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On the patio with old friends, listening to Ripper 76

Is there much better than a simple lunch on the patio with old friends, and a retro record player?

Claire and I went to Kapunda High with Stephen who’s lived by the river in Brisbane for decades. He and his wife Eleni were in town having visited family and Kangaroo Island.

With an unforced and graceful joy our conversation moved across our extensive history.

Over at the record player I cue up Side 2 of mid- 1970’s compilation Whopper which is glitter-ball, flared-pants glee. It’s irresistible while Side 1 is mostly turgid country ballads. We all giggle at both the name and wild-haired evocations of Disco Tex and his Sex-O-Lettes and their hit, ‘Get Dancin’.

But this is mere entrée for we then play Ripper 76. Everyone has a story about Ripper 76. It’s the finest compilation album in the catalogue of compilation albums.

Eleni tells us how as a young girl she won a copy in a Brisbane radio station phone-in and this persists as immeasurably superior to winning an icy cold can of Coke from a Black Thunder. She talks of the excitement of her mum driving her into the city to collect her vinyl.

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Our focus shifted to the global marriage of music and geography. Stephen spoke. “I had ‘Autobahn’ by Kraftwerk ready to go as soon as we hit the autobahn. Next thing a BMW went past us like we were standing still. Must have been doing 200k.”

I then offered. “When I was in California in 1992, we hired a convertible and driving around Santa Monica, heard The Doors’ ‘LA Woman.’ The sun was shining, and it was such a moment.”

Stephen continued the American theme. “As Eleni and I drove into Nevada we played, ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and now, whenever I hear that song I’m immediately back there. We’ve done similar things in the Black Forest and New York.”

Claire asked a question. “Can you do this in Australia?”

My first memory was instant. “Walking through Treasury Gardens to the MCG I was listening to Triple R and Paul Kelly’s ‘Leaps and Bounds’ came on just as the stadium swam into view. It was early in the footy season so the “clock on the silo” said more than eleven degrees but it was still fantastic.”

Our lively topic concluded in Europe when I mentioned Claire and I driving across Sweden and hearing the radio announcer say something like, “Just nu är det riktigt kallt här på landsbygden i Sverige och jag hoppas att du har tätt upp Volvos rutor för det kan komma snö. Hur som helst, det var Billy Joel.”

As lovers of both song and travel what wonderful, remindful privilege we shared. How amazing to enjoy those synchronised soundtracks?

People, place, and musical portraiture.

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Stephen and I also reminisce on collecting albums together as teenagers. We didn’t buy ones we knew like 10, 9, 8 by Midnight Oil for these were already in circulation but instead sought records that represented new, slightly dangerous terrain.

With Layla and Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes and a Yardbirds double album (on transparent vinyl) we edged into the world of blues. However, we also bought the Animal House soundtrack featuring ‘Shout!’ by Otis Day and the Knights, from surely one of the finest toga party scenes in modern cinematography. Before we were adults (clearly) many of us saw this film dozens of times.

As adolescents we also frequently mocked Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and then one night in someone’s wintry loungeroom as we finally listened to it properly, we came slowly to a realisation. Van’s jazz, blues, folk mysticism was brilliant. This was a humbling moment and I think we were all too embarrassed to confess. For many of us this album’s remained an intriguing, lovable companion.

Back on the summery patio I eased myself out of my chair and put on The Best of the Bee Gees- Volume 1 and pondering my wife and our dear old friends I thought of the divergent yet entangled paths we’d taken since leaving Kapunda.

Much had changed, and in some delightful, fundamental ways, nothing had.

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New Year’s Eve, 2021

New Year’s Eve’s a funny old day. During daylight it’s one of my favourite days but once the sun’s down I lose interest.

As a teenager in Kapunda I remember regularly waking early on the last day of the year- often before anyone else at home- and in the still dawn riding my bike around town and evaluating everything through my decidedly adolescent eyes. The Main Street was quiet- there was not a HQ Holden to be seen or heard- and I’d feel something probably akin to gratitude for the place- my place- and wonder about the year ahead, due to get underway in a few, brief hours.

It was always a solitary exercise but I’d experience connectedness to my hot, dusty hometown.

Claire and I and the dogs have just returned from the beach where the loose streams of walkers along the wide, flat sand suggest many others have resisted a sleep-in and are also extracting what they can from 2021 before it’s too late.

Happy new year to you!

Early January the boys and I (and later Claire too) headed to Barmera on our traditional trip. Here’s the last known photograph of our yabby nets prior to them being hooked by some miserable Collingwood supporting sod.
With Alex turning thirteen he and I spent a night up in Hahndorf to mark his official ascent (or is it descent) into teenagerhood. It would be churlish to mention that I narrowly won the mini-golf, so I won’t.
Max had his birthday at the Beach House (it remains an effort not to call it Magic Mountain). It was a fun morning and my hearing, the audiologist tells me, will soon have recovered.
Late afternoon at the Kapunda Mine Chimney on our wedding day this selfie captured our photographers too. How often is a photo taken of the photographers? Not often enough so thank you both.
Here we are, mid-April, on our honeymoon in the Flinders having just had a picnic lunch. If you listen carefully to this photo you can hear the lonesome call of the crows.
At the annual Footy Almanac lunch at Australia’s best soup pub, the North Fitzroy Arms, the spicy pumpkin was, as Rick Stein himself might’ve enthusiastically said, tasty.
We e-cycled the Riesling Trail one June Saturday and Claire enlisted a stick to correct our host town’s spelling.
In early spring I spent two days writing while overlooking the beach at Port Elliot before Claire joined me and we went for a dawn walk to begin our weekend.
Alex received a retro record player for Christmas. In between him dropping the needle on some hippity-hop vinyl I ushered him into the sacred world of Ripper 76.
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Ripper ’76

ripper 76

I admit that neither Dickens nor Shakespeare were on my early reading menu, but instead Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven starring Peter- whom I’d now cheerfully describe as a wanker, along with Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam and Colin. Truth be told, Scamper the English Cocker Spaniel remains the most likable of the lot.

secret 7

But, I also came late to Revolver, Blood on the Tracks and Exile on Main St. Among the weighty vinyl of my childhood was Ripper ’76. It’s the greatest ever compilation.

