The Real Thing (Russell Morris song)

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"The Real Thing"
The Real Thing Album.jpg
Single by Russell Morris
Released March 1969
Format single
Recorded 1968-1969 at Armstrong Studios, Melbourne
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 6:20
Label EMI/Columbia (Australia)
Decca (UK)
Diamond (US)
Writer(s) Johnny Young
Producer(s) Ian "Molly" Meldrum
Russell Morris singles chronology
"The Real Thing"
"Part Three into Paper Walls"

"The Real Thing" is the debut single by Australian singer Russell Morris, released in 1969. His version, which was produced by Ian "Molly" Meldrum and written by Johnny Young,[1] was a huge hit in Australia and has become an Australian rock classic. It also achieved success in the United States of America, reaching the top of the charts in Chicago and New York City.[2]

Young had originally written the song for Meldrum's friend Ronnie Burns, but when Meldrum heard Young playing it backstage during a taping of the TV pop show Uptight, he determined to secure the song for Morris, reportedly going to Young's home that night with a tape recorder and refusing to leave until Young had taped a "demo" version of the song for him.

In collaboration with engineer John Sayers, Meldrum radically transformed "The Real Thing" from Young's original vision of a simple acoustic ballad into a heavily produced studio masterpiece, extending it to an unheard-of six minutes in length and overdubbing the basic track with many additional instruments, vocals and sound effects. The bed track used the services of The Groop as backing band, with vocal contributions from Danny Robinson (Wild Cherries), The Chiffons, Maureen Elkner, with Sue Brady and Judy Condon, guitarist Roger Hicks from Zoot — who composed and played the song's distinctive acoustic guitar intro - and Billy Green who played electric guitar and sitar. The children's choir singing toward the end is the Hitler Youth singing "Die Jugend Marschiert" (Youth on the March). The single is reported to have cost A$10,000 [3] — the most expensive single ever made in Australia up to that time (the typical budget for an entire album at the time) — and features one of the earliest uses of the studio technique known as "flanging" on an Australian recording. "The Real Thing" became a national number one hit for Morris in mid-1969 and is widely considered to be one of the finest Australian pop-rock recordings of the era.

The Real Thing was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2013.[4]


Weekly Charts[edit]

Chart (1969) Position
Australian Go-Set Chart[5] 1

Year-end Charts[edit]

Chart (1969) Position
Australian Go-Set Chart[6] 1

Song in popular culture[edit]

In 1998 Australia Post issued a special edition set of twelve stamps celebrating the early years of Australian Rock 'n' Roll, featuring Australian hit songs of the late 50s, the 60s and the early 70s.

"Each of them said something about us, and told the rest of the world this is what popular culture sounds like, and it has an Australian accent."[7][dubious ]

Morris's version of "The Real Thing" was featured on the soundtrack of the 2000 Australian movie, The Dish. The AFL also used a new recording of the song for its television advertisement campaign for the 2000 season, declaring Aussie Rules as 'The Real Thing' as opposed to Rugby League.[8] Australian performer Kylie Minogue released her cover version of the song in 2000, it is featured on the soundtrack to the movie Sample People.[9] Australian rock band Midnight Oil also released a version in 2000 as a single from their compilation album The Real Thing.[10]

In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "The Real Thing" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.[11][12]

Between 2004 and 2008, the song was used extensively in an advertising campaign by Western Australian Tourism Commission (Tourism WA) promoting the State both nationally and internationally.[13][14]

In 2005 and 2006, while South Sydney's NRL team was sponsored by Real Insurance, this song was used as the theme song when they ran on the field.

This song was used by the Seven Network for its AFL coverage in 2007.

Used by Subaru in their advertising 2012 - 2014.


The Australian psychedelic/electronic/trance band Third Eye (a project of Ollie Olsen who had previously been in Max Q with Michael Hutchence of INXS fame) released a version of the song that charted at #76 in October 1990 in Australia.

Midnight Oil covered and released a version of the song from their album The Real Thing (Midnight Oil album) in 2000.

Stoner rock band Shellfin covered The Real Thing on their album Cities Without Name (2015).

Track listing[edit]

  1. "The Real Thing - Parts I & II" (Johnny Young)[15] - 6:12
  2. "It's Only a Matter of Time" (Hans Poulsen)[16] - 2:58


  • Russell Morris (vocals)
  • Brian Cadd (Hammond organ, piano and megaphone voice track)[17]
  • Richard Wright (drums)
  • Don Mudie (bass)
  • Roger Hicks (acoustic guitar)
  • Billy Green (electric guitar, sitar)
  • The Chiffons - Maureen Elkner, Sue Brady and Judy Condon



  1. ^ "I write the songs". Sydney Morning Herald. 2003-01-28. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  2. ^ "Russell Morris". Howlspace. Archived from the original on 2001-02-21. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  3. ^ Kimball, Duncan (2007). "Lynne Randell". MilesAgo: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  4. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: Sounds of Australia.
  5. ^ "THE TOP 40 FOR 1969". Pop Archives. 1970. Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "THE TOP 40 FOR 1969". Pop Archives. 1970. Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "Australian Stamps : Rock Australia". Australia Post. 2001-03-20. Archived from the original on 2002-11-25. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  8. ^ Leung, Johnson (2000-03-05). "AFANA News". Australian Football Association of North America. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  9. ^ "Sample People (2000) - Soundtracks". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  10. ^ "Midnight Oil discography". Australian Charts Portal. Archived from the original on 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  11. ^ "APRA/AMCOS 2001 Top 30 Songs". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 2014-04-01. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  12. ^ Kruger, Debbie (2001-05-02). "The songs that resonate through the years" (PDF). Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  13. ^ "The Real Thing Campaign". Tourism WA. Archived from the original on 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  14. ^ Emerson, Daniel (2007-10-04). "State's tourism slump blamed on 'dud' campaign". The West Australian. Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  15. ^ "The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)". ASCAP. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  16. ^ ""It's Only a Matter of Time" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  17. ^ "Russell Morris and The Real Thing". ABC. 2005-06-26. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 

External links[edit]

  • Cover Me by Paul McHenry (1998)
  • Australian Rock Discography 1970-79 by Chris Spencer (1999)
  • Who's Who of Australian Rock by Chris Spencer et al. (2002)