Menubar Home

Beware The Falling Swinger

by Sean Sennett

1994 - Time Off magazine

Over the last decade, Stephen Cummings has built a formidable reputation for making world class records, usually on shoestring budgets. Beyond simple description, his music mixes the evocative with the seductive. He flits with ease from subtle dance grooves to more potent pieces of acoustic psychodrama. As a lyricist, he's arguably the best in Australia. When he releases a new album, it's like receiving a welcome letter from an old friend. Falling Swinger, his latest, is in the stores this week.

Since releasing Senso in the early-eighties, Cummings has taken his listeners on a magic carpet ride that sees each new album build on the success of its' predecessor. For Falling Swinger, Cummings teamed with Church man Steve Kilbey - who handled the production duties. The new disc was recorded at Kilbey's Karmic Hit Studios in Surrey Hills. The results have had critics and fans alike reaching for new plaudits.

On the phone from Melbourne last week, Cummings talked about the new disc, Kilbey and ... George Harrison. Notorious for keeping outsiders away from his music, Kilbey initially seemed an odd, albeit exciting, choice for Cummings to make.

"Ah... I just wanted to change," he muses. "I had an idea of how to change my sound around, I wanted to move sideways and I thought, Steve Kilbey is the one I need to help me. I didn't know him or anything. I sent him up some tapes and he liked the songs. We hit it off quite well."

The bulk of Cummings work, since the demise of The Sports, has been recorded in Melbourne. For those who know Stephen, Sydney was a brave move.

"That was one of the other reasons I did it," he confesses. "I wanted to break up my pattern of doing things. I didn't want to use all the same people I always use. On certain things, I wanted to use Steve and incorporate Chris Abrahams into the sound as well. I had a plan of how I wanted the record to sound, and I explained that to Steve - he thought that was a good idea too. The record happened quite easily. The engineer was really experienced with the studio and he knew how to make Kilbey behave (laughs)."

Cummings admits that before beginning work in Surrey Hills, he was only moderately familiar with Kilbey's work.

"He's got quite a good sense of humour, so we kind of hit it off reasonably well. We're not best buddies or anything. I don't think he's ever met anyone quieter than what he is. At the start, when we were recording, he had all of these Buddhas around the house and I wondered what I let myself in for. He appreciated the fact I knew what I wanted to do. He has strong opinions and people have strong opinions about him. I couldn't believe it, some people really hate him and he also has his strong supporters too. He really loves music. I'm like that too. I like to have fun, make records and not think about it too much. Eventually, you start to do some good stuff. He's got a work attitude like that as well. He doesn't mind sending himself up."

It was Kilbey, in fact, who wrote the first single for the disc. The pair both share the same birthday and the track was duly dubbed September 13. "I liked the song. He offered it to me and said, 'don't feel like you have to do it or anything' - I said, 'well I won't'. But, I just liked it and thought, 'yeah okay, I'll do it.'"

September 13 is Kilbey's sole composition on the album. The rest were written in the main by Cummings.

"I did more songs by myself," confesses the singer. "I also wrote a few songs with Shane O'Mara and Chris Abrahams, and the bass player Bill McDonald helped me out on two songs as well."

The title for the album comes courtesy of George Harrison.

"I just like the word swinger," begins Cummings. "It's a beautiful word. Falling Swinger. I don't know. When I was making the record, Steve had all of these rock opinions. One day, he asked me what the greatest rock album was. I didn't know. I said, `what is it'?. He said All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. He'd make big statements like that. Then, I went and listened to that album again. It was really good. I never really liked it at the time. There was a song I really liked on there called, Beware Of Darkness. There was a line in it that goes, Beware of falling swingers, falling all around you. I liked the idea of people in their mid-thirties with their lives falling apart. Falling bodies. Falling stars. My little mind was racing."

Suitably struck by Harrison's lyrical charm, Cummings recorded two of his songs, Isn't It A Pity and the previously mentioned Beware Of Darkness.

"With the first two thousand copies of the record, there's a bonus disc that has seven covers on it," continues Cummings. "I do Donovan's Cosmic Wheel, a Jimmy Dale Gilmour song and a Pop Staples song I've adapted called, Just Another Soldier In The Army Of Love. I nearly called the whole record that. The other idea was Fucked And Forty."

You can find Falling Swinger in record bars all over the place right now.

© Time Off Magazine - reprinted with permission

the Stephen Cummings site - email: feedback AT