Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Real Sirens

‘It wasn’t like that,’ she stated firmly. ‘It wasn’t like that at all.’

And it would be hard to imagine it being so, I have to admit. It was another time, the ‘wowsers’ were in their ascendancy – but we do know that Springwood was out of kilter with the rest of strictured Australian society then. But what was displayed in the ‘that’ she spoke of would surely have been beyond the pale. The ‘that’ was the early nineties movie, ‘The Sirens’.


The movie didn’t really set the world on fire critically – but it was popular because of the amount of flesh it exposed. And with the subject matter – well it would be necessary to have some bare maidens involved, wouldn’t it? But it was a thin premise. A newly arrived to Oz English priest, Tony Campion, played, by Hugh Grant before he became famous for being Hugh Grant, is instructed to visit Springwood and check out the rumours that aspects of what was going on there were blasphemous. This was particularly the case with a painting of the crucifixion, reportedly soon to be on display for all to see. Tony dutifully takes the train out bush to the property with his newly wedded and innocent wife, Estella (Tara Fitzgerald). At Springwood both are radically changed over the course of their stay by what they espy. Esther receives her sexual awakening and Hugh’s character leaves with a different set of attitudes to the ones he arrived with. This is the result of witnessing, as well as later participating in, the goings-on at the residence. Tara F’s character joins Elle Mcpherson, Portia de Rossi, Kate Fischer and Pamela Rabe as one of the sirens, the artist’s in-house muses and models. The coterie would slip off their clothes at a moment’s notice to either pose or cavort. I guess by now any reasonably savvy reader would have figured out the identity of the master of the house where the disturbing goings-on were occurring – none other than the country’s leading thorn in the side of the wowsers of society; those we’d perhaps now call the fun police. They were predictably shocked to their cotton socks about the hearsay of copious lewdness emanating from the homestead, with the proof of the pudding being the resulting works of art that were thoroughly scandalous to the minds of the establishment. Sam Neill, starring as Norman Lindsay, must have thought all his Christmases had come at once being surrounded by such a cast of stunning women.

But what was it really like at Springwood? Well let’s visit real life siren Pearl, of whom a punster could say had a purler of a life. She made the opening remark that, to the contrary, it wasn’t as the movie portrayed at all. Now I first came to her via a newspaper column, rather than the movie. Researching further, I found she blamed Elle and the lorelei (apt collective noun that) of other sirens in the movie for besmirching Norman Lindsay’s good name. From her Gold Coast apartment, in a recent on-line interview, she was still in sprightly and vivacious form when she recalled posing nude for the artist. She forthrightly stated that, through numerous sessions, when she wasn’t wearing a stitch all those decades ago, he never laid a finger on her. Admittedly, by the time the striking Joan Crawford look-alike posed for him, the grand man of Aussie painting was 60 or more.


The connection between the two came when NL saw a photo of her in a newspaper. He realised that this eighteen year old girl had a special quality that he could translate onto canvas. Getting her to do it, though, was another matter. The photo he espied back in 1937 came about because she managed to win that year’s Miss Bondi Surf competition. Norman wasn’t the only one to spot her qualities. He asked his son to track her down, which he duly did, but by the time he got to her the young beauty had already been submerged in offers. That she was also a self-starter saw her almost immediately becoming one of Sydney’s most sought after mannequins for magazine work, fashion parades and in-store promotions. Pearl claims that, back then, she had nil knowledge of men when it came to the ways of the world, was still a virgin and was terribly naive. At that stage she knew of Lindsay only as an illustrator of children’s books, such as the ‘Magic Pudding’. There was no inking of the scandal he constantly caused with his racy art work. It was almost a year later, when she was returning on foot from a fashion shoot in the Rocks, that she happened to pass Lindsay’s studio, remembered the approach and on a whim, knocked on the door.

