Category Archives: music

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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’.

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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.

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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

Sex, Chip and Briefly Hugh

Remember ‘About a Boy’? I do, both the book (Nick Hornby) and the 2002 movie. It was the film that stuck most, which is no reflection on the prominent author’s wordsmithery. It was so well done with Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. I recall it, though, mainly because it was the first time many of us realised that Hugh Grant could act; could show some emotion on the cinema screen. Prior to this title he was typecast as the ladies’ man pretty boy. In the offering he plays Will Freeman, initially a layabout fop with no fulcrum to his life, except his father’s royalties to fritter away – and there’s the nub. Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song – an earworm of a ditty that connected enough to become a yuletide classic. Son Will therefore will never have to lift a finger to earn a living – his father’s song being a gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with the story know that it’s a lad coming into his life that changes all that. But the point of the exercise is that it takes only one song to hit and one is set for life.

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Now consider these two tunes that have stood the test of time ‘Angel of the Morning’ and ‘Wild Thing’. Two very disparate offerings, but nonetheless monumental hits. Keep them in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to them. But now the sex bit.

With that – well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If you’re looking for a massive actual dose of it and nudity, you won’t find it here – despite the opening scene. That being said, ‘Sex Education’ is almost totally about the subject, watched by countless others on the Netflix domain. You may be a tad offended by it, but it does take an honest look at youthful coming to grips (sorry) with masturbation, penis-fear and anxiety about the act itself. Asa Butterfield plays Otis who, in the digital age, is trying desperately to lose his virginity. He’s not assisted in this by the fact that his mother – a very comely, confused and wanton Gillian Anderson – is a sex therapist. So the boy knows one or two things, but little more, about the mechanics and can exhibit a common sense approach to the mental aspects. He’s manipulated by wild child Maeve (a bravura performance by Emma Mackey) into becoming, guess what? Yes, his school’s very own on campus sex fix it man, despite his lack of actually ever actively participating in the process to its culmination. Still, she espouses his expertise in all its facets. If this all sounds marginally naff, just give it a go – and like its legion of fans you may also find yourself enchanted by its good writing, positive vibe and warm examination of the human condition. I loved it – and it bought me to Chip, with the assistance of my beautiful writerly daughter Kate.

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Over one of our regular city brunches she asked if I had ever heard of Chip Taylor. I replied in the affirmative that I had, but only in the vaguest way. When I in turn inquired what her interest was, she told me she had picked up on one of his songs on the soundtrack to ‘Sex Education’, emphasising how much it appealed to her. Back home I duly YouTubed it and yep, it was a ripper. But we’ll go there later. Let’s concentrate on the singer/songwriter for a while.

Now here’s a list:-

Wild Thing’ – a hit for the Troggs, Jimi Hendrix, the Runaways and the Muppets.

Angel of the Morning’ – a hit for Merrilee Rush, Juice Newton and Chrissy Hynde.

I Can Make it With You’ – a hit for Jackie de Shannon.

Try, Just a Little Bit Harder’ – a hit for Janis Joplin

Enough to live on for several lifetimes, I’d say.

Now, add into the mix that Chip is also the brother of Jon Voight so therefore is the uncle of Angelina Jolie.

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The man was born James Wesley Voight in Yonkers, New York in 1940. Originally he wanted to become a professional golfer, but teed off instead with ‘Wild Thing’, so it was goodbye to the golfing greens. He really wanted his own singing career in music and although he had some minor success, becoming a rock god eluded him and he turned to professional gambling. With his weathered voice he has now found his niche and a cult following (as well as a Norwegian Grammy nomination) on his return to the stage, back in the 90s. As for his ‘Sex Education’ contribution, here I feel I must state that I am not usually a fan of a certain word on the airwaves and in music – but it just seems, well, appropriate for once. It certainly caught Katie’s ear and my attention, did ‘Fuck All the Perfect People’. With its exposure on a high rating series, it has purchased for Taylor another signature song, this time one for his second coming.

