|"You're the Voice"|
|Single by John Farnham|
|from the album Whispering Jack|
|B-side||"Going, Going, Gone"|
|Released||15 September 1986|
|John Farnham singles chronology|
"You're the Voice" is a song recorded by the Australian singer John Farnham released in 1986, which became an immediate hit in Australia as well as several European countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. It was released as a single in September 1986 ahead of his album Whispering Jack, and was written by Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder, and Chris Thompson.
In the United States, the song is probably best known for a charting version issued in 1991 by the band Heart. It was also recorded by The Alan Parsons Band, featuring Chris Thompson on vocals, and performed by them at the World Liberty Concert in the Netherlands in May 1995. It climbed the charts in Australia again in 2012 after being used in a TV ad.
From 3 September 2023, Farnham's song is being used to advocate for the "Yes" campaign in the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum.
Writing, meaning, recording, and release
"You're The Voice" was composed by British songwriters Chris Thompson, Andy Qunta and Maggie Ryder in response to an anti-nuclear demonstration in London's Hyde Park in 1985. More than 100,000 people showed up to the rally, but Thompson overslept. As an act of penance, he decided to express his remorse by composing a song that emphasised the importance of invoking personal agency when it comes to effecting political change. Ironically, Thompson was doubtful if Farnham had the chops to do the song justice, as he only knew Farham from the novelty song "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)", which Farnham had done about 18 years prior as a teenager. "You've got to be joking. He's not doing it," Thompson admitted in an interview in 2018.
Farnham, who was in considerable debt due to a series of "very bad business decisions", heard the demo and knew this was a make-or-break moment for his career. Having sold his house and car to pay down debts, Farham went to the basement of the house he was renting and recorded the song. Farnham made the decision to swap out the bass in the demo for bagpipes, which turned out to be a masterstroke. Thomas said, "They changed one note on the bass and put in this brilliant bagpipe solo", impressed.
Despite the song going through the chain of command and being improved at every juncture, they hit a wall when it came to securing a deal for Farnham. Whatley said, "Every label passed on it. I had to release it on Wheatley Records because I couldn't get anyone to take the punt. I knew people at radio would still have a problem playing a John Farnham song[;] they'd still think of him as Johnny Farnham." Even when the single was released, radio stations were resistant to play it due to the "Johnny Farnham" image. However, the song was undeniable and became incredibly successful, revived Farnham's career, and significantly helped Whispering Jack go 24× Platinum, with sales of 1.68 million in Australia alone. To date, Whispering Jack is the third-highest-selling album of all time in Australia as well as the highest of any Australian artist.
The music video was recorded with celebrities (Derryn Hinch and Jacki Weaver) and musicians (James and Vince Leigh of Pseudo Echo, Greg Macainsh), none of whom are on the original audio recording; and were assembled by Farnham's talent manager, Glenn Wheatley. Wheatley later recalled, "[it] was done on a shoestring budget. I called in Derryn and Jacki, some of the guys from Pseudo Echo (James and Vince Leigh) and Greg Macainsh from Skyhooks are in the band, it was pretty much anyone who'd do me a favour".
The song was one of the biggest hits of 1986 in Australia, topping the Kent Music Report singles chart for seven weeks from 3 November to 21 December. At the ARIA Music Awards of 1987 it won Single of the Year.
It re-entered the Australian singles chart more than 25 years after its original release (reaching No. 64), thanks to its appearance in a 2012 Ford TV commercial to advertise the company's SYNC voice control system.
The power ballad is also one of Farnham's biggest successes in Europe, charting at No. 1 in Germany and Sweden and reaching the Top 10 in Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, and the UK. Although "You're the Voice" was also successful in Canada (reaching the Top 20), in the US the track performed relatively poorly, missing the chart on its initial 1987 issue. BMG/RCA re-released the song in the US in February 1990 after Farnham made the Adult Contemporary chart with "Two Strong Hearts". Farnham's version eventually spent eight weeks on the US charts, peaking at No. 82, but in the US the song is probably best known for a charting version issued in 1991 by the band Heart.
|Australia (ARIA)||8× Platinum||560,000‡|
|Denmark (IFPI Danmark)||Gold||45,000‡|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000‡|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Uses in popular culture
The song has been featured in numerous TV and film productions, including the film Hot Rod, the BBC series Merlin, the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and comedian Peter Kay's Car Share, and in the Swedish film Medicinen.
