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My best pubs

 

Love a list. Love a pub. Don’t you?

This week the Footy Almanac sought opinion on our favourite pubs. I instantly penned a digital love letter to some cracking watering holes. How could I refuse?

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks- St Albans, Hertfordshire

England’s oldest and most charismatic boozer. Ceiling so low it made me feel like a centre half-forward when I walked in, and most certainly as I left. We lived about a Par 4 away, and invested some time there on weekends. When we returned in 2014 it was the only pub in town we visited twice with Alex and Max.

cocks

The Magpie and Stump- Mintaro, Clare Valley

Gum trees and vineyards; idyllic beer garden. No aural pollution from within or without, just birdsong. Happily by its bar on a rainy Sunday morning before the SANFL grand final I first heard a publican say, “Another cup of tea, Vicar?” which amuses me more than it should.

Prince of Wales- Kapunda, South Australia

Hometown favourite. Colossal former mine host. When I lived five hours away in Kimba, and would visit, he’d greet me with, “Hello, West Coast smack-head.” I knew then that he missed me. Also home of spoofy.

The Kings Inn- Mousehole, Cornwall

Redolent of pirates and rum, romance and treasure. Of course, it’s pronounced Moz-all.

kings

The Exeter- Rundle Street, Adelaide

Eclectic perfection. Once, this happened: Dawn’s closer than dusk. Only Nick and I remain, our Doc Martins moored to the floorboards. He’s from a farm in Shea-Oak Log. We met in school. Years ago, we saw the Rolling Stones at Footy Park.

ex

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Honourable mentions

The Goat- St Albans, Hertfordshire

The Taminga- Clare

All Nations- Richmond (frequently home to Mick Molloy and Bill Hunter, drinking in concert)

Greenock Tavern- Barossa Valley (mine host Norton, and then Mick)

Lemon Tree- Carlton (sadly now gone; snuck in there when in Melbourne during my mulleted 1980’s)

Seacliff Hotel- Adelaide

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What’s your top battle-cruiser?

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The original Footy Almanac post is worth a look and you can find it, and other great stuff here-

Best pubs of all time?

 

 

 

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Billy the Mountain

FZ

I sing best when by a washing machine.

Half way across Australia. The farming hamlet of Kimba. Late on a Tuesday. It often was. At that time, no night was safe. Bazz, Hen and I wedged into the laundry, and warbling along with Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around

Stripping precious bushels from the wheat, our voices pranged out across the paddocks. The adult in charge was Coopers Sparkling Ale. Of course, Bazz, Hen and I have been mates ever since.

I first heard Zappa at Bushy Martin’s one summer down at Sellicks Beach. It was Joe’s Garage on vinyl, exhilarating and just a bit dangerous. Here was sophisticated, funny music coupled with contagious lyrics, especially on “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?”

Much of my pop culture schooling came on Sunday nights through The Coodabeen Champions. During one episode the best Frank Zappa song was debated. They agreed.

I raced into Rundle Mall, and bought Just Another Band From LA. Inspecting the cartoonish cover, I see “Billy the Mountain” runs for roughly thirty minutes. Epic songs have always bewitched me with their wide landscapes. Empty roads, awaiting traffic.

The storytelling and amusing arrangements make it a masterpiece. Part travelogue and romantic comedy, it opens in Los Angeles, tumbles through Playa Del Rey, Santa Monica, and Canoga Park, before lurching across the Mojave Desert, to The Strip

It’s off to Las Vegas
To check out the lounges
Pull a few handles,
And drink a few beers.

It also functions as an opera and a radio play, with Zappa and cult vocal duo Flo and Eddie alternating as narrators. On a vacation paid for by postcard royalties, our mobile mountain Billy, and his wooden wife Ethell are heading, seismically, to New York.

The heroic pair travel west to east, annihilating various human environments, in a deviant Manifest Destiny. Edwards Air Force Base is an early, delicious target

TEST STAND #1 and THE ROCKET SLED ITSELF… (We have ignition!)… got LUNCHED! I said LUNCHED!

When I lived just north of London in the old Roman city of St Albans, it was a Zappa-free zone for two years. Mammoth in charisma and personal impact, I missed this song. So, in 2005 I had a mate home in Adelaide copy my CD, and send it to me.

