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Record Recollections

In the wonderful High Fidelity the protagonist Rob Gordon and his disturbed employees Barry and Dick trade musical top fives at the record store, Championship Vinyl. Since Alex and myself were gifted a turntable at Christmas I’ve bought a dozen or so second-hand albums and my personal top five follows (from the beginning of 2022).

Of course this is entirely an exercise in yoofy nostalgia so has been limited to music from my adolescence. I’ve decided that if an album’s from a time when I could vote, then I won’t buy it!

On state election day I went to a record fair and wandering about the tables and crates of vinyl I thought, gee what am I doing here? There’s only middle-aged and old blokes here, all nattering about rare B-sides and European pressings of obscure collectables. Then I thought, oh, hang on…

5. On a distant Sunday evening during Countdown Molly once slurred, ‘Boz is the buzz’ or something like this. Great 70’s songs, and it has an intriguing cover with a coquettish Boz on a bench at Casino Point, south of LA avoiding an assertive female mitt. Many of the songs would’ve been played on 5KA and 5AD. I probably tried to record one live from the radio onto my little cassette recorder (when it wasn’t playing the best of Little River Band) and guess that it was, ‘Lido Shuffle.’ No, I still have no idea what this song title means.
4. A school mate’s brother had this and as teenagers we’d play it while flat on the floor in his parents’ darkened lounge room, initially mocking its jazzy, beat poetry stylings. Old friend Stephen once said that it only belonged in a ‘peace room.’ And then like kids with glazed-eyes like extras in a horror-film we were lured into its world, for ever (It’s no good Jim, they’re gone). Probably not one to play at a Sunday barbeque though.
3. Another album I discovered through an older friend. I knew the artist courtesy of his work in Steely Dan and this was similarly slick with its flawless musicianship and spiky tales about life in that most foreign of lands, America. Driving about dusty Kapunda in a green Gemini we’d play air cowbell to ‘New Frontier’ as I imagine all the cool skinny kids did in the summer of ’83.
2. Ahh, Skyhooks. At the time I knew little about Melbourne but liked that there were songs about it. People usually seemed to sing only about New York, California and London, and Skyhooks made me curious about Carlton, Balwyn and Toorak. Living in the 70’s was their debut but I preferred Ego is not a dirty word. I insisted on ‘All My Friends Are Getting Married’ for our own wedding. Yeah, funny. I know.
1. Probably the most famous live album and with ample reason. There’s great songs and through the clever sequencing the mood and narrative are beautifully controlled. ‘Play Me’ is a sublime song and, ‘You are the sun, I am the moon/ You are the words, I am the tune / Play me’ are lyrical poignancy. Just before his last tour I thought given that I’d not seen Neil in concert I should get a ticket to his Adelaide Entertainment Centre concert. Within days he announced that due to health concerns he’d be retiring from performing, immediately. Poo. Not just an album but a cultural artefact. Good lord!

Honourable mentions- Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits, and Beggars Banquet (NB- no possessive apostrophe) by the Rolling Stones.

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The Summer of 1983: New Frontier

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Stephen’s harlequin green Gemini took us to Adelaide Oval one-day matches starring the Bruces (Laird and Yardley) and on other days to Kapunda’s Duck Pond lawn and memorably across the roo-infested plains preceding Blanchetown so we could rollick and crash at Crackshot’s family shack by the river.

It was a significant car. There was continuous music for we were teenagers with our windows down and the volume up.

We often played Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly.

The Gemini’s cassette player had a fast-forward feature that miraculously read the gaps in the tape and moved to the next song! If, say, a mixed tape was on, one moment we’d have track 3- perhaps a lesser tune from McCartney’s Tug of War, and then suddenly, track 4- probably “Smoke on the Water”- boomed from the Pioneer speakers (woofer, midrange and tweeter). I found it astonishing. How amazing would the future be?

My gateway to original music was Brendan. He’d moved to Kapunda from the Barossa and although the same age as us he was somehow older and viewed the tiresome planet through world-weary eyes.

In his darkened loungeroom I first heard Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Midnight Oil’s 10,9,8. In 1983 it was a centre of cool. He also introduced me to The Smiths, U2, and one evening to Donald Fagan, who I learned was half of Steely Dan.

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Brendan had a Flock of Seagulls haircut before Flock of Seagulls existed.

“IGY (What A Beautiful World)” is The Nightfly’s opening song and first single, and my favourite ever tune referencing the International Geophysical Year (actually eighteen months in duration, going from July 1957 to December 1958) but it was “New Frontier” which grabbed me.

I’d like to declare that back then I was drawn to Fagen’s nostalgic depiction of young love in suburban America; that this energetic Bildungsroman or coming of age account spoke to me intensely; that the interplay between wide-eyed youth and our cynical selves was enticing.

But no, it was the cowbell.

When K-Tel ultimately releases 20 Cracking Cowbell Classics! with “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Drive My Car” among other percussive pearls I trust “New Frontier” will occupy a prominent (vinyl) place.

Concluding with a suitably slick, LA cool, instrumental guitar break, and with the Gemini hurtling down a country road I’d accompany the song on my own invisible cowbell (air cowbell remains my chief musical talent) and aim to stop wacking my invisible drumstick on my invisible idiophone hand percussion instrument when it suddenly yet predictably ceased on the cassette.

This synchronisation was tough but if I timed it right there’d be a nod from one of my fellow passengers like Chrisso or Claire or Trish. But not Stephen for he was driving. It’s still the pinnacle of my (invisible) musical career.

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I can now see that I’m wistful about the lyrics which convey a wistfulness of their own. I guess scholars call this meta-wistfulness. It’s a song of innocence. It’s about being on the magical cusp of your future, when your world is opening up, and this is curious given that, for the geeky semi-autobiographical narrator the action- real and anticipated- takes place one weekend in the family’s nuclear bomb shelter.

Yes we’re gonna have a wingding

A summer smoker underground

It’s just a dugout that my dad built

In case the reds decide to push the button down

We’ve got provisions and lots of beer

The key word is survival on the new frontier

My last high school summer was punctuated by New Year’s Eve. It was the first time I stayed up all night. We were at Stephen’s in his absent parents’ loungeroom. Around 4am, with my hometown sinking to sleep and the music muted, a couple of us decided to aim for the dawn. It was a new frontier.

Beyond seeing that year’s first light, there was no other incentive. Standing on the concreted driveway we peered out over the chaff mills towards the unremarkable hills and I recall my exhilaration as the sun’s easterly rays filtered down to dusty, slumbering Kapunda.

Shortly after I fell asleep on the floor. Later, Boogly and Bongo and the others woke and soon music began – probably Australian Crawl’s Boys Light Up- from the imposing boom-box. Someone then made a cup of pineapple cordial.

Over my next twelve months there was footy and cricket; weekend work at the Esso service station; Year 12’s unforgettable anguish and ecstasy.

1983 was here, and The Nightfly would become part of the soundtrack.

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