From the Archives, 1967: Folk trio play Sydney Stadium

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 17, 1967

How sweet the folk

THE BLOOM, alas, has gone off the folk movement; and the bloom, alas, has also gone off Peter, Paul and Mary, those stalwart commercialisers who a few brief years ago seemed to symbolise, with the soft catch in the throat and a bleeding heart on their sleeve, everything that the sweet-folk idiom seemed to stand for.

Last night, at Sydney Stadium, they stood revealed, rather cruelly, as three slick and still very talented entertainers who are searching rather desperately for a new colouration to give to their old music – and embarrassingly failing to find it.

The old songs are still there, of course, and they sing them as well as ever: Samson, with its quite thrilling contrast of Peter Yarrow’s rhythmic tenor and Mary Travers’ strident counterpoint, If I Had a Hammer, Risin’ of the Moon, and the usual Dylan standards—Blowin’ in’ the Wind, Don’t Think Twice and The Times They Are A-Changin’.

But these have become a little tired, a little stale by now. One of the tragedies of pop groups is that they must change as fashion changes.

And so they have begun writing their own songs, and searching for a new musical image, and lo and behold what have they come up with but — parenthood! I lost count of the times Mary’s new child and Paul’s two-year-old were mentioned last night, and the number of soft-pop songs like One Child Born with phrases like I’ll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand (Mary) and childish laughter (Paul) in them.

Paul even got all sentimental about his old four-storey house in Manhattan (shavings off your mind) and essayed a late-hours torch song about a girl called What’s-Her-Name.

Somebody said something about meaningful relationship, Peter somehow overcame feedback fever (again! ) and a Bantu singalong, and Mary—well, Mary was triumphantly Shirley Temple-Lolita-Sincerity Jane all over again.

One thing last night’s concert made clear: The connection between Peter, Paul and Mary and the rigorous truths of folk music, always slender, has now been finally broken. They are out on their own now, in the harsh pop world of amplified Dylan, hyper-arranged Beatles, soul-sound Tamla Motown. But if they are to make it they’ll have to get beyond old houses, Mary’s child and nostalgia for things past.

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