Driving down to New Forest’s heathland, the wife and I listened to it one Friday. It provided happy escape from the cheerlessness of the M25 and M3. A universe distant from soggy Hampshire

He was born next to the beef pies,
Underneath Joni Mitchell’s autographed picture,
Right beside Elliot Roberts’ big Bank Book,
Next to the boat
Where Crosby flushed away all his stash.

Mentioning American emblems such as Jack-In-The-Box and Howard Johnsons, this magnum opus inspires me to drive an El Dorado Cadillac and shop at Ralph’s. Just like The Dude in the beginning sequence of The Big Lebowski. To a country boy from South Australia, it’s profoundly panoramic.

Remember the soaring coda of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes?” It’s parodied on “Billy the Mountain.” A key sonic motif is the stab from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and the structure reminds me of “Peter and the Wolf.”

It’s eclectic, as Toto (the dog, mercifully, and not the band) and the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, are juxtaposed with Jerry Lewis samples. Remarkably, all recorded live at UCLA!

Satirising the antihero, a blundering Studebacher Hoch, Zappa’s darts are sharpest on overzealousness, and fawning ignorance, especially in Hoch’s introductory monologue

and, ah, how’s your wife’s haemorrhoids? Oh, that’s too bad… Listen… so you’ve got a mountain, with a tree, listen, causing… oh, my! Well, let me write this down . . . sorta take a few notes here… yeah… ?

The song’s Dadaist, its anarchistic storyline urging anti-war sentiment during its elongated loopiness. But, it’s also debauched, ridiculous, and hilarious.

And, of course, it takes a brutal intellect to invent such fun.

We don’t live in a global village. Mostly, we reside in a culturally identical village, repeated globally. Zappa fought this, and “Billy the Mountain” is musical theatre of prodigious ambition, and equal achievement. It’s among the most engrossing, most weird half hours you can spend.

I often think of being by that washing machine, in its tiny laundry, when three friends squawked out into the undeserving Tuesday dark, with America’s wittiest commentator, Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around

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Who gets the new ball: Seasick Steve, Derek and The Dominos, Chad Morgan, or The Big Lebowski?

chad

About two Southwark cans into the drive down the Port Kenny Road somebody pushed a cassette in. It might’ve been Snook or Jock. Or possibly Stink.

Chad Morgan started singing the “Banana Boat Song.” If under zombie attack, play this loud, you’ll be safe.

Years later, Chad performed in the Kimba pub. Heckled by a pair of Bundy-soaked punters he advised, “You shouldn’t drink on an empty head.”

Like my wife’s family, and Test cricketers Carl Rackemann and Nathan Hauritz, he’s from Wondai in Queensland. His signature song is “The Shiek of Scrubby Creek.” It’s vaudevillian, novelty. It evokes bush footy clubs and the unhurried Sunday BBQs of yesteryear.

The sheilas think I’m handsome

their fathers think I’m mad

their mothers think I’m a villain

but I’m just a loveable lad

Chad wrote it when he was sixteen. So for well over sixty years it’s been paying for his dinner and dentures. I’m more Vampire Weekend than weekend in Tamworth, but how fantastic is this?

At sixteen few of us do anything of creative consequence. Not many forge a career by drinking too much cider and falling into a bush.

Contrastingly, Annie Proulx was almost sixty when her literary life accelerated, courtesy of The Shipping News. Including “Brokeback Mountain” her recent Wyoming Stories trilogy is raw and remarkable.

And this brings me to Seasick Steve. In his seventies, and having served a colossal apprenticeship, he only found recognition in 2006 with Dog House Music. Among others, he uses a Cigar-Box Guitar, and The One-Stringed Diddley Bow. “The Last Song Is About A Rooster Who Ain’t Alive No Mo’…” from Cheap is great.

The intersection between fictional lyrics and autobiography intrigues me. Jagger sings of horizontal conquest with authority, and Seasick’s gravelly tales are lived in too. On “Thunderbird” he recounts

Going up north

Rootin’ potatoes

Freight down to Cali

Pick some tomaters

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Newsflash! Fresh from his Sports Day success, our youngest, Max, breaks his wrist as I’m heading to the Marina Bay circuit. Ouch. Taxi. Hospital. Anaesthetic (son, not parents). Cast. Home.

