0

“And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies”

khs

I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.

So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.

*

There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.

There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?

There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.

And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.

There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.

There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.

There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.

There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.

There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”

There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.

There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.

There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.

There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.

There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”

There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.

There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.

There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”

There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.

There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.

*

It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.

Christmas is off to a flier.

cch

 

 

 

Advertisements
0

The Sinner of ’69- The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed

 

bleed

It was a hot day in Tanunda and lunch was done. A Sunday, there was energetic engagement with some Carlsberg lagers, and sitting in the garden, Nick and Holmesy1 agreed that these were excellent session beers.2

Of course, there was music. In its desolate, dirty beauty Let It Bleed burst from the outdoor speakers, and I now confess to you, dear reader, that I’d not heard it before. What had gone so wrong for me? My diet had been confined to Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out, Tattoo You 3, and various compilations.

Nick and I saw The Rolling Stones at Football Park in 1995, partly driven by fear of Keith’s mortality. Why did we worry? But I hadn’t investigated them as an albums band, and was denying myself history’s ultimate run of releases.

Beggars Banquet. Let It Bleed. Sticky Fingers. Exile on Main St.

For me their 1969 record is their best, and while its bookends of “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are correctly celebrated, there are other songs worthy of our attention.

Let It Bleed

This song is so languid; it could be summer in Tallahassee. Each component: guitars, piano, drums and vocals is lazy and loose. The slide guitar and autoharp evoke places remote from the band’s London home while Charlie’s drumming, especially on the outro, is spectacular.

Twenty-year-old Mick Taylor debuted on the album which would be the last for Brian Jones, so incapacitated by drugs and drink that his contributions were minor, and indeed he was soon lost to music, lost to himself. Drowned.

On blossoming display is the genius of Jagger’s singing as his vocals assume an American country twang that could’ve fallen into parody, but here is homage. Over the ensuing decade he’d continue these reverent performances on tracks such as “Dead Flowers” 4 and “Sweet Virginia.”

Damningly, I’ve never heard the song on Australian radio, but its sexual decadence and portraiture would henceforth define the band.

I was dreaming of a steel guitar engagement

When you drunk my health in scented jasmine tea

But you knifed me in my dirty filthy basement

With that jaded, faded, junky nurse oh what pleasant company

 You Got the Silver

For me “Jumping Jack Flash” is caricature. As hard rockers they’re competent, but this is uncomfortable territory; they’re in the wrong church. Nashville and the Mississippi Delta appeal to the band more than Chelsea.5 Blues and country rock are their spiritual habitat.

I’d never appreciated Keith as a singer. But on this song, the first on which he’d take lead vocals, he adopts a character so plausible, in such robust sympathy with his public persona, that it creates a compelling world. Its antagonism was likely inspired by Richards’ then girlfriend Anita Pallenburg, which gives it bemused venom, a telling context.

Hey babe, you got my soul,

you got the silver, you got the gold

A flash of love has made me blind,

I don’t care, no, that’s no big surprise

Both songs reveal The Rolling Stones’ song writing and performing powers, but within a genre not commonly acknowledged. These show imagination, a hunger to grow musically, and remarkable poise- especially as they were not yet thirty.

Our age of downloads and streaming services has made a curio of the album concept, but Let It Bleed is a record of a time and a place that denotes the stratospheric talents of Mick and Keith and their coterie.6

Play it this summer in its ragged, murky entirety. Over a couple Carlsbergs.

Footnotes

  1. Their real names.
  2. Session beers do not include either Coopers Sparkling Ale or Carlsberg’s Elephant beer. Failure to realise this can be catastrophic for all involved.
  3. Tattoo You came out in 1981 and was played on cassette in many HQ Holdens in Kapunda, the town of my youth. “Slave” was an audio calling card for many as we could hear our mates coming around the corner before we saw them, especially for some reason, late on Sundays before we’d go to the Railway Hotel.
  4. A wonderful version of this song by Townes Van Zandt features during the end credits of The Big Lebowski. It captures the laconic nature of the film magnificently and links thematically to The Dude, “possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County.”
  5. Chelsea, the west London suburb mentioned in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” the album’s closing song about disillusionment.
  6. Ian Stewart and Nicky Hopkins contribute brilliant piano throughout the album. Merry Clayton’s background vocals on “Gimme Shelter” are rightly recognised as iconic, and in the view of this author are the best of all time.

