It's the protest song that has become one of the most loved and iconic anthems in Australian music. To this day, it can unite a crowd in song, from concert halls and football stadiums to the local pub.
Johnny Farnham... this guy is just too much for the human mind.
'Couldn't We Please See More of Johnny Farnham?'
This compilation of TV appearances from the late 1960s and early '70s speaks volumes about John's popularity. He regularly appeared on shows like 'Uptight', 'Happening', 'Hit Scene' and 'Musical Cashbox'.
Here’s an engaging look at 18-year-old John and his adoring fans in scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania. It captures his own teenage innocence and awkwardness, while also revealing an entertainer who is totally at ease on stage.
World-famous pianist Liberace presents the third of five consecutive King of Pop Awards to John in 1971. In this thoroughly enjoyable clip Liberace provides some comic moments with host Johnny Young, as he eyes off John's crown.
This footage from Seven's 10-hour marathon 'Ideal Fun Day' is a great example of John's ease in front of the camera. At only 21 years of age he is very comfortable at keeping the live broadcast moving along.
In this early 1970s interview with John Farnham, he talks about his musical influences, singing as a boy in England, and being discovered while playing with his first band. Courtesy Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
He's a natural... It's pretty rare, people like him don't grow on trees.
'Home and Away'
John Farnham in Summer Bay
John Farnham played himself in two 'Home and Away' episodes from 1988. The long-running soap was only in its first year so having a cameo from as big a star as John would have been a great coup.
In the mid-'70s John starred as Bobby Farrell, a young singer on the verge of a breakthrough, in the Crawford Productions sitcom 'Bobby Dazzler'. This clip is a good example of his natural comedic timing and ability to hold his own with seasoned actors.
In 1974 John hosted a musical variety show with Colleen Hewett. The two hosts also played five-year-olds in a weekly sketch called 'The Kids'. This delightful clip shows off their versatility as we see them at their comedic best.
In a guest appearance in the Crawford Productions drama 'Division 4', John makes the most of his scenes playing a bumbling thief, once again proving his versatility and that he can hold his own among more experienced actors.
John’s guest spot in this '70s Crawford Productions sitcom, opposite Alwyn Kurts, sees him play a vacuum cleaner salesman. He fittingly hams it up, in keeping with the tenor of the scene, and shows impressive acting chops.
Although only a brief sequence in this promotional film, we still get to see John's capable acting skills when he plays himself alongside the Young Talent Team. It's another example of how comfortable he is in front of a camera delivering lines.
John lent his voice to several late 1960s and early '70s ad campaigns, including this memorable one for Fanta soft drinks. 'Fancy Nancy' weaves together psychedelic animation sequences with live action and a catchy jingle.
There was a lot of excitement happening. There was a buzz about him... and it's still there.
Glenn Wheatley: Oral History Interview
The Turning Point
In this clip from a 2014 oral history interview for the NFSA, John's longtime manager Glenn Wheatley talks about how they turned John's career around with a new album and a new band.
From Johnny to John
Debbie Byrne on John's Career
Debbie Byrne talks about John Farnham's decision to change the direction of his music career. Byrne co-starred in the six-part ABC musical special 'Farnham and Byrne' in 1980, around the time John's album 'Uncovered' was released.
John slips easily into an intimate conversation with Sammy Davis Jr in this clip, remaining his affable self in the company of ‘entertainment royalty’. His self-deprecating humour, seen here, has endeared him to us for decades.
Guest host Glenn Shorrock talks with John on ‘The Mike Walsh Show’ about his new album ‘Uncovered’ and the song ‘Please Don’t Ask Me’. This is a delightfully natural interview that feels more like two friends catching up for a chat.
John Farnham joined LRB in 1982 and performs 'Silent Night' with band members Graeham Goble and Beeb Birtles at Carols By Candlelight. The song’s soft melody is complemented beautifully by the camera work, capturing a sea of candles in the audience.
John speaks to 2DayFM's Mike Currell in 1987 on the radio show 'Australian Made'. He talks about his 1980 album 'Uncovered' as a defining moment in his career, and his time with Little River Band.
I think John Farnham is the greatest singer alive.
'It was like religion hit me'
Richard Marx Hears 'You're the Voice'
For singer Richard Marx, hearing 'You're the Voice' was like the first time he saw Elvis Presley on television. Marx and Farnham have since toured together and become good friends and Marx credits him with changing his musical life.
These excerpts from a 2014 oral history interview with Glenn Wheatley reveal what it took to drive 'You're the Voice' to the top of the charts and overcome the initial reluctance of FM radio to play it.
'The Voice' Takes on Europe
Whispering Jack on Tour in Germany
Current Affairs program 'Willesee' joins John on tour in Germany as the success of the 'Whispering Jack' album builds across Europe. Scenes of packed stadiums and adoring fans speak to the level of fame John was experiencing globally.
He is the most generous performer you'll ever wish to see, and he'll bleed for his audience every single time.
John Follows Up With Another Chart Topper
John was back in 1988 with the chart-topping album 'Age of Reason'. Performing the title track, backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, he shows his commanding presence on stage. Even when handed a bouquet of flowers he never misses a beat.
At the Australian of the Year ceremony in 1988, John is genuinely humbled to be receiving his award. Holding back tears, he struggles to make a speech in a remarkable moment from a man we are used to seeing totally at ease.
John takes us behind the scenes of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' with his fellow cast members, who confirm what we have come to believe: John is a generous, down-to-earth individual with a high degree of integrity and professionalism.
John happily banters with hosts John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver (Roy & HG) then sings 'That's Freedom' at a fundraising concert in East Timor. Despite the challenging circumstances, the production of the live performance is exceptional.
Superstar Tom Jones makes a surprise appearance at John's 50th birthday concert to sing 'Happy Birthday'. This clip is a great example of John’s ability to appear totally natural as he plays up the spontaneity of the moment.
This TV special takes us into the recording studio with John and his band as they record the '33 1/3' album. Filming in black-and-white emphasises the fly-on-the-wall aspect as we share in the fun, and frustration!
Our very special thanks go to John Farnham and Glenn Wheatley, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.
The NFSA would also like to acknowledge the Seven Network, Network Ten, Nine Network, Sony Music Australia, Bauer Media Group, Clearvoice Pty Ltd, Crawford Productions, Hayden Enterprises, Lewis Young Productions, LKN Productions, Milton Hammon and Southern Cross Austereo.
Exhibition Producer: Mel Bondfield
Multimedia Producer: Rachael Priddel
Curatorial: Bronwyn Barnett, Simon Smith, Maryanne Doyle
Additional copy: Adam Blackshaw
Design elements: Cameron Emerson-Elliott
Video Services: Terry Stuetz, Andrew Boyer, Richard Vorobieff