A journey through my music collection.
This is the first album I bought with my own money.
I must have been eleven at the time, since the album came out in late 1981.
It’s pretty much a certainty I first heard the band on Countdown.
The first single, which they released before the album, was ‘Who Can It Be Now?’. I still enjoy the track, Greg Ham on saxaphone going head-to-head with Colin Hay’s voice. It’s something special.
Of course, the big single from the album was ‘Down Under’, whether for it’s use of Aussie slang like ‘chunder’ or it’s references to a ‘vegemite sandwich’, I don’t know.
My favourite song on the album? It’s hard to choose, as all the songs have a catchy beat and sing-along-ability, but I would probably choose ‘Be Good Johnny’, simply because the lyrics make me smile. And I can always remember the fun of the video clip.
Although Business As Usual was the first album I bought with my own money, it would have to be Meet Us inside, a Spy vs Spy EP, brought in at special request to my local record store, which set the course of my life.
I have written about the Spies before, what they mean to me, how they influenced my life. For those who knew me in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it would be impossible to have been unaware of my dedication to the band. I wore only Spies t-shirts; I listened to them constantly; and I went to see them live at multiple venues whenever they toured Perth.
My favourite song has to be 'One Of A Kind' since it’s where it all started, but I have to also mention two of my favourite “spoken word” segments by Mike Weiley. Not only because they are they lyrically gold, but because I’ve definitely felt like both these statements have applied to me in the past.
‘I’m being used as a shovel to dig someone out of a jam.’
(Mugshot, Spy V Spy)
‘My mind feels like a bucket of wet sand.’
(Mugshot, Spy V Spy)
“Ah, it’s time to relax.’
And I know what that means…..yep, Smash, the third album by The Offspring.
Released two days before my first child was born, this album was on constant replay during my little girl’s first few months of life.
It’s a cracker of a release.
Of course, some might argue, thematically and lyrically, it’s not really suitable for infant ears. To them I would say, “lean back and just enjoy the melodies.”
Last week, I went to the Perth Concert Hall with Karen, where we saw an incredible solo (mostly) performance by John Butler.
At the concert, John talked about he’d never imagined being onstage when he’d first visited back in 1991 and watched the Violent Femmes - at that time he would have been 17.
As a result, I got to talking to Karen about how I saw my second ever live gig at the Perth Concert Hall. I was also 17. Only, I went to see Robert Cray. I reckon there were a lot more 17 year olds at the Femmes show than Robert Cray, but there were a few of us.
One of those 17 year olds, by coincidence, contacted me this week, nearly 34 years after we went to the gig together. We hadn't been in touch in more than three decades.
I have been listening to Robert Cray, on and off, since I got his message; enjoying his blues guitar magnificence, and relishing the wonders of music and human connection over time.
🧡Robert Cray, along with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Jimmie Vaughan, were the last people to play music with Stevie Ray Vaughan.
On the 3rd January, 2019, my wife and I went to see Neil Murray at Ronnie Nights in Fremantle. A teeny-tiny venue, upstairs from the main bar, with a step-up stage, two armchairs on one side, a couch against the wall, and a couple of upturned milk crates in front of the stage. There were around thirty people in the room and we stood behind the armchairs, stage right, a couple of metres from the microphone stand.
From the time he walked on stage to when he left and walked up to the bar at the back of the room, I was mesmerised. Neil is an incredible story-teller, singer and guitarist, and he captivated everyone in the room with his gentle nature, authenticity and humility.
Calm and Crystal Clear is my favourite song. And I don't mean my favourite Neil Murray song, I mean my favourite song. Period. It has resonated with me, grounded me, comforted me, since I first heard it in 1989. And, even though the meaning to me at fifty one is clearly different to when I was nineteen, I believe it will always be so.
📷Karen gave me this book, Songs of Neil Murray, for our 26th wedding anniversary, a couple of weeks after the gig. It is a treasure.