To be or not to be
To free or not to free
To crawl or not to crawl
Fuck all those perfect people!

To sleep or not to sleep
To creep or not to creep
And some can’t remember, what others recall
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I’m not talking about you!

To stand or not to stand
To plan or not to plan
To store or not to store
Fuck all those perfect people!

To drink or not to drink
To think or not to think
Some choose to dismember, you’re rising your thoughts
And fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

To sing or not to sing
To swing or not to swing
(Hell) He fills up the silence like a choke on the wall
Fuck all those perfect people!

To pray or not to pray
To sway or not to sway
Jesus died for something – or nothing at all.
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

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Check it out on-line – his performance of it – or, even better, treat yourself to ‘Sex Education’. A gem of a series produces a cross reference to a gem of a performer with a gem of a tune

Listen to the above tune here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt9GBafFzjE

Trailer for ‘Sex Education’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o308rJlWKUc

Frank, Iris and Paul

Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together, all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go

The singer from Down Under had wowed the audience that evening at the Liverpool Empire, treating them to his string of UK hits. His finale was meant to be the Number 1 song that made his reputation, but when the applause died down he had a brief word with his backing band and announced there was another tune he wanted to croon. It was a Jim Reeves classic. As he reached the last line of the chorus, the singer stepped to the edge of the stage and pointed down into the front stalls to a young man, holding the hand of a lass who was slunk down into her seat as far as she could possibly go, as if she wished to disappear.

Well she was just seventeen
You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare
So how could I dance with another,
Oh, when I saw her standing there

For a while George Harrison was unlucky in love. Most of us know the tale of how his wife, Patti Boyd, was stolen from him by another rock god, Eric Clapton. But a decade earlier George also lost out in love to a muso even closer to home.

Iris Caldwell was born in 1945 into a working class Liverpudlian family. The only advantage she had over thousands like her was attractiveness, vivacity and an elder brother who possessed some musical talent. Alan, her sibling, had taken the stage name Rory Storm and put together a back-up group, the Hurricanes. They had some success in the early sixties. Their drummer was a young fella by the name of Richard Starkey, although most called him Ringo. One evening another lad came calling to the Caldwell home, hoping to entice Rory to allow him to join the band due to his guitar skills. He failed in that aim, but gained the affection of his sister instead. In fact, George Harrison gave Iris her first romantic kiss. The relationship never advanced much more than that, but they were together for several years. George was to retain a soft spot for her for years to come.

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Their lives came together again when she was seventeen – he a member of a band trying to make headway in the burgeoning Liverpool scene. By this time Iris was an established dancer and was booked to demonstrate a new sensation, the Twist, at a New Brighton dance hall. Providing the music for her, on this occasion, was a live band, the up and coming Beatles. George wasn’t quick enough off the mark this time around. In fact, it was his fellow band mate, Paul McCartney, who asked her out on a date – to see them perform at an upcoming engagement for a television show. Paul was already smitten even before that occurred and had quickly written a song stating so, commencing with her age.

In the end their relationship lasted a couple of years, George seething with jealousy. It was during this period that Paul produced tickets to the Empire to see the hottest singer in the land – but there was something Paul had no idea about when it came to his Iris.

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Overnight radio often delivers up gems to further investigate during the waking hours. A Rod Quinn interview with 81 year old Frank Ifield was one such. He told the tale which set in motion the notion for this piece. And many of you of a certain age, no doubt, had already worked out that he was the Aussie vocalist up there up on stage that night at the Empire pointing the finger The thing was that he too was in a relationship with the comely Iris.

