John Farrar

John Clifford Farrar (/ˈfɑːrər/ FAR-ər; born 8 November 1945) is an Australian music producer, songwriter, arranger, singer, and guitarist. As a musician, Farrar is a former member of several rock and roll groups including The Mustangs (1963–64), The Strangers (1964–70), Marvin, Welch & Farrar (1970–73), and The Shadows (1973–76); in 1980 he released a solo eponymous album. As a songwriter and producer, he worked with Olivia Newton-John from 1971 through 1989. He wrote her number-one hit singles: "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975), "You're the One That I Want" (1978 duet with John Travolta), "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (1978), and "Magic" (1980). He also produced the majority of her recorded material during that time including her number-one albums, If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974), Have You Never Been Mellow (1975), and Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1982). He was a co-producer of Grease (1978) – the soundtrack for the film Grease.

John Farrar
Birth nameJohn Clifford Farrar
Born (1945-11-08) 8 November 1945
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresRock and roll, pop
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Years active1961–present
LabelsCBS, See4Miles
Associated actsThe Strangers, Marvin, Welch & Farrar, The Shadows, Olivia Newton-John

Farrar also produced Newton-John's first American number-one hit single, "I Honestly Love You", which was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1975. In 1969, Farrar married the Australian singer, Pat Carroll – formerly Ms. Newton-John's singing partner. In July 1970, Farrar and Carroll relocated to the United Kingdom, and starting in late 1975, they have resided in the United States. They are the parents of Sam Farrar (a Phantom Planet bassist and Maroon 5 touring member) and Max Farrar (a Golden Ghost guitarist and keyboardist).


John Clifford Farrar was born on 8 November 1945, and grew up in Moonee Ponds, a suburb of Melbourne.[1][2] He has an older brother, Reginald, and the family lived in a large household with aunts and uncles.[3] Farrar's mother bought him a country music guitar, which he began playing at twelve years-old.[3][4] In 1961, he began playing in a band, The Jaguars, with his older brother Reg. When he was fifteen years the family relocated to nearby Niddrie.[3][4] In 1963, he joined The Mustangs alongside Johnny Cooper on vocals, Peter Ramis on bass guitar and Billy on drums. In late January 1964, he joined The Strangers replacing the founding guitarist Laurie Arthur, and adding another lead vocalist to the group.[5][6] Other members were Peter Robinson on the bass guitar and lead vocals, Graeme Thompson on drums, and Fred Weiland on guitar and backing vocals.[6] They had formed as an instrumental band in Glenroy in 1961, working in the Melbourne dance scene.[5] In June 1964 the band issued its first vocal single, "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Someone", which reached the top 30 on the Melbourne charts in July.[5] They became a popular backing and session band.[5][6]

In August 1964, The Strangers were hired as the house band for the ATV O pop music program, The Go!! Show.[6][7] Both Farrar's future wife, Pat Carroll, and their close friend, Olivia Newton-John, appeared on The Go!! Show as singers backed by The Strangers. Carroll and Newton-John formed a vocal duo, "Pat and Olivia", and in 1967, they first toured the United Kingdom, including a gig at the infamous Raymond Revue Bar Club in Soho.[8]

After returning to Australia from a tour, Carroll was obliged to remain since her work visa had expired, while Newton-John was able to stay on due to her British origins. Farrar dated and married Carroll, and following their wedding in 1969, Carroll ceased to pursue headliner status. She occasionally reprised the duo with Newton-John, and worked as a session singer on Farrar's or Newton-John's work.[5][6] During 1968 The Strangers supported the Australian leg of a tour by the British instrumental group, The Shadows.[4] In June 1970, The Strangers released their most successful hit, "Melanie Makes Me Smile", which peaked at No. 14 on the Go-Set National Top 60 in August.[9]

However, in July 1970, Farrar left The Strangers, and he and Carroll moved to Britain, where he was invited to become a member of Marvin, Welch & Farrar, a vocal-harmony group featuring two former members of The Shadows, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch.[5][6] By that time Newton-John and Welch were engaged and Farrar and Welch became two of her songwriters and producers.[10] Welch and Farrar co-produced and performed on Newton-John's cover of Bob Dylan's track, "If Not for You", and the album of the same name released in November 1971.

Farrar also worked with Cliff Richard as a backing guitarist and vocalist.[5][6] Marvin, Welch & Farrar put out two albums, an eponymous one in 1971, and Second Opinion (in both quadraphonic and stereo formats) in 1972. In 1973, a third album featured just Marvin and Farrar.[5][6] The Shadows reformed soon after and Farrar joined as second lead guitarist and vocalist. In 1975, the group represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with "Let Me Be the One".[11] In 1973, Farrar had appeared at the same contest as a backing guitarist and vocalist for Richard's entry, "Power to All Our Friends"; the following year he backed and produced Newton-John on her effort, "Long Live Love".[11]

From 1971 to 1976, various members of The Shadows were employed as session musicians for Newton-John's early albums, recorded at London's Abbey Road Studios. Aside from Farrar and Welch, they included Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Tarney, Dave Richmond, and Trevor Spencer; some other session musicians were the fellow Australians Kevin Peek and Terry Britten – both also worked with Richard – and some other musicians. They worked under co-producers Farrar and Welch – until midway through Newton-John's second album, Olivia. Thereafter Farrar was her main producer. He produced her number-one albums, If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974), Have You Never Been Mellow (1975), and Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1982).[4] Farrar also produced Newton-John's first American number-one hit single, "I Honestly Love You", which was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1975.[12] His last production for Newton-John was her album, Warm and Tender in 1989.[4]

