The subject of this post is a song that, since its first release, was dying for a cover. In fact the original band had 2 more cracks at it over the course of their career.
Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters and Collectors was originally released as a single in 1984. However when it appeared two years later on the band’s 3rd album, Human Frailty, it was re-recorded and re-released as a single.
(Note that I couldn’t dig up a copy of the 1984 version, but this one is most people are referring to when they say the “original” – if you have a link to the 84 version, please put it in the comments).
In 1990, when it came time for the band to release a compilation of Collected Works they re-recorded it a second time, slightly slower:
Either version of this song (and they really are quite similar) is an “Oz Rock” classic. Every guy with a guitar and a campfire can, and will, sing it. But I was never a huge fan. It has a certain feel to it, musically, that a lot of Australian Rock from the 80s had, which I have never liked. People call it “raw” but to me it just feels a bit empty and hollow. And I’m not sure if Mark Seymour is deliberately singing bum notes in some of the verses but I physically wince a couple of times with how off key he is. (Again, maybe that’s part of the “raw” but I just don’t get it).
So it will come as no surprise that I much prefer this version of the song, performed by the Australian comedy trio The Doug Anthony All-Stars, made up of guitarist Richard Fidler, tall guy Tim Ferguson (who isn’t actually that tall) and lead singer Paul McDermott.
I will admit to some bias here, as I loved DAAS from the moment they burst on to my TV screen in ABC TVs The Big Gig in 1989. They had a mix of satire, irreverence, abuse, immaturity and sweet harmonies that appealed to me instantly. I’ve been to see them multiple times, and own a couple of their albums. The above live cover comes from their 1994 album Dead & Alive (which also contained such lovely tracks as Skinhead Sooty and I Fuck Dogs).
What I like about this version is that it doesn’t feel at all empty. They are only 3 voices and a 12 string acoustic, but there’s a real depth to the sound. There is passion in the voices – and although there is probably more passion in Seymour’s voice there is strength behind the passion in this version. Which is odd, as there’s not a lot of expression on their faces. They are singing this, as they did with a lot of their serious songs, “altar boy” style. Standing up straight, looking forward (or slightly upward) and hands still.
Most live shows that DAAS did had one serious song, nestled among their other ruder works. This song was Dead & Alive’s and for the 3 or so minutes it took everything stopped and the atmosphere changed. Then the show continued. It was partly because it was unexpected and incongruous that it has such an effect. But, even when it stands alone - not contrasted against the rest of their material, it is still an amazing version.It is a pity, then, that Paul McDermott went on to milk this song for all it was worth, to the point where it became as much a standard for him as it did for the original band.