keef

 

 

0

Jonesy

car

We met in the Orwellian year of 1984 at the Salisbury SACAE and studied English together. It then turned into UniSA, and is now, perhaps poignantly given tonight’s splendid occasion, a retirement village where on Thursdays, I believe, they do a wicked two fruits and ice cream. But it was tremendous fun when we were there in the ridiculous and pastel 1980’s. Among many, many memories of my friend Jonesy, here’s just a few-

Joneso, do you remember how we’d plod off to fourth year English, heartlessly scheduled on Mondays from 4 – 8pm? Having survived, at 8.01pm I’d point my 1973 HQ Holden Kingswood southward, you’d beg me to crank up the cassette player with some mid-period Bob Dylan, and we’d navigate speedily if not unlawfully to the Botanic Hotel. Safely there, we’d review the lecture’s major themes, or not.

Back in those days pubs had to serve food to stay open late and the Botanic often offered spaghetti bolognaise, which was slopped out of a large steel pot, just like in a prison movie. And indeed the food was criminal. But, on more than one occasion, as uni students, we ate it.

One of my favourite Jonesy moments was on a Friday at uni when she performed a monologue by Barry Humphries’ best character; not Dame Edna or Sir Les Paterson, but the decent man of the suburbs, Sandy Stone. Jonesy’s performance was fantastic. I laughed like a drain. It was funny and poignant. That monologue is called Sandy Claus, and as I share an extract from it, imagine I’m a doddering, lisping old man, which’ll be impossible for I’m not the actor that she is. So, picture Jonesy in a dressing gown and slippers, with her hair gray

On top of the pudding Beryl had made a delicious fruit salad which she’d put in the big cut-crystal bowl she keeps for best. She’s had it for years now but it’s still got the Dunklings sticker on it. However, everyone was full up to dolly’s wax and I was absolutely stonkered, so unfortunately it was hardly touched and Beryl said it was a wicked shame after all the fag she’d gone to. With the exception of the banana which goes brown overnight, she’d preserved every bit of that fruit herself in her Fowlers Vacola and I can vouch for it personally; Beryl’s been bottling all her married life.

Is this the best reference to the Fowlers Vacola you’ve ever heard? Is this the only reference to the Fowlers Vacola you’ve ever heard?

Teaching at leafy and prestigious Marryatville High Kerry suffered or rather I suspect, enjoyed, a wardrobe malfunction. Yes, at school. Yes, in front of her students, like a shameless Kardashian. Many would’ve blushed and ran screaming from the room, but not our Jonesy, who confronted the issue with her students, saying,” Yes, I know it’s funny, have a good look, I’m sure this has happened to some of you too. Yes class, you’re correct, I am wearing odd shoes.”

Like a puppy I’ve followed her around professionally. Decades ago, early in our working lives, she went to Cleve and I went just up the road, to Wudinna (Woo-dina for those of you from Oxford). I then followed her to Marryatville, after she’d wisely left, and recently the exam and assessment authority called the SACE Board, after she’d wisely left, but at which we might work together in a few months.

If you return, we could sneak off early on Mondays, and yet again, regularly journey to the Botanic Hotel. I could hire a Kingswood. You could drive. I’ll bring the Bob Dylan tapes.

Happy birthday, loyal, funny, dear friend.

dylan

 

 

0

Volleys, Blundstones and Thongs: Life in the Shoe-Wearing States

blunnies

They’re beyond dreadful. Flat and offering less support than Chad Morgan opening for Metallica. The Dunlop Volley is a cultural icon, but podiatric nightmare, and I often wonder how Ken Rosewell wore them and still won all those tennis matches?

But spotting them about, they’re like the rarely seen old mate banging on your door with a six pack of Coopers. House painters love them. The herringbone tread must be superb if your day involves leaping up and down ladders, and cutting in around annoyingly ornate ceiling features.

I wore them at uni. A fine library shoe, they also performed exquisitely in the bar, especially on Friday nights when fifty cent schooners were on. The Volley was exceedingly valuable for sitting in the uni quadrangle as the morning sun streamed onto our youthful dials. About three times a semester and with eyes stricken with terror, my friend David would shriek, “Essay? What essay? Due at four today?”

