Category Archives: music

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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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.

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, it is almost totally about sex, 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.

Paul-McCartney

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’

Stevie

She did it in a rush. She was trembling, her fingers shaking as she undid various buttons and unhooked clips. Me? I was gobsmacked. Off came her clothes. All of them. She had barely followed me in the door of my hotel room and there she was, completely bare with arms spread wide. I’d hoped that something akin to what suddenly occurred may have happened down the track that night. For me there was no rush. She obviously noticed me looking at her like a stunned mullet. ‘Well,’ she ventured, ‘I am forty-two. This body has very much seen better days. Had I waited till later on, I might have lost my nerve and then where would I be? So, mister, here I am, warts and all. If you don’t like what you see, I’ll put them all back on and call a taxi for home. Just say the word.’

Stevie looked at me defiantly. After I didn’t utter anything – I was speechless – she came across to where I was, put her arms around me, pressed herself against me and whispered, ‘I will go, you know, if you don’t want me.’

She had her answer soon enough. I may have been initially taken aback. But at forty two she still looked pretty darn good to me that surprising evening, all those years ago, in 2004. She still does, where we are now, in 2017. But Stevie and me, well we go way, way back – back to the mists of time. I first laid eyes on her in 1977 – aeons ago. It was at school – Camberwell High in Melbourne, to be exact. That’s forty years ago now. My Stevie, gifted back to me by a chance meeting on a tram and a mutual love of a song. I hope you’ll enjoy our story.

Of course Stevie isn’t my love’s real name. She’d kill me if she discovered I was blogging this. Well that’s my intention anyway. We’ll see how it turns out. Perhaps, like her fear that auspicious night, I’ll lose my nerve. It’s our story and I know I have to be careful with it, but I want to write it down. I’m not getting any younger. If I lose my marbles one day, well, I’ll have it at my fingertips to remind me of my remarkable Stevie, the woman I am now blessed to live with; to share my life with. So here is how we came to be.

Let’s return to that wonderful reconnecting we engaged in back in ’04, to that night of surprises. After the concert we headed to Hardware Street for some late night tucker. Most of the restaurants were still going and we just ordered some mains and a wine in the first likely establishment we came to. At some stage I was going to pop the question – something to the effect about whether she’d like to share a cab with me back to Southbank, where my room was, in one of the high rises there. In fact, we had barely started when she broached the subject with me, ‘Just let me get this clear. You are expecting me to come back to your room after this, aren’t you?’
‘Well yes, the thought did occur to me.’
‘Thank heavens. I didn’t want to start eating all nervous about your intentions. Now I can relax and enjoy the meal. And just for your information, mister, yes I would love for you to invite me back for a coffee. The sooner the better.’

The disrobing on her part, once back there, was brave, I later thought. I know it must have taken some doing given how nervous she was, although she was a tad lubricated by a tasty wine at our repast earlier, as I was. I was due to fly back to Sydney the following day and Stevie spent it all with me – more about that anon – until I was due to leave for Tullamarine. I promised to return to her as soon as I could see my way clear. She replied that she wasn’t going anywhere and she had my details to keep in touch. I was back down the following weekend.

We’re excited, Stevie and I. They’ve just announced when the tickets go on sale They’re touring. It may well be their last hurrah with the line-up that once took the world by storm. For old time’s sake we’ve decided to go to Melbourne to see them – and stay in the same hotel as that night. I wonder if we can get the same room? And, even better, there will be none of this on-line nonsense to get said tickets. I have my connections. Boy do I have my connections. And to think, without those guys, who will again be up on stage in 2018, I may never have reconnected with Stevie.

That following weekend, the one back last decade, rushed as it was, sealed the deal. That chance meeting the previous year, towards the end of ’03, caused us to make a pact to see the band when they toured in the new year. And then, and then, ….no, lets start where the story begins before we get to that. As I said, Stevie and I first encountered each other in our high school days.

Back in ’77 I was 17, she 15. I played guitar, lead guitar. She had a voice, a very fine voice. And for a brief six months or so our paths crossed for the first time – they weren’t to do so, if I have my maths right, for another twenty-six years.

