Alison MacCallum

Alison MacCallum (born 7 April 1951), also written Alison McCallum, is an Australian rock singer from the late 1960s and 1970s. Her two studio albums are Fresh Water (March 1972) and Excuse Me (October 1975). In March 1972 she issued her most successful charting single, "Superman", which peaked at No. 12 on Go-Set's National Top 40. In August that year MacCallum provided lead vocals for the Labor Party's campaign theme song, "It's Time", for the 1972 election. By the late 1970s, she had concentrated on session work and then "disappeared from public view". According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, MacCallum was "a soul/blues stylist of considerable flair and passion". In September 2014 Sony released a 2× CD compilation album, The Essential Alison MacCallum.

Alison MacCallum
Born (1951-04-07) 7 April 1951
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
GenresRock, blues, soul
Years active1967–1979
LabelsRCA, Albert/EMI
Associated actsGeoff Bull Jazz Band, Big Apple Union, Dr Kandy's Third Eye, This Hallelujah Chorus, Tully, Freshwater, Ray Brown's One Ton Gypsy, Hooter Sisters

Early career

Alison MacCallum was born on 7 April 1951 and raised in Maroubra, a Sydney suburb.[1] She began her music career in 1967, at the age of 16, as the singer in a succession of Sydney bands.[1][2] Her influences include Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Clara Ward and Marianne Williams.[2] She began with the Geoff Bull Jazz Band, and the York Gospel Singers.[3] She soon joined the Big Apple Union, a soul band, which evolved into Dr Kandy's Third Eye,[2] in which she shared lead vocals with Gulliver Smith, (later of Company Caine).[4][5] In June 1969, MacCallum joined a seven-piece blue-eyed soul band, This Hallelujah Chorus, sharing lead vocals with Ed Mayne. Also during that year she recorded a cover version of The Bee Gees track "To Love Somebody" with Tully for the ABC-TV show Fusions.[2] However, it was not released commercially until 1979 on the various artists' compilation album, Alberts Archives, selected by Glenn A. Baker.

At the end of 1970 MacCallum joined Freshwater, a soul-pop band, which had formed in New Zealand in 1968.[6][7] They had achieved notoriety for their controversial May 1970 single, "Satan" / "Satan's Woman" – about the Sharon Tate murders.[6] Initially sharing lead vocals with Ian Johnson, by September 1971 she was sole lead vocalist alongside Tony Bolton on drums, Rod Coe on bass guitar, David Fookes on keyboards, and Murray Partridge on lead guitar and backing vocals.[6] In November 1971 the band's final single, "I Ain't Got the Time", was issued – featuring MacCallum's first released appearance – which reached the top 20 in the local charts and peaked at No. 30 on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart.[6][8] After the demise of Freshwater in that month,[6] she briefly joined Ray Brown's band, One Ton Gypsy, before going solo in early 1972.[2][9]

Solo career

In March 1972 Alison MacCallum issued her first solo single, "Superman", on RCA Records which was written by Harry Vanda and George Young (both ex-The Easybeats).[2][10][11] It reached No. 12 on Go-Set's National Top 40 and No. 8 on the Kent Music Report.[8][12] The B-side was a Ted Mulry (a.k.a. Martin Mulry) composition "Take Me Back".[13] Also that month she released her debut solo album, Fresh Water,[2] a reference to her former band. It was produced by United Kingdom producer Simon Napier-Bell, who had worked with The Yardbirds and T.Rex.[2] John Tait described Napier-Bell's work as re-invigorating Vanda & Young's songwriting career "Ted Albert assigned him the task of finding artists to record some of the songs Harry and George were sending over from London. The most notable of these demos was a rock tune called 'Superman' ... [he] matched the song up with the soaring voice of session singer Alison MacCallum, added some brass to the original arrangement and suddenly they had a hit on their hands".[14] Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, noted Fresh Water's "mix of rock, jazz and blues material proved to be a fine showcase for her expressive voice".[2] In March 1974 it was re-released as, Any Way You Want Me.

