Sunday 14 August 2011

Mopsie Beans - Appearances LP Mopubs SR8101, 1981

Mopsie (a.k.a. Elizabeth Ward) and Jerry Beans formed an ongoing creative partnership in the mid-'70s, the Conservatorium-trained Mopsie writing music and Jerry contributing some unique, funny and unmistakably Australian lyrics. The pair were genuine iconoclasts, especially in Sydney's western suburbs, around which they'd lug their own PA and set up DIY performances (literal train-spotters may recognise the old Blacktown station on the LP's front cover). Initially, Mopsie would sing and play live with keyboards and drum machines; later, backing tapes were introduced, allowing her to pursue an ever more theatrical performance style.

Almost inevitably, Mopsie crossed paths with the fledgling westie Local Label, which issued her One Out 7" EP in 1979 (Local MX189770). Though not our preferred Mopsie record, it does have its charms, and is said to have accrued some prominent supporters. The Introduction to Can't Kick the Sucky Tit and Other Cream Cakes, a self-published anthology of Jerry Beans's lyrics, notes that the EP received airplay from John Peel; over time, this has morphed into a claim that the 7" was one of Peel's favourites. Given its absence from the infamous record box, we'll charitably assign that one a yellow verdict.

Puddy Blew [Download]

Mopsie's next (and final) record, 1981's Appearances LP, may ring bells for eagle-eyed scholars of Incredibly Strange Music, thanks to an incidental, blink-and-you'll-miss-it mention by Jello Biafra in the second of those books. Jello likened the LP to Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy (well, vice versa, actually) - to us, Mopsie sounds more musically theatrical and less experimental, but we fully acknowledge that sans blogs or Youtube, it's not a comparison we'd ever be able to critique. Say what you want about Jello, but the guy was switched on.

Appearances is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the more successful tunes, like L=E/R or Baby Romeo ("A sort of aging embryo"), are the kind of downer minimal electronics which would appeal to fans of the Denial single on M-Squared. Chaos, with its processed vocals, clunky drum machine and anti-rockist tendencies, should find favour with the more art-punk inclined. Elsewhere, however, things descend into absurdist, one-woman-band show tunes, but even then the music is odd and the lyrics unerringly eccentric.

After the LP, Mopsie pursued her interest in drama, directing and acting in plays which had evolved from Jerry's lyrics. A cassette with post-LP material - performed at the likes of Garibaldi's, Cabaret Conspiracy, Glebe's Toucan Cafe - was sold via mailorder, but we've been unable to locate a copy (drop us a line if you have one you'd part with). Mopsie maintained an involvement in the western Sydney theatre community up until her passing in 2007 - you can read an obituary at her posthumous Facebook page.

Chaos [Download]

L=E/R [Download]

Baby Romeo [Download]

The Happiness of Liza Sparks [Download]

Update: 29 June 2012
We're indebted to Roger Grierson for drawing our attention to an uncredited Mopsie Beans work. This advertisement for TDK, surely etched into the brains of most Australians born before 1980, might make Mopsie the most widely-heard performer featured on this blog.

Mopsie Beans (right), 1982

Lyrics for L=E/R (retitled Love Song) and Chaos, from Jerry Beans' Can't Kick the Sucky Tit and Other Cream Cakes (Mopubs, 1984)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this one. I always knew the name, but for some reason had never seen or heard them before.


Gayle Austin said...

I don't think that TDK ad was by Mopsie. It sounds influenced by her work, but it doesn't sound like her singing. Mops really disliked the concept of corporate advertising.

Gayle Austin.

Fallen Leaves in August said...


just came across this post about Mopsie. Really nice read. Would it be possible to do a re-up of the linked music. Thx in advance!