OPINION: BETWEEN THE LINES
So Malcolm didn’t know all the words to You’re the Voice and he swayed out of time.
Guess what? I don’t know the words to anything by Chance the Rapper.
If it’s a shock to you that the Member for Vaucluse isn’t a man of the people, don’t ask what happened to cordless phones. Malcolm’s not a man who’d say “clear” when he could say “perspicuous”; he’s not one for memorising pop lyrics.
And why should he be? In 1986, when John Farnham released You’re the Voice, Turnbull was a lawyer fighting the biggest case of his life – defending former MI5 officer Peter Wright whose book, Spycatcher, the British Government wanted to pulp.
I know the words to You’re the Voice because in 1986, riding down the coast for family holidays, head filled with one-day cricket and how to execute a backside boneless, You’re the Voice was everywhere: in the shops, on the radio, atop the charts.
Malcolm went lawyering instead of learning pop songs, and more power to him (it seems). But of all the songs to take faux offence over, why You’re the Voice?
I’d like to perspicuously inform anyone who contributed their “take” that You're the Voice has never been Australia's “unofficial anthem”, any more than Darryl Braithwaite’s The Horses gets legend status on the back of a social media resurrection which ended as soon as it began (yes I know that’s tautological) as the mob moved on.
There’s more to it than a big chorus and people knowing the words. In my head-dictionary of music-law the entry for “anthem” includes an implied requirement that it mean something, or capture a spirit.
Australia has a national anthem, which believe it or not wasn’t written for purpose (in the way Canberra was built to be capital). But there’s little surprise we’re looking for an unofficial one we actually like. Is the “unofficial anthem” spot already taken? Let’s review the contenders.
Throw Your Arms Around Me - Is an ad for insurance now. Also, the line “I will kiss you in four places” is inappropriate because Australia has six states.
Treaty? Fantastic song, but can you imagine it becoming the anthem without a, ahem, you know …
Down Under? Certainly acts as the anthem for expats and travellers. But the beer-chunder stuff wouldn’t cut it in these easily offended times. And then there’s the fact its riff was plundered from another contender, Kookaburra.
Sounds of Then? Even more brilliant than you remember. Do yourself a favour and check out Ganggajang’s masterpiece. But it’s a bit monotone, rather than rousing.
Khe Sanh? Great song, even if you have to wade through decades of drunken bogan choruses to actually like it. But there were minimal, if any, Australians at the Khe Sanh fire base in South Vietnam. And the song not exactly ... how to say ... inclusive.
Under the Milky Way is pure greatness. But an anthem should be more uplifting than wistful.
I Was Only 19? Meaningful, zeitgeist-capturing, emotional, beloved. But it doesn’t have the kind of denouement that brings you home. And it might be up against The Band Played Waltzing Matilda in an intergenerational sing-off.
Which brings us back to our unofficial anthem. We all know the words, it has a great historical spine, it’s a rousing ditty, and it sounds great sung by large crowds at football games (surely that’s the test).
It’s an old song about a sheep thief who wasn’t going to end up inside, who loved his freedom, and who bucked the authorities – you know, like Australians used to do.
Yep, if the PM botched the words to Waltzing Matilda, that would be something. He would be well advised to stay away from the song in public. It would be the end of his credibility. He might as well go and join the monarchists.