In Paul she had a young bloke who still hadn’t really made a name for himself – whereas she had in the world of dance. So when she met Ifield, both performing in pantomime, that great British tradition, in, of all places, Stockton on Tees (in ‘Dick Whittington’), she felt she was onto someone who was more her equal. He had a string of hits to his name – ‘I Remember You’, ‘She Taught Me To How to Yodel’, ‘The Wayward Wind’ and ‘Confessin’. He was soon to be the biggest name in the land, but it is ironic, in light of this story, it would not be long before his style of music would be submerged forever by the brash pop coming out of Liverpool with one PMcC to the fore. But that was in the future. Then Paul’s idea of a night out was a pint in the pub followed by fish‘n’chips. The Australian beau, on the other hand, had sophistication down pat. With him she could dress up in her best glad rags for he took her to all the flash places to down expensive tucker, accompanied by Mateus Rosé – the height of sophistication. She had a strong idea that Paul was playing around. That didn’t overly concern her as long as she could do the same. Paul, it seems, had different ideas, as did Frank.

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When the truth came out that evening at the Liverpool music hall, Frank was obviously not impressed, so their liaison was terminated. One night Paul and Ringo, driving back from a show, ran over a dog. When Iris found out that the duo thought it was all a bit of a joke, she let rip and that was the almost end of Paul. At various stages George thought he might be in with a chance of getting together again with her, but Paul always wormed his way back into her good books and such was the case on this occasion. George was due to call on her, but she couldn’t resist the temptation to see her other love interest perform. Knowing Paul was tight with his money, they would be in the cheap seats in any case. Wrong. Paul lashed out and that was that. But she and the Beatle, whose popularity was growing, didn’t last long after that. Some time, later on from severing ties, Iris’ mum received a call from Paul saying that he had written a song for her daughter. Could she ensure that Iris watched its first performance on the tele? She duly passed on the message and Iris did as asked.

Why she had to go, I don’t know
She wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

Paul could keep a grudge too. One day Frank noticed Paul, in a group of people, coming toward him at some music venue or other. When the Beatle spotted the hitster he yelled something to the fact he had intentions of terminating the Australian’s life. His mates restrained him, but what if? Rock’n’roll history could had been changed forever.

At one time, just as the Beatles were on the cusp of fame, they were booked to support Ifield. They were booed off stage – for being too loud! All that was about to change.

Frank had hits in the US too. On a trip there to support sales his label asked him to record an album. He didn’t have enough new material to support that. Capitol requested twelve songs, he only had eight. The project was shelved – or so he thought. After his return to the UK his manager informed him that he had had a new ‘copulation’ – he meant compilation – record released in the US, his eight tracks plus four from a new band about to make their mark – you guessed it. Beatles again. Frank thought his manager’s slip extremely funny considering his relationship with Iris. That release, if you can find a copy, is now worth a princely sum.

At the highest point of his career the Aussie songster was asked by the Palace to appear in a Royal Command Performance with the Queen Mum in attendance. As it was being televised, Frank was ordered not to yodel as it was thought too old-fashioned and his career would be ruined, despite having hits with his prowess at the art. Frank was in a quandary when her Royal Highness sent him a note saying yodelling was exactly what she expected from him during his time on stage. What was a poor man to do? He yodelled!

In 1969 Iris met another muso, also a lead singer in a band. He went by the name of Shane Fenton. They married and later on Shane changed his stage moniker – to Alvin Stardust.

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And here’s a little touch of nostalgia just to finish it all off. During their time together, after a long day playing guitar and singing his lungs out trying to get his band established, Paul would often visit Iris’ home afterwards. He got on very well with her mother (later to meet a very sad end) and she helped him relax. What could be more soothing than rolling up your trouser legs and getting your girlfriend’s mother to gently brush your leg hairs? True. Would I lie to you?

Warwick and I Against the World

At last I’ve found someone who thinks like me – but is it now time to confess?

Before I really get into it, I must make clear that, unlike with Mr McFadyen, I am only half bad. For, you see, I love Freddie and I love Queen. Perhaps, too, my musical tastes have always been limited, but ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the song, not the movie I hasten to add, has driven me to distraction from 1975, on its release, till the present day – well, almost. It’s a song that seems as hard to escape today as it was back in those late seventies times into the eighties. It had another resurgence in the nineties, after the death of the man who can strut like no other. Yes, I hated the never seeming-to-end ditty – its changing of gears, unlike with my favourite of all times, ‘Layla’, seemed discordant, a sacrilege to my aural senses. And don’t get me started on the lyrics – those nonsensical combinations of words that must have been conjured under the influence of something or other. And when the film clip arrived on ‘Countdown’, I almost reached for the off button to that iconic show.