Beyoncé: And the Grammy goes to…Ripper ’76!

(Kanye and his So Fresh: The Hits of Spring squad storm the stage.)

You Messed About I Caught You Out

Suitably, Sherbet’s “Howzat” opens the batting. Garth Porter’s lush and languid keyboards invest it with a distinct 1970’s feel: all Sandman and Chiko roll. It’s a celebrated song, nevertheless the band’s finest tune, I’d argue, is “Summer Love” and yet, across their discography the tail is exposed prematurely, as Phil Tufnell bats at six, all bewilderment and eyes-shut slogging.

Of course, Sherbet’s lead singer Daryl (in Molly’s world folks had only one name) is now mostly known to liquefied crowds both at and away from Flemington for “The Horses.” Initially recorded by Ricky Lee Jones, one-time partner of unorthodox, but lusty ball-striker Tom Waits, it was co-written by Steely Dan founder Walter Becker who passed away earlier this year.

gatting

For cricket-themed albums may I present quirky British ensemble The Duckworth Lewis Method? “Jiggery Pokery” remains the finest song I’ve heard chronicling the Edwardian spectacle of the Gatting Ball. Richie may even have approved of this.

My Favourite Noosha

At track 7 is “S-S-S-Single Bed” by Fox. An enigmatic outfit, another of their songs is “If You Don’t Want My Peaches Don’t Shake My Tree” possibly reminding you of the lyrics in Steve Miller’s “The Joker” which itself references The Clovers’ 1954 song “Lovey Dovey.”

As sexually-charged fruit images go, this peaches motif has endured for many a season. Indeed, it’s always ripe for a-pickin’. Fox vocalist Noosha Fox is seen by some as a prototypical Kate Bush, but I’m unsure. I do think she’s my favourite Noosha.

Britpop had Oasis versus Blur while in Countdown Era (CE) Australia we witnessed the Skyhooks and Sherbet war. Closing out Side A of Ripper ‘76 is “Million Dollar Riff” by Shirl and company. Another Greg Macainsh tune about song writing, it’s driven by their urgent guitar and prickly irreverence. The battle of the bands? For me, Skyhooks made bigger cultural and personal impacts.

Side B blasts forth with the record’s penultimate track (of four) beginning with “Love” in the title as Billy Ocean sunnily accuses, “You run around town like a fool and you think that it’s groovy.” Talk to any veteran vinyl album and it’ll tell you that it ain’t easy kicking off Side B, but “Love Really Hurts Without You” does it as easily as a Sunday night bowl of Rice-a-Riso®.

Happily, it includes expert use of a tambourine. Forget Polywaffles, where have all the tambourines gone? Did Josie and The Pussycats nick them all?

Josie

This Song is a Social Commentary

Ol ’55 provided Happy Days-like fun, and Ripper ‘76 showcases their first single, “On the Prowl,” Frankie J Holden’s rollicking recount of a burglary gone awry. Though I prefer “Lookin’ For an Echo’ perfect for six-beers-in and hand-over-an-ear-backing-vocal-stylings. Both are also compulsory post-2017 AFL Grand Final karaoke songs in a Clare Valley motel with old friends, to the auditory risk of all within earshot, and without.

But you already knew this.

A Chartreuse Micra-Bus

“Convoy” is homage to interstate truck drivin’ by William Dale Fries, Jr. (born November 15, 1928), best known by his stage name C. W. McCall. It was my introduction to the idiosyncratic, oddly-mesmerising language of CB radio, and by extension, the marketing might of Radio Shack.

When you’re next in an outback truck stop it’s on the dusty K-Tel cassette you’ve idly picked up while waiting for your dim sims and, depending upon geography, potato cake/scallop/fritter.

cassette

The album does feature a few Jimmy Higgs ducks such as the Silver Studs and a flaccid Bee Gees track, but for sustained value, I give Ripper ’76 four and a half episodes of The Paul Hogan Show.

Or for the kids, a Pitchfork 9.2.

Side A

Sherbet – Howzat

Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From

Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around and Fell in Love

Silver Studs – Happy Days

Billy Thorpe – It’s Almost Summer

Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back in Town

Fox – S-S-S-Single Bed

Roxy Music – Love Is the Drug

Nazareth – Love Hurts

Skyhooks – Million Dollar Riff

Side B

Billy Ocean – Love Really Hurts Without You

Donna Summer – Love to Love You Baby

Ol’ 55 – On The Prowl

Bee Gees – Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)

Supernaut – I Like It Both Ways

Jon English – Hollywood Seven

Split Enz – Late Last Night

C.W. McCall – Convoy

Daryl Braithwaite – Old Sid

10cc – I’m Not in Love

PH