John Farnham Collection
Hailed as Australia's finest singer, John Farnham's career spans 6 decades and has touched music, theatre, television and film.
His numerous accolades and awards include Officer of the Order of Australia, Australian of the Year, the most ARIA awards of any solo artist, as well as Logies and King of Pop, Mo and Countdown awards.
He is the only Australian recording artist to have a No. 1 charting record in 5 consecutive decades, from the 1960s to the 2000s. Whispering Jack, his 12th studio album, remains the highest selling album in Australia by an Australian artist, with 1.7 million copies sold.
The NFSA honours The Voice, John Farnham, with curated collections of rare TV footage, interviews, live performances and other highlights from his lengthy and extraordinary career.
For even more Farnesy collection items, follow this link to our second collection John Farnham: Johnny to Jack.
Following the success of his first single 'Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)', Johnny Farnham went on a national tour with other artists including Col Joye and Little Pattie. While on tour he was interviewed by the weekly current affairs program 7 Days in an episode titled The Snap and Crackle of Pop (1968), which took an in-depth look at the Sydney pop music scene of the time.
This is a fascinating archival clip from the late 1960s that opens with The Who's 'My Generation' audible in the background. For a generation of Australian teenagers, Johnny Farnham was their pop idol of choice and this clip ably demonstrates that early in his career, Farnham attracted the attention of fans in much the same way as The Beatles.
The interview shows that, despite all the adulation, Johnny is still only a teenager himself. The elevated camerawork during the interview, whether intentional or not, makes him look diminutive and innocent, which was largely his appeal at the time. He's understandably awkward when asked about female fans.
Footage of him performing 'Long Tall Sally' is a nod back to the style of another 'Johnny', Johnny O'Keefe. There's also an amusing cutaway of him clowning around in a motel pool. In all, this clip is an engaging time capsule of 19-year-old Johnny Farnham.
This is a clip from Australia Presents (1970), a television special featuring the cream of the Australian recording crop in the late 1960s and early '70s. It features John Farnham singing the Hal David and Burt Bacharach song, 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head'.
The song was written for the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and performed by BJ Thomas. John had a huge hit in Australia with his cover of the song the following year and it topped the charts for seven weeks running.
John's profile was definitely on the rise at this time, and the impeccable sound quality and smart live camera editing of this production do a great job of highlighting his star quality.
World renowned pianist and entertainer Liberace was the guest presenter at the 1971 TV Week Pop Music Awards, where Johnny Farnham won the King of Pop award for the third year running.
In this short clip from the John Farnham's 25th Anniversary (1992) television special, Liberace eyes off John's crown and provides some comic moments when he offers to lend John a suit to match.
The stark contrast between these two performers – particularly the flamboyance of Liberace alongside the very unassuming John – increases the charm factor in this clip, making it an absolute delight to watch.
It's the protest song written by a group of Brits that has become one of the most loved and iconic rock anthems in Australian music history.
To this day, it has the power to unite a crowd in song, from concert halls and football stadiums to the local pub.
This compilation features performances of John Farnham's trademark hit from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
John Farnham appeared on The Don Lane Show in 1980 and performed the ballad 'Sometimes When We Touch' before sitting down with Don Lane and his special guest, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.
Davis Jr is impressed with John's talent and questions him about his plans for his career.
Not one to be overawed on any occasion, even when performing in front of 'entertainment royalty', John is his usual affable self and slips easily into an almost intimate conversation with Davis Jr.
John's self-deprecating humour, on display in this clip, is a personality trait that has endeared him to Australians for decades.
It's Magic was a musical variety show that ran for 13 episodes and was hosted by John Farnham and Colleen Hewett. It featured a regular cast of singers and comedians plus a special guest star each episode.
The two hosts also sang, danced, and participated in sketch comedy, including a regular segment called 'The Kids' in which they played cheeky five-year-old children.
The first time they performed 'The Kids' sketch, it was so popular with audiences that they decided to make it a weekly segment on the show.
Shot live in the studio it shows John and Colleen were as capable of delivering scripted dialogue as they were at singing, and proved that both had a natural talent for comedy.
A young John Farnham is filmed at home with his family in this fly-on-the-wall television special, The Wonderful World of Johnny Farnham (1970).
This is a terrific clip aimed at contrasting a typically quiet 1970s surburban home life with John's public persona, surrounded by screaming fans.
John Farnham performs his hit song 'That's Freedom' for the troops in Dili, East Timor during a Christmas concert featuring a host of Australian singers and entertainers. Other performers include Kylie Minogue, Doc Neeson and hosts Roy (John Doyle) and HG (Greig Pickhaver).
