Les Murray

Today, Les Murray is a popular Australian Sports Broadcaster

As Editorial Supervisor of Sport at the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) Les is the familiar face of Soccer on Australian television screens

Les was already a familiar face back in the 1960s and 1970s, recognised by fans throughout NSW as the lead male singer for The Rubber Band. Sydney and Regional dance crowds regularly enjoyed his faithful renditions of the popular hit tunes of the day.

Les had a rich, powerful voice ideally suited to the driving rhythms of the Rubber Band with their superb repertoire of the best dance numbers around.

Les Murray

23 January 1970. Les is singing at a private party at the Walsh residence, 4 Wallaroy Crescent Double Bay. Mayliu can be seen with a tambourine in the background. You can make out the trim hanging from the roof of the marque in which the event was held.

Les tells the story of his time with The Rubber Band in his popular book By the Balls:

"In my teens, someone told me I had a good singing voice. So in my early 20s, I took some singing lessons with a view to trying my hand at a career in cabaret, singing not rock and roll but the material of Sinatra, Al Martino and Matt munro. Later, someone else said he knew of a working rock band that needed a singer and suggested I audition. I did, got the gig, and began a career - not of stardom or any kind of fame - but of utter personal exhilarationand joy. Nothing else, including the labour of love I now enjoy, has been such a source of sheer fun.

"The band was called The Rubber Band, a six-piece with the classic line-up of lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drums and two singers, one male and one female. People still laugh at the name but I thought it clever. Its virtues were explained to me by the band's manager, Richard Debenham, who told me the best choice of name for a band is one that is easiest to remember."

"The band members were all ex-high school classmates from Sydney's western suburbs. It was a part-time 'commercial rock band' doing 'covers': nothing original; only known hits replicated as faithfully as possible on stage - a healthy medium for having fun and making decent money on the side. It played Beatles, Stones, Motown, Atlantic Soul and anything the audience could dance to and hum along with. 'Gloria' by Van Morrison's Them and 'Running Bear,' a poppy piece of 60s pap with a solid, drivingbeat, were huge with semi-inebriated audiences.

But, to be fair, we did some better stuff than that. The Beatles' 'Get Back' and 'Hey Jude', 'Proud Mary' by Creedence and McLean's 'American Pie' were other favourites in a repertoire of around 80 songs.

"At the time I lived at Bondi Beach and had to trek 25 kilometres west to Rooty hill where, in the rural isolation of a corrugated iron shed, we could practise to our heart's content as loudly as we liked. The first song I rehearsed with the band was a hit called 'Soul Deep' by the Box Tops. Then there was 'Natural Born Woman; by Humble Pie and, upping the ante, 'Aquarius' from the musical Hair.

With those three songs I made my debut with the band at Camperdown, in Sydney's inner west. The gig was attended by a horde of cute nurses from the nearby Royal Prince Alfred hospital where, ironically, I had spent some years as a trainee medical technologist."

Les Murray

3M corporate ball, Unisearch House University of NSW, Sydney 22 August, 1970. L to r: Kevin Currie, Les Murray, Mayliu Currie.

Les continues: "I spent four years as lead singer of The Rubber Band and another two with a similar band called Portrait: six years as a musician - the most enjoyable period of my life.

"For all the time I spent in hippiedom and rock and roll at a very impressionable age, I am relieved that I never succumbed to the temptation of drugs. There was plenty of it around, of course - mostly marijuana - and I did dabble in the weed. Late-night parties in 1969 would not have been parties if not held in crowded apartments or terrace houses dimly lit in red, with the haze of pot distorting the clarity of vision and mind. I had the odd drag from the odd joint, inhaling with gusto, and even got high.

But I found pot's mind-altering effects, and the silly giggles it provoked, childish and undignifying. So I stopped dabbling. As a cigarette smoker and one with a taste for alcohol, not to mention women and football, I figure I had enough vices.

"Indeed, the preponderance of drug taking by rockers was a huge mystery to me even then. Rock was such a sweet source of joy - so exciting, such a natural high - that I never understood the need and vulnerability to drugs by rock musicians.

"But for the drug of rock and roll I will be forever grateful. I was a professional rocker from 1968 to 1974, and got addicted to its awesome energy, its numbing rhythms, its sweet melancholy and its penetrating passages.I loved its humble, working class minimalism and its capacity to touch the hearts of all people. Just as football is the game of the people, rock is the music of the people - which might explain why I fell in love with both at first contact.

"Moreover, in the era in which I began to truly engage with music, rock matured from being music sung by teenagers for teenagers to something more serious, complex and and provocative.

Propelled by the intense political concerns of the 1960s - the threat of a nuclear holocaust and the Vietnam war - rock became the language of protest and rebellion. It became youth-speak for in-your-face defiance and the impatient seeking of wisdom and truth. Music was off the leash, elusive to authority and the forces of social control. I found myself on stage not just a bopper, but a mouthpiece for change and the protection of ideals. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, something was happening and we didn't know what it was.

"I was never a true political animal: the thought of engaging actively in politics - being part of its expedient lies - was, and still is, repugnant to me. But I am pleased that I lived through an era of of profound political change, and was part of what I would call a 'good generation'. Its education left an indelible imprint in my values and persona: even at 60, I have not retreated from them. And Rock and Roll, as the fuel of the spirit of my youth, is responsible."

He's still doing it! See Les Murray singing The Rolling Stones classic It's All Over Now at a Twilight at Taronga concert in Sydney on Saturday March 5, 2011, paying tribute to the Rolling Stones. Band members were Clare O'Meara, Rex Goh, Nick Meredith, Steve Bull, Lloyd G, Floyd Vincent, Damien Lovelock, Raoul Graf and Les's daughter Tania Murray. Filmed by Ian Spruce, Grey Wolf Films.

Les Murray was born as László Ürge in a small village on the outskirts of Budapest, Hungary, the son of Jozsef and Erzsebet Ürge.

The family emigrated to Australia in 1957 under the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme. The family settled in Wollongong, New South Wales after some time at Bonegilla Migrant Camp near Wodonga.

Les was educated at Berkeley High School (now Illawarra Sports High School).

Les Murray
Sydney Church of England Grammer School (SCEGGS) Ball, Sydney, 27 November 1969.

Les Murray became a Member of the Order of Australia for services to association football on June 12, 2006 in that year's Queen's Birthday honours list.

Les Murray

At the Sodbusters' Ball, Wentworth Hotel Ballroom, Sydney, 26 March 1970.

Les Murray

Queenwood Old Girls' Ball. The Roundhouse, University of NSW, May 1970.

Les Murray

Above and Left: 3M Ball, Unisearch House University of NSW, Sydney 22 August, 1970.

Today, Les Murray is the face of football (soccer) broadcasting in Australia and is one of the nation's most influential sports broadcasters.

In his popular book, by the balls - memoir of a football tragic, Les traces his family's hair-raising flight from a crumbling Stalinist Hungary in 1956 to become migrant settlers in Australia, and he details his rise to the top of football media and commentary.

He also documents football's spectacular surge in popularity within an Australian sporting culture traditionally dominated by other codes.

Les Murray

Ravenswood Old Girls' Union Ball, The Roundhouse, University of NSW, Sydney 2 July, 1970.

More on Les Murray at Wikipedia.