Mr Shaw was my music teacher. He started teaching me the guitar when he discovered my infatuation with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. I took to it like a duck takes to water and for a while there it totally dominated my life. Every spare minute was given over to practice. Old Mr Shaw reckoned I was a natural, but a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears went into attaining that aptitude, let me tell you. The music teacher soon formed a band around my eventual prowess and we belted out covers for school socials and various student parties around Camberwell. By the time we were in Year 11 we were a fairly tight unit and making a little dosh around the local scene as well. Danny was on bass, Kev on rhythm with Charlie on drums. The latter doubled as our vocalist as he had the strongest set of pipes, but found keeping the beat going and screeching out the lyrics meant he sometimes got himself into a tangle, but generally it worked. He was fine when a song really rocked, but when something slower was called for he was pretty hopeless. Charlie was also making a bit of a name for himself around the traps for being wild. He was into booze and possibly drugs –I wasn’t into either, but as long as he turned up ready to play I didn’t care. He always did. Why am I telling you so much about Charlie? You’ll see soon enough. He, as it turned out, was the only one from the band who did make a bit of a name for himself musically down through the decades. He was regarded as being reliable and not too shabby behind the drum kit, being a go to man, for a while there, for people such as James Reyne, and Darryl Braithwaite whenever they went on tour. He still drums, off and on, around Melbourne these days even though he’s getting on a bit. Aren’t we all? To be fair, as well as with the utmost humility, I was the one most likely to make a real name for myself out of us group of Camberwell lads, but life took me in another direction.

When it became a hit, the song, so unlike what I usually gravitated towards, stuck – I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to add it to the band’s repertoire, but patently none of us had the voice to do it justice. We knew, though, it was the perfect song when it came time for something slower, when those on the floor required a little body on body with their dance partners. In short, we needed a female voice. And Mr Shaw came up trumps with this too once he knew of my rapture with the tune. And the song has lasted down the decades to become it’s author’s signature show-stopper, whenever she tours solo or with the group. By now I suspect you are putting two and two together given dates, the name I’ve allocated to she who should not be named and other clues. Yes, of course, it’s ‘Rhiannon ‘.

And the girl the music teacher found for us – yep, she became my Stevie. But back then, well let’s just say it took more than a while in coming. And if I was born to play guitar, the Year 9 girl was born to sing. Stevie Nicks had a celestial quality that her namesake lacked, but my Stevie had a powerful voice for more ballady stuff and, it turned out, loved backing up Charlie with the rockier tunes. It was evident that she was a good fit for us, although initially she could only perform at school events, being somewhat younger than the rest of the band. Despite this, it was fair to say I was smitten not only with her voice, but also by the girl herself, from the get-go.

As hard as it might seem for you now who know me, back then I was a quiet, reserved chap who only really felt alive when on stage. I had a long standing battle with acne that took until well into my twenties to get on top of. And it took until the same stage of my life to have any sort of girlfriend at all. Despite my high profile in the place, I wasn’t amongst the cool set at Camberwell – unlike Charlie. And guess what? The younger version of Stevie wasn’t backward in making her feelings known for Charlie. She seemed to relish the fact he was a bit of a lad – and pretty soon they were an item, one of the school’s golden couples. The only time I got to spend with her alone was when, on occasions, we caught the same tram trundling down the hill into the centre of Camberwell. Occasionally I’d invite her to have a coffee with me and occasionally she’d accept, allowing me to buy her a milkshake. But all she ever wanted to talk about was Charlie. So really I stood no chance – even more so with what my parents had in store for me.

And the relationship between Charlie and Stevie stood the test of time, as later I was to discover. Turns out they eventually married, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the months that I knew her, in my dreams and even in my waking hours, I plotted and plotted, trying to figure out how I could convince Stevie I was the better catch. But like me with her, she was completely gone over him – and in his own way, it was reciprocated, even if at times I thought he treated her badly.

