Monthly Archives: July 2019

Fab and Pre-Fab

My goodness, was it really fifty years ago that I espied them on that magazine cover? The foursome were cavorting in striped Edwardian neck-to-knee bathers – or that’s how I remember it. It was on the cover of an edition of TV Week. Did I notice then the deliberate misspelling of the name? Did I make a make a mental note to watch out for them on our black and white tele? It should have been to listen out for them on my transistor radio. Did I buy the mag to read up on them? I doubt it, for I was still at school and pocket money was limited. After all, it was the first time they registered with me. It didn’t matter, in any case, for soon the world would be awash with them and their catchy musical product. They headed a revolution; headed the British Invasion. The Fab Four.

What came first? Was it ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ back in 1966, or their eponymous television show? Again I cannot recall, but excuse the French, even them I recognised the show was crap. But I watched it anyway for, at any moment, they might break out into a mimed rendition of one of their hits. Mimed? The rumour was they could hardly hold a note, let alone play their instruments. We know now that was a furphy for, individually, they were, or became, talented musicians. It is true, initially, they were bought together artificially – manufactured if you like. Prefabricated. The Pre-Fab Four.

monk01

Of course they weren’t a patch on the British stars, but had the advantage of being on our small screens once a week while the show ran (1966 -1968). And, as with the Liverpool quartet, their music has survived.

yes

Yesterday I went with my lovely lady to the cinema to relive the songs of the Beatles; the songs the planet was in thrall of when I was a mere slip of a lad. The film – you know the title – was a tad cheesy, the lead a bit too gormless to really believe in, its ‘wrinkle in time’ plot a clever notion of which more should have been made. In short, it lacked the substance to be a classic. Himesh Patel wasn’t anywhere near, well, Beatlesque. Lily James, the sort of love interest, was gorgeous on screen as always – but falling for him??? Give me a break. Ed Sheeren put in an appearance as himself. Would he be the superstar he is today without the Merseyside’s gift to the world? I wonder. But it was the music; the lyrics that are now embedded in our synapses that a premise of the planet rediscovering the Beatles all over again is possible. The result of Danny Boyle’s direction did not have the magic of ‘18s’ ‘A Star is Born’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. ‘Wild Rose’, this year, in my opinion, leaves it for dead and ‘Rocketman’ was superior too. But I am glad I was there with Leigh yesterday because, for all of its flaws, it still had some of the magic that John, Paul, George and Ringo created way back when.

yes01

And of the Pre-Fab Four – Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith – their legacy remains as well. After the band’s demise in 1971 Mike, who was my favourite, kicked on and had a few hits under his own steam. As with the Beatles, they have lost two members along the way, but Mickey and Mike are, as I write, touring Oz as the Monkees. Paul still sells out arenas these days with Ringo making occasional forays back to the drum kit. ‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘Daydream Believer’ are classics, but the Beatles produced umpteen. Edgier bands followed in the Beatles’ wake – the Stones of course, the Who, Hollies and the list goes on. I loved the Kinks – still do.

monk

Watch any YouTube of McCartney playing his hits today. Look at his audience – old farts like yours truly down to the Millennials – all singing along with equal rapture to the tunes the will survive until the wrinkle in time for real comes along that puts an end to it all.

Trailer to Yesterday = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry9honCV3qc

Columnist Barry Divola on the Monkees = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/i-m-too-busy-singing-to-put-anybody-down-a-monkees-fan-stands-his-ground-20190611-p51wft.html

Remembering Hushx3

Bare-chested; leering, sneering and smirking at the boppers in the front rows, he was Bon Scott-lite. He could strut with the best of them and out lived them all – Bon, Freddie, Hutchence – and is now a granddad. Unlike those three, though, his flame passed quickly and these days he has a quiet existence in regional Victoria, developing board games and believe it or not, for an old rocker, running an embroidery business.

For a time he and his band were a mainstay on ‘Countdown’, also achieving some late recognition this millennium with revival tours. Linked with that iconic show, they reminded rock lovers of my age what we all were doing at six o’clock of a Sunday eve back in the day.

