My 14 year old self was enchanted by this lost classic from a criminally unknown Australian singer-songwriter.
It was mid 1989, and my family had moved from Singapore back to Perth, Western Australia, where we’d previously lived in the early 80s. My new hunger for music to obsess over continued unabated, and this is where I came across Robyne Dunn.
I think it’s safe to say that “History” is the most obscure track that will appear on this chronicle of songs of my life. In 1989, Robyne Dunn was a young Australian singer-songwriter embarking on what looked to be a promising career. “History” received a good amount of plays on various music TV shows, but sadly failed to capture the attention of the greater public, and never particularly troubled the charts. This was a fact that I found utterly perplexing, as from the first moment I heard it I was utterly transfixed. I don’t think I’d ever heard a tune that was so full of gorgeous twists and turns, so many intriguing lyrical avenues and heart-stopping vocal beats. I believed it to be the most beautiful song I’d ever heard and could not understand why it was not number 1 in the charts for weeks.
And while my other new fave female singer, Wendy James of Transvision Vamp, presented me with an aspirational version of female expression that I could only dream of emulating, Robyne’s music and image felt more accessible and reachable to me. In the video, she presents an air of quiet, unassuming confidence as she wafts through an artists studio singing of the decadence of expression.
More importantly, my new obsession for music had led me to start writing songs, and knew that while I would never be a glam icon like Wendy James, I might have a chance at approaching the reflective songwriting style of Robyne Dunn. And nothing felt more appropriate to take as inspiration than this song. I’m not sure I fully understood the lyrics – just where was this “room of glories”? What craft was “incestuous and selfish”? But I connected with the sense of significance and possibility conveyed by the lyrics, where “the empty studio awaits”, ready for you to create something amazing.
Like so much music that grabbed me in this time of my life, this song spoke to me of a future life where exciting and mysterious things could happen. “In the future, these will be the good old days” sings Robyne, and at 14, I knew that not only was the future point that she sang about something that lay ahead of me as well, but I had also not even reached that point in life that would be looked back upon as “the good old days”. And that was the most exciting thing of all.
And the easels line the corridors,
like monuments to obsession“History”
It’s criminal that a song so intricately, intriguingly beautiful is so little known. But here, in this blog which is my own monument to obsession, I hope that I can at least introduce a few more people to this wonderful song and its brilliantly talented singer and songwriter.
Categories: All the songs of my life
Just trying to figure if Robyne Dunn was the first Australian Female Solo Singer/Songwriter. I struggle to think of anyone who came before her. I agree she is criminally under appreciated, if not unknown.
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I think you may be right – I can’t think of anyone before her either. Still can’t understand how she didn’t achieve greater success with her incredible voice and talent.
I’ve loved Robyne since seeing her support Billy Joel in 1987. In my opinion, her lack of radio play contributed to her not becoming well known. Bernard Zuel writing in the Sydney Morning Herald said “…because mainstream radio found it (her debut album Labour of Liberty) too uncommercial…and a blinkered Triple J saw it as too commercial.”
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That’s a very astute observation you quote there. Her music really didn’t fit into any genre of the day, so there was no avenue for her to gain airplay and find an audience. Such a shame as she’s so incredibly talented. I really hope she still performs sometimes!
I am blessed to have known Robyne personally since the mid-Nineties when she moved away from Sydney to the Blue Mountains due to vocal problems that she thought were linked to the coastal humidity. She ‘recovered’ and continued to perform during the late nineties but, on becoming a mum, she decided to put her time toward her son. Her songs still accompany my quotidien life on my songlists. You are right, it is a crime that she never gained more airplay as she is a stunning singer and a talented songstress.