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Down through the years my dislike of ‘BR’ has served me well at dinner parties, though, I must admit. Whenever the conversation lags I have only to throw in, ‘I think ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ must have to be the worst song ever to assail the airwaves.’ Then I sit back and wait for the horrified response, with the next half hour or so being spent by the assembled guests trying to convince me of its grandeur and exalted place in the rock pantheon. I, of course, always refuse to be swayed. Love doing that.

Queen At Live Aid

But, don’t tell anyone in case they have a chair at some sit down with me in the future, that I’m slowly coming around to see it does have a smidgen of something. Thanks to the movie and a lovely gift from my beautiful Leigh to see a stage production of ‘We Will Rock You’ recently, I am less strident in my abhorrence of it. It’ll never rate for me up there with the other Queen classics, but now I find I can at least sit through a rendition. And I guess I’ve finally realised, unlike WMcF, that 1.6 billion streamers can’t be totally wrong. One does soften in old age and after all, it was/is Freddie’s signature.

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For a while, with Rami Malek, we had Freddie back again. I have lived long enough to witness most of the great front men from Buddy to Bon to the Boss – but none come with a within a bull’s roar to Freddie for pure theatre. He was a one off.

Warwick McFadyen’s article = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/is-there-something-i-m-missing-bohemian-rhapsody-leaves-me-cold-20190101-p50p2e.html

Melissa’s Courtney

She’s spunky, feisty, boganish – so much so she’d pass muster this side of Hobart’s Flannie Line. In fact, her formative years were partly spent in this city, although she was born in Sydney in 1987, growing up on the Northern Beaches. When she was 16 her family moved to Hobs. Listening to Darren Hanlon and Paul Kelly inspired her to try songwriting herself and learn guitar. 2011 saw a move to Melbourne and she started to make inroads into that burb’s music scene. And as we say, with her winning the gong for Best Rock Album at this year’s ARIAs, the rest is history. I think she’s amazing; her two album releases – this year’s ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ and 2015’s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ – fantastic. Her lyrics are just so good. Courtney Barnett is proudly gay, as she should be; in a relationship with fellow muso Jen Cloher.

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But it’s not the ARIAs this piece is focused on, but more that other award ceremony that raises great interest, the Archibalds. Yep, she was up for that too. ‘Courtney and I are friends. I’m a big fan of her music with its mix of rock, folk, indie and grunge. I also love her guitar playing, and see her as a strong representative of the positive shift happening for women in Australian music.’

When I went into the ether to check out the finalists for the famous artistic award, one image in particular caught my eye. Initially that was for its in-your-face colour and its background design. It took me a second glance to realise the sitter was Courtney. For the artist, she was considerate of two factors when designing how she would portray the increasingly popular rockster. Her ‘…music and witty lyrics are quite colourful, so I have used a lot of colour. The background is inspired by 1930s Australian art deco paintings.’ The result speaks for itself.

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Like her subject, Melissa Grisancich was born in ‘87 and is Melbourne based. She cites as her influences Henri Rosseau, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, To my eye her rendering of Ms Barnett was one of the standouts in the competition eventually won by Yvette Coppersmith’s self portrait. I also liked the depictions of Jimmy Barnes (Jamie Preisz), which won the Packing Room Prize, as well as Guy Pearce’s (Anne Middleton). So in a round about way Courtney drew me to Melissa and her works. They’re daubings that would brighten the dullest of moods.

Melissa Grisancich

The artist has been exhibiting since 2011, so her career also kicked off around the same time as Courtney’s. She commenced working in oils, but has now moved on to acrylics. As well as having favourite artists, she is also drawn to old record covers, street art, retro movie posters and vintage Soviet photography to provide stimulus to get her imagination going. Melissa’s bright product, as well as appearing on canvas, also graces clothing and fabric. 2017 saw her first showing, entitled ‘Moonshine’, outside Oz, in a San Francisco gallery.