At first the ageing dauber was content with just painting her portrait. But as she continued to answer his calls to pose, she became more trusting. So when he did broach the subject of nudity, she was willing. He remained completely professional during all her Bridge Street sittings, right up until Pearl Goldman moved on in 1943. You can check out the results in paintings such as ‘Mantilla’, ‘The Amazons’ and ‘Imperia’.

Posing for Lindsay bought Pearl into a world she knew little of, educating her immensely. The bohemian life style that abounded in artistic circles in the Emerald City would be an eye-opener for anyone, given the conservative nature of the era – but for a girl still in her teens it must have been quite shocking. But she handled it with aplomb – evidence of her growing sophistication. She became friends with some others in the artist’s circle, particularly the poet Douglas Stewart and the woman who was later revealed as Lindsay’s mistress. But another notable, Buster Fiddess, a well-known comedian at the time, set her on yet another course. He arranged an audition for her for a Tivoli show called ‘Okay for Sound’. She was successful and so was off and running with another string to her bow. She toured the country and overseas in numerous productions, sometimes even playing the leading role. This treading of the boards also intrigued Lindsay; so much so he based his 1950’s novel, ‘Dust or Polish’, on her tales. For Pearl this inevitably led to movie roles. She was an Egyptian spy in Chauvel’s ‘Forty Thousand Horsemen’ and spent a fair bit of 1959 on the set of ‘On the Beach’, becoming firm mates with Gregory Peck.

And at age 27 she married into money, not so innocent of worldliness any more. Hubby was nearly twenty years her senior, but he showered her with jewels, furs and even a sporty white Jaguar.


And sadly, as to my first contact with Pearl in that newspaper article? Well, it was her obituary that sent me searching for more in the ether. She passed away in June, 2016.

But it is a very different story when it comes to Pearl’s pal and another of Lindsay’s muses – Margaret, the aforementioned mistress. As I was looking into Goldman I came across her, so I decided to glean what I could about this artist model’s story too. As it turns out, Pearl was not alone in having a remarkable one to tell. In doing this I came across a certain depiction of this other woman, one that stopped me in my tracks.

Perhaps I am not quite as worldly myself as I thought when it comes to the artistically presented undraped female body – but this portrayal of Margaret, if it didn’t exactly shock, it did cause a sharp intake of breath. I assumed I was also reasonably familiar with NL’s works, but this was somehow different and more confronting than anything else I’d observed on his canvases. It’s frankness, I suggest, must have really stuck it up the wowsers way back when. Pearls, mate looked fearless in it.

Originally this scribbling was to just focus on Pearl alone, but, by contrast, the legendary painter certainly did more than just lay a finger on Margaret. She was the opposite of Pearl. So off on a tangent I went, pursuing her as well. Now as far as may be ascertained the dauber had just two affairs, one being when he dallianced with Margaret. The other was earlier, whilst married to his first wife, Kate. The object of his desires then was a very young model, Soady. Lindsay left Kate to marry Soady. And whilst he was attached to her, along came Margaret Coen and NL was again tempted.


As with Pearl, there was much more to Margaret than merely being prepared to take her clothes off for man holding a paintbrush. It was through his brothers, Percy and Ray, that Coen first came into contact with the Lord of Springwood. Trying to establish herself as an artist in her own right, she visited Lindsay in 1930, at his residence in the Blue Mountains, with the hope that he would educate her in the use of water colours. He certainly did that – and more it seems. It wasn’t long before she and the man she described as ‘...tremendously alive…like quicksilver, constantly moving, with an extraordinary lightness about him.’ were lovers. Later on, Lindsay’s daughter classed Margaret as ‘…a very beautiful, gentle creature.‘ She possessed a milky white complexion, sparkling blue eyes and a mass of lack hair. She was smitten by him and Norman reciprocated. Their liaison lasted until 1939. Their friendship, perhaps more importantly, lasted until death.