As for the song, well ‘Rhiannon’ soon became our most requested number, thanks to Stevie making it her own. We’d often perform it several times a night. Sometimes, just sometimes, it sounded almost as good as when the Mac did it. Couples out on the dance floor would entwine their bodies around each other to the tune – the teachers present having a hard time keeping a lid on it all so they didn’t become too heated. It saddened me we couldn’t perform it when we attained an engagement outside of school. I do look back on those times fondly, despite my lack of success wooing Stevie. But, at the end of the year, came the bombshell. My dear Dad received a promotion in the public service. He was being transferred to Canberra and I would complete my schooling in that city. My future lay, not with music, or so I thought, but with a law degree at ANU. So my farewell to the band was at the Year 12 leavers dinner – a gig without Stevie. I was not to see any more of her for decades.

Yes, it is starting to drag out, our saga, isn’t it? Well, to cut a long story short, a chance meeting in a pub with Michael Gudsinski caused me to throw in my dreary job in a Canberra legal practice and join him at Mushroom. He wanted someone with legal expertise on his team, so I was back with music in a way. For a time I was based down in Melbourne. I was still single so I did ask around my few remaining contacts from those school days as to what became of Stevie. I discovered that she and Charlie were hitched with a child – so that’s as far as I took it. By this stage my love life had improved, but nothing long-term came of any of my relationships. Perhaps I chose the wrong type of women – usually they were as career obsessed as I was and none were prepared to put me above their ambitions. It was very early on that Michael G offered me a position in his Sydney office, with an improved salary, so I could enjoy the harbour city’s lifestyle – which I did so in spades. I admit a few years up there saw me succumb to what I had disdained with Charlie all those years ago, but by the time Stevie and I re-discovered each other I had sorted myself out and despite my advancing years, I was rather a good catch, if I say so myself. Still, I couldn’t get a relationship to stick. On the other hand, business-wise, eventually I was confident enough and had enough connections to strike out on my own. I became a booking agent too, concentrating on tours to regional centres by domestic acts. Occasionally I’d come across Charlie and he seemed more settled. When ever I inquired after Stevie the refrain was always ‘She’s fine.’ As it turns out – she wasn’t.

But still, with me there was a hole to fill. I had friends a-plenty and my social life was hectic. I wanted to slow down, but coming home to an empty apartment night after night was getting to me. Try as I might, mostly I existed on a fodder of one night stands as mostly the women I was attracted to were married and unavailable. Those that consented to some fun and games with me never displayed any intention of choosing me for the long term over their hubbies. I’d left my run too late to ever attain for myself a life partner, or so I figured.

Business often took me to Melbourne and on that fateful day in 2003, at a loose end, just for the hell of it, I decided to take the No.72 out to my old stomping ground around Camberwell and Canterbury Hill. I had in mind a wander around my former school just to see how the years had treated it – but I never made it. I wasn’t very far into the journey – my conveyance was just starting to slowly lurch along Swan Street – when I noticed a woman, who looked familiar, hop on board, loaded up with shopping. She was accompanied by a younger lass. Then it dawned on me – I soon became sure it was her. She sported almost the same blonde bob, was a little fuller in the face and, as would be natural, carried a little more weight (which suited her) – but I needed to be closer to really tell. The eyes – her doe-like brown eyes would be the giveaway. I manoeuvred myself along the tram to a closer proximity just as she turned to look back down towards me. Our eyes met, but she displayed no signs of recognition, but I knew. I knew – and I also knew I couldn’t leave it at that. There was a spare seat in front of where they were. I moved myself to it. Then I turned and faced her.

She looked at me blankly. It was definitely her, but she turned back to her younger friend and continued conversing with her. Rude, I know, but I continued staring. She revolved around and asked, ‘Is there a problem?’ I just smiled and said, ‘I think we know each other.’ She looked at me – and then she smiled. ‘Bill. Well I never.’

It was stilted at first, partially due to another person being present as the tram rattled along. But I soon discovered that the younger one was her daughter – the daughter of Stevie and Charlie. Now it would have been magic if her name had of been Rhiannon. It wasn’t, but we’ll call her that.

