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.

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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.

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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 = http://daveoneil.com.au/

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