Mike Furber (28 September 1948 – 10 May 1973) was an English-born entertainer popular in the mid-1960s as the lead singer of Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys. Furber's group had hits with "Just a Poor Boy", "You Stole My Love" and "That's When Happiness Began" (all in 1966). In the Go Set Pop Poll, Furber was voted in the top 5 as most popular Male Vocalist in both 1966 and 1967. Furber's solo singing career was less successful and in the early 1970s he turned to stage musicals: Godspell and Nuclear. Furber committed suicide on 10 May 1973, he was found hanged in the garage of his Sydney home. According to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, "Reputedly in the depths of depression, he hanged himself ... It has been suggested, however, that Furber was actually murdered because he had befriended a King's Cross prostitute". In 1999, Festival Records issued a compilation album, Diddy Wah Diddy.
Mike Furber was born on 28 September 1948 in London, England. His father was Ed Furber and Furber was raised with a sister Marian. When he was 10, his family emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. In mid-1965, Furber as lead vocalist joined local pop band The Bowery Boys, which consisted of Robbie van Delft on lead guitar and vocals, Neville Peard on drums, Paul Wade on bass guitar and vocals, and Greg Walker on rhythm guitar. The group signed withSunshine Records and were managed by label boss Ivan Dayman. Dayman promoted the group as Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys.
In late 1965, their debut single, "Just a Poor Boy", was released and in early 1966 it became a top 5 hit in Adelaide and top 30 in both Melbourne and Sydney. The song was written by Wade, van Delft and Peard. In February 1966, their second single, "You Stole My Love", was released – it is a cover version of The Mockingbird's 1965 song and was written by Graham Gouldman. Furber's version was a top 10 hit in Melbourne and peaked at No. 12 in Adelaide. The Kommotion label released the group's debut album, Just a Poor Boy. In July, a third single, "That's When Happiness Began", was issued but the group disbanded in August.
Dayman was keen to promote Furber as a solo artist and organised appearances on local television shows: The Go!! Show and Kommotion. Furber released three solo singles in 1967, "Where Were You?" (January), "I'm So Glad" (August) and "Bring Your Love Back Home" (October) but none of them charted. National teen pop music newspaper Go-Set praised "Bring Your Love Back Home" as "the best disc he has ever had. It could be the break he has been waiting for to put him right back on top". Furber was one of a number of popular artists who wrote in Go-Set against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, "you can't find an excuse for forcing a man to give up his chosen career to go into the army and fight a war in what would be one of the most dubious conflicts of all times". In Go-Set's Pop Poll, Furber was voted in the top 5 as most popular Male Vocalist in both 1966 and 1967. Furber's label, Sunshine, collapsed in 1967 and Furber had a nervous breakdown at about that time. In 1969, Furber signed with Columbia Records and released "There's No Love Left" in June. That was followed in November by "I'm on Fire" / "Watch Me Burn", which were both written by Vanda & Young (ex-The Easybeats) as a two-part pop suite. According to Iain McIntyre's Tomorrow Is Today (2006), "'I'm on Fire' is scintillating pop track underscored by a ripping lead fuzz guitar line and a solid rhythm section" however "'Watch Me Burn' is even wilder, with TWIN lead guitars (one fuzz and one wah-wah) wailing away beneath Furber's excellent vocal performance". Nevertheless, neither of the singles charted and Furber was dropped by Columbia.
In June 1970, Furber toured Australia with The Sect, and Doug Parkinson in Focus as support acts to United States group The Four Tops. In the early 1970s, he was conscripted for National Service in the Australian Army during the Vietnam War. At the time of his service, Furber had been involved in stage musicals: Godspell and Nuclear (1973). He was fired from Nuclear.
According to music historian Ian McFarlane, he was "[n]ever a strong-willed person to begin with, Furber continued to suffer bouts of depression". Furber committed suicide on 10 May 1973; he was found hanged in the garage of his Sydney home. According to McFarlane, "[r]eputedly in the depths of depression, he hanged himself ... It has been suggested, however, that Furber was actually murdered because he had befriended a King's Cross prostitute".
In 1999, Festival Records issued a compilation album, Diddy Wah Diddy, featuring his work with The Bowery Boys and solo. In 2005, Radioactive Records re-issued Just a Poor Boy, which Allmusic's Richie Unterberger found "Furber was an okay but uneven singer, and in fact sounds rather horribly off-pitch on 'Stop!' He also seemed to favor fairly tough R&B material that was actually a little too tough for his ordinary range" but he preferred "You're Back Again" and "Love Talk" as "the standouts, both because they're not overly familiar songs and because they're more suited toward Furber's voice".
- Just a Poor Boy (Kommotion Records, 1967)
- Diddy Wah Diddy (Festival Records, 1999)
- Just a Poor Boy (Sunshine Records QX 11143, May 1966)
- You Stole My Love (Kommotion Records KX 11204, October 1966)
- Where Are You? (Kommotion Records KX 11253)
- It's Too Late (Sunshine Records QX 11347)
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1966||"Just a Poor Boy" (Mike Furber & the Bowery Boys)||42||Just a Poor Boy
|"You Stole My Love" (Mike Furber & the Bowery Boys)||36||You Stole My Love EP'|
|"You" / "That's When Happiness Began" (Mike Furber & the Bowery Boys)||85|
|1967||"Where Are You"||93||Where Are You? EP'|
|"I'm So Glad"||—||It's Too Late EP'|
|"If You Need Me"||—|
|1969||"There's no Love Left"||—||'Non-album single'|
|"I'm on Fire" / "Watch Me Burn"||—|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.|