I was a young teacher then. You could be sure that, at any school social, his two signature hits, both covers, could be, along with ‘Nutbush’ and ‘The Time Warp’, assured of getting every kid in the room up and gyrating. ‘Boney Maroney’ and ‘Glad All Over’ rocked out of ‘Countdown’ as well and he even compered the show once or twice. He and the lads were the gaudiest glam-rock crew on the screen, but sadly they were mostly gimmick, little substance. They, though, intrigued me as his two guitarists were both of Asian appearance. One, Les Gock, went on to have a successful career producing in the music industry, as well as working in advertising. If you follow the NRL, he wrote the Canberra Raiders team song.

hush

But it was Keith Lamb who, as the smarmy vocalist, was the focus of the band Hush. Like many of the stars of the local industry during its formative years, his family were ten pound Poms, arriving in Oz in 1970. By mid decade he was riding high in the charts and Hush had the honour of appearing on the first Countdown of the colour era – and they certainly dressed for the occasion. For a while they toured the country frenetically, playing to audiences of a few dozen in country halls to thousands in the big city venues. Grinding out a playlist of sure things, they fired up the punters, getting them on their feet like my North Western Tassie youngsters. I wonder if they ever came our way? And of course, for a taste of the action these local versions of Slade produced, you can find them in all their now faded glory on YouTube. It brings back memories.

And on that internet platform you’ll also find another Aussie legend from almost a decade before, fronting ‘Somebody’s Image’. Just look at him – so baby-faced compared to the grizzled bluesman that he is, today, in the third incarnation of Russell Morris’ career. In those early years the band was taken under their wings by modern times’ national treasures Brian Cadd and Molly Meldrum; Cadd, playing in prominent band ‘The Groop’ and Molly, working for ‘Go-Set’ magazine. The latter lauded them in his columns, enabling them to garner a recording contract. Mr Meldrum famously later produced ‘The Real Thing’ and other hits for Russell during his second coming. I remember his earlier outfit performing their solitary chart success on national tele. They peaked too late for ‘The Go Show’, so it must have been on that Saturday morning institution, Ross De Wylie’s ‘Uptight’.

somebody's imagerussell_morris

Now originally this piece was going to be solely about an earlier musical hero of mine who, like Hush and Somebody’s Image, only had the briefest instant of fame in the spotlight, this time in the US. Recently I connected his link to Mr Morris’s first hit. This guy’s name was Joe South and he wrote said song – it’s name, ‘Hush’.

Joe_South

I had his Greatest Hits album, together with, I suspect, other releases by him. In reality he only had the one chart topper under his own steam, but maybe you’ll recall some of the other ditties he was responsible for, apart from ‘Hush’. Remember ‘Rose Garden’. It was a monster for Lynn Anderson. ‘Down in the Boondocks’ went global for Billy Joe Royal. Many, many, including Elvis, recorded ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’. Brook Benton charted with ‘Don’t it Want to Make You Want to Go Home’. The greats of the time all recorded Joe South songs – Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, James Taylor and dozens more. ‘Hush’ was also Deep Purple’s first charting song in America.

Now, cast your mind back to Tommy Roe’s single ‘Sheila’ if you can. It was South’s guitar you can hear on that, as well as on many of the tracks on His Bobness’ ‘Blonde on Blonde’. Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence’ album also showcased his plucking. South was some guitar picker and that is how he got his start in the music business – as a studio sideman. And his solo hit? ‘The Games People Play’. With that he was popular on the touring circuit for a while, but it didn’t last. He could write for others, but nothing else connected with the public for himself. He did have the voice – I loved it. So what happened? He had come close, so close with that Grammy-winning hit, and then he faded away.

