26 September 2023

The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By The Whitlams, Black Stump Band, MGM Distribution 2022.

Tim Freedman has hit a purple patch. Not only has he returned to the pop charts after an extended hiatus but now he’s rapidly climbing up the country music charts as well.

His country music tilt came about by accident.

In 2021, when we were deep in COVID lockdowns, Tim packed his piano into the back of his car and headed out on a solo tour of country locations.

While driving between Gunnedah and Mudgee, along the Black Stump Way (a road that I’ve traversed many times) he discovered that The Whitlams’ Man About a Dog – a song about driving through the country after heavy rains have broken the drought – had been added to country radio play-lists.

In Mudgee Tim hatched an idea, he called award-winning producer Matt Fell and said “put together your dream band, I think I want to make a country album.”

And so, The Whitlams, Black Stump Band was born.

Comprised of Tim Freedman on piano; Rod McCormack on banjo, papoose and acoustic guitar; Ollie Thorpe on pedal steel and electric guitar; and Matt Fell on bass.

The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw is not a Tim Freedman original but was written by Sydney’s Perry Keyes, whose writing has been praised by writers of the calibre of Missy Higgins, Peter Garrett, and Tim Freedman himself.

The song celebrates one of Rugby League’s great stories.

In the 1970 Rugby League Grand Final, South Sydney captain, John Sattler, broke his jaw in the third minute of the game.

He famously told a teammate, “Hold me up so they don’t know I’m hurt”, and he went on to play the rest of the game leading his side to a famous victory.

You don’t have to be a rugby league fan to enjoy this song.

The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw is a great song, a piece of social history in the same way that many of Paul Kelly’s wonderful songs are.

It’s a song that evokes the working-class suburbs of Sydney; the tribalism and the atmosphere that excites the crowds as they bedeck themselves in the club colours and make their way to the ground or gather around the tele for the decider.

There is a great video clip on YouTube, made by acclaimed Sydney photojournalist and director, Johnny Barker, that captures the song, and the time perfectly. Check it out.

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