All too soon we were at her stop and Stevie started to gather up her shopping gear. She said her farewells to Rhiannon who was obviously continuing on – I later discovered she lived further out along the line. Then she turned to me and asked ‘Are you coming? Have you time for a coffee?’ I didn’t need much convincing, I knew it was now or never. I was up like a flash following her off the No.72.

We found a cafe nearby and took a table. There was the question I was dying to ask so I got it out of the way early. No they weren’t. She and Charlie were no longer married; hadn’t been for a while. Seemed the drummer was on the road as often as he was home – and we all know about the temptations of that road. He had grown up a lot, she said, being off the booze and the drugs. But she came to suspect, after a while, that all wasn’t well with their relationship. He was restless. Then, by accident, she found out about a mysterious woman in Sydney and when push came to shove, he wanted to start anew with her. She grimaced as she told me that woman later moved south and it is all very amicable – but I sensed it wasn’t that simple. The next question – was there anyone else in her life? She shook her head to that, with a quizzical smile on her lips. We chatted away for an hour or more before she informed me that she should make a move. I asked if we could keep in touch. Then my insider knowledge kicked in. The Mac were coming early in the new year. Would she like to accompany me if I could arrange tickets. I thought they wouldn’t be a problem. I was owed a few favours. We agreed to meet in Melbourne on the day of the event.

Over the time I spent with her that day and subsequent emails and telephone calls I was able to fill in some of her back story. She obviously still lived in Camberwell, she hadn’t strayed far from her roots. Her singing, like my guitaring, had floundered, but she had her other charms so it seemed. She was outgoing, attractive and never left you wondering – as I was to find out. Soon, after leaving school, she realised she had a talent for selling. First she was in real estate, then she got into car dealership.. Back then she was floor manager for one of those fancy outlets for expensive European cars you see at the city end of Swan Street. She still saw a bit of Charlie in the interests of Rhiannon, but increasingly less so as their daughter formed a life of her own. He was contentedly married to his Sydney lady, semi-retired from the drum kit.

Fast forward to the following year and I jetted down to Melbourne the day before the concert and Stevie cooked a meal for me in her home that night. With a few reds imbibed it started to feel as if we were clicking. On entry she had pecked me on the cheek. On departure, the lips. That was progress, I thought.

It was a hybrid Mac we saw that next night. They were missing Christine McVie and it showed on a few songs. ‘Rhiannon’ featured quite early on and as the real Stevie’s ethereal voice rang out, my Stevie reached for my hand. She held it throughout the rest of the performance. In the back of the taxi from our Hardware Street meal to my hotel we again kissed, but this time she wasn’t so chaste. I had a feeling I was in for a lovely night. And then once in my room, with the skyline of the city shining in…well, you know what happened.

We kept the curtains open so her body was bathed in a diffused glow as we made love for the first time. We petted and caressed until it was time for her to guide me into another site that made me glow in turn. I felt I had found a place I wanted to be forever. I was soon to discover it was reciprocated. After check out time the following morning we taxied back to her place and spent most of the day in bed, getting to know each other intimately, until all too soon it was flight time. For the first time I thought I had someone in my arms who wouldn’t place me second to a career – and so it has turned out.

We commuted between the two cities for another twelve months or so until Stevie made the decision to move permanently up to Sydney. These days I’ve wound down the business and she’s no longer involved with flashy cars. We enjoy the lifestyle a city that never sleeps has to offer and Rhiannon is a frequent guest. And next year, in 2018, Stevie N will sing that song one more time in Oz, in Melbourne. We will feel, no doubt sitting there, that she’ll be singing it just for us.

Author’s note – the nub of this story came to me on a recent trip to Melbourne. On late night commercial radio the host asked his audience to ring in with any unusual tales about how they came to be with their partners. One guy told the story of how he and his wife had been friends at school, but drifted apart afterwards, wedded and raised children before each one’s marriage went sour. They reconnected on a tram taking them both into the city to see Fleetwood Mac. I took it from there.

Mick, Rick and the Garden Party

Imagine being booed off stage for presenting an audience with a cover of the Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Maybe it was the addition of a country twang that he gave the song, but the audience felt, with his long hair and refusal to stick to the formula of the evening, that the performer was out of line and they told him so in no uncertain terms. He fled the stage. The reaction was not as iconic as that given to Dylan when he swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one, but with this performer it did give the world a song that has lasted down the decades, remaining a staple on classic rock radio world-wide. The song tells of a rocker who remained frustrated at the reaction to him that evening at Madison Square Garden.