She was still in NL’s circle when Pearl arrived on the scene, but by 1945 MC was married to the artist’s other great mate, the poet Stewart. Although Coen’s artistic pursuits proved to be underwhelming in the years prior to Springwood, the fact that she was gifted a studio in Sydney bought her into contact with the local artistic set, most notably Grace Crowley and Thea Proctor, as well as the Lindsay Brothers. Post Springwood she honed her skills with a jaunt around Europe during the fifties. On her return to Oz she received some recognition through exhibitions and prizes for her works. These days she is represented in numerous collections around the country. She is noted primarily for her still lifes and floral arrangements. Margaret passed away in 1993.


Her daughter Meg, a noted journalist and film-maker, during the eighties, wrote and published a biography of her mother. In it there was no mention of the true nature of her relationship with NL – Meg simply had no knowledge of it at that stage. She added an extra chapter in a later edition of her tome once it was uncovered.

Now of course the paintings mentioned in this piece are all easily available on-line but, if you seek them out, be aware of where you are in doing so as the man’s work still can be NSFW, even in these enlightened times. As the artist’s muses these two women kept as much hidden from the eye as they revealed. I enjoyed spending time with them. An artist has given them the ability to intrigue for generations to come. They may intrigue you too, as they did me.

Official trailer for ‘Sirens’ –

Twin Mountains

Sing Fox to MeSarah Kanake  Wood GreenSean Rabin

My wont each morning, around seven, immediately after I arise from my slumbers, is to stand in our little back room, here by the river, to look out at my twin mountains. The window that faces upriver affords me a view of twin-humped Dromedary, the down river aspect leads my eyes to the organ-piped ramparts of Mount Wellington. These days many Tasmanians, myself included, prefer the name our first peoples bestowed on it – kunanyi. Its original name, early on in colonial times, was Table Mountain, before being rebadged after Waterloo. Some mornings neither mountain can be espied due to them being cloaked in mist, cloud, or the jerry coming down from the upper valley. Often one, or both, are iced by snow. If this is the case with Dromedary, we know during winter that yet another layer of clothing needs to be added. Both river and twin mountains, despite their ever changing moods, soothe me from the get-go; they set me up for the day ahead.

So it is perhaps circumstance that I was destined to read twin books, on booksellers’ shelves around the same time, where a local mountain shaped the fictionally occurring events.

One of the authors, Sean Rabin, at an early stage in his release, ‘Wood Green’, listed those on our island achieving success following the vocation he would seem to have a future in, given the quality of his first attempt. The reader was informed, via the voice of a taxi driver, that in our country’s literature, Tassie’s contribution is ‘bigger than you think.’ He was not only a verbose but, as well, an extremely well read cab driver, at least as far as his state’s product in print was concerned. ‘Well of course there are your notables like Richard Flanagan and Christopher Koch and Amanda Lohrey, but I bet you’ve never heard of Joan Wise or Nan Chauncy, have you?’ He then went on to list names commencing with Marcus Clarke and ending with Heather Rose, Gina Mercer, Katherine Lomer and Adrienne Eberhard. The fellow finished off by stating that he too was working on a novel – about the island’s early whaling industry.


I wondered, on reading those passages, if Sean himself, or perhaps Sarah Kanake, the writer of the other tome, ‘Sing Fox to Me’, would one day be spoken of in the same terms as the aforementioned? I do suspect Ms Kanake is the more likely, but time will tell.

And that is not to say that Rabin’s ‘Wood Green’ is a failure by any measure. It is a fine effort really; eminently consumable, but aspects did annoy me. It is lovely to read of my island’s multitudinous virtues, but at times the novel invoked a travel brochure designed to attract people to spend their next hols with us. And the constant reference to cutting edge music made me wonder as to Rabin’s motivation – in doing so does he think his readers will rush to YouTube to have a gander at what he was on about? For a while I thought that these too may be fictionalised as I hadn’t heard of any of them. Then I came across one I knew – Judee Sill. Usually each was accompanied by a precis as to why the musician(s) resonated (so hate that word) with one of the writers in residence in the village of Wood Green. There were similar literary references as well, again obscure – to my knowledge. Just get on with the story Sean. It is a cracker you have come up with. And otherwise, it did have me engrossed.


