Alongside The Thunderbirds, The Phantoms, The Breakaways, The Saxons, The Fabulous Blue Jays, The Marksmen and The Playboys, instrumental combo The Strangers were one of the bastions of Melbourne's early 1960s rock scene. Rather than embrace the surf craze that had enthralled Sydney counterparts like The Atlantics, The Denvermen and The Statesmen, The Strangers took their cue from British and European instrumental masters like The Shadows, The Tornados and The Spotnicks.
After forming in 1961, The Strangers worked all the major Melbourne dances. In late 1962, they signed with W&G Records, issuing their debut single, `Cry of the Wild Geese'/`Leaving Town', in January 1963. The single reached #12 on the Melbourne chart. The Strangers issued two more singles in 1963, `Torlido'/`Outcast' (#34 in April) and `Undertow'/`Along the Navajo Trail' (#23 in November), followed by `Poppa Oom Mow Mow'/`Sunday Kind of Love' in early 1964. John Farrar replaced Laurie Arthur on lead guitar, and the band began to incorporate Farrar's vocals into the sound. The Strangers' first vocal single, `If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody'/`Let's Go', reached #29 in July 1964. From that point on, The Strangers became Melbourne's most popular backing group. They backed solo artists like Merv Benton and ex-Thunderbirds' sax player Colin Cook (including the single `Heart'/`Surfin' Honeymoon' and the album Colin Cook and the Strangers). They also became resident group on television pop show The Go!! Show.
The Strangers' two 1965 singles, `Never on a Sunday'/In My Room' and `Put Yourself in My Place'/`Fever', did not reach the Top 40. The band made a return to the Melbourne chart with `Western Union'/`Cool Jerk' which appeared on the Go!! label in May 1967. It peaked at #30. By that stage, Terry Walker (ex-Glen Ingram and the Hi-Five) had joined as lead vocalist. In 1968, Walker sang lead vocals on the Pastoral Symphony single `Love Machine'/`Spread a Little Love Around' which reached #10 on the national chart during June. The Strangers signed to Philips and issued the singles `Happy Without You'/`Take the Time' (#39 in November 1968), `Lady Scorpio'/`California Soul' (#36 in June 1969) and `Sweet September'/`Paper Cup' (January 1970), plus the album The Strangers.
With a move to Ron Tudor's Fable label, The Strangers enjoyed their biggest hit since `Leaving Town' in 1963. `Melanie Makes Me Smile'/`If You Think You're Groovy' reached #14 in June 1970. A month later, The Strangers broke up; Farrar travelled to the UK where he formed a partnership with Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of The Shadows. As the vocal trio Marvin Welch and Farrar, they recorded two albums, Marvin Welch and Farrar (1971) and Second Opinion (1972). Marvin and Farrar recorded the album Hank Marvin and John Farrar in 1973. Then, when Marvin, Welch and bassist Brian Bennett re-formed The Shadows later in the year, Farrar joined as vocalist/rhythm guitarist. He stayed until 1975 and appeared on the albums Rockin' with Curly Leads, Specs Appeal and Live at the Paris Olympia.
Farrar moved to the USA and began writing, playing guitar and producing for Olivia Newton-John (including albums like Olivia Newton-John, Have You Never Been Mellow?, Clearly Love, Don't Stop Believin' and Making a Good Thing Better). As well as writing songs like `Have You Never Been Mellow?' and `Something Better to Do' for Newton-John, Farrar composed `Hopelessly Devoted to You' which she sang on the Grease soundtrack. It became an international hit single in 1978. Farrar has also had his songs covered by Cliff Richard. In 1980, Farrar issued his debut solo album, John Farrar, on CBS which included the single `Recovery'. In 1995 he produced Richard's album Songs from Heathcliff.
Meanwhile, back in late 1970, Strangers members Peter Robinson and Graeme Thompson recruited newcomers John Cosgrove (lead guitar; ex-Fendermen) and Bill Pyman (rhythm guitar) and continued as The New Strangers. The band issued three more singles on Fable, `Mr President'/`Looking Through the Eyes of a Beautiful Girl' (December 1970), `Sweet Water'/`Wishing My Life Away' (May 1971) and `Tennessee'/`That Sunshine Feeling' (July 1972), but none was successful. Former Strangers frontman Terry Walker also issued a solo single on Fable, `Natural Sinner'/`Sweet Inspiration' (November 1970). In March 1973, Jim Sifonious (ex-Dove) replaced Cosgrove on lead guitar. The New Strangers issued two more singles (on Astor), `Hitchhike'/`Home Ain't Home Anymore' and `Kentucky Poor Boys'/`Sweet Song of the Country', in 1975 before splitting up for good.