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The flamboyant triple-threat that was Peter Allen was known for his exuberance, flashy costumes, and maracas. His life and music have been immortalised in the musical The Boy From Oz, which saw Hugh Jackman win his first Tony Award. Discovered by Judy Garland in 1964, Allen went on to marry Liza Minnelli and is best known for the ten songs below. Discover the camel-riding, piano-jumping, song-writing showman, Peter Allen.
Written in 1970, this autobiographical tune pays homage to Allen’s grandfather George Woolnough, who worked as a saddler in the Australian country town of Tenterfield, New South Wales. The moving lyrics also reference Allen’s father Dick, who committed suicide when Allen was just 13 years old. The lyrics, ‘time is a traveller, Tenterfield Saddler, turn your head. Ride again Jackaroo, think I see kangaroo up ahead,’ are a perfect example of Allen’s songwriting prowess.
Written by Peter Allen and Jeff Barry, ‘I Honestly Love You’ was popularised by Olivia Newton-John in 1974 and became her first number-one single in the United States and Canada – catapulting her international career. The song scored her Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and remains one of her signature songs. The song went on to sell over two million copies and was certified platinum.
Complete with maracas, ‘I Go To Rio’ is the quintessential Peter Allen song which one can’t help but dance along to. Inspired by MGM and Betty Grable musicals, the song, which appears on Allen’s fourth studio album, Taught by Experts, was co-written by Adrienne Anderson and spent five weeks at number one on the Australian charts in 1976. The song has been covered by Peggy Lee and Pablo Cruise.
Performed for the first time in Melbourne, this patriotic Australian anthem was written in 30 minutes during a concert intermission. The song came about when a record executive heard Allen say to fans during a show that ‘no matter how far, or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.’ The song, which was released in 1980 on his Bi-Coastal album, became the Qantas anthem in 1998, and in 2009, it appeared in their TV commercials where it was sung by children’s choirs.
The theme song for the 1981 film Arthur, starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, was written by Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen. Not only did the song go to number one in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100, but it also won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 54th Academy Awards. Upon accepting the Oscar, Allen thanked an unknown air traffic controller for the events that led to the lyric, ‘when you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.’
While watching ‘the queen of cabaret’ Julie Wilson, Peter Allen slipped a note to noisy audience members saying ‘quiet please, there’s a lady on stage.’ The song was also dedicated to Peter Allen’s mother-in-law, Judy Garland. Released in 1976 on the Taught by Experts album, the song was co-written by Carole Bayer Sager. In 2014, Hugh Jackman performed the song at the funeral of Joan Rivers.
Pairing once again with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, Peter Allen’s song ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ was released in 1979 on his album I Could Have Been a Sailor. Although, the song’s best-known version was released two years earlier by Melissa Manchester. Some say ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ alludes to the advice Peter Allen’s mother gave him – ‘to always put your best face on’.
The only song on this list not written by Peter Allen is ‘The More I See You’, which was originally recorded by Dick Haymes in 1945 for the film Diamond Horseshoe. Included on the 1976 album Taught by Experts, Allen’s version is more upbeat than the original. The song has more recently been popularised by Michael Bublé.
Another collaboration between Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager, ‘I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love’ was recorded by Rita Coolidge in 1979 as a comeback single – it peaked at number three in the United States. Peter Allen’s own version was released the same year on the album I Could Have Been a Sailor. The song has been recorded by other artists including Dusty Springfield.
Taken from his 1974 album, Continental American, Peter Allen’s song ‘Everything Old Is New Again’ features in the Bob Fosse movie All That Jazz. In 1981, Peter Allen performed the song at New York’s Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes and became the first man to perform in the iconic high kick line. The song is performed and also reprised in the Peter Allen musical, The Boy From Oz.