Originally recorded in 1973, Vic’s album The Loner was re-released on Sandman Records in June 2013.
Listen to selected tracks and purchase the CD here.
The Loner was recorded in one hour at Bathurst Gaol in a mobile studio provided by RCA music. Originally made as a public relations exercise for the state prisons, the album has stood up over time to become a classic album of Aboriginal protest songs.
The reissue of this classic album is annotated by Brenda Gifford. Brenda is an archivist in the indigenous section of the National Film and Sound Archive. An Aboriginal woman from NSW, Brenda holds a Bachelor of Education, has worked with remote Indigenous broadcasters and taught music to Indigenous students in the TAFE system and is uniquely qualified to tell the fascinating story of Vic’s life.
The exceptional thing about The Loner was that it happened at all. It was recorded in Bathurst Gaol at a time when prisoners were protesting living conditions in the prison system, having rioted in October 1970. A black man in goal in that period faced a double danger of lack of basic human rights plus institutionalised racism.
Vic Simms was midway into a seven-year sentence in Bathurst for robbery. He had traded two packets of cigarettes for an acoustic guitar, learned to play guitar chords and started to write songs about his life and the injustices he saw around him as a young Aboriginal man.
The Robin Hood Foundation, a charity group, heard Simms singing in the prison yard and took a cassette of his songs to RCA record company.
The company took in a mobile studio and session musicians and recorded ten of Simms’s original songs in a single one-hour session. It was produced by Rocky Thomas, who gave it a rich, full sound to complement Simm’s voice, and the result was ‘The Loner’.
We had an exact hour to record, because that was all the time allotted by the prison. I had to hope and pray that I’d do okay on each of the ten tracks because there’d be no second bidding. And I did. I felt that if I didn’t record that album, it would just prove that we were out of sight and out of mind. I wanted to show that musical talent could exist no matter where it was, out in the bush or behind walls.