🎶Warumpi Band, My Island Home
This is a photograph of my mum, Pat, and her older sister, Daph.
At a guess I'd say it's from the early to mid 1960s.
You might wonder what this photo is doing here, in my music gallery. Let me explain.
My mum loved music.
In fact, she would sing all the time, with or without a radio or recording on in the background. And she'd dance, with or without music, too. I loved that about her.
She would sing modern songs, old songs, childhood songs, church songs.
Lots and lots of Elvis.
So this photo is here to celebrate my mum.
And my aunt.
And the King of Rock, Elvis Presley.
And the love of music they gave me.
💃If I close my eyes when I listen to this, I see my mum dancing around the house with the broom.
Of all the artists I have never seen, but wanted to, there is one which stands out from the others.
Jeff Buckley played two gigs in Perth, on consecutive nights, in February 1996. I didn’t make it to either. We were new parents at the time - our first child was ten months old - and I had stopped going out to live music. Maybe because we were reluctant to leave our daughter, maybe because we didn’t have much spare cash.
Whatever the reason, I missed seeing him. Just over a year later, I was outside in the backyard with my wife and daughter, when I heard he had drowned in the Mississippi River.
I’ve thought of him from time to time since then, wondering why he went swimming there, fully clothed. Wishing he hadn’t. He’d been preparing to record music with his band in the following days. He was sober, drug-free, and the coroner ruled it an accidental drowning.
I feel this is as close as I will ever get to knowing how my mum felt when Elvis died. It’s a strange sensation - loss of something you never had, someone you never knew, never even saw - and I wonder at the human condition which makes us connect so through music.
As for the shows I missed. Well, thanks to the internet, I can find a record of the songs Jeff sang, create a playlist, close my eyes and imagine him, and his band, in the smoke-filled Sandringham Hotel, in the mid-90s - ethereal, powerful, uncomplicated.
🎵Satisfied Mind, Jeff Buckley
I once took a mate to see Slayer who had never seen them before. Or really listened to them either. He described the experience as being run over by a division of Panzer tanks. He didn't like it and never came along to a gig with me again*. It was an awesome show.
I have been fortunate to see each of the "Big 4" thrash bands - Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax - on multiple occassions. Including once when I saw three of them in the one day (sans Megadeth) - Soundwave 2013** at Claremount Showgrounds***
*we are still friends though \m/.
**you could argue the Slayer who played at Soundwave was only half of them - since Jeff and Dave both weren't playing.
***Not only that but I got to see Northlane play a midday slot at this show - it was probably their first Perth show ever, and it was tight. They have since become an incredible, and prolific, creative force in Australian metal.
Recently, I caught up with one of my cousins. I hadn't seen him in ages and it was fantastic to get a chance to reconnect. When I was younger....and I mean much younger....I would spend time with him when we visited Perth from Carnarvon. Even though he was eighteen, four years older than me, he would always be happy to hang out, play pool, show me computer games, and listen to music. I looked up to him.
One of the things he remembered about that time - how much I loved music, and that I introduced him to Frankie Goes To Hollywood. It got me thinking.
FGTH's debut album, Welcome To The Pleasuredome, was released in August 1984. The copy I have was purchased around then, so I was fourteen. Listening to it now, the acquisition by me of the album, at that time and young age, and the playing of it around my family, now seems either courageous or foolish. Perhaps both.
I'm glad I caught up with my cousin and, even though it made me sad to think we had lost touch over the past few decades as our families grew, it made me feel good to realise we had a great deal in common and to tell him how much he had meant to me when I was young.
Music often surprises and delights me in unexpected ways.
The other day, I stumbled across an online playlist of extended singles. Not only was it an awesome find, it reminded me of my small collection of these from the 80s.
Mostly, I bought cassettes when I was young. Portability was important and we also didn't always have a working record player in the house. Despite this, occassionally I bought 12" singles and Kraftwerk's 'Tour De France', released in 1983, is one of them.