They were also great as we plodded off to fourth year English, cruelly scheduled on Mondays from 4 – 8pm. At 8.01pm I’d point my HQ Holden southward, and with my old friend Jonesy co-piloting, navigate speedily if not unlawfully to the Botanic Hotel where we’d review the lecture’s major themes, or not.

But I couldn’t wear Volleys for sport. On the cricket oval I was a Puma Barbados man, and everything else apart from footy was handled by my Adidas Romes.

To my curious comfort I later met someone who actually wore them on the sporting field. For three seasons Peter and I played cricket together at Wudinna. A handy bat, and lively fieldsman, he was an accomplished first slip and stealthy patroller of the covers. One Saturday he arrived in a new pair, and I asked

“New Volleys? Where did ya get ‘em?”

“Town.” Adelaide was rarely called Adelaide.

“How much?”

“Fifteen bucks.”

I was surprised. “That’s a really good price.”

“They did me a deal. Because I bought six pairs.”

“Really? Why did ya get six pairs?”

“I reckon that should see me through to the end of my career.”

And I’m sure it did. Over the decades I’d imagine Peter in his shed, pulling down a box of new but peculiarly aged Volleys, brushing aside any resident Daddy Long Legs spiders, and with impish delight, sliding on the Dunlops for spring’s first cricket training.

But six pairs! What a visionary. Succession planning of the utmost order. Cricket Australia: phone this fella now.

I had mine on last Friday when the boys and I were at the park kicking their new Sherrin. They (the shoes, not the boys) are still terrible for this. However, as I later sizzled some sausages on the park’s free barbeque they became magnificent. My tong work was sublime, and I’ve rarely squirted sauce with such crisp authority. I thank my Volleys. They were always more Dean Martin than Dusty Martin.

*

They’d doubled in price. This was much better than anticipated, but I did purchase my first pair of Blundstones from a rural supplies store in Kimba during 1993 for fifty bucks. Since then we’ve moved nine times across three countries, and they’re still travelling superbly, and remain as utilitarian as Mark Ricciuto, but with a mellifluous special comments voice.

A new job meant I had to buy some new footwear so I jumped on the tram to revitalised Adelaide menswear retailer, Trims. Where previously I had no choice there are now multiple styles of Blundstones, catering from bushie to micro-brewing hipster. It was like buying a newspaper in London. You glance at the dozen or so front pages. The Times. The Daily Express. The Independent. And then, having scanned the alternatives, you buy the one you always get.

On the tram home I thought about my new boots and me. What might the next twenty-two years bring?

*

I know it’s feeble, but sometimes you just surrender. To make life easier. In Singapore, and surrounded by Americans, Canadians and Brits I started calling them flip-flops. It was just simpler. And now back home among the throng, and with spring making a few tentative squeaks, I’m reclaiming the word thong.

In various equatorial bars I’d try to explain for my global friends. But never with much success. “So it’s wrong to buy your mum a thong, but perfectly acceptable (if a little cheap) to buy her a pair of thongs.”

*

Late Saturday evening my wife’s Grandpop passed away. He was ninety. Not knowing either of my grandfathers contributed to him becoming a significant figure. For most of the twenty years I knew him he and grandma lived in Gympie on the highest hill in town.

We’d sit on their front veranda in the thick air, noisy with eccentric tropical bugs and their assorted clickings and whirrings. Geckos would scamper up and down the walls, while I’d gaze down across the houses on stilts and valleys so different from my dusty home town thousands of kilometres to the empty south.

With the exception of our wedding I only ever saw Grandpop’s gnarly hooves in slippers. Or barefoot.

A magazine columnist once described the non-Queensland parts of our nation as being, “the shoe-wearing states.” Grandpop reinforced this. His slippers were comfortable, but he also went shoeless partly because he didn’t care what those, “bloody wombats” thought. He’d always pronounce wombats with a deliberately long vowel and make it woombats. In the extended family it’s a term of fun and gentle mocking. Mostly.

And now he’s gone. He lived long, but it’s still sad.

*

The boys and I will continue to be bedazzled by Patrick Dangerfield’s seemingly irradiated footy boots. Before the season’s first lawn-mowing I’ll buy a pair of thongs, some double-pluggers. For extra comfort and backyard safety.

Like a feisty yearling my new Blundstones will finally be broken in, and the Volleys, as always, will push me on into that bright, windy spring.

thongs