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I like her artistic boldness and hopefully, with her portrait of the musician turning heads, she will gain greater recognition for her distinctive style. Maybe her career will also take off internationally like that of the female rockstar.

An interview with the artist = https://lifewithoutandy.com/featured/mad-love/interview-past-personal-come-life-melissa-grisancich/

Courtney’s website = https://courtneybarnett.com.au/

Back in My Day Too

It was ‘Juliet Naked’. I was sitting in the cinema, not too long ago, watching not too bad a film, co-incidentally in part about a bloke totally obsessed with music nostalgia, when ‘Sorry’ thumped out of the screen. Perhaps, from a UK film, you’d expect ‘Friday on My Mind’ if they had their hearts set on an Easybeats’ classic, not ‘Sorry’. But there it was – ‘Sorry’. I was, I must admit, surprised and strangely delighted by the more obscure choice. In a flash my mind was off the movie, picturing Stevie Wright in a grainy old film clip (check it out on YouTube), fronting his mates, belting it out for all he was worth. It was from a concert. Before or after they went off to London to seek fame and fortune? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. My synapses has it replete with screaming girls attempting to out yell the tune, as they could back in the day. Before the movie dragged me back into its grasp there I was, a callow teenager back in my home town, my life before me, watching those migrant long-hairs on an old black and white Astor, or was it a Healing?

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Songs do that to you, Andrew Johnstone reports in his recent opinion piece for Lume magazine, a freebie to be picked up around town on a regular basis. I’m not into Spotify or Bluetooth or digital downloading – I’m an old fashioned, go out and buy the CD kind of fella. But I adore YouTube and as an appreciator of rock from the past or from the present, I think it’s the best thing since sliced cheese. Mostly I’m an old retro-fart I know, but I am not totally immersed in the product of yesteryear alone. I love the aforementioned platform as, in part, it assists me to make wonderful discoveries from today’s crop of talented performers. Two new finds I have made in 2018 have been Ryan Downey and Jack Rivers – although I had a little non-YouTube assistance with the latter.

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But it’s the old stuff, unsurprisingly, that brings back memories of other times, other places. If I hear ‘Bombora’ or a Beach Boys ditty I go back to my years of sun-baking; of baking myself to a crisp, on some beach or other, when I was in my pomp – ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Sloop John B’, ‘Do It Again’, as well as, of course, ‘Good Vibrations’. But, as Andrew says, it’s all false nostalgia. I was never a member of the surfing set. I rarely did more on a beach, as far as water is concerned, than dip my big toe in. ‘Waterloo Sunset’ or ‘Margaritaville’ take me back to my travelling years, although in truth I largely hated London and never went near a Caribbean island – and I am never likely to now. Graeme Connor’s ‘A Little Further North’ gives me goosebumps every time it comes on my CD player as it is symbolic of a cherished dream that never occurred – not that I have any regrets these days. ‘Dive for Your Memory’ (the Go Betweens); Clapton’s classic Layla or the Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’ take me to thoughts of all the women I’ve loved, in various ways, down through the decades. And with ‘Wonderful Tonight’ up comes the beautiful lady I share my life with these days. And those songs are just the tip of the iceberg.

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We are, us baby-boomers, a lucky generation to have so much to choose from. I was around when JO’K and Elvis reigned and today we have Lady GaGa and Johnstone’s Mumford and Son. How good is that!

