Sunday, June 02, 2013

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part Seven


From the album Escape Artist, this was a mainstay of 81/82 for me when I was coming into adulthood, 18/19 years old, in “lurve” for the first time, well the first real serious relationship, the first time I actually thought I meant it when I said it and every weekend I’d be driving around 100 kilometres(round trip) to see that girl so I was buying a lot of tapes to play in the car (or cars since I managed to go through a few back then, none costing more’n $300) and I knew who Jeffreys was cos of that killer song ‘Wild In The Streets’ hell I had the 45, bought cheap from the whitegoods/ record store at one of their 45 rpm purges where they’d throw out singles for 5c and 10c and I’d be there with a handful of change just taking chances, taking names, labels and hoping for something good.  

Garland Jeffreys was good and so a few years down the track, with pubic hair bustin’ out, cassettes piling up on the floor, records spinnin’ all the time, trying to keep ahead, trying to find songs, reasons, voices, I found this album.  I musta heard ‘Modern Lovers’ or something on the radio though I can’t imagine where down there in early 80s AM radioland, maybe one of those late nights when I’d tune in the radio to stations all over the fucking country that would be faintly playing and cross hatching on the big old radiogram that mum and dad had… it musta popped up one night between the hits and memories, the footy scores and rural weather alerts but I heard it and it was enough to make me want the album, while I had money and all that driving and time and space so anyway I bought it (on cassette of course) and I flogged that baby to death – like Jeffreys himself it was a mulatto mix of styles and cultures and pop and reggae and bluesy jazz licks and even though I was a dumb country hick I could dig the world he was travelling in (or at least wished I could). 

Late nights driving that long trip home, headlights dipping and wavering, watching out for rabbits and foxes and kangaroos, fog descending, blueballed and hopeful, Escape Artist cranked up and distorting in the tinny speakers on the backdash or early on thru the portable cassetter player on the front seat ‘cos I just didn’t have the money or wherewithal to get a tape player set up yet, Garland was there for me, it made for some sweet driving, I’d almost be disappointed when I’d see the street lights again as I came over the hill and back down past the pine plantations, turning the volume down just a little so the neighbours wouldn’t have too much to complain about as I tried to sneak in, always failing, always late but at least alive, another trip down, another weekend gone. Escape never sounded so good.

This album is one of the few I now own on cassette, record, CD and download cos you never know when and where you might wanna play it and its still as good as I remember, even if I’m no longer cruising the backroads with it turned up loud, blueballed and stinky fingered… 

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part Six (and Drugs and RocknRoll)

Daddy Cool - Teen Love

Daddy Cool were one of Australia’s first huge acts of the 70s – Best known for the number one single Eagle Rock and the album Daddy Who? Daddy Cool which was massive making them the biggest pop band of the day in the early 70s but it wasn't that album that hooked my young mind, of course not.  No, it was album number 2 - Sex, Dope, Rock'n'Roll - A Teenage Heaven that I fell for (albeit a coupla years after the fact) I mean with a title like that, how could you not be interested? 

Sex Dope Rock’n’Roll was recorded after a tour of the US and though it had the obligatory hit single Hi Honey Ho (edited down to fit the 45 format but in all it's glory on the LP) it also had the great ‘drive-in’ suite –  a side of songs that was all about that great weekend tradition of getting your leg over (or at least trying to) in the backseat of the car at the drive-in. There’s even a great pisstake/homage to the ballads of the 50s with “Donna” where our hero bombs out when he touches her knee!  Finishing the album with a sub zappa riff jam called Make Your Stash – about hiding yr drugs from the sniffer dogs and you can see this isn’t quite what the kids or the pop press were expecting.  The good time band had grown up a little and even though the album made the top twenty it was a long way off from the number one position that their first album had conquered.  Especially in little old Australia circa 1972!  Of course I was too young to really know any of the goings on that the record was talking about but you know i was well on my way to working it out. 