In August 1972 MacCallum provided lead vocals for "It's Time", which was written and produced by Pat Aulton.[2][15][16] The concept and words were by Paul Jones the Creative Director of the campaign. It was used as the theme on Australian Labor Party's TV and radio ads during Gough Whitlam's 1972 federal election campaign,[15][17] making MacCallum a famous name through saturation radio and TV airplay, despite the single failing to chart.[2][8] According to James Cockington "even though Labor was not credited on the label nor mentioned in the lyrics, most radio stations were reluctant to play the song, sensing its party-political roots".[18] MacCallum was joined in the TV ads with a variety of celebrities including Bert Newton, Col Joye, Judy Stone, John Dease, Hazel Phillips, Ted Hamilton, Bellbird cast members, and Bobby Limb.[17][18] Some of the celebrities suffered a negative backlash from appearing in the ads, Stone recalled "we didn't get paid for it, but we certainly lost a lot of work over it ... Some of us were black banned from clubs, and I had garbage thrown all over my lawn. And I wasn't the only one singled out".[19]

MacCallum released three more singles on RCA: "Ol' Rock'n' Roll Boogie Woogie Blues" (July 1972), "Would You Believe?",[2] and a cover of Rotary Connection's 1968 single, "Teach Me How to Fly" (1973), previously an Australian hit for local artist, Jeff St John and Copperwine in 1970.[20][21] In 1973 MacCallum travelled to Europe to perform, and she showcased "Superman" at the eighth Midem International Music Trade Fair in Cannes.[2] She returned to Australia and in October 1974 signed to Albert Productions. MacCallum collaborated with two fellow singers, Bobbi Marchini (ex-Freshwater) and Janice Slater as the Hooter Sisters, to release a cover of the Phil Spector-written single, "To Know Him Is to Love Him", originally performed by his band, The Teddy Bears.[2][22]

In October 1974 MacCallum released her next solo single, "Excuse Me", which peaked at No. 29 on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart and spent 41 weeks in the top 100.[2][8] It was followed by her second solo album, Alison a.k.a. Excuse Me, in July 1975 which spent two weeks on the Kent Music Report Top 100 Albums Chart.[2][8] It provided two more singles, "Her Kind of Guy (Hot Burrito)" (September 1975) and "Love Grows Cold" (February 1976).[2] During the late 1970s she appeared on the satirical comedy, The Naked Vicar Show, both on radio (Series 2 Episodes 1 and 2, November 1976) and on TV (Series 1 Episodes 1 and 9, May and September 1977).[23]

Post solo career

In the late 1970s Alison MacCallum concentrated on session work, providing backing vocals on John Robinson's Pity for the Victim and for other artists: Billy Thorpe, Doug Parkinson and Mark Holden. In 1979 her 1972 single, "Superman", was re-released by RCA together with a compilation album of the same name to cash in on the then-popular 1978 Superman movie.[2]

According to McFarlane, MacCallum had "disappeared from public view", and that she was "a soul/blues stylist of considerable flair and passion".[2] After the advent of CDs, only two of her solo tracks, "Superman" and "Excuse Me", were released on various artists' CDs, until September 2014 when Sony Music Australia issued a 2× CD compilation album, The Essential Alison MacCallum.[1] It was compiled and annotated by Glenn A. Baker.[1]



List of albums, with selected chart positions.
Title Album details Peak chart positions
Fresh Water
  • Released: March 1972[2]
  • Label: RCA Victor (SL-102036)
  • Formats: LP
  • Note: Re-released in March 1974 as Any Way You Want Me, RCA Camden (VCL1-0009)
Excuse Me 96
Superman: The Best of the RCA Years
  • Released: April 1979[2]
  • Label: RCA (VPL1-0211)
  • Formats: LP
  • Note: Compilation album
The Essential Alison MacCallum
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended plays

  • Alison–Digby – (Split EP two tracks, "Superman" and "Take Me Back" by MacCallum; two tracks by Digby Richards; RCA February 1972)



(with lead vocal uncredited on label)