Lume magazine’s website = http://lumemag.net/

Jimmy

I’m witness to the fact that Jimmy’s voice is still in great nick. As for his body and mind – well that is another story. But, he assures us, both are on the up and up – he’s a hell of a lot better than he used to be. But, he also confides, he still has a way to go. By rights, with what he’s done to himself, he should be gigging with Bon, Michael H, James F and Billy T up there beyond the silver lining. They were all mates of his along the journey. He tells the tale of how they were wheeling him out of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, after he had recovered from his heart op, just as they were wheeling Billy in to die. That’s salutary for you, but not salutary enough for JB. Michael Hutchence and James Freud both went the same way. Jimmy tried it too with a dressing gown cord, but he was too grog/drug addled to succeed. He recalled nothing of the attempt the morning after except the cord hanging from a hook, noose in place. It was searing stuff from the rock legend; he was laying it on the line for us, imploring the men in the audience to do what he eventually did if any of us found ourselves in a similar dire straight – seek therapy. He reckons it saved him, that and his loved ones gathering around him – at least three of whom he didn’t know for decades he fathered.

There was one picture he bought up on the screen, taken at his lowest point, around the turn of the millennium, that really shocked me. That wasn’t Jimmy! He looked like a cross between a scrawny Johnny Rotten and an even more wasted Keith Richards – dead-eyed and sunken cheeked. Just terrible.

I was gifted a ticket to this stop on Jimmy Barnes’ tour, which forms a parallel promotion to his best selling book of the same name, ‘Working Class Man’. It’s a follow up to his mega-selling ‘Working Class Boy’. To my shame I must admit that I haven’t read his tomes, but daughter Katie has and she reckons they’re exceptionally good and as with his show, he doesn’t hold back on his demons. It isn’t all bleak and black – there is much levity to be had with many of his yarns as well, but, at times, you could hear a pin drop when he was relating the pitifulness of his condition at its nadir. What this man subjected himself to! But he makes us laugh too – there was the time, for instance, when he and John Farnham got together to record a duet. He reckons his singing pal is no angel, particularly when he gets on his favourite tipple of cheap brandy, but he is only a two pot screamer, not a seasoned guzzler like his Scottish self. Farnham became so inebriated that Jimmy, doing what all good mates do, had to bundle him in a cab to get him home. Half an hour later Jimmy receives a call from the cab company stating that the Voice was so far gone he had no idea where he lived. He reckons the Angels were soft as they so loved playing frisbee when on tour. One of the best tales was the unlikely genesis of ‘Working Class Man’, the song, itself.

Don’t go to this performance expecting the legendary front man to churn out Chisel hits, or those from his solo career. We get a taste, but mostly he belts out other tunes that have been significant along the way. On this night he took us through his history, from the formation of the Chisel to the present day, culminating with the time he finally listened to his family, mates and his body and accepted help. It seems this was just in time. He describes it as the first time he stopped running away and made a courageous decision.

The Hobart stop is an early one on a tour that doesn’t conclude till he reaches his home city of Adelaide on June 10th. It’ll take some amount of stamina and fortitude for the ol’ fella to get through it, but he does pace himself far more than what would be possible out front of the band. You wonder why he feels the need to do it? Is it part of his therapy? To get all that bad shit out of his system by telling as many as he can not to fall into the same traps as he did – and certainly, to do something about it if we have. The message he gives is crystal clear. He pulls no punches. He seemingly needs to drill it into every male he confronts from up there on the stage.

The Glaswegian Belter is a marvel and I am grateful to my son and his beautiful wife for their generosity in allowing me to be in the presence of one of my musical heroes for an evening. Cheers Rich and Shan

Jimmy’s tour info = https://www.frontiertouring.com/jimmybarnes

Robert and Greg

Grant and I – Robert Forster    Tex – Tex Perkins

They fronted two of my favourite Aussie bands. They are two legendary outfits – even if, with one in particular, the legend outweighs the legacy. Their bands are not top rung – never came within close proximity to the international sales of, say, AC/DC, INXS, Little River Band, Crowded House and certainly never had the following of Cold Chisel or the Oils. They weren’t perhaps even second tier, but the Go-Betweens and the Cruel Sea are loved by thousands and their respective auras only enhance as the decades pass. And, as to be expected, what you see on stage is what you get reflected in the style of the two books. ‘Grant and Me’ is written by the bombastic, eccentric and cross-dressing co-lead of the band Brisbane City Council, appropriately, named a bridge after. Call it somewhat high-brow if you will. Tex Perkins – only his mum calls him Greg – is the other author, assisted by acclaimed journalist Stuart Coupe. He gets his story sufficiently down there and dirty. Call it low brow.