As with ‘Sing Fox to Me’, the fulcrum of this tale is a cranky old man – in ‘Wood Green’s’ case, the renowned, but reclusive, novelist Lucien Clarke. He lived on kunanyi’s shoulder, in a hamlet perhaps modeled on Ferntree or Longley. The old guy has employed Michael, a man in search of a new start and for whom the author was the subject matter for his uni thesis, to get his affairs in order. Of course, Michael Pollard also aspires to write something or other himself. The location for most of the action has a mix of characters who would do a tele soap proud. There’s a gay pub owner and a gay South African, with something to hide, about to take over the local store. Now I wonder what could happen there? The former owners, an estranged couple, have had enough. One just happens to be Lucien’s ex-lover, still hankering for his ministrations. There is also a b and b owner described by the cover blurb as ‘snivelling’. But the mix, like a compulsive soap, does get one in. The chapters are short and sharp, all 104 of them – and with the last score or so the novel does an about face and it may not be to everybody’s taste. But this scribe thinks it works just fine. As for the ending, well even a soap wouldn’t countenance going down that path.

There does need, I feel, to be more discipline with Mr Rabin’s self-indulgences, but he has come up with a great yarn about my city and its mountain. I’ll be lining up for his next release.

But, to my mind, of higher literary excellence was Sarah Kanake’s ‘Sing Fox to Me’. The Sunshine Coast lecturer and country music singer possesses some serious writerly chops.

The fellow in his winter years in this story’s case was Clancy Fox. He lived alone, but for his ghosts, on a mountain with a bleak and pluvial climate. The mountain’s elder is still, many years later, grieving for his lost daughter, River. ‘People say there’s no pain like the pain of losing a child and Clancy knew the truth of that more than most. He knew the missing, the aching. He knew the unending, circling misery of letting a child slip through his fingers, but he also knew the sorrow of forgetting and being forgotten.’ Now it is Clancy’s habit to go feral, to strip naked, wearing only a tiger skin, when he heads bush in search of his child. She may still be out there – out there somewhere with the tigers. River claimed to have seen them everywhere whilst she was alive – the old man sees hints of them in the shadows.


But then his other offspring turns up – the estranged David. He is in dire need of ‘finding himself’ after a marriage breakup, but first needs to dispose of his own two sons. He dumps the twins, Samson and Jonah, with Clancy and promptly shoots through. The old fella, with the aid of other local rustics, does the bast he can, but he’s no match, particularly for the disturbed Jonah. Samson, conversely, is a lovely creation from Kanake. He has Down syndrome, but this does not prevent him from becoming the most engaging of the denizens of ‘Sing Fox to Me’. This is particularly the case after meeting another damaged young soul in the surrounding bush and this soon forms their playground. But all is not right with Jonah. He does a runner, the community groups around old Clancy in his time of need, but soon there is yet another mystery to solve.


Ms Kanake, through very fine wordsmithery, evokes and enhances many of our island writers’ penchant for the gothic nature of our past – something that endures and afflicts to the present day. There’s some magic realism afoot too in this book, as there is in Rabin’s. Neither author bangs us on the head with it, but it’s there, lurking in the background.

So what we have are twin offerings, both thoroughly worthy of a reader’s time. It will be interesting to see if Kanake and Rabin kick on after these debuts. Meanwhile, this old bloke, not on a mountain’s saddle, but constantly peering each day to the high country surrounding the river he loves. He measures the mood of kunanyi and Dromedary – these being the twin mountains of his his own contented existence.

Eight Days a Week

There was an audible intake of breath in the audience, even a nervous titter or two. They were totally unexpected, those opening images – but they shouldn’t have been. They were so very, very young when they started out. But then we – and the audience was all around my age – we were also so very, very young once. It was almost as if in unison there was a collective posing of the question as to where all the decades had gone?

