Mike Furber — “Watch Me Burn”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — September 30, 2022


596) Mike Furber — “Watch Me Burn”

From a ’69 double-A side, Ian Marks calls the incendiary “Watch Me Burn a “fiery” and “wild[]” song “with TWIN lead guitars (one fuzz and one wah-wah) wailing away beneath Furber’s excellent vocal performance.” (Tomorrow is Today: Australia in the Psychedelic Era, 1966-1970). However, in a macabre turn, the song’s lyrics — not written by Furber — foreshadow his sad end. Mike Furber — who Marks calls the “the pin-up boy of choice for many a young Aussie female in the mid-’60’s” — committed suicide at age 25.

Ian Marks explains:

With his long silky fringe, big brown puppy dog eyes and vulnerable ‘take me home and mother me’ poses, teenage pop star Mike Furber was the pin-up boy of choice for many a young Aussie female in the mid-’60’s. . . . [F]or a while there, it looked as if Furber would usurp Normie Rowe’s King of Australian Pop crown. However, it was not to be. . . . In 1969 Furber was signed to Columbia records and, desperately in need of a hit to put a spark back in his flagging career, he hooked up with Harry Vanda and George Young. Vanda and Young had written a fiery two song mini-suite, and it seemed that Mike Furber was the perfect artist to bring it to light. . . . Unfortunately, the single didn’t do a thing . . . .

Paul Culnane gives a commanding and sad overview of Furber’s life:

The story of Mike Furber is one of a star that shone brightly but briefly, and a tale which ultimately had a tragic ending for the shy, sensitive and naive young man who was chewed up and spat out by the frantic sixties Aussie pop music scene. Mike was born in London . . . and emigrated with his family to Brisbane at an early age. In mid-1965, at around age 16, he chanced to meet Paul Wade and Neville Peard on a suburban train journey . . . . A friendship and alliance soon grew among the lads. Wade and Peard had already formed a garage band . . . that evolved into the Bowery Boys, and upon meeting Mike they invited him join as lead singer. It must be stressed that in the beginning the band was definitely a single entity, The Bowery Boys, not “Mike Furber and …”. It was only after flamboyant impresario Ivan Dayman spotted Furber and offered the young outfit recording and performing opportunities . . , that attention became more firmly focused on the lead singer. Dayman’s intention was to establish Mike Furber as a pop idol in his own right along the lines of Normie Rowe, with whom Dayman had already achieved enormous national success. . . . [The] deep timbre [of Furber’s voice] belied the cute and appealing “little boy lost” look portrayed in his promo photos. Here, certainly, was Dayman’s future Rowe-style superstar in the making . . . . Furber and band for a short time stormed national stages to a general response of screaming hysteria. Beginning with the gritty and confident-sounding group-composed “Just A Poor Boy”, the band achieved moderate chart success . . . . [A]round August ’66 . . . Furber and the Bowery Boys parted ways. . . . Although Mike released three solo singles during 1967, he seemed to have retreated into obscurity. . . . [A]ll three discs stiffed on the charts. . . . In October ’67, Go-Set magazine plugged Furber’s next single, “Bring Your Love Back Home” with the banner headline “Mike Furber Back On The Scene” . . . . Despite this valuable coverage, and extraordinarily extensive promotion . . . it sank without a trace. This disappointment was possibly one prompter for the first of a series of nervous breakdowns that poor Mike was to suffer. . . . [I]t is probable that Mike’s career slump was brought about by the collapse of Sunshine [the record label] in 1967. . . . Mike disappeared from public view for 18 months or so, only to emerge in 1969 with a fresh EMI Columbia deal. . . . Specially composed for Mike by Harry Vanda and George Young (anticipating their hugely successful “Evie” in 1973) the innovative “I’m On Fire” / “Watch Me Burn” was an ambitious two-part suite spread across both sides of the 45. However it failed to ignite the imagination of punters and programmers alike and was apparently withdrawn soon after release. . . . [I]n the early seventies he did his stint of national service . . . [A]fter that, he returned to performing, and won good notices in the stage production of Godspell. In 1973 Mike won a role in the rock musical Nuclear . . . but he was sacked from the production soon afterwards. . . . Mike died in mysterious circumstances [later in] 1973, aged only 25. It is alleged that he hanged himself in the garage of his Sydney house, but there have been persistent claims that Mike was murdered as a result of underworld entaglement.


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