motion," "Hey Little Girl," "Electric
Blue," and "Man Of Colours" are unforgettable.
In 1988 all the cards fell into place for Icehouse who had an incredible
year when Man of Colours had an international run of No 1 in
New Zealand, No 38 in the UK, Top 10 in Germany and Holland and a staggering
11 weeks at No 1 in Australia. The album also went platinum a record
seven times and set an as-yet-unbroken record of the Biggest Selling
Australian Group Album of All Time.
Over the years Iva has also contributed greatly to the creative psyche
of The Sydney Dance Company, where he has collaborated on two ballets,
Boxes ('85) and Berlin ('95).
Most recently Iva, who studied oboe and composition at the NSW Conservatorium,
was honored to perform on the steps of the Opera House on New Year's
Eve 1999. His re-worked 40-minute new millennium rendition of "Great
Southern Land," Icehouse's seminal song about the nature of Australia,
counted down the minutes before the beginning of the new millennium.
"I am moving into a new phase of my career as a solo artist,"
says Iva, who plans to release his first solo CD in 2000. "I'm
looking forward to collaborating with Tim Rice and his Musical Extravaganza
because I'm eager to explore new worlds of greater complexity and
innovation and I'm sure this project will offer me that."
Iva can certainly bring a wealth of experience to Tim Rice's Musical
Extravaganza with his impressive list of credits which include:
Johnny O'Keefe Award for Best New Group
Icehouse by Flowers - highest selling debut album
Countdown Award - Most Popular Male Performer
AFI nomination for best musical score for film Razorback
ARIA BEST ALBUM Man Of Colours
ARIA Highest Selling album Man Of Colours
Variety Club Band Of The Year
APRA Most performed song "Electric Blue"
Bicentennial Royal Command Performance for Princess Diana and Prince
Mo Awards: Rock Group of the Year
Big Wheel - first Australian interactive floppy disk release
Davies creates his own in-house production company - DIVA Records
Iva and Icehouse play the ballet at The Sydney Dance Company
Iva spends time in Japan, Germany, and the UK writing material for his
At the earlier stages of the production it looked as if
Iva was slated to play the part of Judas for the portion of the show featuring
music from Jesus Christ Superstar. The assignment of songs
was still very much up in the air, with rehearsals not beginning until
April. However, the head cold that Iva was battling was to change
things further down the line.
Iva traveled to Fiji for the first time in a long time.
His father-in-law joined him on this trip to help out with repairs that
would be needed. However, the Fijian weather decided to be a nuisance
and it rained for most of the trip. Iva returned home at the end
of March with his thoughts on the impending rehearsals for the Tim Rice
show. But, the day after his arrival home, his head cold returned with
a vengeance. Here's Iva's account of this period of time:
That was just bad timing. I had already been to
the doctor. This is a specialist. He had already told me
the only long term solution was to have this procedure. At that
point, it was approaching the rehearsal period. The doctor determined
he'd keep me on antibiotics through the whole Tim Rice season.
Then, at the end of the season, I'd go see him again and we'd organize
when to do it. I was fine in Fiji. I literally got back
here on the eve of the beginning of the rehearsals and within a day,
I could hardly speak. The rehearsal period was fairly tight.
It was only a couple of weeks and they had an awful lot of ground to
cover. Nobody had heard any of INXS' backing tracks and even the playlist
was still not final. So it was going to be fairly intense work.
I was highly infectious at that point. I'm sure the other singers
would have run miles if I had to go in the same room with them!
The whole lot could have ended up sick. It was basically a really
heavy head cold. It sort of makes it worse for me because I've
got this problem where my head doesn't clear very well. Graeme
Murphy contacted me and he was absolutely flabbergasted as to how bad
I sounded on the phone.
There was an interview with Iva printed in On Show Weekly,
April 6-12. Here is an excerpt of Iva's comments about people that
he has worked with:
"One of the outstanding tours was the David Bowie tour.
The preliminary to it was a great memory.
"At the time both Icehouse and Bowie were in Germany playing at a big
outdoor venue and we were in the middle of our set, in front of over
20,000 German people when one of the guys in the band came up to me
and said don't look now but David is watching us.
"I glanced over, and the David in question was David Bowie, who was
on the side off the stage singing along."
And asked what he thinks of today's manufactured bands where often there
is not a musician or a song writer amongst the group. "I wouldn't
dream of invalidating it really and it is not a new phenomenon.
Music covers a spectrum from disposable entertainment to serious art.
What is interesting is the constructed bands are so up front about it,
which is great and probably symptomatic of society we live in… they
are literally saying here it is - we are making it, so it might be worth
something to you. Good on them for achieving success."
Iva spent the month of April trying his best to get well.
Unfortunately, on the 10th of April, he was forced to inform Spellbound
that he had to pull out of the Tim Rice show. An official press
release went out and was printed in some of the major newspapers.
Iva was very disappointed to have to remove himself from the cast but
his health had to come first. He expressed his concern for his fans,
knowing some had already purchased tickets. However, there was little
he could do regarding those tickets since this was not an Icehouse show.
By the end of April, his head cold had cleared enough so that he could
give Graeme Murphy the answer he wanted to hear concerning a very special
evening for the Sydney Dance Company.
The Sydney Dance Company held a Gala Performance on 6th
May at the Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. It was a special,
one-off night that allowed the Dance Company to take a look back at their
past productions. Graeme Murphy had asked Iva to be involved but
first his commitment to the Tim Rice show and then his health prevented
him from saying "yes" straight away. When April ended, Iva found
he was able to sing well enough that he could tell Graeme he could perform
for this special night only.
Iva tells us how this performance came about and how it
was really a family affair!