Forster makes the Go-Betweens sound greater than the sum of the whole. In their first incarnation they were, at best, just staying one step ahead of struggle-town, even succumbing to the enormity of the task on occasions. They never really made it then – just had glimpses of what could be if they could hold their shit together. They rarely did for an extended period. They were the real deal, but the cards they were dealt always weren’t quite the full hand. Commercial success, with the exception of only one certifiable hit (‘The Streets of Your Town’) didn’t really come their way then. The hard graft of paying their dues eventually caught up with them as, in Fleetwood Mac style, relationships tore the group asunder in the end.

Along with that other unique outfit, the Saints, the Go-Betweens were a product of Joh’s Brisbane – Hicksville in other words. Both bands attempted to take their music to the world with shambolic optimism, only to return to Oz with their tail between their legs. Both collapsed in the after-story. Forster’s band did reform around the turn of the millennium, but things were still strained between the personnel, even if their approach was far more professional. They had some success and the future again seemed full of potential, but all that was snuffed out with Grant McClennan’s untimely passing in 2006. Forster struggles on as a solo act and wit about town, still, no doubt, a legend in his own lunchbox. I like the man and I buy his quality albums, but for all the gilding of the lily, the story of that terrific band is one of what might have been. But still their songs were quite sublime – and such treasures as ‘Cattle and Cane’, ‘Lee Remick’ (Forster meets her), ‘Quiet Heart’ and my favourite, ‘Dive For Your Memory’ are timeless.

And, in a lovely segue, Tex Perkins writes of seeing Forster and his mates performing at the Exchange Hotel, Fortitude Valley when he was a young buck, back in ’81. Tex is pure rock’n’roll; perhaps our answer to Keith Richards. He’s had a life, but has never aspired to the glory, unlike Forster – or that’s how he would have us believe it. He is perhaps better known these days for presenting an authentic Johnny Cash tribute to the punters all around Oz. But he is, as well as was, so much more. I’ve seen his impersonation. It’s great and he is touring the land again as I write with it. Tex, living up to his name, has never hid his love of country music, despite fronting some of the best pub-rock bands Australia has produced. He writes candidly of his days with Tex, Don and Charlie, the Dark Horses, the Beasts of Bourbon (a new album on the way) and the one that I’m enamoured of, the Cruel Sea. We even had his take on the supposed piss-take that was the Ladyboyz.

My entry into the joys of Tex came in reverse fashion – with the Cash show, then a duet he did on RocKwiz with Clare Bowditch, ‘Fairytale of New York’, that made me sit up and take notice. Then I discovered the Cruel Sea and I was sold on him. As you would expect, after years in the industry, Perkins tells some great yarns, especially about close encounters with rock royalty that didn’t quite go to plan – Mick J, PJ Proby, Kurt Cobain etc. Tex is as much about the swagger as anything else and that is the way in which this very readable tome is composed.

Along with Forster, he has earnt his place in the local rock pantheon, but unlike the former, I bet he couldn’t really give a dam – or so he would have us believe.

And as to which I relished the most? Well, Tex wins hands down. Telling it how it was will always win hands down.

The Blue Room’s Year in Music 2017

In 2017 I purchased 22 new release albums on CD – I’m still old school you see. None disappointed, but the ten I’ve listed, mostly not meant to be in any particular order, were the stand outs for me. I’ve placed Pete Murray at the top of the list though. His laid-back summery super-cool sounds never cease to remind me of my favourite season of the year

Pete Murray – ‘Comancho’


Laura Marling – ‘Semper Femina’


The Waifs – ‘Ironbark’


London Grammar – ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’


Colin Hay – ‘Fierce Mercy’
Mick Thomas – ‘These are the Songs’
Various – ‘Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon’
Josh Ritter – ‘Gathering’
Holly Throsby – ‘After a Time’
XX – ‘I See You’