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Spinning Records on our Patio

A while back Mum and Dad gave me all of their vinyl records including a couple Beatles’ singles from the early sixties. I tweeted this photo and explained that I’d inherited these because they’d downsized in the Barossa.

A mate replied saying, “Gee, it must be a small house.”

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Following the year’s first edition of Mystery Pub which was at the Hilton (on South Road) and returned this verdict: spacious; bland; utilitarian; expensive Claire and I decamped to the patio and cranked up the new (retro) record player and enjoyed a dozen or so albums. Here’s our evening’s top three as voted by me alone (hmmm- selfish):

3. Shilo by Neil Diamond.

This is a magnificent compilation and the cover featured a “connect the dots” which Mum completed at the kitchen table. There were 200 dots and such is my still shaky numeracy that I remember being relieved I wasn’t entrusted with the black pen to bring Neil and his guitar neck to life.

Spence Berland of Record World supplied the cover notes and he wrote that Neil’s voice, “is filled with love, beauty and the type of human pain that everyone can identify with.” Yes, but mercifully for Claire I chose not to sing along for her auditory pain would’ve been profound and possibly, incurable. “Kentucky Woman”, “Cherry, Cherry” and “I’m A Believer” are magnificent and while it has a sublime melody the lyrics of “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” remain just a little bit creepy.

2. Blow Your Cool by the Hoodoo Gurus

I’m fairly confident that this was bought for my 21st by old school friend Chrisso. He couldn’t confirm this but did share that Woodsy and I gifted him Astral Weeks by Van Morrison for his birthday that year. Of course. I’m quite sure that Woodsy is yet to hear this album.

Many of us curated the music for our own coming-of-age parties and I made four C-90 minute cassettes which were each played twice at the Kapunda Golf Club on that distant June night. I recall Chrisso saying that he sequenced “Good Times” from Blow Your Cool to finish his Kapunda Trotting Club event so people would hear it and agree that, yes, they had had a good time at his party. I’m sure we did. Most of The Bangles, including Susanna Hoffs, provided backup vocals on this track, having just returned from a pedestrian crossing in Cairo.

The hit single, “What’s My Scene” features these fantastic opening lines which take us straight into the middle of a lovers’ tiff-

And another thing I’ve been wondering lately / Oh, baby, tell me, where have you been? 

The evening raced by and Claire and I’d drained many cups of tea when we popped on what would be the night’s top selection.

1. Best of The Bee Gees

Another old school friend, Stephen, visited during the week and told us that there’s a statue of the brothers Gibb in Redcliffe, Brisbane where the young Mancunians found themselves in the 1950’s. The unveiling was a mighty affair and Stephen suggested the statue could well rank in the top ten attractions in Redcliffe.

Sadly, the Bee Gees are now The Bee Gee but the album is tremendous with soaring harmonies and superb pop sensibilities. “Massachusetts” might be difficult to spell but is probably a better title for the song than “Punxsutawney.” Other gems are, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” and one of my all time favourites, “To Love Somebody” which I have mercilessly destroyed with shiraz-driven warblings across the decades.

All are excellent examples of pop music, but excuse me for I’m about to drop the needle on Ripper 76.

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A Day on the Green: Annie’s Lane

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One of life’s unexpected joys is to chance upon a game of cricket. Arriving in the Clare Valley we locate the bush camping ground ($10 a head) at the Watervale Oval. Setting up our camper trailer is like every couple assembling Ikea furniture together, but without the fun, laughter and argument-free marriage-building.

Indeed, a game of cricket is happening. The oval is shielded by an impressive stand of gums along its eastern side while a handsome grandstand sits atop a gradient that makes Lords appear flat. A round robin Masters tournament is underway, and my lunch is a snag in bread ($3 a pop, sauce no extra) and a Rabbit & Spaghetti ‘The Fox’ Hop & Rye Lager ($5 per 500ml can, 4.8% ABV).

The boundary is in, and the boundary is breached, often. Very few singles are taken. None are run. One innings is opened by inaugural Crow and dual Margery Medallist, Andrew Newton Jarman, who makes, as you may suspect, an exotic and inevitably brief seven.

We stroll up to Annie’s Lane winery for A Day on the Green. Models began and are serviceable, but more cask white than perfumed Riesling, with “I Hear Motion” the highlight. There’s lots of darting, skipping infants here, and between sets the DJ spins Bowie’s “Suffragette City” and a boy of about ten immediately sings along. I’m impressed. He’s wearing a Coopers brewery cap, advertising Mild Ale, which at 3.5% is mid-strength. They’re obviously responsible parents.

