Flame Trees

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"Flame Trees"
Single by Cold Chisel
from the album Twentieth Century
Released August 1984
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1983
Genre Pub rock
Label WEA
Writer(s) Steve Prestwich and Don Walker
Producer(s) Mark Opitz
Cold Chisel singles chronology
"Twentieth Century"
(1984)
"Flame Trees"
(1984)
"Misfits"
(1991)

"Flame Trees" is a song by Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel from their 1984 album Twentieth Century. It is one of their best known songs, and was written by drummer Steve Prestwich and organist Don Walker. It reached number 26 on the Australian charts,[1] originally but also resurfaced in August 2011 due to download sales (peaking at #54 on the ARIA chart)

Background[edit]

According to the band's official website, Walker's inspiration for the lyrics was a combination of his memories of Grafton where he had lived as a youth, and of his romantic dreams. The music had already been written, on a bass, by Prestwich. Walker liked the music so much he requested to write some lyrics for the piece, to which Prestwich reluctantly agreed. Ian Moss said, "The next day, after having like an hour's sleep, Don came in with this fantastic story. Don's one of those uni student dudes who's like, 'This project's got to be in, so I'll get it done by hook or by crook.'"[2] Prestwich said, "When I heard Don's lyrics, I told him, 'Mate, I don't know if they're right for the music.' I've grown used to them now."[3]

The reference to flame trees instead of the jacarandas for which Grafton is famous, due to its annual Jacaranda Festival, is partly because of a contemporary television miniseries, the BBC's The Flame Trees of Thika, starring Hayley Mills, "an old flame of the lyricist's dreams".[4][5] However, Grafton is well known for its many specimens of the Australian native rainforest tree Brachychiton acerifolius [2], commonly known as the Illawarra Flame Tree, which along with the more pervasive, introduced poincianas and the town's famous (also introduced) jacarandas, set its streets ablaze every spring.

Music video[edit]

The video of the song (directed by Kimble Rendall)[6] was filmed in Oberon, New South Wales. It portrays a young man returning to his home town, meeting old friends, and remembering a past lover. The members of Cold Chisel have bit parts, except for Barnes, who only appears courtesy of some footage from The Last Stand. Barnes said, "The band was arguing so much that Flame Trees and the making of the clip, well, they never even told me, that's why I wasn't in it - the band weren't even talking to me at that point."[7]

Recording credits[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"Flame Trees"
Single by Sarah Blasko
Released March 18, 2006
Format Digital download
Genre Indie pop, Soft rock
Length 5:23
Label Dew Process
Producer(s) Jim Moginie & Wayne Connolly
Sarah Blasko singles chronology
"Don't U Eva"
(2004)
"Flame Trees"
(2006)
"{Explain}"
(2006)

In the 2005 Australian film Little Fish, the song is sung by The Sacred Heart School Choir from Cabramatta. The children in the choir appear in the film performing the song during a pivotal scene, and their version is repeated during the closing credits. This version was released as a single in 2006.

Don Walker said of this version, "A children's choir like that, it can't miss; they'll break your heart no matter what they sing." Of the scene in the movie, Walker said it was, "uncomfortable to watch for anyone who's ever shared accommodation where heroin is part of the commerce."[8]

Singer Sarah Blasko also recorded a cover version for the film Little Fish, which was released as a stand-alone download-only single on the Australian iTunes Music Store, and later included on the 2007 tribute album Standing on the Outside: The Songs of Cold Chisel. The Blasko version of "Flame Trees" was voted in at number 15 in the 2005 Triple J Hottest 100 songs.

The song was featured in a documentary on the "Choir of Hard Knocks", a Melbourne choir comprising a group of homeless people. It was also performed by The Whitlams Tim Freedman on 'The Panel' Jimmy Barnes recorded an acoustic version of the track on his 1993 album Flesh and Wood.

The song was also covered by The Killjoys in 1994 on a compilation CD titled Earth Music, which featured many prominent artists covering well known songs.

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. p. 72. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  2. ^ Mark Opitz, Luke Wallis, Jeff Jensen (2012). Sophisto-Punk. North Sydney: Ebury Press. p. 186. ISBN 9781742757933. 
  3. ^ Anthony O'Grady (2001). Cold Chisel: The Pure Stuff. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. p. 265. ISBN 1-86508-196-5. 
  4. ^ "Cold Chisel - Petrolheads". Retrieved 2006-01-09. 
  5. ^ The wording of the source article indicates that he had in the past fantasized about romance with Ms Mills, but not that there was actual romantic involvement between the two. The source article contains some typos: instead of Thika, it calls the work The Flame Trees of Thaw, and the "author" given as Tony Creswell is named the more-probable Toby Creswell in another part of the site.[1]
  6. ^ "Music Video Database entry on Kimble Rendall". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  7. ^ Jimmy Barnes (2008). Icons of Australian Music: Jimmy Barnes. Springwood, New South Wales: roving eye. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-9804495-0-1. 
  8. ^ Angus Fontaine. "Walker on the Wild Side". The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW: ACP Magazines) (22 November 2005): p.65. 

External links[edit]