Joe-South-Introspect-Album-Cover

Turns out his brother Tommy’s suicide in 1971 hit him for six. Tommy was his constant companion and a member of his backing band. Joe became clinically depressed as a result, so he did what countless others did back in that era when the black dog came calling – turned to grog and pills. South started not turning up for gigs; many performances were shambolic. He was eventually spurned by promoters. For a while he escaped to Hawaii to try and bat away his woes. Eventually a good woman came into his life and got him going. He started writing songs again and made the occasional public appearance, but his time had passed. With his back catalogue and the royalties it produced he didn’t need to push himself. Joe passed in 2012, outliving his wife Jan by a decade or more. His only offspring, Craig, in turn recently produced a son, whom he named Joseph in memory. Nice touch.

I no longer have that Joe South vinyl album. Who knew those relics would make such a come back. The grooves on it would have been pretty worn out in any case. It was frequently on my turntable back in the 70s, but

Oh, the Games people play now

Every night and every day now

Never meaning what they say

Never saying what they mean

is as true today as it ever was. Hush.

Hush on Countdown = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izNjVAOnbdQ

Somebody’s image – ‘Hush’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HukWnEnigY

Joe South performing ‘The Games People Play’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WJmg9xCukM

Stamp

I found her as I was ambling around an Australian art site on one of my journeys into the ether. She has to be related, doesn’t she? Just hang on a sec while I check out her bio….Yep, she is.

I’ve come out to a few who know me well, but now it’s time to come out to everybody. Yes, I’m one of those throwbacks. I’m owning up to it. I’m a philatelist; a stamp collector. Many would find that sad and shake their heads in derision – that’s why I keep a low profile about it. But I relish my affliction. It’s been in my DNA ever since I was was old enough to first hold my mother’s precious album in my little hands. I was enthralled way back then in the fifties – and now still am. At times, especially in my uni years, I tried to disown it as I perceived it to be a totally uncool diversion, but I soon gave up. I realised I was hooked for life. I’m not sure about making it public but beautiful daughter, I think, has a bit of the bug too and I have great hopes for my granddaughter, the amazing Tessa Tiger. My lovely Leigh’s grandson, Brynner, seems fascinated too. I love buying stamps for them – as they are released from AusPost or from the knowledgeable, affable David at Hobart’s Coin and Stamp Place (110 Collins St).

It will mean much to have someone enthusiastic to pass all those folders of stamps on to.

bd

Now if someone ever asked me what my favourite ever single issue of a stamp was I’d have no hesitation in saying the ‘The Blue Dress’ release of 1990. For some years I used its depiction of a painting featuring a young lady on a beach as a teaching tool with my creative writing students. A large poster of it graced my teaching room. My inspiration for that came in 1991 when prominent author Libby Hathorn edited a collection of stories from some of our country’s leading YA writers – Brian Caswell, Gary Crew, Sophie Masson etc. She asked them to commit to print their take on the girl on the stamp. I used a couple of the stories to motivate my classes before asking them, ‘Who is she, do you think? Tell me about her. What’s her story?’

Turns out writer Libby had more than just an inking about the girl in the picture. It was her own daughter, Lisa, posing for it. The fact that she was on a beach to do so was another selling point for me.

Of course back then I was keen to find out more about the creator of the delightful image. I discovered that the prominent artist of the piece at times hated his job. His love was working on figurative studies of ‘The Blue Dress’ kind, but to fund this he received commissions for portraits, becoming so competent he was even asked to paint the Queen. He turned in quite a beautiful and unusual completed product for this, easily found on-line. His sumptuous figures, mostly gorgeously robed but occasionally nude; sometimes in a home setting, sometimes in the great outdoors, are all quite luminous. His work is instantly recognisable. He was popular with art-lovers from almost the time he took up a brush and had a long career, culminating with his death in 2009.

bd self_portrait

So when I encountered Sophie Dunlop in my wanderings, I did wonder if she was akin to the great Brian – but you already know the answer to that. She was one of his two daughters.

bd01

Although Sophie cites her father as one of the great influences on her own artistic endeavours, the Adelaide dauber has chosen not to follow in his figurative footsteps. Still life is the road she travels, having achieved a great deal of success with it as you too may discern if you check her work out on her site. ‘It’s the beauty I see in fruit, the flowers of my local marketplace and in nature that inspire me. I am attracted to distant lands and the exotic. I relish the intricate details and the uniqueness of the subjects I paint.’ I was almost as drawn to her oeuvre as I am to her father’s.

bd02

So finding her on-line drew me back to Brian Dunlop as well and that special stamp. I know fully well my darling daughter and the extraordinary Tessa will treasure my collections too when the time comes. It’s a part of me that I’ll be passing on.

