Some time in the deep dark mists of the past (I want to say 1982), I went to see Cliff Richard at the now long bulldozed Apollo Stadium. As you might expect Cliff was fabulous, all smoke machine, flouncy shirts and being wired for sound and so forth. It was the first time I had ever seen The Devil Woman in person, but the thing I remember the most about that show was the support act. The Globos were a cabaret group from Perth. They had a single out at the time that I loved, Tinterella Di Luna, a cover of an Italian language pop song from 1960.
They had been on Countdown, doing crazy 60’s dancing and I raced out and bought the single right away. So here they were supporting Cliff, and they were fantastic. Their set was essentially them putting on a 50’s pop music TV show, with them lip synching to the original versions of a bunch of pop classics and commercials, but with cheesy choreography, costumes and comic delivery. But the absolute favourite thing they did was mime a Cliff Richard song AT A CLIFF RICHARD CONCERT! On The Beach was released in 1964 and is one of my favourite songs of that era, and a song Cliff himself never played live anymore. I have only ever seen him do it once on the Cliff & The Shadows 50th Anniversary tour. So I loved The Globos. That was the first time I ever saw Bob Downe (although it’s possible he was still Chip Wood at that stage).
They released a great version of the Sonny & Cher song The Beat Goes On in 1983, which as a DJ I played a lot at Limbo & the Tou-Can-Tou.
In 1987 Bob Downe launched as a solo act and instantly found a dedicated audience around Australia and was a smash at the Edinburgh Festival where he debuted in 1988. In the consequent decades Bob has recorded albums, had his own chat show, and become Fringe royalty. In recent years he has collaborated with kindred spirits, Adelaide’s accordion wielding tower of fabulous Hans and Logie legend Anne Wills. He is an all singing all dancing all leisure wear, dynamo and makes any song his own. I love this take of David Bowie’s Starman from 1995.
And this from the short lived Dan Lane come back show Late Night Oz from 1988.One of favourite Elvis Presley songs.
Fringe 2018 Bob Downe returns to Adelaide to celebrate his 39th Birthday for three shows only in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. We had a nice chat via the fax machine.
Happy Birthday Bob, how ever do you stay so youthful?
Simple! Become a cabaret star in your early twenties and then you can sleep in for the rest of your life! Believe me, I’ve seen a few morning rush hours and they are UGLY. No thanks! It’s just not natural.
Many years ago I designed a flyer for shows you did at Limbo here in Adelaide and I used the phrase ‘He Sings, He Dances, He Takes Good Care of his Hair’, a phrase which turned up a lot in consequent years (you’re welcome). What is the secret of your luscious locks?
I always keep it in a security safe, especially overnight. That way nobody can interfere with it. Works for Donald Trump too! Oh, and always wash it in Softly at least once every six months.
Your show intriguingly promises appearances from ‘a gang of Showbiz friends’ can you reveal any details for our readers? Might there be accordions involved?
You’re clever aren’t you? YES is the answer… I just don’t know how Willsy is going to lift that accordion, though. Seriously though… you can expect some starry surprises, including the legendary Cindy Pastel, direct from Sydney on Tigerair, making her Fringe debut! She’s the original inspiration for PRISCILLA – her son is now 34!
Are there any new artists in the pop charts that you think have the staying power of yourself? Are we likely to see you reinterpreting anything by Sia, Katy Perry or Gang of Youths?
Um, no. Who are they by the way? I’m sure they’re all marvellous. The one I DO love is Gaga. But not enough to do one of her songs. I’m a classicist when it comes to pop and rock and I can promise a great evening of LIVE music with Sam Leske leading a hot all-Adelaide band!
In the past many of your outfits might have posed a fire risk on contact with a naked flame, is anybody making a safer version of a leisure suit in 2018?
If they are, I don’t wish to know about it! What? Raw silk, hessian or knitted llama? …eww, sounds very uncomfortable.
What are your best memories of performing in Adelaide over the years?
The warmth and spontaneity of Adelaide audiences!! Unlike Melbourne or Sydney, no crossed arms or ‘go on, impress me bitch’ faces here! Joy and laughter and fun all the way.
In December you played in New York City, at Alan Cummings notorious intimate Club Cumming. How did that come about, and how fabulous was it?
I basically nagged Alan into letting me appear and he said YES – then went to the Catskills for the weekend. But who cares? My show STORMED it. I was the Other Boy From Oz! I stayed on for the Club Cumming New Year’s Eve party, WOW… I’ve only just come off the antibiotics.
Bob Downe’s 39th Birthday Bash is on at the Fortuna Spiegeltent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights on February 20,21 and 22. Tickets on sale now through FringeTix.
Interview by Ian Bell