John Dowler’s Vanity Project

June 2023

The Vanity Project takes time out from pre-production work on the next album to record an EP of  ‘covers’. The four songs (all favourites of a then-teenaged John Dowler) represent a wide range of genres: Aussie Freakbeat (Wars Or Hands Of Time), Garage Punk (Psychotic Reaction), Blue-eyed Soul (Could You Would  You) and nascent Prog (Love Story), all comfortably accommodated within the band’s distinctive ambit of sound.

Songs by Master’s Apprentices, the Count Five, Them, Jethro Tull

Available on CD, Bandcamp and the streamers

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Jukebox Memory – an interview with John Dowler about the music he loved in the 60s and early 70s

John Dowler’s Vanity Project are playing Fuzzy Sunday at Coburg RSL April 30th 2023

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Out April 1st 2022:

Two live shows from The Zimmermen and one from O’Hara’s Playboys (a short lived band of John Dowler’s from the mid-1990s).

WORK OF ART / ORDINARY MAN

The new single from former Spare Change/Young Modern/Zimmermen frontman John Dowler and his band captures splendidly the pithy and richly melodic folk-rock/power pop-imbued music that he’s been making since the ‘70s. From the acapella opening bars to its chiming guitar-filled coda, “Work of Art” is reminiscent of the Zimmermen at their most lustrous, as is the B-side, which is in fact an old Zimmermen single upgraded. With his musical influence on a young Paul Kelly detailed in Stuart Coupe’s new book, Paul Kelly : The Man, The Music and The Life In Between – and a four-page career overview in the latest issue of Rhythms – it is time for John Dowler’s music to be more widely heard. Read about Paul Kelly on John Dowler here

12 STITCHES LP

Australian cult power pop singer-songwriter, best remembered for his groups Young Modern and the Zimmermen (and their classic 1985 single “Don’t Go to Sydney”), returns with his current outfit. The new album 12 STITCHES includes ten new band originals that combine melody, invention and wry humour with compacted guitars and drums, as well as a Brian Wilson tune and stunning interpretation of Split Enz’s 1975 classic “Time for A Change”.  

Half A Cow is proud to present the second album by John Dowler’s Vanity Project entitled 12 Stitches. To be released May 1, digitally and on CD, the album is the second by the Melbourne-based vehicle for singer and songwriter John Dowler, a man who was a key figure in Australia’s alternative rock’n’roll scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Vanity Project are a culmination of his previous work, one that touches on the art-pop rock of the first band Spare Change and the pub folk-rock of his ‘80s band the Zimmermen, with the melodic pop rock/power pop of his late ‘70s band-most-likely, Young Modern, at its heart.

*** Fans should also check out the pre-album EP release, A Certain Reputation, featuring first single “Billy’s Pizza” and three non-album tracks, including superb new versions of Spare Change’s acerbic and artful “Let’s Get Rich Together” and the Zimmermen’s chiming “Ordinary Man”. Get it here.

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A CERTAIN REPUTATION EP

Released a mere eight weeks before the new album, this EP consists of one track from the album (“Billy’s Pizza”) and three songs that have been in the Vanity Project’s live repertoire from the beginning. They will be exclusive to this release. “Ordinary Man” and “Let’s Get Rich Together” are new recordings of material from Dowler’s semi-legendary past (from the Zimmermen and Spare Change respectively) while “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” is an interpretation of the Vince Guaraldi standard that dates from the early sixties. Stay tuned for the new John Dowler’s Vanity Project album 12 Stitches.


A new band from John Dowler is a rare treat for fans of quality Australian pop-rock and power pop (or what ever you want to call it), and of the man’s own body of work.

Alternating between Adelaide and Melbourne in the 70s, John led cult bands Spare Change and Young Modern (LA’s Bomp! magazine described YM as Australia’s first power pop band back in 78) before moving permanently to Melbourne and forming the Zimmermen in the mid 80s. Prior to the Zimmermen he also worked with both Stephen Cummings and Martin Armiger of the Sports on a couple of different projects; after the Zimmermen he released his only solo album to date, an anthology call Low Society. Whilst far from being a prolific artist, John has made some fine records over the years, and his influence on Australian music has been subtle but not insignificant.

