Monday, February 12, 2018

Reasons To Be Cheerful part Nein Nein Nein

Radio Birdman – Hand Of Law

That introduction, the bass kicks off, the drum comes in and then the guitar riff… fuck me, it’s just about perfect really.   And here I am 40 years later still hearing that song and finding it fresh and exciting and it hits me right in the heart and brain and makes me smile still… all these years and still I can’t help but feel the power and energy and the moment. 

I still own the original cassette copy of Radios Appear that I bought back in the day when I was like 15 and discovered this band and a whole new world opened up.  1978/79 and my mate Mike and I would trek out to the caves with the Radio Birdman tape and my “newest” cassette player, the third one I’d owned by then. Another beat up second hand Sony I think, but unlike my second player, this one didn’t have dual decks but did have a working battery pack and didn’t need electrical tape to hold it together. (Always a bonus) The tape deck would rest on my shoulder and we’d listen to the rumble, the power as we trekked the couple of miles out of town through the pine forest to our hideaway one of many we’d had over the years, forts we’d built from fallen pine trees and branches, dug outs in the soil, old sheds lost in the forest, this time we had a pothole/cave we had made into a fort, a secret space, even putting posters on the wall down there and bringing candles and dirty magazines and food.  Radio Birdman would echo off the damp walls, the sound crashing and swooping all around us and it all made perfect sense.  It would be in the high 30s outside, so hot you could barely think but down here in our cave, accessible only by climbing down a tree branch, surrounded by rock posters and teen goddesses, with the music blaring, it was a cool low 20s and we would lay back smoking and laughing and listening intently to Rob Younger’s scream, Deniz Tek’s guitar, trying to decipher words and meaning, not caring about the heat or the flies or what the future held for us.  There were no thoughts of sawmills or log trucks, no petrol pump jockeys or supermarket shelves down here just cool air and loud guitar, rock and roll escapism and the sounds of birds up above in the trees, flies buzzing lazily waiting for us to surface, the world lazily waiting for us to come up for air.

And we’d always have to come back up, if just to piss but while we were down there, no one could find us or tell us what to do, there were no teachers asking for answers, no parents questioning our intentions, no girls laughing at us, no pressure, no purpose, just the blistering Detroit influenced rock and roll that promised a different world, that signaled the change that was coming, the possibilities… we just had to find it.  

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part Ate

Motley Crue – Shout At The Devil.

 Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil was another of those ‘chance’ teenage discoveries. I recall seeing a film clip on late night tv of them covered in fake blood and looking satanic and evil.  Well at least evil to a 17 year old kid living in a country town. And come on I was a Kiss fan already, I loved Skyhooks and Sweet and glam so I was already predisposed to the flash and arrogance and dressing up – the escape.  And at 16/17 it was metal and punk that were really providing that route so the Crue fitted in perfectly. Especially the early days/daze before they sobered up and really became platinum hit makers.  This was a different beast, a sloppy, drunk, drug fucked beast that wandered around in leather and sweat and smeared makeup looking for all money like they just needed another beer or snort to feel better, to perform better.  It was like a Saturday night cabaret band had suddenly found fame and didn’t know what the fuck to do with it. When I saw the cassette at the local whitegoods store cum record shop I had to have it.  My cousin Pete and I fell for ‘em hard.  We loved that album for awhile there, played it constantly, sang it, mimed it, played air guitar along with it.

On weekends we’d throw that tape in the car cassette deck, pop the sunroof, sip from the badly hidden hip flasks and beercans and just cruise the mainstreet of Millicent with Vince squealing over that raucous rhythm section and us playing air guitar and shouting at the devil, hoping one of the girls might find our rebellion cute.  They never did.
I still own that very copy of the cassette, the one that we flogged to death in the car as we drove up and down the mainstreet drunk every Friday and Saturday night trying to find girls, visions, anything that would help us get to the next stop on the way.  Hard to believe now I know but back then, much like Kiss, they were a band that alienated people and separated yr friends from yr foes.  They weren’t punk but this was country South Australia, they were alienating enough to be just what we needed. Ugly and discordant enough to be a dividing line between the cool kids and us fuck ups. What else could you want?  cheese with the devil

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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… 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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