It was on the night of coming home from the Australia
Day television show. Graeme Murphy rang me and told me what this
was about. At that time, we were into negotiations with the Tim
Rice show. I said to him, "I really don't think I'll be available
because it's right in the middle of this Tim Rice season." So
that was shelved. Then, obviously, I was locked into the Tim Rice
show and while I was in Fiji, Graeme called. He asked me again and I
had the schedule for Tim Rice. I thought there was a possibility
of a night off. I left it until I got back to Sydney and then
got sick again, which blew the rehearsal period of Tim Rice. That
fell through. It was only at the last minute that I contacted
them and said, "I can do one night." So then I rather hurriedly
had to prepare the wherewithal to do the live performance. It
required going back to the original score and making a backing tape
without the vocals. I did "Complicated Game" and "Really Good
Time." Max wasn't available to play that night. Max was
there and he was playing but he was flat out with lots of other stuff
so I didn't even ask him. I jokingly mentioned, "Do you think
you'll be playing 'Complicated Game?'" which is actually quite a difficult
piano part. That was an amazing night because the show, on that
night, was a one off. The season is a different set of things.
In the season, they are performing "Complicated Game" and another piece
which is called "Circus." We called the piece "Music Trapeze,"
but it's a piece out of the score proper. The actual gala night
included lots of things that were only for that night. Mainly
live performances. So there were people like Mark Williams, who
is a great singer from here. He was a huge star in New Zealand
and he had a huge hit in Australia in the mid-'80s. It was a great
song, actually. He had been involved in another ballet, as a singer,
that the Dance Company had done. There was a live orchestra, which
was the Sydney Youth Orchestra. There were three other female
singers. The Dance Company had invited every past member, so there
would have been about 50 or 60 dancers including Tonia. At the
end of the evening, they came up and took a bow.
How did Tonia feel about that?
She was very excited, I think. The party was completely
outrageous, of course, because you had all these people who hadn't seen
each other for years. A late night was had by all!
Are they going to do anything from Boxes?
No, although Boxes figures quite highly in the
list of past works. We've only ever discussed once the subject
of putting it on again, subsequent to the original season, which was
only a three week season. It hasn't been discussed since.
I think part of the reason for that was it was a vast production.
It had a huge set which was designed specifically for the Opera House's
Opera Theatre stage. It was designed to use the revolve which
is in that stage. It was a huge structure which weighed 20 tons.
At a certain point in the ballet, the whole thing started to rotate.
I don't think Graeme's ever considered doing it again partly because,
unless you did that whole thing again, it wouldn't be the same.
Both Janet Vernon and Graeme have expressed to me their fondness for
the idea of doing Berlin again. But it's nothing more than
that. I'd say there's a possibility that that may come up again.
Would this be in Australia or…?
Well, I don't know. There was a German promoter
who was very keen to put it on. It's a fairly expensive thing
to put on, as well. A lot of the other ballets are far more portable.
They have minimal sets and minimal costumes. Berlin had
a fairly hefty structure attached to it. There were various amendments
to the set that we had to do in order to fit it into some of the stages.
So, whether they're talking about overseas or within Australia, I don't
This event garnered a mention in Christie Eliezer's column
within In Music and Media (an Australasian weekly online music
Despite the sinus problems that caused him to pull out
of the Tim Rice spectacular, Iva Davies steeled himself to collaborate
with performance choreographer Graeme Murphy on a retrospective of the
latter's works. It was held at the Sydney Opera House on the weekend.
It was something of a homecoming for Davies: the classically trained
oboist was in the orchestra when the Opera House opened in 1973.
Dance Company's season of Body of Work - a Retrospective is
May 6th - A Gala Performance - Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
May 8th - Preview Body of Work-A Retrospective, Opera Theatre,
Sydney Opera House
May 9-27 - Season Body of Work-A Retrospective, Opera Theatre,
Sydney Opera House
June 6-10 - Body of Work-A Retrospective, Playhouse Theatre,
Adelaide Festival Centre
June 13-14 - Body of Work- A Retrospective Princess Theatre,
June 16-17 - Body of Work-A Retrospective Theatre Royal, Hobart
June 20-24 - Body of Work A Retrospective Playhouse, Victorian
September 20-23 - Body of Work-A Retrospective Playhouse, The
Canberra Theatre Centre
There aren't any current plans to take Body of Work
Iva is now preparing to go into the hospital for a few days so that he
may undergo a procedure that should help his sinuses stay healthy. It
will also help prevent the very nasty head colds he is prone to. He said
the procedure is "fairly horrific," with the specialist informing him
they might have to remove bits of bone. When asked why they would
have to remove bone, Iva's one word answer caused the shivers: "Access."
His recovery should take about three weeks, with the specialist giving
the cheery news of "expect to bleed for two weeks." All of us here
at Spellbound wish Iva a speedy and painless recovery!! (Lots of chocolate
The New Album
Iva has been working quite hard on the new album for the
past few years. There has been a debate amongst various people as
to whether the album should be an "Icehouse" album, or have the name "Iva
Davies" stand alone on the cover. Iva has also been watching and
listening to the music industry. From its recent chart toppers to
its concerns over MP3s to the latest in music technology. He has
reached a decision that came by a lot of thought and feeling on his part.
At this time, the album has been put on hold. He does not feel that
the climate of the music industry is right for this album to be released
into and he does not want to waste it. It will see the light of
day and will not be shelved forever. When the time is right, Iva
will put this album out - an album of which he is quite proud.
In the meantime, he will spend some time recovering from
his surgery and having some holiday time with his family. There
are a few projects that have captured his interest but the details concerning
them will, for now, have to wait.