After playing with bands such as the Benders and some modelling while at university Deborah Conway burst on the Australian Music scene in the 80’s with the surprise Do-Re-Mi hit Man Overboard.
After a second album, The Happiest Place in Town, Do-Re-Mi disbanded and she worked on a variety of projects such a Peter Greenaway’s film Prospero’s Books, The Iron Man with Peter Townsend, and an album of Deborah Conway dance music that never saw the light of day. For the curious a single, Feel Like Makin Love, can be found for sale sometimes in rare music stores.
Her debut solo album String of Pearls, recorded in Melbourne and Memphis, was released in 1991. This folky sounding records contained a number of hit songs including It’s Only The Beginning, Under My Skin, and Release Me and won Deborah an ARIA award.
In 1993, Deborah and collaborator Willy Zygier produced Bitch Epic, the title coming from “random words, cut up and pulled from a hat”. The album cover has Deborah covered with chocolate spread and little else. Compared to String Of Pearls, Bitch Epic featured a raw sound and a harsh edge. Hits Alive and Brilliant and Today I’m a Daisy came from this album along with fans’ favourites She Prefers Fire and Madame Butterfly is in Trouble. Bundled with Bitch Epic later on, was the live EP Epic Theatre which is as close as there is to a live Deborah Conway album.
With their first child on the way Deborah and Willy worked with Paul Hester (Crowded House) and Bill McDonald (Frente, Rebecca’s Empire) to record Ultrasound. This experimental album was recorded in one week and mixed in the next. About half of this album is instrumental and it memorably contains Only the Bones and the hypnotic Petrol Head. Sadly is is out of print.
Deborah, Willy, and the newborn Syd headed off to England in 1995 to live and produce her third solo album. In 1997 they returned with another baby on the way and another change in the Conway/Zygier sound.
My Third Husband is described by Deborah as a “dark, throbbing, hypnotic and dreamy kind of a record. A late night spin”. Compared by some critics to the style of Portishead, it features sampling and a more produced sound. Singles from the album were Only The Bones (Will Show), 2001 Ultrasound and It’s A Girl Thing.
The fourth “solo” album, the third with Willy Zygier, Exquisite Stereo, was first tested in gis around Melbourne billed as City Of Women (the name later went to the band who played on the record). The band were Willy Zygier , Edmond Ammendola and Dave Williams from Augie March, and Cameron Reynolds. Removed again from the electronic sounds of the last album this was very much a rock sound. Exquisite Stereo was released in March 2000 and the title tracks was a duet with Neil Finn.
In 2001 Deborah agreed to play the title role in Always…Patsy Cline around Australia. This ran for some months and she seemed to enjoy the perks of a salaried job. Deborah produced an album of Patsy Cline songs to be released at this time although they were not the versions from the play. Some have an experimental bent to them and others are more traditionally done.
Festival Mushroom records released a Deborah Conway Greatest Hits record, Only The Bones, in 2002 which features songs from all solo albums and the infamous Man Overboard from the Do-Re-Mi days. It also had two new tracks, both electronic, Everbody Wants To Touch Me, a Paul Kelly song, and It’s Only The Beginning (Show Us Your Hits Mix).
Four years after their last album of original songs, and ten years after writing together for Bitch Epic, Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier have released Summertown. More like innocent 60’s folk pop this album might have an electronic sound in there somewhere but it would be hard to find. What is easy to find is catchy tunes and acoustic instruments from one end to the other.