John is clearly comfortable during Roy and HG's opening banter before he breaks into song. Despite what must have been challenging circumstances, the production of the whole live performance is exceptional.
John Farnham performs 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' on a 1979 episode of The Norman Gunston Show. However, he quickly loses his composure when Gunston (Garry McDonald) joins him on stage and turns John's serious solo into a comical duet.
This dramatic ballad about lost love, first recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1964, turned out to be perfect material for Gunston, who knew no boundaries in public.
His intrusion on stage instantly changes the tone of John's performance and the production crew do well to keep up with the ensuing chaos as John tries to power through the song while stifling his laughter.
This compilation of early TV appearances from the late 1960s and early '70s speaks volumes about John's popularity at the time.
He was an audience favourite and regularly appeared on shows like Uptight, Go!, Happening '71 and Hit Scene.
John Farnham looks back at highlights from 'Ideal Fun Day', a 10-hour marathon TV show that he hosted to promote children's toys on 15 August 1970 on Channel 7. At the time, it was the largest single marathon broadcast event run by an Australian television station.
This clip is a great example of Farnham's absolute ease in front of the camera. At only 21 years of age he is remarkably comfortable in keeping the pace of the live broadcast moving along, and proves himself to be a confident presenter alongside the likes of other more seasoned professionals like Tony Barber.
In this interview with John Farnham from the early 1970s, he talks about his initial musical influences and singing as a young boy back in England, where he was born in 1949 and lived until he was 10.
In this excerpt from an oral history interview with John Farnham's manager, Glenn Wheatley explains how 'You're the Voice' soon became too popular to ignore for the FM radio stations that were initially reluctant to play it.
Jen Jewel Brown interviewed Glenn Wheatley for the NFSA Oral History program in 2014.
In this episode of the Crawford Productions police drama Division 4, titled 'Once Upon a Time', John Farnham plays one of three hapless young men who, on three consecutive days, hold up the Apex Finance Company. The men are trying to raise some cash as they compete to marry the daughter of a wealthy racing magnate.
John makes the most of the scenes he was given in this comic episode, and what this clip makes clear is his ability to hold his own among more experienced actors, including Terence Donovan and Gerard Kennedy.
This clip is the opening sequence from the first episode of Crawford Productions sitcom Bobby Dazzler (1977–78), titled 'Life Begins at 45 RPM' and starring pop icon Johnny Farnham.
After achieving great success in the recording industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s, John tried his hand at acting.
After a few guest appearances in popular TV shows including Division 4 (1969–75), he landed his own sitcom on the Seven Network about a young singer on the verge of a major career breakthrough.
John seems very comfortable playing the lead role of Bobby Farrell and this clip also shows that he had a knack for comedy. He holds his own in this scene with the much more seasoned actor Olivia Hamnett as music manager Della McDermott.
John Farnham allows viewers a sneak peek at rehearsals and preparations for the concert version of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, in which John starred as Jesus in 1992.
Also in this clip, from the television special John Farnham's 25th Anniversary (1992), fellow cast members Kate Ceberano, Jon Stevens and Russell Morris talk about John as the consummate performer.
The value of this clip is that it confirms what we have come to believe about John – that he is a generous, down-to-earth individual with a great degree of integrity and professionalism.
John Farnham appeared as himself in two episodes of the long-running Australian TV soap Home and Away in 1988.
The serial was in its first year, so having a cameo from as big a star as John Farnham would have been a great coup.
John was not new to acting, having had a few TV roles during the 1970s, so it's no surprise to see that he's so comfortable on screen – which is ably demonstrated in this short segment.
This is an excerpt from the second of two back-to-back episodes of Home and Away from 1988 that featured John Farnham in a cameo appearance.
In this clip, he pays a special visit to Sally (Kate Ritchie) and her family after learning she could not attend his concert because she was sick with chickenpox.
This short excerpt is from the John Farnham's 25th Anniversary (1992) television special and shows his marriage in April 1973 to Jillian Billman. They met while John was starring in the stage musical Charlie Girl.
Other stars might object to having their wedding day intruded upon but John doesn't seem to let it spoil his day and is quite content to share his personal views on the importance of marriage.
The clip captures the singer's extraordinary popularity at the time. There are hectic scenes with crowds of people, reporters and photographers gathering outside the church and lining the streets. Teary-eyed teenage girls watch as John pulls up in the back seat of a Silver Top Taxi at St Matthew's Anglican church.
It is a remarkable record of what stardom meant for a young Australian performer in the 1970s.
In this live concert and Q&A special, An Audience With John Farnham (2002), singer Marcia Hines asks John the secret to his long and happy marriage with his wife Jill.