My first copy of Sex Dope was in a cheapy two record set called The Daddy Cool Story – bought at Coles in Millicent when I was but a tween and one of the first albums I ever owned.  One of the labels wasn’t glued down right and when I peeled it off, lo and behold, underneath was the original Sex Dope label!  The cheap buggers at Sparmac had just taken the first two albums, slapped some new labels on top, put them in a new sleeve (not even gatefold!) and voila – The Daddy Cool story. Put it out there cheap in the supermarkets and get rid of the leftovers. Not that I cared at the time, I was too busy listening intently to the songs, laughing at the audacity and double meanings of such tunes as Baby Let Me Bang Your Box and generally trying to catch up on what had already been and gone. (A common story for me really)  Decades later I managed to finally get hold of the real deal, gatefold sleeve, cartoon inside and the record still kicks arse and subverts minds.  They liked to have fun but this was a band that with Ross Wilson out front had some brains as well. If’n you think they are just that nostalgia act with Eagle Rock and Come Back Again you are way off base.  Hunt this baby down, it’s worth it trippers. 

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful - pleading the fifth

You know I really hate those old guys who say, “back in my day…” or “kids today have got it easy” but you know what?  I’ve become one of those old guys and let me tell you, “kids today HAVE got it easy!” This blog itself is proof of that.  We’re giving them the knowledge, we’re sharing the music, the meaning, we’re helping the ungrateful little buggers out and they don’t even have to leave their chair!  It’s all at their fingertips now, the music, the words, they can download songs, albums, movies, books, without even having to get off their arses. 

But it’s not just online either, the whole culture of “underground” is disappearing, long usurped by marketing managers, advertising and the quick buck chase of corporate shysters.  I mean John Waters does speaking tours now, people line up for their photo opportunity and his movies are mainstream. Burroughs and Ginsberg and Kerouac are t-shirt idols and bumper stickers, punk rock is just another genre now, marketed to the kids along with tattoos, body piercing and coloured hair, no longer for outsiders or outlaws, every 20 something schmuck has a full sleeve tattoo, bluebirds on their neck and mama across their back.  How do you rebel now?  There are no more discoveries for the kids, no more moments of “wow, who the hell are they?” it’s all marketed to them now, by demographic and location, the full back catalogue available online.  They are fooled into thinking they are individuals just like the other 1000 “friends” they have online who “liked” the same page. They think they are making great discoveries without realising they’re being manipulated, marketed to and pushed into the right boxes.  Anarchy until lunchtime when they use that voucher they got with the download to buy lunch at that cool new “underground” café in the mall.  So yeah, they have got it easy but it’s kind of sad as well.

 In a world where garage sale bargains rarely exist anymore because people think e-bay counts as a legitimate price guide, the thrill of making their own discoveries, of finding some obscure album that looks kind of cool just because of the cover or finding old paperbacks for a buck at a junk shop or uncovering old Crawdaddy mags in a box of crap, taking a chance on a 45 ‘cos the label looks interesting, those joys, that fun is fast disappearing for today’s kids.   
 They just go online, check to see if it’s ‘hip’ to like this band or author, make sure the cool points add up for owning a copy of the album or the book and walk away from the chance to develop their own taste, the chance to make their own discoveries, their own mistakes.  
 I grew up in a town of 500 or so people, depending on how the football team was going, two tv channels, am radio, no computers, no internet, (hell computers were a mythical machine that were bigger than your bedroom and only seen on science programs) – I found out about music by sticking one ear to the radio, by pouring through the few rock mags I could get my hands on, by going through my parents’ record collection  and their friends and my friends’ older brother’s and sister’s collections, by hanging around the edges at parties and listening to conversation, by scouring liner notes, finding things by pure luck and good fortune, by taking chances, stumbling onto songs, writers, ideas, searching for touchstones and gateways that would lead to other places, other songs and sure that leaves gaps in your musical education but sooner or later you find the things YOU need, the songs that mean something to YOU, the riff that sends a shiver down yr spine, the tune that takes you somewhere else, away from the shitty little box bedroom and out there somewhere else and when that happens you don’t care who their guitar teacher was or when the lead singer was first potty trained, you just care that the song means something to YOU and you alone. I didn’t wait for the t-shirt, I bought the records, I bluffed my way through, gradually building up knowledge, trusting my own instincts, enjoying the trash amongst the treasure.  I wasn’t worried about ‘cool’ – hell I was never gonna be cool, I was a skinny, redheaded mongrel kid who couldn’t play sports or fight, who lived in a dream world of comics and music and books, cool was never an option but I didn’t care cos I had songs, records, music pounding out of the shitty little cassette player in my room, the plastic record player on the bookshelf, I found my own way out.   
Sadly the kids today ain’t ever gonna find their own way… unless of course we help them.   I’m still not sure if I’m doing the right thing or the wrong thing here, it does seem a little hypocritical since they’re still in their bloody chairs looking at a screen but hell, if they find the Deans Of Discipline on line they’re doing good anyway!  I found my copy in a record shop in New Zealand over a dozen years ago and I ain’t ever seen another!  Get out of the house kids, go searching at your local op shop,  take a chance on a beat up record with a name you don’t recognise, buy a book, ask your parents if they still have their records out in the shed, do something but don’t get complacent.  We ain’t gonna always be here to tell you what’s what. 