In 1974, Farrar used the vocoder "SFX unit" on an instrumental track, "No, No, Nina", well before Peter Frampton's 1975 single, "Show Me the Way" which featured the same device for its talk box effect. However Farrar's track was held back from release by EMI until 1997, when it appeared on the CD album, The Shadows at Abbey Road, containing mostly unreleased material. A vocal version of "No, No, Nina" appeared on the Specs Appeal album as a Eurovision contender track; but it was voted sixth out of six initial entries. Aside from instrumentation and vocals Farrar worked as an arranger on The Shadows' albums: Rockin' with Curly Leads, Specs Appeal, Tasty and Live at the Paris Olympia.[4]

Farrar's work with Newton-John embraced a wide range of styles, from "You're the One That I Want" (duet with John Travolta) to "Physical". Farrar's biggest success with Newton-John as a writer-producer came with the film version of the musical, Grease. In 1977 during filming, its producers were replacing some of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's pieces from the original score and wanted some more commercial songs, including a solo number for Newton-John, so Farrar wrote and submitted two originals, "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "You're the One That I Want". Both were accepted (despite strong reservations from director Randal Kleiser, who believed that the songs didn't fit the style)[13] and became two of the soundtrack's most successful singles, being international number-one hits during 1978.

In June 2004, Farrar recalled writing the two songs: "'You're the One That I Want': The weird thing was it was the fastest song I ever wrote. It came so fast, the actual melody and the feel of it. 'Hopelessly Devoted To You': I spent the longest period writing the lyrics of any song I've ever written. Every thesaurus and every rhyming dictionary I had, just trying to really make it work properly".[14] Other number-one hits for Newton-John that were written and produced by Farrar are "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975), "Don't Stop Believin'" (an easy-listening chart-topper from 1976, not the Journey song of the same name), and "Magic" (1980). Farrar produced one side of the Xanadu soundtrack for the 1980 film of the same name.[15] The other side featured tracks by Electric Light Orchestra and was produced by their guitarist-vocalist, Jeff Lynne.[4] In March 1981, Farrar was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "Suspended in Time" from Xanadu.[16]

In 1995, Farrar collaborated with Newton-John and lyricist Tim Rice for the musical score of Cliff Richard's musical, Heathcliff based on the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights.[17] Farrar also co-wrote songs for a musical based on the 1959 film, Gidget, which, as of April 2012, was indefinitely postponed.[17] Farrar runs the Moonee Ponds Studio at Sweetwater Road in Malibu.[18]

Personal life

Farrar and Carroll are the parents of Sam Farrar (born 29 June 1978, Phantom Planet bass guitarist) and Max Farrar (Golden Ghost guitarist and keyboardist).[19] As of April 2012, Farrar and Carroll reside in Malibu, California.[17]


According to AllMusic John Farrar has been credited with: vocals (lead, backing), guitars (lead, rhythm, bass guitar, acoustic, slide guitar, acoustic slide, electric slide), piano (electric), keyboards, mellotron, synthesizer, vocoder, synclavier, mandolin, and horn.[15]


As a performer
As a songwriter and/or producer

Eurovision Song Contest appearances


  • 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 2012. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  • Read, Mike (1983). The Story of The Shadows. London: Elm Tree Books. ISBN 0-241-10861-6.
  • Hoffman, T.; Hardwick, Alister; Duffy, S.; Jermy, Geoff; Lewis, A.; Auman, J. John Farrar – Music Makes My Day (booklet). Shadsfax-Tribute.
  1. Hardwick, Alister; Willis, Alan; Jermy, Geoff (14 February 2002). "John Farrar and Pat Carroll". David Dixon. Archived from the original on 14 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  2. "'Have You Never Been Mellow' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  3. Nick Black (interviewer), Derek Pellicci (interviewer), John Farrar (interviewee) (2003). Purple Haze with Nick Black – "Australian Rock Legends #11" (Podcast). 88.3 Southern FM. Event occurs at 9:00. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  4. Elder, Bruce. "John Farrar". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  5. McFarlane, 'The Strangers' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 September 2004). Archived from the original on 30 September 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  6. Kimball, Duncan (2002). "The Strangers". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  7. Jermy, Geoff; Robinson, Peter (January 2000). "The Strangers 1961–1975" (PDF). Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  8. McFarlane, 'Pat Carroll' entry at the Wayback Machine (archived 1 September 2004). Archived from the original on 1 September 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  9. Nimmervoll, Ed (29 August 1970). "Go-Set National Top 60". Go-Set. Waverley Press. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  10. "Strathaird Passengers – Olivia Newton-John, 1954". Australia For Everyone. Archived from the original on 26 May 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  11. O'Connor, John Kennedy (2007). The Eurovision Song Contest – The Official History. Carlton Books. ISBN 978-1-84442-994-3.
  12. "1974 Grammy Award Winners". 1 March 1975. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  13. Gibb Songs 1978
  14. Kruger, Debbie (June 2004). "The Making of Songwriters Speak". Debbie Kruger. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  15. "John Farrar – Credits". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  16. Wilson, John (31 March 1981). "1980 Archive". Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  17. Torres, Jim (24 April 2012). "Xanadu" (PDF). SpeakEasy Stage Co. Boston Center for the Arts. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  18. Glass, Keith (September 2004). "Cowboys at the Beach". Capital News. 29 (9). Rural Press. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  19. "Niet compatibele browser". Facebook. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  20. "Workin' on a Groovy Thing". Neil Sedaka Discography 1958–1969. Jozef Van Gorp, Arendonk. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
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