NMFC fan and guitar-slinger Tim Rogers is next, and announces that the Adelaide Crows have won the grand final. A mate and I discuss which Tim might perform. I say, “When I last saw him in November we got bad Tim. I hope good Tim’s here today.” Neil replies, “Oh, I don’t know. Bad Tim could make it interesting.”

I get a Fat Yak ($8, 355ml) and a local sparkling shiraz for the wife ($35 a bottle, 13.7%, with “lifted aromas including black olives, figs and Christmas cake spices”). Good Tim does an up-tempo version of “Heavy Heart” which has this great lyric

Been watching so much TV

I’m thinner than I should be

I’m like a waterlogged ball

That no-one wants to kick around anymore

Stopping by various islands of friends I visit the merchandise stand, and settle upon a Day at the Green stubby-holder ($10, but bottomless) while the wife selects a Violent Femmes t-shirt ($40, the one featuring their eponymous album’s cover). There’s gorgeous autumnal light on this tropical afternoon, and it endows the valley with a McCubbin quality; even the curved line of rickety porta-loos ($0, minimal wait time).

The Whitlams are excellent, and I’m struck by the agelessness of Tim Freedman’s voice. With their blend of wit, quirky sentimentality and piano-driven pop they remind me of Ben Folds Five, North Carolina’s finest trio. Among their terrific lines are, from “Melbourne”

If I had three lives, I’d marry her in two

and their signature song, “Gough”

Come over have dinner with me, we’ll play chess and drink claret

Walk slowly down my little street, can you bring Margaret?

Finishing with “You Sound Like Louis Burdett” we rename it to honour the iconic Adelaide Oval curator, Les Burdett. I get another Fat Yak (still $8, mercifully no variable pricing) and the wife and I pull apart and devour our savoury pull-apart ($6, you know the bakery chain, the one with the jangly jingle).

The next act is introduced as coming from Ohio, but the Violent Femmes are from Milwaukee. Is it a mistake, irony or an alternative fact? Is there an issue with what Colbert calls “truthiness?” Invigorated by winery produce and news of Hawthorn’s imminent loss the crowd is up and dancing as they zip through their country-twinged songs about adolescent desperation.

“Blister in the Sun,” “American Music” and “Old Mother Regan” are superb. It’s charming to also be in Clare with my dear old friend Clare and she films us, if this is the correct verb, singing “Country Death Song.” Clare promises to post it on social media, and I’m sure we’ll soon be celebrated as a contemporary Sonny and Cher. However, Sunday afternoon’s initial viewing exposes this as unlikely (probable recording contract value, $0).

“Add It Up” is all psychotic teenage anguish and the Gen X crowd is jumping to this last song. Gordon Gano’s voice has been perfect: at once sunny and whingy and smiling, leading us to happy places, while Tasmanian resident and MOMA curator Brian Ritchie monsters xylophone, jaw bone and bass with good humour too.

Led by Flacco lookalike Dave Faulkner, I saw the Hoodoo Gurus in the late nineties on their break-up tour, which of course, was from the pre, post-truth world, and never something anyone really believed. For the right fee, even the Ramones might again tour. So here we are in 2017 as they perform “Leilani” and “Bittersweet.” Along with Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out” and the Rolling Stones’ “Torn and Frayed” the anthemic “1000 Miles Away” is among my favourite road songs.

Remember how “Like Wow, Wipeout” became the theme song of Brylcreemed, ear ringed and punkish Australian off-spinner Greg Matthews? That was 1986. The song endures while Mo Matthews is now a radio commentator so I’m unsure if he still uses hair product from when Menzies was PM. It’s the final song of a fun day.

Prior to breaking camp and over a breakfast latte ($5.50, red van by the oval) I check the footy and cricket scores. I also see that Dad’s Nuriootpa Tigers Division 1 bowls team has jagged another flag, his twelfth.

All about the campsite there’s deceased camping chairs (too many $$, the sausage sizzle hardware mega-store) in Salvador Daliesque tangles of disappointment and enthusiastic Sauvignon Blanc. Our twenty-year veteran chairs ($40, Port Pirie camping store, late lamented) are in the boot, ready to ride again.

The cricket begins. We drive south, into our muggy Sunday.

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