I first read about Gary Shearston in Craig MacGregor’s book People, Politics and Pop. I found a copy of Songs of Our Time for $1. Its cover was ripped cover and the record had so much surface noise that the crackle was as loud as the recording. This LP is one of my all time favourites and features the best version I’ve ever heard of Dirty Old Town. I’ve since bought two other copies in much better condition and one copy on CD. Listening to Gary Shearston taught me that singing in an Australian accent, singing in your own voice, was cool. Over here in Australia the whole culture is living so much in the shadow of America and England, American movies, American and British television, American music and so on that it is nice to be hear performers who aren’t trying to sound either American or British. There is nothing wrong at all with music from the States or from England, some of the best music ever comes from those places but to try to be something that you are not just comes across as false. Shearston had a great voice, it was instantly recognizable. In many ways he was like an Australian Pete Seeger, an anti-war activist, singer and a leftie. Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, was going to manage him but Shearston wasn’t allowed to enter the United States of America due to his anti-Vietnam war activities. Later in life he became an Anglican priest. He kept performing and recording and his voice never aged. Sadly Gary died a few weeks back. I’m glad I got to see him perform once. I loved his work but Songs of Our Time remains my favourite record of his. It is great stuff.