Sunday, 13 December 2015
Big Time Operator/Sister's Got A Boyfriend/Black Girl/Eastern Dream
Jeff St John was named Jeffrey Leo Newton when he was born in 1946, and grew up in Sydney as the only child of his linesman dad Leo and his mum Carmel, a secretary. Jeff was diagnosed at birth with spina bifida, a congenital disability that causes malformation of the spine and resultant posture and walking difficulties. For much of his youth, Jeff walked with a caliper on his right leg, and underwent numerous painful operations. But the kind of tenacity to overcome this affliction that Jeff has maintained throughout his life, first became evident in his formative years.
A couple of years afterwards, by this time almost constantly supported by crutches because of his worsening condition, Jeff joined forces with an established Sydney blues-rock outfit called The Syndicate who he met by chance at the Sydney Musicians Club in early 1965. With members including guitarist Peter Anson (from legendary Sydney garage-R&B monsters The Missing Links) The Syndicate with Jeff on board soon evolved, via The Wild Oats, into The Id (named after the popular Johnny Hart cartoon strip The Wizard of Id), with Jeff also adopting the stage name he has used ever since.
This powerhouse band quickly became a leading attraction in Sydney with a long-term residency at the Here Disco in North Sydney, and also made inroads in the Melbourne scene, playing at the famous Thumpin' Tum in the inner city) with its powerful, brass-augmented repertoire and Jeff's rich and soulful vocals. Jeff St John & the Id's reputation as one of the country's top R&B bands also earned them a well-received support gig on the 1967 Yardbirds, Roy Orbison and Walker Brothers package tour of Australia.
On record, Jeff and The Id are probably best remembered for their scorching, brass-laden smash single, "Big Time Operator", which featured Aussie sax legend Bob Birtles heading the horn section. The single reached #7 in Sydney and a respectable #12 in Melbourne in January 1967, and the recording sessions at Festival in Sydney were even photographed for a special feature in Go-Set. But this was the culmination of a series of accomplished 45s which, established Jeff & the band's credentials.