No Seasick Steve for me.

I’m going to the Singapore Grand Prix with a friend who’s from Louisville, Kentucky. Not spotting a carbon-fibre conveyance won’t worrry me. I’m only here to enjoy some music.

Are the HQ Holdens racing? What? No Nitro Funny Cars? My interest in F1 parallels Fev’s passion for the Large Hadron Collider. Agreed, it’s like going to Glastonbury just to admire the tents. Trackside, Seasick Steve, I trust, takes the idiotically named Coyote Stage. Cultural hegemony anyone?

I’d love to visit Kentucky, home of the Derby, Hunter S Thompson and the Louisville Slugger. It also hosts the original Lebowski Fest, a celebration of the cult Coen brothers film. The Big Lebowski features the finest lines since Caddyshack.

That rug really tied the room together.

Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.

Is this your homework, Larry?

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At least climatically, the blues fits here, with its muggy airlessness suggestive of the Mississippi Delta. Ash Grunwald did an outdoor gig in Clarke Quay in April. With his whirling dreadlocks, Dobro and BB King-inspired voice, it was hot, and it worked.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos was my initial excursion. As the title track was a constant on the then catholic SA-FM, my harmonica playing, air-traffic controller friend and I bought the vinyl during my final year at school. A critique described the seminal opening riff as a maelstrom. Scandinavian words (and images) are exciting to adolescent boys.

With a searing rock section, and the exquisite piano and slide guitar coda, “Layla” is incongruous on this blues album. Meandering across ten languid minutes, “Key to the Highway” still charms me as improvisation tsars, Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, have too much fun. It’s casual, soaring and laughably brilliant. A musical version of Darren Jarman, really.

Touring Adelaide’s beachside playgounds, I’d play Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs for my boys, supposing, like natural sugar, there’ll be enough pop in their acoustic diet. Only four, Alex’d ask, “Dad, can we hear those long songs?”

Where some see aural cruelty, I see schooling. The Wiggles are The Beatles for kids. Genius. But, without the blues’ swampy misery, how will they grow up happy?

One day I may even sneak some Chad Morgan on for them.

lebowski

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Frogger, Bush Biscuits and Staring at Parked Motorbikes

fish tales

Growing up in the country wasn’t simply footy, cricket and an occasional hit of tennis.

Frogger

A gastronomic and social revolution followed Johnny Guzzo opening The Kapunda Pizza Bar in the late 1970’s. Located on the Main Street, it was a superior example of the wider world invading. Goodbye chops and three veg!

This meant Rawady’s Deli no longer sold the town’s most exotic food: the Chiko Roll. Of course, neighbouring Nuriootpa had a so-called, “Chinese Restaurant,” but the Barossa Valley was always a brazen place.

The KPB immediately became a teenage hangout. Within its fuggy walls were a jukebox, pinball machine and cabinet game. Trigonometry and flora transects would not win me. Enter Frogger!

Our heroic frog needed to cross a road, and then a river teeming with turtles and alligators. Superior to Space Invaders and Galaxian; both were earnest and dull next to Frogger’s narrative silliness. Beyond the usual disposable deaths, it rewarded the escorting of a lady frog.

And the cultural legacy! In 1998, the game starred in the Seinfeld episode, “The Frogger,” involving George’s world record score of 860,630 points. While, “Space Invaders” by Player One featured on the 1979 K-Tel compilation Full Boar. Side 2 holds up well

Split Enz- I Got You

Flying Lizards- Money

Sniff ‘n’ the Tears- Driver’s Seat

The Sports- Strangers On A Train

Cheap Trick- Dream Police

Ry Cooder- Little Sister

The Aliens- Confrontation

Jo Jo Zep & Falcons- Shape I’m In

Graham Parker- Hey Lord Don’t Ask Me Questions

Jimmy & The Boys- I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Roller-skating

“Lay Your Love on Me” by Racey was popular when I started high school, and ceaselessly requested on 5AD’s evening show.

