The Black Sorrows
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Website||Black Sorrows Website|
|Past members||Jen Anderson
The Black Sorrows are an Australian band founded by Joe Camilleri, the group's only constant member. Founded in 1983, The Black Sorrows are still active today, and are best remembered for their top 40 Australian hits of the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "Hold On To Me", "Chained To The Wheel", "Harley and Rose" and "Snake Skin Shoes".
Formation and early years: 1983-85
Beginning as a loose Melbourne pick-up band playing mostly covers of R&B, zydeco and blues songs, The Black Sorrows eventually evolved into a unit that scored several top 40 Australian hits with original material. In the beginning, though, The Black Sorrows were simply a way for singer Joe Camilleri to play some fun, low-pressure gigs after the dissolution of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons. From 1983-1988, Camilleri adopted the pseudonym 'Joey Vincent' for his performances with the band.
Membership in the band has always been loose and fluid. Most of The Falcons were (at one point or another) members of The Black Sorrows; several dozen other Australian vocalists and musicians have drifted in and out of the line-up over the years, with Camilleri being the only constant.
The early line-up (c. 1983/84) included 'Joey Vincent' (i.e. Camilleri) on vocals and sax, Paul Williamson (sax/clarinet), Jeff Burstin (guitar), Wayne Burt (guitar), Wayne Duncan (bass), Gary Young (drums), George Butrumlis (accordion, piano) and Steve McTaggart (violin). Camilleri, Burstin, Burt and Young had all been members of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons. The Black Sorrows first two albums were recorded live off-the-floor, and consisted almost entirely of R&B cover songs by the likes of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Arthur Alexander, Don Covay and John Lee Hooker.
The 'classic' era: 1986-1993
By the time of their first top 20 album, 1986's Dear Children, the Black Sorrows were playing original material and the official line up was Camilleri, Burstin, Nick Smith (lyrics/backing vocals), Johnny Charles (bass) and Peter Luscombe (drums).  However, 15 musicians actually played on the Dear Children album, including Butrumlis, vocalists Venetta Fields and Shirley Matthews, and keyboardist Mick O'Connor. In fact, despite whatever 'official' band membership configurations existed at any given time, The Black Sorrows often made extensive use of session musicians for both recordings and live shows throughout their career. Players at various times in the band's history who were never acknowledged as full members of The Black Sorrows include pianist Paul Grabowsky, slide guitarist Sam See, trumpeter Tony Norris, guitarists Kerryn Tolhurst and Tony Faeshe, and many others.
For 1987's Hold on to Me, Smith left—though he continued writing lyrics for Black Sorrows songs for the following two decades. Returning to the official line-up was one-time Falcons guitarist Wayne Burt. Other changes were also made: Charles was replaced by Mick Girasole on bass (Girasole had actually played on several Dear Children tracks), and backing vocalists Vika and Linda Bull were added. The Bull Sisters readily identifiable singing style (both as backing vocalists and occasional lead vocalists on album tracks) became a big part of The Black Sorrows' sound, and Hold on to Me spawned 3 top 40 hits in Australia: "Hold on to Me", "Chained to the Wheel" and "The Crack-Up".
For 1990's Harley & Rose, Jen Anderson was added on violin, and Richard Sega replaced Girasole on bass.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Camilleri also fronted The Revelators (originally The Delta Revelators). This band's line-up was practically identical to The Black Sorrows, the only real difference being that The Revelators returned to the early Sorrows roots of playing largely R&B-oriented cover songs. The Revelators released their first album in 1991.
Burt left the band again prior to the Black Sorrows 1992 album Better Times, and yet another new bassist was added in the person of Stephen Hadley, replacing Sega. Also added to the line-up were keyboard player James Black and percussionist Michael Barker. Finally, Laurie Polec took over as the band's primary lyricist, although Nick Smith would still contribute to this and future Black Sorrows releases.
After a further 1993 single from this line-up (a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up"), Camilleri dissolved the band and set about creating a new version of The Black Sorrows.
New line-ups: 1994-1998
Camilleri retained only Hadley from the previous line-up for 1994's Lucky Charm. This album was recorded in New York, and although Camilleri was the only musician to be featured on every track, most of the album featured a band consisting of Camilleri (vocals, sax), Hadley (bass), Rob Burke (sax), Claude Carranza (guitar), Kerryn Tolhurst (guitar, mandolin, keyboards), Andy York (guitars) and Steve Ferrone (drums). Lyrics for the album's songs were by James Griffin, Nick Smith and Laurie Polec.
The next album, 1998's Beat Club, almost completely overhauled the line-up again, with Camilleri being joined by James Black, Tony Floyd, Stephen Hadley, Joe Creighton, Rob Burke and Nick Haywood as the new official Black Sorrows. The album also made extensive use of guest musicians, including Wayne Burt, Jeff Burstin and Renee Geyer. Somewhat more jazz-oriented in tone than previous Black Sorrows releases, the lead single "New Craze" was nominated for a 1998 ARIA award for most played jazz composition in Australia.
Camelleri founded another spin-off band called Bakelite Radio in the early 2000s, which temporarily supplanted his activity with The Black Sorrows. As is characteristic of Camillieri's projects, Bakelite Radio started out as a loosely organized covers band, with fairly fluid membership. In practice, Bakelite Radio is often (though not always) virtually identical to The Black Sorrows in terms of membership; only the repertoire differs somewhat.
