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Q&A: OG Wiggle and Soul Mover Murray Cook is coming home to Orange to play the Agrestic Grocer

October 21, 2022

Murray Cook on guitar (main pic) and (inset) the original Wiggles in cartoon form in the Big Red Car. Supplied.

By Peter Holmes

Murray Cook was once the guitar-slinging Red Wiggle, known to countless millions of children (and parents, carers, grandparents) around the world.

He still occasionally pulls on the skivvy, but Cook's musical focus today is on playing guitar and writing songs for The Soul Movers.

Long before his musical career began, Cook spent about eight of his formative years living in Orange.

He returns with The Soul Movers on Saturday November 5 for a gig at The Agrestic Grocer. Booking details below.

Murray Cook - The Soul Movers

The Orange News Examiner: Did you see many bands at Orange Function Centre back in the day?

Murray Cook: I lived in Orange from 1968 – 1976. I saw some great bands at Amoco Hall as it was known back then.

My first concert was Sherbet (but I think that was the old Australia Cinema before it was refurbished). I saw them many times after that at Amoco hall. Almost 50 years later Garth from Sherbet co-wrote and produced an album for my band The Soul Movers (and Tony Mitchell played bass).

Probably the highlight was AC/DC in 1975. They were amazing. Bon Scott was one of the best frontmen ever.

My friend and I rode our bikes to the show. It must have gone a bit later than my parents expected as they came looking for us. We were casually walking, pushing our bikes and debriefing about what we had just seen.

I also saw Skyhooks, LRB, Dragon, Brian Cadd, Hush, Ariel and Bo Diddley!

The ONE: You came through in the analogue musical era. Digital was meant to make everything easier, but did it?

MC: I think it made lots of things easier in the recording studio: editing, drop-ins, adding tracks, moving between studios and sharing the tracks and correcting errors. But I think sometimes near-perfection loses some of the heart.

Digital leading to downloading and then streaming has been quite damaging for the artists. Because mostly people aren’t paying for physical music the income for artists has been drastically reduced.

It may be just in my mind but I prefer the sound of analogue.

The ONE: Last time you shared a motel room with a band member? Where was it?

MC: In The Wiggles I hadn’t shared a motel room for many years, but I shared a room with Marko, The Soul Movers' keyboardist, a couple of months ago on the Gold Coast.

It’s nice to have your own space when you’re on long tours like The Wiggles do but with short tours like I do now sharing is fine.

The ONE: The Wiggles worked hard, playing multiple shows a day, travelling, filming TV shows, doing press, writing and recording songs - where did you get that work ethic from?

MC: Personally, I got my work ethic from my father. He was a policeman for nearly 50 years. He was a very hard worker.

I think all Wiggles came from similarly hard working, committed families.

Last night I was watching Slim and I, Kriv Stenders’ wonderful documentary about Slim Dusty and Joy McKean. We were fortunate enough to work with, and get to know, Slim and Joy. The documentary shows their incredible touring regime. Collectively, we were very influenced by the way they toured.

Also, we came from the rock & roll 80s scene where bands toured relentlessly. We were carrying on that tradition.

The ONE: Do you have a favourite guitar? Have you toured with it, or have you always left it at home?

MC: I have a few favourites. They all do different things. I have quite a collection of vintage guitars, which is one of my passions. The first vintage guitar I bought is a 1964 Fender Stratocaster. It goes on the road with me with The OG Wiggles and The Soul Movers. I have owned a few Strats since buying this one, but it is the best.

My other favourite is a 1946 Martin D24 acoustic guitar. I use it in the studio but it’s a bit too precious and fragile to take on the road.

The original Wiggles, with Murray Cook (right). Supplied.

The ONE: Is there a favourite Murray chord that appears in a lot of your songs?

MC: Not really a favourite chord. However, I am a huge fan of Keith Richards and I love using a device he uses (often in open G tuning) where he plays an A chord formation and hammers on a D formation – like the intro to Start Me Up.

The ONE: What does success look like to The Soul Movers?

MC: I guess like any band we want to expand our audience and play the shows we love. Because of my Wiggles background we get more young people to our shows than you might expect. They come to see what I’m up to and stay because they love the music.

I don’t find that young people are ageist when it comes to music. They love music from many eras.

But I don’t think that is the perception in the music industry. For me, success would be breaking down that perception. Musicians and music lovers can learn from and enjoy music from any era.

The ONE: White Stripes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club?

MC: As I used to say when I was a kid when asked Beatles or Stones? Why not both. I loved the first BRMC record but have kind of lost touch. I love The White Stripes but I think they were wise to end when they did. The format was a bit restrictive unless they changed it up a bit more.

Mu-mu music with Murray, music that is fun, oh yeah!

The ONE: Favourite piece of Murray Wiggle merch?

MC: We had Wiggles guitars. They were just for pretend play but I loved that they might instil the love of guitars in a child.

The ONE: Chris Cheney / Lobby Loyde / Martin Rotsey / Ian Moss / Malcolm Young / Mick Harvey / Keith Urban - you can only choose two to play guitar in a band - who do you go with and wny?

MC: Is this to play in a band with me? If so, none of them because they’re all better than me. Haha.

If not, this is an almost impossible question for me. I’d have to pick Malcolm as he was the best rhythm guitarist ever.

I love Ian Moss’ beautiful fluid playing and Martin Rotsey’s explosive playing – but then you’d need Jim [Moginie] too as they complement each other perfectly.

Chris Cheney is astonishing. Mick Harvey would be great because he is a multi-instrumentalist. Lobby is a legend, and Keith is a brilliant player too.

I feel like copping out and saying it’s too hard. For the sake of argument, let’s say Malcolm and Mossy (but it really is too hard).

The ONE: Best Soul Movers gig so far?

MC: Splendour in the Grass this year is my favourite and I think the rest of the band would agree. The anticipation was phenomenal.

We were first booked three years ago. Then it was cancelled twice due to Covid. Then the Friday this year was cancelled due to bad weather.

We were due to play on the Sunday and even on the morning it wasn’t a sure thing. But Sunday was a beautiful sunny day although very muddy. And the show went ahead. We had a great, responsive crowd and we played a blinder. We were all on a high for weeks afterwards.

The Soul Movers' Lizzie Mack and Murray Cook. Supplied.

The ONE: Do you toss a few tasty covers into the live set?

MC: It’s great to play some covers. It’s a good reference point for the audience and often they’ll get up to dance to a song they know and stay up for the sometimes less familiar original songs.

We have the word “soul” in our name but it refers to moving souls rather than restricting ourselves to one genre. We really play retro soul, pop and rock and that’s also the case with the covers.

One of the songs we cover is Tainted Love. People know the Soft Cell version from the 80s but we base ours more on the stomping Northern Soul version by Gloria Jones from the 60s.

Towards the end of the set we pull out the 1-2 punch of Ike & Tina’s versions of Proud Mary and River Deep Mountain High. We love playing them and the audience love to dance.

The ONE: What do you miss most about being a Wiggle?

MC: I miss playing the shows and the audiences. Children are an amazing, responsive, fun audience.

I mainly retired from performing with The Wiggles because of the touring. I enjoyed much of it but it was relentless and I needed a break. The touring I do with The Soul Movers is much more manageable.

The ONE: Happiness is …

MC: Many things: having close family and friends and spending time with them; for me, music: and being fortunate enough to make my passion my career.

Tickets for The Soul Movers at The Agrestic Grocer on Saturday November 5, 2022, are available here. Call the venue on 6360 4604.

You can see more of The Soul Movers here.

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