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 11, 2013

reasons to be cheerful part four

Gary Glitter  - Come On, Come In, Get on 

Now I ain’t defending this pedophile bastard, not at all but after years of just refusing to listen to his music, of bad taste jokes and pretending he just don’t exist I’ve come to realise something… Gary Glitter ain’t the bad guy, Paul Gadd (his real moniker) is.  See the way I see it, Paul Gadd is a rock spider, Gary Glitter is a rock star.  I wouldn’t give Paul Gadd the time of day, the bastard should be castrated and left to wallow in his own excrement in a small dark hole but Gary Glitter, the artist, the singer, the rockstar, well I’m gonna crank up those loud as fuck old school rock and roll songs again and sing along to the hits and misses! 

A touchstone to my youth, Touch Me was one of the first albums I ever owned (on cassette too) – Christmas 1974 and my parents had given me a cassette player of my very own just a week prior, my birthday falling just eight days before Christmas and Gary was one of my Christmas presents.  It was perfect fodder for a preteen boy on the cusp of teenage fears and pubic hair burst growth!  A booming rock and roll soundtrack complete with handclaps, singalongs, loud guitars and a band that was versed in the art of rock and fucking roll -  with two drummers holding down the beat, the horn section swinging like real rock used to be and songs with more hooks than a Japanese Whaler, you couldn’t go wrong with this baby turned up loud.   

Glitter was corny, he was dumb, he looked ridiculous at times but he was fun, that was the thing, he put the fun back into rock and roll.  And if he could do it, hell anyone could.  He gave us all hope, if this middle aged silly bastard in a too tight alfoil suit could be a rock star, a heart throb, then hell, anything was possible.  This tape was played so often during my youth that it eventually stretched beyond rescue and was thrown in the back of that drawer you have for things you can’t quite throw away though you know they ain’t ever getting repaired, ain’t ever gonna be used again.  Besides, I’d moved on, punk and noise and all the other growed up rock had taken over.  I’d put aside the dreams of the alfoil suit and the rock and roll lifestyle for the ripped shirt and dog collar existence of sid and nancy, the deadboys before drifting into comics and words and drinking like Bukowski or at least a piss poor attempt at it. This album was part of my youth, those songs were the soundtrack to walking the streets at night, dreaming of bigger and better things. I’m still chasing those dreams so I need that soundtrack and no rock spider scum is coming ‘tween me and my music.   

That’s the trouble with music and with musicians, how do we separate the artist from the song, from the memories we have, the emotions that songs can trigger within us.  Should we stop listening to Glitter’s songs because of his behavior twenty years later? Should we stop listening to Ike and Tina Turner because he was a wife beating arsehole? Chuck Berry? Elvis Presley’s drugged out fat arse? The White Album because Chuckles Manson misread its intentions? 

I ain’t defending any of these people but I ain’t gonna stop listening to their songs either  (except for the Beatles cos they are  over rated) – I know the difference between the singer and the song, between some three minute pop song and the predilections of some perverted fucker who needs a soldering iron between the legs, and I’m claiming my youth back, I’ve been flogging this (downloaded) album and this song to death for the last month and it ain’t faded yet, it’s still gloriously over the top, swinging, fist pumping, singalong, glorious rock and roll!  And we all need some of that in this age of plastic, computer simulated, mass marketed three minute wonders.  Gimme back my music you bastards, I want to hear it loud and distorted and proud.  Might even try and find that tape and see if I can fix it up. 