Roller-skating on the betting ring at Kapunda’s Trotting Track. In a wheeled version of musical chairs I won Racey’s follow-up single, “Some Girls.“ It wasn’t even in the shops!

Collecting the record from DJ and Tarlee farmer Tony Clarke, it was a dazzling jewel in a Tintin adventure. A giggle of girls gathered around me to behold it. For about five seconds I was John Paul Young.

“You’re so lucky!”

“That is so cool.”

“Can you even wait to play it on the Pye 3-in-1?”

The chorus was ruthlessly relevant

Some girls will, some girls won’t
Some girls need a lot of lovin’ and some girls don’t
Well, I know I’ve got the fever but I don’t know why
Some say they will and some girls lie

I was sure it’d make me outrageously popular with that most desirable of creatures, the older Year 9 girl.

It did not.

Extra ball! Multiball! Special!

The highest weekly pinball score at Johnny Guzzo’s won a can of coke. I know! It was usually collected by a yoof wearing a black duffel coat, and the black boots with a fearsome reputation among mothers everywhere, Ripples. Although some dressed tough, Kapunda boys weren’t.

When not applying plantations of pineapple to pizza (jalapeno and salami were yet to be invented) Johnny Guzzo would play pinball. He was fun, but kicked out anybody who tilted the machine too violently. Exiled onto the Main Street, Johnny’d be yelling after them, “Vaffanculo! Si cazzo rompi. Esci!”

Bang! A Special! A free game! The whip-crack always turned the adolescent heads away from their smoking and bantering, to see who’d won.

It is a Believe It Or Not mystery that I claimed the coke. Once.

I often think that when my mid-life crisis finally hits, I’ll buy a pinball machine. May be Fish Tales.

Bombing the Canteen

Every summer, every boy tried to splash Mrs Chappell, the Kapunda Swimming Pool’s manageress, as she sat in her canteen chair. Mrs Chappell sold confectionery, shelved seductively in glass bottles. These were probably taken from a Fowler’s Vacola preserving set.

Launched stealthily from the diving board, drenching the canteen could only be achieved with an impeccably executed bomb or cannonball such as a Storky, Arsey, Suey, or my cousin Boogly’s speciality, the Coffin.

Being built like a full back didn’t result automatically in a bigger splash. The best bombs had slick skill and my friend Lukey, still Robbie Flower skinny, possessed Grand Master technique.

Eating at the pool was ritualistic. Bush Biscuits were similar to Arrowroots, but larger, harder, and somewhat impossibly, more dreary and tasteless. According to the manufacturer, they were, “made for camping.” Forget blood brothers, Bush Biscuit bonds run deepest.

They became our currency. Decades on, and always over beers, fellow pool-haunter Fats and I still jest about the Bush Biscuit ledger.

“You still owe me a Zooper Dooper from 1983.”

“What about the time I bought Boogly, Lukey and you Sunnyboys?”

“I remember the day you pinched my Wizz Fizz, you know, when I got kicked out for bombing Mrs Chappell in the canteen!”

For the record, Fats remains indebted to me.

Staring at Parked Motorbikes

I never loved the motorbike. Several of my schoolmates did. Upon arriving, during recess, at lunch, and after school, they’d gather under the tree where the teachers’ motorbikes were parked.

Like a hypnotised cult they’d stare at the machines as if in a David Lynch film. Or Puberty Blues.

Through barely-opened mouths, they’d mutter about carbies and clutches. They had nicknames like Gomer and Lumpy.

“How’s the throttle action?”

“What do you think’s the top end?”

“I reckon Mr H polished his petrol tank last night.”

When every working part had been mentioned, they’d cycle through them again. Never making eye contact, but staring, bewitched, at the motorbikes.

After school, they’d then break camp to Johnny Guzzo’s and, on the footpath, repeat their low automotive mantra, while gazing at a different set of Kawasaki’s.

Working at a Catholic school in Hertfordshire I was reminded of Gomer and his Suzuki pornologists. A friend, the Religious Instruction teacher, once had the following priestly exchange

“So boys, it is a sin to masturbate, because, in the eyes of God, in so doing, you are thinking about sex with a woman.”

A hand crept up. “But sir,” an anxious boy asked, “is it still a sin if you’re thinking about your favourite car?”

bush