Kraftwerk were a ground-breaking group in electronic music but I did not know then (in fact I did not know until today) they were so old. They had formed in the late 1960's! Now, that's pioneering!
Wondering how I had discovered them revealed, of course, they were on Countdown in 1982. Where else was a teenager living in country Australia going to get his music influences from?
The single holds up well today and playing it made me smile - the sound of bike chains whirring and riders breathing leading into the "laser-infused" (my word) sythn introduction.
Researching Kraftwerk I discovered something I did not know. Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force's song 'Planet Rock' was meant to be a homage to Kraftwerk and utilised two of their songs in it's creation. Why is this interesting? Well there's a guy in a horse mask over here who may be able to explain.
Music can change people.
People can change the world.
This January 26th, I encourage everyone to listen, with an open heart and a loving mind, to the seventh song on Midnight Oil's album, 'The Makaratta Project".
At only six minutes, forty seconds long, you can easily sip at a cup of tea, or a glass of beer, while you do so.
You might have any number of responses - you might cry for the losses of the First Nations peoples and feel helpless, you may get angry and say "this has nothing to do with me" or "I did nothing wrong"- whatever feeling you have, sit with it, acknowledge it, then ask yourself what thoughts made you feel that way.
Are those thoughts fair?
Am I generalising, judging, labelling?
Do they align with your values?
Do they come with love and kindness?
🎶Uluru Statement from the Heart \ Come on Down : Midnight Oil, Troy Cassar-Daley
Can I hold you in my arms tonight?
Some days I wake early. Today is one of those. I woke around 3:20 am with the lyrics to this song in my head.
I lay there for an hour, in and out of light sleep, with the words and music filling my thoughts.
The album with this song was released in January, 1987. I have owned a copy since.
Although I didn't meet her until six months later, I think it has always been about Karen.
And it always will be.
My loving wife, my best friend, my beating heart.
A couple of weeks ago, I was buying the standard ten-pin bowling night order; a couple of soft drinks and a plate of curly fries. The person serving commented on my t-shirt.
We got to discussing the Deftones. They had only discovered the band recently but had fallen for them big time, and was buying all the albums on vinyl. With a band like Deftones, that's a mighty committment. There are nine studio albums and two big discs of rarities, B-sides, and covers.
I can't recall exactly how I first heard the Deftones, but I bought their debut album, Adrenaline, when it was the only recording they'd released. So, it would have been 1995 or 1996.
I have lost count of the times I have seen them live, how many band shirts I've worn, and how many times I've listened to the song Change (In the House of Flies) and wondered what inspired it and what it's about. Like many Deftones songs the lyrics are poetically abstract.
Deftones are a band who defy categorisation, slip past boundaries, and make songs with words and melodies which push your listening. Their musicianship and creativity is entrancing and there are few bands I can bank on to interest me every time they release something.
I first heard Wedding Parties Anything live when they played on the Oak Lawn at the University of Western Australia. It was free. It was lunchtime. And we sat about three metres away from them.
They are my second favourite live band of all time (after Spies, of course) and I have no idea how many times I saw them play through the late 80s, and the 90s.
There are so many highlights and memories of their shows. The goosebumps when they would walk out, one by one, singing Barrett's Privateers at the start of the gig; the ten cent pieces flying everywhere during the chorus of Ticket for Tatts; the haunting opening of Sisters of Mercy; the chaos of Sergeant Small; the closing lament of Leave Her Johnny....it's time for us to leave her.
But, if I had to, and I'd prefer not to, my favourite memory was the time they played A Tale They Won't Believe as the last song in their set at the Shents.
The pub was packed that night. Too packed it seemed. And the cops had turned up and were waiting outside at five minutes to twelve to, firstly, ensure they finished at midnight and, secondly, to count the punters. Now this song clocks in, officially, on the album at 6 minutes 58 seconds. They finished it in about 4 minutes 30 seconds. It was absolutely frantic!