Brian Dunlop’s website = http://www.briandunlop.com/

Sophie Dunlop’s website = https://www.sophiedunlop.com/

Coin and Stamp Place, Hobart = https://www.tazitiger.com/

Pigeon

It was your former friend’s older brother’s pigeon coops that did it for me, Mark Mordue. Bought back those hazy memories of an old mate, now lost to me in time. It seems to me the ‘sport’ of pigeon racing is from another era. It may still have its devotees, as a backyard hobby of sorts, but are they still sent to the skies to compete with other coops? If that’s the case it’s wide of my orb these days. But way back then I was introduced to this proud pal’s pigeon-house and its denizens. I cannot look back with any degree of confidence, but I suspect each bird had its name with any champion homers treated as feathered royalty. I probably held several of them and cooed my amazement at their feats. This was certainly pre-uni for me – the late Sixties, maybe in my matriculation years, maybe before even those. I know, during the two years post-Grade 10, I had other friends and my interest in girls had awoken. Leaving my regional area for the capital, to train to be a teacher, ended this particular relationship – that is for sure.

pigeon

We’ll call him Rob. It wasn’t his real name. He never went by his real name. He was somewhat older. Now much is lost, but he chose, for whatever reason, to hang out with myself and other younger guys. There were a group of us – a fellow from the housing commission flats down on North Terrace; perhaps my brother and some of his cobbers. It’s all so vague in my synapses. Despite his greater years, it didn’t seem Rob had any interest in the opposite gender. There was never a sign of any girlfriend at that stage. Maybe he was otherwise inclined, but there was never a hint of that either. Did he drive a car? Was that, in turn, our attraction to him? Of course, a mode of transport meant freedom to us who then relied on walking to get from A to B. But I have no memory of there being so. He definitely had a boat which he left on the sand at West Beach for much of the months of warmer weather. He’d row a number of us out to sea in it. No life jackets – and I could hardly swim a stroke. He took us so far out that the sunbathers back on shore were mere dots. On some days we’d fish from it and we also beach netted. On other days we’d take our rods down to the wharves; to Ocean Pier, readily accessible to us in those times. On the seaward side there was a narrow ledge, high above the briny, from which we’d dangle our hooks. Heaven help me if I fell in. Any catch we’d proudly take home for our mothers to cook – even dozy old cod. On occasion we’d toss out couta lines. What ever happened to couta? Like pigeons they don’t seem to figure, but then they were prized.

Tennis was another activity I engaged in with him. There were old bitumen courts behind the school where Burnie Makers now imposes itself. We were all reasonable players and took it quite seriously. It was fun.

Rob’s parents owned one of the town’s corner grocery stores. It’s long gone, as are all the others of my childhood – Redmans, the BP Roadhouse, the Terminus Cafe where my father alighted from driving a Green Coachliner down the highway from Launceston each evening, the West Beach Shop.

pigeon

After reading Mondue’s ‘One for the Boys’ I wondered what became of Rob. When I returned to my home town, to continue my career in education, there was no re-connection – not even an encounter similar to the columnist’s that I can bring to mind. And that would be strange given the relatively small size of the place and the long years I spent in the schools around the locality. But by then I was married and was eventually a father. I never hung around at the attractions of my growing up. Maybe he still did. Did Rob marry and produce offspring? Did he move on to the bright lights of a big city somewhere? And now, these days, is he even still with us? Questions I cannot answer, probably never will. In any case, I trust he’s had a good, fulfilling life.

