It's Prog Jim But Not As We Know It

At some point in the 60s, when he was 11 years old, Howard Eynon’s parent’s upped sticks and emigrated to Tasmania from Chichester. Not, one would imagine (and I’m writing here as someone who knows both Chichester and Tasmania), the kind of thing to fire a youngster’s imagination.

Fortunately for us, the young Howard was made of more culturally inquisitive stuff, and he had taken up picking on his father’s old acoustic guitar by aged 12. By 17 he’d tired of farm life on the Anitpodean island, hopped aboard his motorbike and ended up across the Bass Strait in Melbourne, where he clearly took to the more artistic vibe. There followed a period in which he won the Grand Final of the 1971 Australian New Faces, toured with Hunter S Thompson, performed in_ Jesus Christ Superstar_ and shared a house with future Australian acting star Geoffrey Rush.

In 1974 he returned to Tasmania with the Tasmanian Theatre Co and it was during this period that he met Nick Armstrong, who worked at Spectangle Productions recording studios in Hobart. It was he who persuaded Eynon, by this time a popular singer songwriter in Tasmania, to record an album. The result was So What If I’m Standing In Apricot Jam. Released on a tiny label, the album pretty much came and went, with Eynon drifting back into acting (he’d appear in Mad Max and The Man From Snowy River) before seemingly drifting off altogether. But the story doesn’t end there. In what seems to happen with a lot of these old acid folk recordings from the era, Eynon’s sole album took on a life of its own, becoming a much sought after item among collectors.

Listening to the album today it’s not difficult to see why. As his innocent acoustic songs roll along, one is reminded of like-minded but better-known spirits such as Nick Drake, Donovan, Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett, and Eynon is easily their equal in capturing the carefree eseence of a time now long gone, not least on the joyous Happy Song which could easily sit on any mid-70s Ayers album. The hilarious anti-police frippery of Roast Pork recalls Arlo Guthrie’s classic Alice’s Restaurant, and the brooding Now’s The Time suggests the timeless Ralph McTell standard Streets Of London.

Recently reissued on Earth Records, So What If I’m Standing In Apricot Jam is back out there for you to enjoy. And enjoy it you will if carefree 70s whimsy is your thing, especially if you’re an acid folk completist. Eynon has been tracked down to New South Wales (supplying the sleeve notes for the reissue) and even ventured to the UK to play a few gigs at the tail end of last year. One hopes we get to hear more from him, because although the album evokes memories of a time long gone, Eynon makes it sound like a time you’d be happy to revisit at any moment.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.