2

I Believe in Milk Cows: You Sexy Thing

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I negotiated the semi-circle of Adelaide’s most notorious roundabout by the Britannia Hotel, before slipping onto tree-lined and genteel Kensington Road. It was just after eight in the morning when the opening chords rushed into my tiny car.

It was a revelation, and happy reminder of the excellence that had come before. Yet again, Triple J would provide instruction, although on this occasion it was Mikey, the Sandman and guest presenter Rosie Beaton’s weekly segment during which a much-loved song was played.

I believe in miracles

Where you from?

You sexy thing

London funk and soul outfit Hot Chocolate’s greatest song is firmly anchored in 1975, but also transcends this frightfully disco epoch, and to my ears is still as irresistible now as it was when it was cruelly denied rising to the top of the charts by Queen and their “Bohemian Rhapsody” juggernaut. Testament to the affection for “You Sexy Thing” is its rare achievement of charting in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Spare him his life from this monstrosity, indeed.

There’s orgasmic violins- listen carefully, and tell me this is not the case- which soar across the arc of the melody, absurdly catchy vibrato guitars and (late) lead singer Errol Brown, whose voice is perfect, with a soulful performance that is almost a gleeful shout, especially in this unexpected, but joyous couplet-

Yesterday I was one of the lonely people

Now you’re lying close to me, making love to me

However, the opening lyrics continue to confuse listeners, with the following declared among the catalogue of the misheard

       Are you bleeding mental

Where’s your car, you sexy thing?

And then this, a pre-Trump assertion

I believe I’m American!

Not ignoring the geek-driven, Family Matters option

I believe in Urkel

The esoteric-

        I believe in Malcolm

Wear your bra

You sexy thing

A piscatorial tribute-

        I believe in mackerels

And finally, attributed to a German gent, allegedly hard of hearing-

               I believe in milk cows.

*

“You Sexy Thing” is ageless, disco genius; a song that elevates mood, and our capacity for joy, instantly.

Go on, stick it on! Now.

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2

Jeans On- Not on Triple J’s Hottest 100 but Massively Cool

dd

Born in Oxford to the 3rd Marquess of Zetland and his wife Penelope Pike, and schooled at Harrow. Not what you’d necessarily expect of the man singing the world’s catchiest tune. Ladies and gentlemen, Lord David Dundas!

At least it was in 1977 when I first heard it on Countdown on a Sunday night. I recall my cousin Boogly was a fan of the song too. We first heard it one wintry evening after a Kapunda Footy Club function (piss up) when we repaired to his house. No doubt having toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. We ate these often. His mum, my Aunty Claire, makes a wicked toasted sandwich.

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If the song sounds like a jingle that’s because it originally was, having come to life to promote Brutus jeans, a company started by two London brothers in their teens. The jeans were popular among mods, sharpies and scooter boys.

With a laid-back melody underpinned by a memorable keyboard the lyrics commence

When I wake up in the morning light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on (ch-ch)
I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on (ch-ch)

Back about a year we entertained friends from Kimba and Kentucky- as you do; these should be twinned communities- and this song came up. With sufficient sparkling beverages onboard (Ale and Shiraz) we located the song on YouTube and played it on repeat, sitting on our patio as we (Bazz and I) yodelled out into the undeserving night sky with the “ch-ch” bits being an aural highlight. Neighbourhood dogs still growl when I pass.

sa

Happily, the song is now also on Spotify with nearly three-hundred thousand plays while other songs by David Dundas have only attracted meagre listens making him, I think, a one-hit wonder. But, Fatboy Slim liked it so much he sampled it on his song “Sho Nuff.”

It will be another vital plank in the musical education of Alex and Max and I’ll play it for (at) them when an opportunity arises (imprisoned in my car). You should listen to it too.

On Australia Day, what could be more appropriate?

 

 

0

Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1993

wellington

Gee, I love the early nineties. Indeed, my wife has often remarked that I’m still living there. She may have a point. So, I’m listening to some old songs. Here’s two that reverberate.