It’s now been fifty years since John, Paul, George and Ringo hung up their guitars/drum sticks – at least as far as touring was concerned. Technology just couldn’t keep up with these guys. They had not the means to raise their music above the level of their teen dominated audience’s constant screaming. By the end they couldn’t even hear themselves playing on stage. Ringo kept the beat to the wiggling of John’s bum. Shea Stadium, the final straw, was just ludicrous. 50,000 plus crammed into it with only minute amps facing them from around the perimeter. The music had to be piped through the tannoy system – their music therefore became a barely recognisable tinny squeak. The Beatles may have been the first to use stadiums as venues – but for bands to be seen and heard effectively in them was still a few years down the track. Then there was the issue that their music was starting to push the envelope as to what could be reproduced on stage. George Martin was able to replicate what was happening in the minds of Lennon and McCartney on vinyl, but playing it live was another matter. Besides, the financials had changed from when they started out. Touring now wasn’t their sole cash cow. But in the end, they were simply over it. Drugs were also taking their toll and gun-happy America was no place to be once Lennon had made his off the cuff remarks about Jesus and fame. After their final US concerts they retreated for a few more gigs in the UK before hunkering down with Martin to change the world with Sgt Peppers.

And just when we thought that all that could possibly be said about the Fab Four has been uttered, along comes Ron Howard to give us the happy days of a gem that is ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week–the Touring Years’.


I was seemingly aeons ago, but I can still remember my first encounter with the phenomena that was this foursome. There were the quartet of lads, not all that much older than myself, dressed in Edwardian swimsuits cavorting on a pallid English beach. It was on the cover of a magazine in a Burnie newsagent – I have a vague recollection it may have been ‘TV Week’, although I had yet to encounter them on the small screen. It wasn’t long before that happened. But back then, being the youthful stickler for correctness, I was perplexed how they could get the spelling wrong – beAtles? The first song I can recall hearing was ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as I walked beside the sea on North Terrace, clutching my little transistor radio, tuned in to 7BU. The sound of it halted me in my tracks. It was so fresh and alive to my ears. And soon they were gobsmacking people world wide. By my discovery of them the Beatles had an unstoppable momentum up as they dominated the charts, bringing in their wake the Liverpool Sound and the British Invasion. I was soon arguing with my friends as to the merits of the Kinks and the Animals, my favourites, compared to the Stones, or indeed, the Beatles. I started buying their singles on Parlophone, later Apple. The first LP I ever purchased was the aforementioned game-changer. But that came after the years Howard covered in what obviously was a labour of love for him. It shows. The documentary sparkles with the wit that came naturally to the foursome; their talent live and of course, the magic that was their song-smithery. We all know classics such as ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Imagine’ are virtually immortal, with Lennon/McCartney up there with Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Brian Wilson as the lyricists for our generation. But the offering from the acclaimed director tells some stuff that has also been largely forgotten.


Mr Howard put in a world wide call-out for fresh Beatles material. Ordinary punters did have means to record back then in the dark ages, so some hitherto unseen footage was available to the film-maker. Some of the quality from a few of their very early performances is remarkable – and we are able to appreciate just how tremendous they were live before they were drowned out by the screeching of over-excited young ladies. But there is little joy present for them, or us, towards the termination of their touring. Their constantly being in the public spotlight was taking its toll. You can see it in their faces; sometimes in the quality of their live playing, albeit in difficult circumstances to say the least. Those last American gigs were not only a physical challenge – they played with their minds as well, along with what they were imbibing. They were spent.

What has been largely overlooked was the role they played in de-segregating the South in the US by refusing to play for an all-white audience in Jacksonville. In these parts it was unheard of for negros to sit alongside white bread Dixielanders, but the Liverpudlian quartet made it happen. The two remaining take us through their decision making process for how their flaunting of what was accepted and their insistence on overturning the rules came about. Another eye-opener, for our era when smokers are almost treated as lepers, is just how prevalent it was back then – and Howard has a unique way in making his point on that so we don’t miss it.