He was kind to us younger boys. We felt entirely safe in his company. I never smoked, but I seem to think he may of done. I don’t remember any indulging in alcohol or, heaven forbid, drugs. All in all it seemed quite an innocent time without the distractions of today’s digital world. We were out and about, not stuck in front of screens, at least until ‘The Flintstones’ or ‘Bonanza’ came on in the evenings. But was that innocence just a veneer? It may have been for all I know. So long ago now – with so much in front of me. I’d forgotten about Rob until I read that column. I shouldn’t have.

pigeon

Mark Mordue’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/childhood-friendship-is-a-beautiful-thing-that-slips-away-20190514-p51n97.html

Preservation – Jack Serong

My impressive and lovely daughter-in-law manages the company that runs supplies to the Furneaux group of islands in Bass Strait from its base at Bridport on Tassie’s north-east coastline. The hardy and handy crew that ride the flat-bottomed boats to Lady Barron on Flinders Island, as well as a smattering of other locations in these capricious waters, know well that in the past many ships passing through did not make it to their destinations. The area is a shipwreck graveyard. One of the earliest of these was the ‘Sydney Cove’ out of Calcutta.

It’s objective was the eponymous colonial port and outpost, less than ten years old, with a population of only a few thousand souls. Most of those were there against their wills. Many of its inhabitants suffered from a great thirst. The purpose of this ship’s voyage was the business of slaking it. Their carrier had been renamed, back on the Hooghly, as a selling point, but unfortunately the accompanying merchant never had the opportunity to find out if this act was to his financial benefit. After the long voyage south into the Roaring Forties, from India, it was lost just north of Cape Portland on the little isle later to be named Preservation. This was at a time (1797) when the passage and open seas between Van Diemen’s Land and New Holland had yet to be fully mapped. For the survivors of the wreck the only chance of long lasting survival was to make contact with Sydney. A small party would have to find their way north, first by long boat and then by Shank’s pony, for 700 clicks. Their trek to seek assistance for their fellow seafarers back on Preservation Island is one monumental feat for those formative years of European occupation, but is still shrouded in mystery. There is so much we do not know. Why, for instance, did only three of the original party actually make it, found by fishermen crawling along a beach on the outskirts of civilisation as they knew it? Serong deftly adds fictional flesh to the bones that have eked down to us.

preservation

The only remotely accurate historical account of their privations comes from the merchant, 27 year old entrepreneur William Clark. The other survivors to make it to Port Jackson were two seamen, one white and the other an Indian. Serong gives them identities. One is a chancer who has stolen an identity to evolve into Mr Figge. The other is a youthful Bengali servant to Clark, Srinivas.

Governor Hunter, under pressure from both London and the Rum Corps, needs to investigate the veracity of Clark’s tale before he sends off a rescue party to the south. He appoints Lieutenant Joshua Grayling to unravel the stories of the two men and the boy. He discovers enough inconsistencies to drive a truck through – if they had them in the olden days!

Jack Serong’s two previous tomes – ‘The Rules of Backyard Cricket’ and ‘On the Java Ridge’ – had both been winners in my book. The former lawyer does not let his fans down here.

JockSerong_MickSowry

Through Grayling’s interrogations we get to know the interviewees, that is, if they are to be believed. This is especially the case with the two adults, but once the Lieutenant twigs that the servant can speak English, matters become a tad clearer. We also discover much about the officer himself, his ailing wife, who becomes more and more central to the story, as well as the very early days of our oldest white settlement. The original Australians also figure prominently. Pemulwuy is just outside the settlement’s boundaries, waging his rearguard action against the invaders, terrorising the new arrivals. But many of his people are drawn to the new arrivals. These Aboriginals are yet to be clothed and made ‘respectable’, but are ultimately ruined by the foreigners and their prudish religion. The trekkers, battling their way from Eastern Gippsland up to almost their goal, also had the first landholders to contend with. Largely the Gurnai Kurnai and Eora were benign, often proffering help that was sometimes accepted, sometimes not.

How far Serong’s story may be at variance to the actualities of the event we simply do not know. It is historically correct, though, that a sensation was caused by the trio’s arrival in the colony. This focused the minds of the movers and shakers of the time to send Flinders and his mate Bass off to map around the Furneaux Islands and to discover the Strait. It was then opened up to our first viable industry – for better or worse. Sealers and whaling ships were soon operating in those waters.