I once saw Weddings Parties Anything perform live. It was at a venue, a pub I think, somewhere round my home town of Burnie. Due to come on at ten, if my memory serves me correctly, they eventually did so so much later. By this time many of the patrons were tanked and therefore seemingly intent on spoiling it for those of us who were there for the music. Mick and the lads – maybe there was a lass involved too – still did their their best to give us value for money from their rollicking fare, including their only major hit, ‘Father’s Day’. I guess you’d call them our own version of the Pogues, although I think Mick Thomas’ teeth, unlike Sean’s, were in much better nick. The Weddo’s were a pretty tight unit too and I doubt there would be any of the shambolic evenings in their history that the Irish collective are notorious for. Over the years, despite a lack of chart action, WPA’s famous Christmas shows at Richmond (Vic) venue, the Corner, have become legendary on the pub rock circuit. Despite the yobs that night and the lateness of the hour, I enjoyed their performance.

Something I also enjoyed, when I was much tenderer in years, back in the days when rock was young, was a certain television show, one in which the aforementioned entertainer on that MSG stage first had his name up in lights. When he first started out in it his music wasn’t to the fore – that developed as the show, stretching across fourteen seasons, wore on. He was on screen in all but the early days of the popular series – 435 episodes were produced in all. It was a contemporary of such wonderful fare as ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘Father Knows Best’, ‘Our Miss Brooks’ and the most legendary of them all, the hilariously poignant ‘The Honeymooners’. In contrast his show was supposedly a true take on what it took to be the US’s ideal family, headed by Ozzie, with wife Harriet. That was its eponymous title – ‘Ozzie and Harriet: the Adventures of America’s Favorite Family’. Most knew it simply as ‘The Nelsons’.

It began as a soap on radio in 1944, running until its move to television in 1952, starting a marathon that only finished in 1966. Ozzie and Harriet played themselves and until 1949, voice-actors their two sons. The real David and Ricky joined in then and the US settled in to watch, from their living rooms, the two lads grow up.

Today it would make for tame television, but back in the day the punters couldn’t get enough as the family involved itself with minor disasters and arguments that we all knew would be resolved by the end of the half hour. Ozzie was the slightly distracted, vague and amiable patriarch, Harriet his no nonsense and wise spouse. David was the sensible son, Ricky subject to flights of fancy – at least that’s my recollection of it. Critics reckoned later it truly was a show about nothing resembling any important issue of the day, was thoroughly WASP and insipid. Others likened it to an olden day ‘Truman Show’ – real people playing out their lives on national TV. The difference was that the Nelsons knew they were doing so – and in private, it wasn’t always to their benefit. As a result the two boys had nothing like a normal childhood.

The father, who died in 1975, was in fact a control freak who subjected his family to the demands of churning out the hit series; this taking priority over every other aspect of their lives. Ozzie had been a successful band leader in the thirties and was an out and out workaholic. Once he started in television he wrote the next day’s script through the night, cracked the whip on the long hours of recording and later, when his sons requested a desire to quit the series, they were bluntly forbidden to do so. They gave up any hope of attending college with their peers. They were famous – what else could they possibly want?

Harriet, pre-wedlock, was a nightclub and radio star whose future seemed very bright in her own right. She found fame, of course, but not as those who knew her, including Ginger Rogers, would have hoped. A trouper since the age of 13, Harriet Hilliard married one O Nelson in 1935 and gave up all her independent aspirations

Son Ricky’s profile grew on the show once he started strumming his guitar and showing the vocal aptitude to go with it. By the end of its years he was its real star with a huge teenage following. Eventually he found enough wriggle room to start building a life away from ‘The Nelsons’ as dad came to realise that, without his second boy’s input, his life’s work would go down the gurgler. It was his popularity as a musician that was his ticket to the independence that had been denied other family members. It was because he was television’s first teen idol. He had a string of hits in those pre-Beatle days when rock had blanded out. These included such ditties as ‘Hello, Mary Lou’ and ‘Travellin’ Man’. Eventually each episode of the family saga revolved around setting up a scenario whereby he could sing, usually at some frustration or other over a girl. Once the British invasion hit, though, his star waned; as did ‘The Nelsons’.