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

reasons to be cheerful the third part

Derrick Hart – Sown In My Heart 

Recorded while in rehab Sown In My Heart is from the ‘lost’ album Prodigal Songs and Derrick Hart, a former junkie and born again Christian with a penchant for troubadour ballads filtered through the sound systems owned by Sparklehorse and Neutral Milk Hotel has a style and voice that for some reason just draws me back in time and time again.  This despite the fact I’m an avowed atheist (even with my personally signed photo from Anton LaVey I’m still anti both sides), who has always been a country boy beer drinker with no time for smack or any other serious drug.  Hell, I didn’t have my first cone until I was twenty one and I ain’t never taken a trip so it ain’t the ‘romance’ of smack that holds me when he sings, that makes me play this album and this song over and over, no it’s the passion, the raw wounds, the truthfulness he shares with us that keep me coming back.  More than that though it may well be just cos I am getting older, cos I have a teenage daughter, cos I suddenly find myself nudging the big five oh but yeah, I admit it, I’m looking too, don’t know what it is I’m trying to find though, or where I’m gonna find it but for most of my life I’ve been looking in the songs, in the stories, in the music… that’s where I find my answers, my clues, my reasons… and Prodigal Songs is as good a place as any for me to search through the entrails, the blood, the bones… the raw, open, non heroic confessionals of a man who hit rock bottom and found his way back and who isn’t gloating or preaching or pushing his own barrow but simply telling it how he saw it, how he sees it, how it works for him… And let’s be honest, we all want some sort of redemption, some reason for being here.   
I say I don’t believe in a God but I’m still searching for something, waiting for some sort of reason for being on this spinning ball of gas and dirt and water, so I don’t begrudge anyone who has found their reason, especially when it means songs like Any Drug and Sown In My Heart come along.  This fucker has a heartbreaking, cracked tone, all confessional and what the fuck have I done but with just a hint of there is something better if I can just get to my feet, if I can just force open the goddamn door.  At times you are almost uncomfortable (especially Sown In My Heart) at his confessions but it’s all part of the plan, the life, the reason… otherwise what do you have? Top 40 pap by backroom boys and singalong Idol stars who will be forgotten in a week as the svengalis work on the next big thing. Fuck that, I want truth, I want honesty, I want a fucker who is prepared to admit to fucking up, to starting over, to needing something more in his life than just the drugs, the needle, the booze, the cunt… I want reality, not the tv version of reality but the real fuggin’ thing.  For mine, Derrick Hart is the real fuggin’ thing. You might disagree, that’s fine, I ain’t gonna force him upon you, anymore than he tries to force God on to me.  It’s a waiting game… I’m fine with that.  Until then I’ll keep digging thru the entrails and guts and pouring good, clean liquor down my parched throat with this album on repeat in the background (or is that foreground?) And no I wasn’t lying, I do have a signed pic from Anton.  I love a good carny man as much as the next guy.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part two