The Vanity Project formed in late 2014 after a too-long (decades…) absence for John from the live and recording scenes; an absence interrupted only by a new Young Modern album in 2007, a few YM shows and subsequently a live album. It was Vanity Project guitarist Mark McCartney – who has previously worked with Mick Thomas and the Go Set and Mick Daley and others – who convinced John to get involved in bands again, and who continues to drive the band with his enthusiasm and great playing.

The band played its first gig in September 2015 and since then has played sporadically around the fringes of Melbourne’s inner city pub circuit. Their live set sets consist of John’s backlog of original tunes, covers of songs he’s always wanted to perform, and a smattering of his past hits including “Don’t Go To Sydney” and “Ordinary Man”.

The band’s other guitarist, Justin Bowd, who has played with Jim Kane and with Middle Age Fanclub, has also contributed some fine material. Rounding out the band are Julien Chick on bass and backing vocals – Julien has played and sung with the Vandas, Mick Thomas and currently also works with Michael Meeking and the Lost Souls. Lastly, there is drummer Michael Stranges, who has worked extensively with Kim Salmon and plays with the TV Set.

Having found the perfect home in Half A Cow, John Dowler’s Vanity Project are set to release their debut album Splendid Isolation on 9th September 2016. Recorded in Melbourne, the album reflects the band’s live set, minus the old Dowler hits. It includes definitive versions of songs that John has had on the shelf since the early 80s, including the catchy “My Face”, and the turbulent “I Blame You”, and relatively recent numbers like “Off The Coast Of Me”. The album’s rousing opener is the brilliant “Sentimental’” written by one of John’s Zimmermen bandmates, the late Peter Tulloch, and never previously released. Covers include “Don’t Blame It On Your Wife”, written by John Lennon faves The Appletree Theatre in 1967 and also recorded by Rick Nelson (and a nice companion piece to the Zimmermen’s “I Like To Fight With My Wife” perhaps?), and “I’ve Been The One” from Little Feat’s first album (which John has plundered before…). The album captures the band’s plaintive and guitar driven sound splendidly – Young Modern and Zimmermen fans will recognise the stripped-back but rich and soulful vibe – and John’s vocal is as wry and mellifluous as ever.

Live review here on I-94 Bar.

VIDEO

Work Of Art

Billy’s Pizza

My Face

Buy Music

Jukebox Amnesia EP

Work Of Art/Ordinary Man – single

A Certain Reputation EP

Splendid Isolation

Discography


Splendid Isolation  (hac176)
released September 2016

1. Sentimental
2. Off The Coast Of Me
3. Unsolved Mystery
4. My Face
5. The Untouchable
6. Don’t Blame It On Your Wife
7. Oakleigh
8. I’ve Been The One
9. I Blame You
10. Dark Is The Night
11. Something Good
12. The Spoken Word


A Certain Reputation EP (hac236)
released February 2020

1. Billy’sPizza
2. Ordinary Man
3. Cast Your Fate To The Wind
4. Let’s Get Rich Together

Produced by Craig Pilkington at Audrey Studios
Track 1 from 12 Stitches. Tracks 2, 3, 4 exclusive to this EP.
Cover art by Peter Howard.

12 Stitches  (hac237)
released 1st May 2020


Jukebox Amnesia EP (hac270)
released on cd June 2023

  1. Wars Or Hands Of Time
  2. Psychotic Reaction
  3. Could You Would You
  4. Love Story

Produced, mixed and mastered by Craig Pilkington at Audrey Studios February/March 2023. Layout and design by Michael Stranges. Guitars by Justin and Mark, bass and backing vocals by Julien, drums by Michael, singing by John.

Mark McCartney
Michael Strangers
John Dowler
Justin Bowd
Julien Chick