Girlfriend- Matthew Sweet

I remember the first time I heard Triple J. I was driving around Adelaide on a Saturday during 1990 in my VK Commodore. Roy and HG and This Sporting Life was on, and Roy was telling of the occasion he was marlin fishing off Bermuda with It’s a Knockout host Billy J. Smith, Kylie Minogue and celebrated cricketer Steve Waugh. He narrated with such earnestness that like all good satire I believed him for a few minutes.

Back then Helen and Mikey did the breakfast shift on Triple J and it remains the most exciting, deranged radio I’ve heard. They regularly played Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.” It’s power pop perfection with its exhilarating, urgent guitars and ambiguous lyrics. It still transports me back to 1992 when I and Greg Anderson both sported (unironic) mullets.

A few years later Mikey was still on breakfast, but with the Sandman, and this happened.

Sandman: I’ve often wondered what it’d be like to be a woman.

Mikey: Come here.

I’m not sure if Matthew Sweet is a one-hit wonder, but “Girlfriend” endures as a glowing artefact from a fun time.

Saints- The Breeders

Emerging as a Pixies side project for Kim Deal, their signature song is “Cannonball” from their album Last Splash. I bought this when I was down from Kimba, in Adelaide to undertake my first City to Bay fun run. My aim for the gently downhill twelve kilometres was modest. I wanted to break the hour mark.

The run was Sunday morning, the day after the 1993 preliminary final between the Adelaide Crows and Essendon Bombers. I watched it in Magill with a couple mates who were enjoying some footy beers. Adelaide was up by 42 points at half time. How exciting was this? We were going to our first grand final!

As things unravelled in the second half I was tempted to apply some medicinal lagers, but resisted as I’d been training for two months. Of course we lost and a week later Essendon claimed an unlikely premiership.

I completed the run in 58 minutes.

Last Splash is an eclectic listen comprising surf music, off-kilter ballads and infectious pop. “Saints” recounts a summery day at the fairground, but through an alternative prism. There’s disconnected imagery and a driving beat with Kelley Deal on a growling guitar. Invited by her sister Kim to join the band as a guitarist presented but one problem: Kelley did not know how to strum a chord. “Saints” shows she picked it up pretty well.

The following Christmas I was in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on a Contiki tour.  I learnt that the Breeders were playing a small venue around the corner from our digs. I didn’t go because I had to drink Steinlagers in a pub with other Australians and talk footy and cricket. As Australians do when overseas in beautiful places they might never again visit.

Ridiculous.

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2

Voices

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I wrote this memoir about a decade ago. It won me a trip to Darwin for the national English teachers’ conference the highlight of which was sneaking off to Adelaide River and seeing the jumping crocodiles.

Of course.

*

Classrooms, for me, are largely about voices. These voices shout, whisper and demand. Guiding some to sing roughly in tune and gently handing a microphone to the shy student who just might sing like an angel are among our challenges. Now more than ever, it’s vital that students and teachers have voices that leap into laughter. As often as possible.

Many years ago, to conclude SAS English, pupils were invited to write a so-called ‘warm report’, summarising their successes. One student, for whom spelling was difficult, triumphantly declared to me that, ‘he had enjoyed improving his pubic speaking.’

Whilst in the UK a Year 10 class and I were crawling through an endless media unit from which the authorities had untimely ripped all the joy. One morning, instead of asking, ‘Sir, are we doing media today,’ one girl mistakenly said- without irony- ‘Sir, are we still doing mediocrity today?’ I could only reply, ‘Not just today, my little hombre, not just today.’

I’d just returned some coursework to- my fingers are trembling as I type this- a streamed, bottom-set Year 11 English class. One boy- I’ll call him Edward- began loudly announcing, somewhat curiously, that he’d gotten a G (Yes, it’s true, the UK system utilises the esteem-crushing F, G and U). His classmate Kyle started hollering, ‘A G! A G! Edward! What is wrong with you? You’re so thick.’ Kyle then glanced at his own work and with an utterly honest face, enquired, ‘Sir- is an F better than a G?’