I await Serong’s next publication with much expectation.

More on the author here = https://www.textpublishing.com.au/authors/jockserong

Early Winter Trio

Going north for any length of time, as much as I relish my second homes up there, I do miss my life by the Derwent. One aspect of that is my cinematic haven, NoHo’s State Cinema. I love going there – and double that if there’s an offering that attracts the attention of my lovely lady as well. For two out of the three I viewed in June, that was the case. It’s always pleasurable to discuss what we’d witnessed over a coffee or on the drive back to Old Bridgewater. And I think, with those two, we agreed that the critics got it wrong.

Both ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Tolkien’ received muted reviews, especially the latter. And in truth neither were top notch, so in that the experts were correct – but they were still a fine way to escape the winter chill for a couple of hours. The Elton biopic was not anywhere near last year’s ‘A Star is Born’, or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, as a production based around song. Most critics I read lauded the musical numbers, but panned the story-line in between. We, Leigh and I, disagreed. Certainly it went further in exposing the singer’s warts than the Queen vehicle did with Freddy’s. Taron Egerton, both vocally and visually, was a great match for the rock superstar. The problem, though, was it needed a performance to match Lady Gaga’s or Rami Malek’s sublime showings to send ‘Rocketman’ into the stratosphere. But, it was more than watchable.

june

Scribe Paul Byrne describes ‘Tolkien’ as ‘…polite, plodding and unconvincing,…’ Having never read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (‘The Hobbit’ was enough of a struggle), with the only one of Jackson’s film adaptations of these great works I have viewed boring me to tears, I didn’t have the same grounding as my Leigh nor, I suspect, most of the rest of the audience. Perhaps that was to this film’s advantage for me. I thought the tale of the author’s early years and the effect of fellowship and the Great War on his life was reasonable enough. It was somewhat ‘writ by numbers’ and never reached the great heights needed to shout its virtues from the rooftops, but it was, well, pleasing. Nicholas Hoult is the renowned man and he is patently one child actor that will not disappear from our screens as he ages. The love interest and future wife, Edith Bratt, was played by Lily Collins well enough to make her father, Phil, proud. The film has been disowned by Tolkien’s heirs, perhaps taking their cues from the critics and its playing around with with the time frame of aspects of the story. You could do worse, though, than giving it some time when it emerges on DVD or a television platform.

june01

Sadly Leigh didn’t accompany me to see what for me was the pick of the bunch. And largely the critics concurred (four stars from Empire Magazine, 89% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s lead, Irish lass Jessie Buckley, has something of the aforementioned Lady Gaga about her. Already noted for some previous standout performances, ‘Beast’ for example, she has a powerful set of lungs on her and she co-wrote many of the songs for ‘Wild Rose’. Many are suggesting this is her breakout performance to a successful career.

june02

Before her prison term Rose-Lynn Harlen (Buckley) was a star on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. No, not the Nashville icon, although that is her dream, but a down at heel bar in Glasgow. One doesn’t normally associate country music (definitely not country and western – remember that!) with the UK, hence scope for furthering her career locally is limited. She has stars in her eyes but has three massive problems – zilch dosh, a criminal record and two kids. After her put upon mother (the always reliable and watchable Julie Walters) also proves to be a blockage to moving to the USofA, her prospects open up when she gains employment, as a cleaner, on the wealthier side of town working for Susannah (the always reliable and watchable Sophie Okonedo). She soon becomes the singing-hopeful’s mentor.

june03

I suppose, with this, it helps to love the genre of music it portrays, but even if you’re an opera buff it would be difficult not to fall into entrancement with the feisty, flawed Emmylou/Dolly/Loretta wannabe. There’s some classic country ditties, as well as some originals. The final song is a corker. ‘Wild Rose’ will be one of the year’s best for this humble scribbler.

Trailer for ‘Rocketman’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3vO8E2e6G0

Trailer for ‘Tolkien’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Girzu81oS8Q

Trailer for ‘Wild Rose’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Ths6k7qXk