It is also featured in the original release of Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City (2001) in in-game radio station Vice City FM, but it was removed following the game's 10-year anniversary.
The song was used by anti-lockdown protesters who rallied in Melbourne, Victoria, during the COVID-19 pandemic. On 21 September 2020, it was reported by Seven News that the song had become a common theme at rallies around the city as Stage 4 lockdowns continued. Farnham's manager described the unauthorised use of the song as "offensive" to Farnham and the manager himself.
From 3 September 2023, the song is being used to advocate for the "Yes" campaign in the 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum, a vote to change the Australian Constitution to enshrine a Voice to Parliament for Indigenous Australians. The song plays as a soundtrack for a video ad directed by filmmaker Warwick Thornton, which is being rolled out on social and other digital media and television.
|"You're the Voice"|
|Single by Heart|
|from the album Rock the House Live!|
|B-side||"Wild Child" (live)|
|Released||2 September 1991|
|Heart singles chronology|
As a lead promotion for their first live album, Rock the House Live!, in 1991, US rock band Heart released their live version of "You're the Voice" as a single. It was recorded during the US leg of their Brigade world tour in November 1990. Commercially, the single reached No. 20 on the US Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. In the UK, the single peaked at No. 56. A music video was released that includes footage shot from the tour while coverage of the then-ongoing Gulf War intervene.
The song was released in multiple limited-edition formats in different territories. A studio version of the track had been recorded in late 1989 as part of the sessions for the Brigade album, though it did not make the album track list. This studio version would not see release until July 2000, when it was included on the greatest hits package, Greatest Hits: 1985–1995.
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||65|
|UK Singles (OCC)||56|
|US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)||20|
Alan Parsons Band
|"You're the Voice"|
|Single by Alan Parsons|
|Studio||Parsonics, Santa Barbara, California|
|Length||4:14 (radio edit)|
|Songwriter(s)||Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder, Chris Thompson|
|Alan Parsons singles chronology|
Chris Thompson had joined Alan Parsons' band for his first solo album after the split of The Alan Parsons Project and was also one of the two frontmen on the ensuing tour, which was captured on the album Alan Parsons Live. For the US release of this album in 1995 (retitled The Very Best Live), the band added three new studio recordings, recorded in February 1995. One of these was "You're the Voice", which marked the first time a version featuring the original songwriter had been released. Alan Parsons produced the song.
"You're the Voice" was then performed at the World Liberty Concert in May 1995 by The Alan Parsons Band, Chris Thompson, and Metropole Orkest. The only official release associated with the concert was a single featuring a radio edit of the live version (faded out after four minutes). The B-side was a live recording of "White Dawn", which was performed by the Metropole Orkest and Gelders Opera and Operetta Gezelschap (GOOG) choir. The song was arranged by Andrew Powell and conducted by Dick Bakker. During the performance of "White Dawn", a battle was simulated that included gunfire, which can be heard around the middle of the recording. This track has not been issued on any other release.
- "You're the Voice (Radio Edit)" – (Qunta, Thompson, Reid, Ryder) – 4:14 Lead Vocals Chris Thompson
- "White Dawn" – (Parsons) – 4:50 instrumental
Thompson has continued singing the song live in concert, e.g. with Mandoki Soulmates as recorded on the live album BudaBest as well as recording several more studio versions, e.g. with Mads Eriksen on the album Rediscovery. The original demo by Andy Qunta and Chris Thompson appeared on the deluxe reissue of Qunta's album Legend in a Loungeroom.
Other covers and uses
Planet Rock Allstars
In November 2019, a single in support of the mental health charity MIND was curated by Planet Rock DJ Wyatt Wendels in conjunction with a 2000-mile charity cycle ride The Road to Rockstock. The limited release CD was then made available from the ride's support vehicle, during late November/early December. The CD features three versions, the main version featuring many well-known rock artists including Alice Cooper, Joe Elliott, Lzzy Hale, Justin Hawkins, Doug Aldrich, Phil Campbell, Bruce Dickinson and Dan Reed. The other versions include the original backing track with Toby Jepson on vocals, and a version with vocals by Joe Elliott. The song was released as a digital download on 6 December 2019.
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