Friday, April 16, 2010

Song of the week 86

Before we even start let me apologise for the length of this week’s episode. If you just want to skip to the songs that’s OK. If you have time for a bit of a read then make sure you’re sitting comfortably.

Yesterday I read “Pleasure and Pain” which is Chrissy Amphlett’s autobiography. Chrissy was the singer for one of Australia’s best rock bands, “The Divinyls”. It is a pretty tragic tale and to be honest I have no idea how the band managed to produce anything of note given the fact that they were surrounded and pickled by alcohol and drugs, victims of poor management and really their own worst enemies at times. The real kicker though is that Chrissy finally gets herself clean, pays off massive debts, marries and then is diagnosed with MS. That sucks. I featured this band recently but here’s another clip…perhaps their best song and ironically, one of their first.

Divinyls – Boys In Town:

Dead on April 14th at age 48 is singer and bassist for US goth/doom band Type O Negative Peter Steele. Scary looking man with a big, big voice. He was big as in tall as well at 6ft 7in.

Type O Negative – Black No. 1:

I had dinner with some good friends on Wednesday night and we spent some time talking about music. I tell you, if someone likes Johnny Cash and Tom Waits then they are always welcome! The conversation turned to songs reminding you of particular times in your life. And that led me to this week’s collection of songs. They all mean something to me in one way or another.
When I was 8 my family had just moved to New Zealand. At that time there were two TV stations and as far as I remember no FM radio. This particular track always takes me back to the house we rented when we first arrived, sleeping on a camp stretcher and my first primary school there. It was a scary walk to that school. There was a dog that made me very nervous about half way and also a seemingly abandoned house that I was convinced kidnapped children would be held in. Stranger danger talks obviously hit a nerve for some reason. At that school a friend let me ride his skateboard every day. You have to understand that my parents were completely anti-skateboard – probably because they could see the prospective injury toll. I remember doing a small jump and the board breaking…that wasn’t a good day. I don’t remember if Mum and Dad ever found out but I was petrified. So, here’s the song that brings back all those memories:

John Stewart – Gold:

The line, “I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar” always resonated with me. An escape route from whatever was happening in my life at the time.

Guitars, as you all know, became a constant in my life at an early age. I remember buying a live Jimi Hendrix double album and hating it – I was bitterly disappointed. But there was an album “Jimi Hendrix – Smash Hits” that hung around in a record shop for maybe 6 months before I bought it. This track always reminds me of a certain shopping centre in country Victoria and shopping for flannelette shirts for winter. Also, the escape theme again…

Jimi Hendrix – Highway Chile:

I so wanted to be windswept and interesting instead of short haired and normal!!

At the end of 1985 and into the start of 1986 I was lucky enough to go to a Scout Jamboree in Sydney. Well, it was in a big dust bowl somewhere nearby! We bussed it there from Victoria which probably took around 12 hours I think. Of course, the bus died in the middle of the night somewhere on the way and I remember sitting on the edge of the road in the dark drinking milk as we waited for another. I had a small transistor radio as I knew the Jamboree would have its own radio station. We requested this song over and over and danced around like loons the couple of times it was played. Scouts was a big part of my life and, my musical education as you’ll see after the track.

Hoodoogurus – Like Wow Wipeout:

At Easter Camp with Scouts we hosted an axeman’s carnival. Wood chopping and various other competitions ensued and they gave some money to the Scouts I believe. One year I drew the job of manning the gate and helping direct visitors, axemen and others to various locations. It was hot, it was dusty but we had a cassette player and some tapes. This day was my introduction to this next band. I never really got past the one album but every time I hear a song from it I feel the beating sun and taste the sunscreen!

Talking Heads – And She Was:

In January 1991 I was at Puckapunyal in Victoria with the Army. Again, it was hot and dusty but this time I was running around with a rifle and kilos of gear! I’m pretty sure that this was the first exercise I did where the water resupply was basically unlimited – it was that hot. I won’t tell a lie, I didn’t enjoy myself very much. There was a particular moment on this bush trip that I knew the Army really wasn’t for me. Making a 19 year old dig graves was just a bit too real. But, nearly anyone with any military service will tell you that it is all about the people you are with at the time. The section I was in was full of good guys and it was a team effort to get through. There were a couple of particularly vindictive staff assigned to us and I have strong memories of one of them holding me up by the scruff of the neck about to let fly with his fists when I had to shut the bar one night. Our section adopted this next song as a theme for some obscure reason. So, this song takes me back to a time when I made a decision and learned a lot about how not to treat other people.

Kylie – Step Back In Time:

In 1994 I was still in the Army – it wasn’t that easy to leave! By this time I had become involved in computers and I liked that part of my job. I was sent to Melbourne for three months to learn all about IT and at that time it was all pretty new. The guys on the course, like me, didn’t have a lot of money. Most of us were Privates and Corporals (and equivalent) from a variety of Corps training up to work with computers. I met one of my best friends on this course. He introduced me to Al Bundy and I started him on heavy, heavy music. Another course mate and I managed to get tickets to see Rollins Band in Melbourne. I only knew one song by the band but that didn’t matter – they didn’t play anything old, just new stuff as far as I remember. After seeing a lot of live bands as well as playing in a few for years this was an amazing show. The lighting guys just turned the lights up and left them there. I’m sure the guys at the sound desk did the same. It was loud, it was bright and it was the most full on display of rock and roll power I have ever seen.

Rollins Band – Tearing Me Apart:

Laff didn’t make it to this show but we’ve made up for it since. I was especially honoured to be the Best Man at his wedding. Rollins always makes me think of those cold three months in 1994 as well as Laff.

In 1991 I was fortunate enough to be asked to join my first band here in Canberra. The other four members were a helluva lot more musically accomplished than I was but they let me in anyway. I learned so much from playing with them. I learned, not only a lot of cool songs and improved my playing out of sight, but I learned valuable lessons about being in a band. “Mr. Walker” played mostly covers for a couple of years. We rehearsed a lot and got quite a few gigs. There is embarrassing video as well that I have under lock and key. I remember when the band split up and three of the members formed a blues band. I was devastated but in retrospect we had run our course. A disastrous gig outside at the ANU was the nail in the coffin. I played with my back to the non-existent audience and our singer had laryngitis! However, I made another lifetime friend from that band. Our soundman and voice of reason was someone I just clicked with immediately. I remember him taking me to a guitar store in Sydney the morning after we’d been to see Motorhead. Neither of use could hear a thing but we still managed to buy me an excellent guitar – and probably cleared the store whilst we were trying it out! In “Mr. Walker” I played all sorts of rhythm and backing pieces to Jason’s lead guitar. He was good, really good – a natural. This is a cheesy song, but I really liked playing the backing bits – simple yet effective. This song takes me back to carpet made sticky by beer, cramped stages and more fun than you can imagine.

Don Henley – Boys of Summer:

Hey, I hoped you enjoyed my reminiscing. Now, because it is sunny and I am on holidays I’m off on my bike.
See ya,
DJ Rob

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