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John Kennedy and Jeff Pope

John Kennedy and guitarist Jeff Pope played songs from the new album by John Kennedy's ’68 Comeback Special, in Brisbane not long ago. I managed to get some excellent reading suggestions.

King Street (1985) by John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong, is one of those songs that latch onto a landscape. I haven’t walked down King Street, Newtown, in Sydney in many years, but every time I did I’d have that song in my head. And I would if I went back there. John Kennedy said he wished he got royalties for that.
John Kennedy’s latest band is John Kennedy’s ’68 Comeback Special, and their album is called Is this not Paris?. It’s a laid-back album with an edge. It conjures up images of traveling through Texan border towns late at night. Standout atmospheric songs include Motel Satellite and a nice combination of the songs This Boy and Sleep Walk.

John Kennedy’s voice sounds slightly like Elvis Costello with maybe a touch of Lou Reed. The album features some varied guitar work, including some nice Spaghetti Western guitar played by Jeff Pope, with some melancholic harmonica thrown in. This is John Kennedy’s 11th album, and it has the subtitle “Emotion Picture Soundtracks”. Travel and heartache are his themes.

The album features soundtracks or songs that have been given the soundtrack treatment, including a cou ple of John Kennedy’s old singles: Big Country and The Texan Thing.

They were playing in the Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, a couple of months ago. There wasn’t a big crowd there; not many people knew who they were. There were just passing pedestrians heading up and down the Mall, who’d stopped to sit down and listen for a while. Plus a handful of fans that had read John Kennedy would be there.

During a break in his songs he sold his new CD, Is this not Paris? by his latest band incarnation, John Kennedy’s ’68 Comeback Special. A couple of other guys from my age group were there buying CDs and getting old singles signed. John Kennedy showed his guitarist Jeff Pope some of the cover art work on the 1980s singles, like Big Country which had a plastic map of Australia on the cover.

John Kennedy’s bands have been reincarnated a number of times. John Kennedy was born in Liverpool, England, but grew up in Brisbane, Australia. He formed his first band JFK and the Cuban Crisis with a school friend during the punk era, in 1980. The band moved to Sydney in 1982 and started playing at the Southern Cross Hotel in Surrey Hills. The band broke up in 1984 after releasing their first album The End of the Affair. John Kennedy went solo.

But he created another band John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong. There was a solo album in 1989.

While living in Germany he formed John Kennedy and the Honeymooners. In 1994 he moved to Hong Kong, then London, returning to Australia in 1999.

As far as books went, John Kennedy said he liked re-reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Guitarist Jeff Pope highly recommended Bring Me Back Home by Merle Haggard, which is a 1981 book. It covers some troubled chapters of his life, like robbing a tavern and ending up in San Quentin prison for three years.

Jeff Pope, who plays an excellent spaghetti western guitar, also highly recommended Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band by freelance journalist Scott Freeman. The 368 page, 1986 book describes how the Allman Brothers fused blues, country and rock music, and covers the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle of the band. It recounts the early deaths of frontman Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, Gregg Allman’s substance abuse problems, and the band members’ failed marriages, as well as offering assessments of their various albums.

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