RH’s use of talking heads is fairly limited but always appropriate. Some contributions are thoroughly thought provoking, none the more so than Whoopi Goldberg’s. She’s never been a favourite of mine, but here she shines as she reminiscences about growing up as Beatlemania conquered her country – its pull being universal.

I love it that my beautiful daughter has always fully embraced the Beatles ever since she was a small girl. No doubt she will recount their contribution to a new generation as our beloved Tessa Tiger grows older. She can already sing ‘Yellow Submarine’.

So thank you Ron Howard for giving another Beatles inspired gift to the world in a period when many yearn for simpler times, even though, back then, life wasn’t always so simple for these four lads from Old Blighty. And for taking us back to when we all felt we’d be ‘forever young’.

Movie Trailer –

When Michael Met Mina – Randa Abdel-Fattah

Michael – ‘And then, because I can’t hold out any longer, I take a chance, lean in and kiss her. So softly it makes my insides ache.’
Mina – ‘Every time I think of our lips locking, the feel of our tongues meeting, the tenderness with which he held me close to him, my stomach plunges the same way it does on roller-coaster rides.’

I like first kisses, especially when it comes to YA writing. But Michael and Mina’s was a long time coming.

My daughter is rarely wrong. She reads YA widely and recommends – and she was totally right with this one. I did doubt her for a short time. I thought Randa Abdel-Fattah’s story of these star crossed lovers was somewhat clunky in getting up and running, but once it got a head of steam up, this was a ravishing read. Hopefully it will become a favourite of readers of her targeted age group all across Oz – and maybe not just with the female gender.


Michael is a knockabout lad; typically Aussie – bright, but doesn’t ponder too deeply about stuff. On the other hand, his parents do. They run a ‘patriotic’ organisation called Aussie Values – and Michael goes along with them for the ride. The author portrayed his parents as good, caring people; very moderate, by Pauline Hanson standards. But their operation attracts the far right wing hangers on – those that peddle a message of hate. Michael’s mum and dad tolerate them – and it leads to trouble.

When Michael meets Mina he discovers she’s quite unlike any girl he’s ever had dealings with previously. And as they gradually grow closer, well then, two worlds collide. She’s an Afghani refugee, closeted by a deeply traumatised, but loving, family, who are starting to make headway with their new lives in Oz – until the numbskull element from Aussie Values get involved. All of a sudden Michael needs to make decisions as to where his loyalties lie; in effect, what really are his own values. Are they with family or a beautiful, compelling and intelligent young lady? One who has turned his life upside down.

I thoroughly enjoyed this tome. It throws light on the openings for hate that Abbott, Abetz, Morrison et al created with their recent regime, still sadly lingering under Turnbull. Our present policies are inhumane as well as illegal under international law, but – well don’t get me started. We were once far more tolerant, with this publication from Randa Abdel-Fattah highlighting those Aussies who have lost that side of their national character, as well as those who still retain it. At one stage Michael’s mother states that what’s happening in Australia, on the race issue, is like the soup she is preparing – ‘The dominant flavour is asparagus. I’ve got other spices and flavours in here too because that makes the soup so rich and flavoursome. But they complement the asparagus, they don’t take over.’ When Michael relates this to Mina, she explodes, ‘So let me get this right Michael. Australia is a big bowl of soup and Aussie Values is about protecting the asparagus from an over zealous pepper or cardamon pod.’

As the two main protagonists develop feelings for each other there are the subsidiary narrative lines involving their various mates to be resolved as well. Paula has a crush on a teacher whilst Jane is besotted by one of Michael’s dip-stick mates, unable to recognise that she is being used. Naturally all the strands, including the issues involved in the affection between the Aussie lad and the Afghani lass, are sorted by novel’s end. But even so, the way ahead may still not be overly easy for our main couple. For me, the sign of a terrific read is whether, by the time I turn the last page, I am disappointed that my time with the author’s creations is about to be terminated. I felt that way with this title and I can only hope there is a sequel in the offing. There’s scope Randa.