Since I’m already on a nostalgia kick and feeling older every damn day it makes sense to be listening to songs from when I was 12 years old, struggling with burgeoning pubescence and sprouting hairs all over, and I know it’s hard to believe now but I wasn’t always this cool and back then I couldn’t get the girls to even look at me, let alone talk to me.  Back in 1975, I’d thrown a birthday party for my 12th birthday, it falling just a week before Christmas and being the last year of primary school which had finished just a few days before, I invited all my school friends to celebrate the coming of age and the end of our primary school years, even asked some girls including ‘Lisa’ *, a girl born on the same day as me so she was sort of my twin, and I wished my soul mate so it was kind of to celebrate her birthday too. Or at least that was what I told her as I blushed and mumbled my way through the party unable to tell her that I actually “liked” her, not that it was much of a secret anyway, I was pretty shit at hiding my feelings. As far as preteen, innocent 70s era country town parties go it was okay even if there was a lot of teasing and joking and as Lisa left, the car pulling out of our driveway, four of the boys grabbed me, an arm and leg each and carried me out the front calling for Lisa to come and give me a birthday kiss. As much as I was struggling and wriggling and calling them names, I was hoping against hope that the car would stop, that Lisa would leap from the back seat and in sloooow motion, run to me, declaring her own crush instead of the usual snigger and sarcastic comment. Of course it didn’t happen, the car kept going and the boys, tired of the sport, dropped me on my arse in the driveway and headed back to the food. 
 I’m pretty sure I played Slade’s  Coz I Luv You at the party, more than once too, cos those hormones had me held down and simpering. Still it was a fair song at least.  And anyway, I had other crushes, pop star Suzi Quatro for one, her poster hanging on the wall above my bed, then there was Heather*, 18 years old and married to the town’s gun full back Garth*, they were a “power” couple – young, sporting, beautiful, a country town version of F.Scott and Zelda I guess, though of course I didn’t know F.Scott from billy the kid back then. For my birthday they gave me a cassette of Status Quo’s Hello album. “Time to educate you,” Garth said as he handed it over, “Stop you listening to that poofter music.”  Which was kind of funny since he had T.Rex on 8-track, the kind of music he considered poofter music. I knew, I played it and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath every time we were at their place, which wasn’t nearly enough for my burgeoning hormones. I gave Heather the Janis Ian single “at Seventeen” for Christmas. She took it gracefully. I didn’t tell her it cost me all of five cents, hell I just mumbled and blushed and beelined to the 8-track player to put on T.Rex – Great Hits so they wouldn’t notice I hadn’t got Garth anything.  I’d only just discovered T.Rex, sure I’d heard some of his songs on radio occasionally but he was on his way out by 1975, not that it mattered to me. That collection with all the hits - Telegram Sam, Metal Guru, Children Of The Revolution, Solid Gold Easy Action, The Groover plus b-sides like Jitterbug Love, Midnight and Shock Rock– all of them just blowing me away no matter how many times I heard them, that was the tentative start of my Bolan fixation.  Garth wasn’t the only one with T.Rex albums either.  My school mate Dave had a big brother whose collection was ripe for the raiding and I would go around to Dave’s when his parents weren’t home and play them on the family stereo.  As we got older we were allowed to borrow them but for now it was Dave’s lounge room and we’d pour over the record sleeve looking for clues, reading lyrics and looking at the photos while Bolan held court. 
I’d finally got secure, got to the top of the small town school heap in 1975, after years of stupidity and teasing, fights and shyness, unable to live up to my own expectations and now I was heading back to the bottom, high school was looming but summer was still fresh and I still had a month or so of good times before I had to take the bus ride to the ‘big’ school in Millicent and I was going to make the most of it. The hormone induced ballads, the rush of hearing T.Rex, Sweet, Slade, Kiss, the smell of freshly cut lawn, the sprinklers on the football oval on those stinking hot nights when even the grasshoppers couldn’t be bothered moving, riding our pushbikes to the caves, the dump, through the pines and backtracks, lapping the block over and over, trying to cram everything we could into every day of the holidays, Dad at home for the Christmas break as he was every year, relaxing, beers at the club, soft drinks for us kids and then there was the swimming lake, the beach, the heat and the girls, finally, the girls. I wasn’t completely innocent, just naïve.  There had been the usual ‘doctors & nurses’ games with the girls but it was usually a stomach ache or leg strain, teasingly close (though we still weren’t sure what it was close to!) but never more than that. I lacked the confidence to really talk to the girls other than goofing off and playing the fool, at least then the girls laughed with me not at me.  There was a weekend at South End though where the girl didn’t laugh at me, in fact she seemed genuinely interested in me.  It was a strange feeling, especially after being rejected or was that just plain ignored by Lisa.  We had gone down to the beach side town because friends were camping there, well caravaning anyway and in the next van was a girl, Beccy, from Victoria.  She was my age and a little bored I think and I soon found myself walking along the beach with her hand in hand.  It was like a movie scene, a pristine beach, the sunset and two teenagers, (okay, nearly teenagers) walking hand in hand on the sand.  All it needed was Slade singing Coz I Luv You over top instead of my nervous chattering.  Beccy had to go home two days later but at least for a couple of days I’d had my own summer romance, as short and innocent as it had been.  It would have to do for now and the rest of the summer was spent  roaming the pines, building forts, playing records, riding bikes and trying to ignore the fact that high school was looming. Funny now when I look back and realise that though I thought there were no girls interested in me, there were a few.  It’s just that we were so innocent back then, so naïve, that the girls I attracted just wanted to hold hands.  The romance of comics and books, Archie and Veronica, there was no way of knowing what the hell to do with each other’s bodies anyway, or at least we were too scared to do anything about it.  So I stumbled through those early years of my teens with “good” girls (some of who actually weren’t but gave up waiting for me to realise it!) and naïve hope.  Listening to Slade brings that back, I’m still naïve but now I ain’t so innocent.  Still not sure if that’s a good thing…

*names changed to  protect these people being seen as being as lame as I am…  

Labels: ,