  • "I Ain't Got the Time" – (1971) (AUS: KMR No. 30)[8]
  • "You Can't Have Sunshine" – (1972)
List of singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name.
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"Superman" / "Take Me Back" 1972 812 Fresh Water
"Ol' Rock 'n' Roll Boogie Woogie Blues" 87
"It's Time" Non-album single
"Would You Believe"
"Fire" 1973
"Excuse Me" 1974 29 Excuse Me
"Her Kind of Guy (Hot Burrito)" 1975
"Love Grows Cold" 1976
"Superman" 1979 Superman: The Best of the RCA Years
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
The Hooter Sisters
  • "To Know Him is to Love Him" – (1974)

Other appearances

  • 1979 Albert Archives – The Best Kept Secrets of Albert Productions 1965–76 – "To Love Somebody" (Albert Productions, credited as Alison McCallum & Tully)
  • 1999 Live, Loud and Sweaty: Australia's Live Music Scene of the Seventies – "Together Till the End of Time" (Canetoad, credited to Freshwater)


  • McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  • Noel McGrath's Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop - Rigby Publishers - 1978 - ISBN 0-7270-1909-0
  • Spencer, Chris; Zbig Nowara; Paul McHenry (2002) [1987]. The Who's Who of Australian Rock. Noble Park, Vic: Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-891-1.
  • An Australian Rock Discography 1960-1989 - Chris Spencer - Moonlight Publishers - 1990 - ISBN 0-7316-8343-9
  1. Black, Nick. "The Purple Haze Archive presents Alison MacCallum: Australia's Greatest Female Singer of the 1970s on Podcast". The Purple Haze. 88.3 Southern FM. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  2. McFarlane, 'Alison McCallum' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 19 April 2004). Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  3. Haesler, Bill. "God, Church and All That Jazz". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 August 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  4. Foster, Michael (2 April 1987). "Making Music Is His Way of Life". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). National Library of Australia. p. 8 Supplement: The Good Times: A Supplement to The Canberra Times. Retrieved 4 September 2013. Then there was a band with Gulliver Smith and Alison McCallum singing, and a time 'of being made very aware by jazz musicians'.
  5. McFarlane, 'Company Caine' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 June 2004). Archived from the original on 15 June 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  6. McFarlane, 'Freshwater' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 25 July 2004). Archived from the original on 25 July 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  7. Sergent, Bruce. "Freshwater". New Zealand Music of the 60's, 70's and a bit of 80's (Bruce Sergent). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  8. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  9. McFarlane, 'Ray Brown and the Whispers' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 19 April 2004). Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  10. "'Superman' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  11. Vanda, Harry; Young, George (1972). "'Superman' Score". Sydney: J. Albert & Son. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 4 September 2013. Recorded by Alison McCallum on R.C.A.
  12. "National Top 40". Go-Set. Waverley Press. 10 June 1972. Retrieved 4 September 2013. Note: Go-Set published its national charts from October 1966 until August 1974. Artist name is given as 'Allison MacCallum'.
  13. "'Take Me Back' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  14. Tait, John (2010). "Simon Napier-Bell in Australia". Vanda and Young: Inside Australia's Hit Factory. Sydney: UNSW Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 978-1-74224-010-7.
  15. McCallum, Alison (1972), 'It's Time', National Library of Australia, retrieved 4 September 2013, ALP 1972 election theme. Transferred from cassette to compact disc November 2006.
  16. "'It's Time' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  17. "ALP Shows its TV Talent Line-up". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). National Library of Australia. 19 August 1972. p. 1. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  18. Cockington, James (August 2001). "The Politics of Pop". Long Way to the Top: Stories of Australian Rock & Roll. Sydney, NSW: ABC Books (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)). p. 158. ISBN 0-73330-750-7.
  19. Guerrera, Orietta (4 November 2002). "TV Watershed Reminds Us How Times Have Changed". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  20. McFarlane, 'Jeff St John' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 6 April 2004). Archived from the original on 6 April 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  21. "Teach Me How to Fly". Where Did They Get That Song?. PopArchives (Lyn Nuttall). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  22. "'To Know Him Is to Love Him' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  23. Tatchell, Peter (1996). "The Naked Vicar Show". Laugh Magazine. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  24. Wallace, Ian (29 September 2014). "Week Commencing ~ 29th September 2014 ~ Issue #1283" (PDF). The ARIA Report. Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) (1238): 29. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 November 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
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