Return from hiatus: 2004-2008
After a long period of inactivity, The Black Sorrows returned from hiatus and released an acoustic album (One Mo' Time) in 2004. The new line-up consisted entirely of returning vets: Camilleri, Hadley, Burstin, Black, and Floyd.
The band's follow-up album was Roarin Town, released in October 2006. For this release, The Black Sorrows were Camilleri, Hadley, Black, Floyd, and the returning Carranza. Carranza and Black had also played with Camilleri in Bakelite Radio.
The 2006 touring line-up consisted of Joe Camilleri (lead vocals, sax), James Black (keyboards), Joe Creighton (bass), Claude Carranza (guitar), Tony Floyd (drums), Annette Roche (backing vocals), and Troy McMillan (backing vocals). When the band resumed touring in 2007, Roche and McMillan had left the group.
A one-time only gig in December, 2008, presented a Black Sorrows line-up that traversed several different editions of the band, and included Joe Camilleri (vocals/sax/guitar), George Butrumlis (accordion), Joe Creighton (bass), Claude Carranza (guitar), Ed Bates (pedal steel), Tony Floyd (drums), Vika Bull (vocals), Linda Bull (vocals), and Jen Anderson (violin).
Current activity: 2009-present
Camilleri continues to play Black Sorrows, Bakelite Radio and Revelators gigs with a revolving cast of musicians. As well, in late 2009 The Black Sorrows released a CD/DVD combo pack called 4 Days In Sing Sing (2009). The DVD chronicles the making of the album, which consists of 17 tracks recorded live (without an audience) in Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne. All the tracks were remakes of Black Sorrows and Bakelite Radio songs, and were played by the then-current line-up for both bands: Camilleri, Carranza, Creighton and Black.
The 2010-2012 Black Sorrows line-up consisted of Camilleri, Carranza, Creighton, and returning drummer Tony Floyd, alongside new vocalist Atlanta Coogan who joined the band in 2010. In 2012 the band released Crooked Little Thoughts, a 72-page hard cover book including 3 CDs, photos, lyrics and the artwork of Victor Rubin.
As of 2013, the line-up was shuffled once again. The Black Sorrows now consist of Joe Camilleri (vocals, sax, guitar), Mark Gray (bass), Claude Carranza (guitar), John McAll (keyboards) and Angus Burchall (drums). The band's website currently promises that a new Black Sorrows album called Certified Blue will be issued in March, 2014.
|Release date||Title||Chart Positions|
|Australia||New Zealand |
|June 1984||"What a Difference a Day Makes" (Grever/Adams)|
|March 1985||"Shape I'm In" (Cathy/Blackwell)|
|November 1985||"Sons of the Sea" (Camilleri/Smith)|
|March 1986||"Country Girls" (Camilleri/Smith)|
|April 1987||"Daughters of Glory" (Camilleri/Smith)||#48|
|June 1987||"Maybe Tomorrow" (Deville)||#91|
|November 1987||"The Last Frontier" (Camilleri/Smith)|
|August 1988||"Hold on to Me" (Camilleri/Smith)||#24|
|October 1988||"The Chosen Ones" (Camilleri/Smith)||#80||#32|
|February 1989||"Chained to the Wheel" (Camilleri/Smith)||#9||#42|
|April 1989||"The Crack Up" (Camilleri/Smith)||#40|
|August 1989||"Fire Down Below" (Camilleri/Smith)||#73|
|August 1990||"Harley and Rose" (Camilleri/Smith)||#24|
|November 1990||"Angel Street" (Camilleri/Smith)||#82|
|April 1991||"Never Let Me Go" (Camilleri/Smith)||#30|
|June 1991||"Hold It Up to the Mirror" (Camilleri/Smith)|
|May 1992||"Better Times" (Camilleri/Polec)||#79|
|July 1992||"Ain't Love the Strangest Thing" (Camilleri/Polec)||#46|
|February 1993||"Come On, Come On" (Camilleri/Polec)||#70|
|July 1993||"Sweet Inspiration" (Camilleri/Polec)|
|September 1993||"Stir It Up" (Marley)||#58||#20|
|July 1994||"Snake Skin Shoes" (Camilleri/Griffin)||#16|
|November 1994||"Last One Standing for Ya" (Camilleri/Griffin/Polec)||#46|
|February 1995||"Lucky Charm" (Camilleri/Smith)|
|August 1997||"New Craze" (Camilleri/Smith/Black)|
- Sonola (1984)
- Rockin' Zydeco (1985)
- A Place in the World (1986)
- Dear Children (1987)
- Hold on to Me (1988)
- Harley and Rose (1990)
- Better Times (1992)
- Lucky Charm (1994)
- Beat Club (1998)
- One Mo' Time (2004)
- Roarin' Town (2006)
- 4 Days In Sing Sing (2009, CD/DVD set)
- Crooked Little Thoughts (2012, 3 CD/Hardcover Book)
- Radio Waves (1996, 3 CD set)
- Greatest Hits (1994)
- The Great Black Sorrows (1994) 3 CD set
- The Essential Black Sorrows (2007)
- Official Black Sorrows Website
- The Black Sorrows at Australian Rock Database by Magnus Holmgren
- Liner notes to the following Black Sorrows releases: Sonola, Dear Children, Hold On To Me, Harley and Rose, Better Times, Lucky Charm, One Mo' Time.
- Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Black Sorrows". HowlSpace – The Living Hisotry of Our Music. Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.