And, surprisingly, I found that I had something in common with Mina and Michael, despite the alarming number of decades in age difference. When they first met they bonded over an indie band, the XX. I have their first album and love it. Oh dear, who’d have thought?

The author’s website =

The Summer of '82 – Dave O'Neil

Dave was pumped. He was afizz with excitement. He was dressed in his very finest New Wave gear. He and his mates had left the ‘burbs and had trained into the centre of Yarra City and were now standing outside the Hilton, yelling out their hero’s name and clutching his latest album. And to their incredulity, their rock god did indeed come out onto his balcony to wave at them. ‘An autograph. An autograph,’ the lads bellowed in unison, holding said album up high and shaking it at the figure spotted above. ‘He disappeared and then a few minutes later walked through the glass doors of the Hilton. Well, walked is not really correct; he perfectly glided across the concourse. He was the coolest guy we’d ever seen. He was wearing a white suit with his tight white shirt’s top button undone and a plain black tie.‘ Figured out who it was? A pop superstar dressed so suavely for those times? Sadly his coolness did not complete the exercise. Once he had glided closer and realised Dave and co weren’t girls, pandering for his attention and perhaps a little something else, Bryan Ferry promptly about-faced and retreated back to his penthouse suite.


It was the summer of ’82, a very hot summer Dave recalled on an ABC radio interview, promoting this memoir, that I caught recently in the wee small hours overnight. Coincidentally I was nearing the end of my own perusing of his book. In his responses, Dave regaled the listener with some of the yarns I had just finished reading. The opening chapters had our Dave finishing his exams, the results of which were a long way off in those pre-digital years. But Dave was not worried. The outcome was irrelevant for, you see, he was about to become a rock god himself. He was already in a band on bass/keyboards, such was his outrageous talent. The fabulous Captain Cocoa was destined to be the next hot group to emerge from the beer barns of Melbourne to flaunt their chops on ‘Countdown’, or so he insisted to himself. The rest would be history. Ah yes, heady days indeed.

But until fame came to collect him to lift him up and out of Mitcham, he had endless days to fill in – days when he would move from his trusty BMX to an orange Torana; days when he’d hitchhike from one end of Victoria to another to see a girl who’d whispered in his shell-like, ‘Come up and see me sometime’; days of part time jobs and days of falling in love with a fellow New Romantic. It’s glorious fare, redolent of William McInnes at his best, recalling his own life adventures. I just loved Dave’s book.

Being a stand-up comedian, Dave O’N is expert at spinning stories and his laconic tales stand-up (oh dear) well in print. I sorely miss his fortnightly musings for Friday’s issue of the Age, but cruising my way through this tome was a worthy alternative. There were a few stories I’d encountered before from him, but most of it was fresh to my eyes. In prose worthy of McInnes’ hilarious ‘A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby’, O’Neil lovingly lays out for us all the idiosyncratic peculiarities of his own old man, Kev; as well as the antics he and his brothers inflicted on family and neighbourhood – one even requiring a visitation from the bomb squad.

And we get, through our author, to meet some of the big names of the period – Dave was out and about in the summer of ’82, having close encounters with James Freud, Dave Mason of the Reels (one of my favs too then) and Lindy Morrison, girl drummer for the Go-Betweens. The Models, Uncanny X-Men and the Ted Mulry Gang also feature. Yep – real superstars of the era.


But there were also a few surprises in store for our hero during this summer. These included a close encounter with mortality, courtesy of his first car. He caught on early that young fellows like him weren’t bullet-proof. His matriculation results, when they finally came in the post, a story in itself, were a shock . As for Dave and his band mates, the road really was a long way to the top if you aspire to rock and roll. But they did achieve one aim – an appearance on national television. Nevertheless, through his band he did receive an inkling of just what life did have in store for him.

It is an easy read and I consumed it in a couple of sittings. His breezy style sucked me in – it’s quite beguiling. And I am hoping there’s a ‘Summer of ’83’. Summer of ’84, ‘Summer of ’85’….

The author’s website =