With his childhood effectively stolen by his over-bearing father, in his adult years the cracks started to show for Ricky, or Rick as now he preferred to be called. He experimented with drugs, busted up a marriage and generally entered a downward spiral – becoming a far cry from his public persona, as perceived by the public, from his television show. The legacy of it seemed like a millstone around his neck. As many did, as the sixties morphed into the seventies, he attempted to reinvent himself as a country-rock performer, putting together the Stone Canyon Band.

Rock revival by this stage was where some money could be had as well. It was something Rick Nelson usually eschewed, but in 1971 he accepted an invitation to appear at MSG, NYC, along with fellow stars from the 50s – Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Bobby Rydell. But Rick failed to do his homework. He didn’t realise this was a hits only show, so when he started to play songs off his latest album, including the Jagger/Richards cover, the crowd reacted negatively. Rick, piqued, pulled the plug and stormed off, vowing never to give any audience the satisfaction of him ever performing his old hits. It’s an interesting side story that his two sons, twins Gunnar and Matthew, who had a few hits of their own last century, now tour singing their dad’s songs as well as their own. And in any case, Nelson senior forgot about his vow in later years.

Such was RN’s funk after his disastrous meltdown that he decided to write about his feelings on the matter in lyric form. The result – ‘Garden Party’. For those in the know – now including your good selves dear reader – it is obvious what the ‘Garden’ bit refers to. The song became his first top ten maker since his golden years – and his last. Rick Nelson kept on playing for the rest of his short time on the planet, his life cut short by a plane crash in 1985. He was only 45. As someone who followed his countrified career after the demise of his parent’s television vehicle, this event greatly saddened me. But the legacy of these leaner years remains with a very fine song.

In its lyrics are many very interesting references, including a line name-checking one of his hits – ‘Mary Lou…She belongs to me’. Then there’s ‘Mr Hughes hid in Dylan’s Shoes’. This was a hark back to the times when George Harrison, who Rick believed was his friend, tried to go incognito around the world’s cities, calling himself Mr Hughes. At the time the ex-Beatle was working on a project that didn’t eventuate – an album of covers of tunes by his Bobness.

Went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
And over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck
And it’s all right now, learned my lesson well
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself

These days ‘Garden Party’ is now the crowning glory of Rick’s career – the one that’s lasted. It has had innumerable people covering it including, in recent times, John Fogerty on his own excellent collection of covers, ‘The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again’

And the connection between Rick N and Mick T – it’s probably obvious by now. The Weddos man has knocked out his own engaging take on the classic.

On the local scene Mick Thomas has had a long and illustrious career, not only with his singing, but in writing for the stage as well. He performs as a solo artist and as part of bands such as The Sure Thing and The Roving Commission. He is a survivor. He’ll perhaps never regain the type of exposure ‘Father’s Day’ gave his band, but he has a solid following and his product still sells, standing up to critical scrutiny. But, of course, you’ll never hear him played on mainstream radio. Mr Thomas’ latest release is ‘These Were the Songs’, largely a retrospective of his work post Weddings Parties Anything. There are several covers, apart from GP, including a lovely, lovely version of Dylan’s ‘Most of the Time’; Thomas dueting with up-and-comer Ruby Boots. And as with Nelson, his inclusion of the former child-television star’s song is an up-yours too. It’s a thinly veiled criticism of the big players on the scene and their refusal to take Mick’s newer music seriously. And it is perhaps his fear that, along with ‘Garden Party’s’ songsmith, he will be regarded as essentially a one hit wonder. But with both that song and ‘Father’s Day’ on non-stop rotation somewhere and instantly recognisable, is that too bad a legacy?

Rick Nelson performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAHR7_VZdRw

Mick Thomas performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GhsEFluOUo