The remarkable thing about John is that he always seems completely down-to-earth and natural in every situation and this clip is a great illustration.
We get the feeling that he's having an intimate chat with Marcia Hines and everyone else is simply eavesdropping. Marcia Hines' question is very personal and yet John, with trademark self-deprecating humour, provides a genuinely thoughtful answer.
In this excerpt from an oral history interview with John Farnham's manager, Glenn Wheatley talks about turning John's career around with a new album and a new band.
Jen Jewel Brown interviewed Glenn Wheatley for the NFSA Oral History program in 2014.
This is an excerpt from a radio interview that Mike Currell conducted with John Farnham in June 1987 for the program Australian Made, broadcast on 2DayFM.
John talks about finding success with the Whispering Jack album and singles like 'You're The Voice', his relentless touring schedule and plans for a new album.
The current affairs program Willesee reports on John Farnham's concert 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 following the release of 'You're the Voice', which was a Top 10 hit in several European countries in 1986–87.
In this episode of Fast Forward from 1991, the hilarious Pixie-Anne Wheatley (Magda Szubanski) interviews John Farnham about his hit song 'You're The Voice'.
John has no problem keeping pace with Szubanski's irreverent humour in this clip. It's a good example of his ability to slip easily into a conversation, no matter the situation or tone of the interview.
He also shows, with good humour and a quick wit, that he can give as much as he gets.
John Farnham provided the vocals for many well-known advertising campaigns of the late 1960s and early '70s, including this 1970 advertisement for Fanta soft drink, titled 'Fancy Nancy'.
It's common practice for companies targeting a youth market to borrow images and sounds that have been popular with that demographic. This advertisement is a good example.
It weaves together psychedelic animation sequences and live action with a catchy song. The visuals appear to be heavily influenced by the work of Ron Campbell, who created the animation for The Beatles' feature film Yellow Submarine (1968).
This is a short excerpt from a promotional film for the Caravan Trade and Industries Association. It features the Young Talent Team from Young Talent Time, who are on a caravaning holiday in the country.
John Farnham makes a cameo appearance in one of the holiday parks that the kids stop at along their journey. Young Talent team members featured include Jane Scali, Jamie Redfern, Vikki Broughton and Debra Byrne.
Despite it being only a very brief sequence, we still get to see how comfortable John is in front of the camera delivering lines. And while he is playing himself in this clip, he still manages to display capable acting skills as a caravanning holidaymaker.
Variety show Young Talent Time was popular viewing for Australian kids in the 1970s and '80s. It ran from 1971 to 1988 and was hosted by musician Johnny Young and a changing team of young performers.
Notes by Beth Taylor
John Farnham performs 'Pressure Down', the opening track from his number one album Whispering Jack. He is playing to a huge audience at the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre in 1987 during the Whispering Jack Live national tour.
The professionalism of this production captures Farnham at his very best and is a quality recording of a consummate live performer.
Broadcast from the lawn of Kirribilli House on 26 January 1988, Network Ten's morning current affairs program Good Morning Australia featured exclusive coverage of the Australian of the Year ceremony and the start of the bicentennial celebrations.
The Australia Day edition of the program, presented by Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Tim Webster, shows singer John Farnham accepting the nation's top honour from previous recipient Dick Smith.
It's unusual to see Farnham made uncomfortable by the occasion but here he is genuinely humbled to be receiving such an award. Dry mouthed, stuck for words and on the verge of tears, he struggles to make a speech. It captures a disarming moment with a man we are more familiar with seeing at ease and totally in control.
From Network Ten's television special John Farnham's 25th Anniversary (1992), Debbie Byrne talks about John Farnham's decision to change the direction of his music career.
Byrne co-starred in the ABC special Farnham and Byrne (1980), a six-part musical variety program, around the time that John's album Uncovered was released.
John Farnham was a regular guest throughout the 1970s and '80s on the popular variety show Hey Hey It's Saturday, hosted by Daryl Somers and his sidekick Ossie Ostrich (Ernie Carroll).
As a fan favourite, John was often in the thick of things, as you can see from this still from a late 1970s episode with a dress-up theme.
Hey Hey It's Saturday was renowned for its frequently unscripted, and sometimes controversial, segments and performances. For John, with his seemingly mercurial ability to fit into any situation, the organised chaos of the show would not have been a challenge.
Never one to allow his ego to get in the way, his willingness to make light of himself is captured in this studio photo. Wearing a cape and ill-fitting wig and hat, he looks content to join in the fun.
Singer Richard Marx tells the story of when he first heard John Farnham's 'You're The Voice', likening it to 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.