Following their SATs, Year 9’s in England sometimes assemble a course work folder for internal moderation. On the accompanying coversheet, each writes a paragraph in which they reflect on their year’s achievements and a sweet, amenable girl concluded, ‘I have learnt not to use words that are unnecessary- and not needed.’

Recently, a boisterous lad was growing restless and distracted during his classmates’ oral presentations. I asked him, as you do, to concentrate and focus. Instead of replying that he’d promise to be more productive; he looked me in the eye, nodded and with total sincerity said that, in future, in class, he’d, ‘try to be more reproductive.’

At the school farm a healthy chicken became, unfortunately, a deceased chicken when a student unintentionally jumped on it. Days later, the boy lingered after English, glum-faced with notoriety and asked, ‘Did you hear about what I did the other day?’ Saying that I was sorry for his troubles, I added supportively, ‘So, how are you going?’ With a philosophical giggle, he said, ‘Well, much better than the chicken.’

Once I heard a Triple J announcer enthuse that educators, ‘create lives’ and I’ve tried to make this the chorus in my teaching. Spoken and written voices are the mesmerizing soundtrack of our schools and to create lives, our shared spaces must resonate with the music of golden laughter.

Thanks to Larry Sellers of The Big Lebowski for this (rather poor) homework.

 

larry

 

3

Killing the Mockingbird: Recollections of the 1997 Bulldogs and Crows Preliminary Final

sandy

Saturday, 20th September 1997. Half-time in the preliminary final. The Crows are getting paddled by seven goals.

I take a nap.

*

A soap opera fledgling, Greg Fleet swiftly enraged the nation. His Ramsey Street character had dispatched Daphne, like a Cairns cane toad, by expertly running her over with his car.

Later, he was strolling along a Melbourne street when a Truth headline screamed, NEIGHBOURS STAR TELLS: ‘MY HEROIN ORDEAL.’ Shocked at his public shaming, Fleety’s initial thought was, Oh my God! I can’t believe it. I was on Neighbours.

TOURIST DIES OF THIRST is a memorable newspaper poster too. It’s on the yellowing wall of Adelaide’s Exeter Hotel. I smile every time.

It’s an ageless boozer. Resistant to infantile trends, (Irish pub folks?) it’s a rollicking temple for cups and conversation. There’s nothing to distract your entourage from its tasty project. No TV, no TAB, no pokies. But there’s music. Thoughtful, eclectic music, with entire albums pumped into the front bar.

If I could design a pub, it’d be the Exeter.

*

The night before the Crows and Bulldogs clash. Our mate Chris is emigrating to Queensland to work for a software company. So, to mark this, we dine on curry and Kingfisher lager, and then gallop across to the Exeter.

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.

As always, we talk cricket and travel and bands and film, and our discussion arrives at Harper Lee’s autobiographical masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Lizard was a heavy-metal mad, Axel Rose-haired kid. I taught him in Kimba and he read the book, reckoned it was about the only one he’d ever finished. In his Cannibal Corpse way Lizard often mislabelled it, “Killing the Mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch. Is there a more inspirational dad in literature? He’s metonymous for courage. I wish the Australian cricketer Aaron Finch was nicknamed “Atticus.” But, of course not. Can you imagine Tubbs and Slats explaining this? He’ll always be “Finchy.”

Over and through our Coopers, we ponder the novel’s last lines, admire their uncomplicated elegance. They’re among the finest words printed. After the rush of the climax, and Bob Ewell’s demise, we’re left with a painterly scene of love, a world profoundly restored

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

Radiohead’s then recent release OK Computer played in the Exeter that evening. I love the cinematic melancholy, and the immaculate alienation. I’m a fan of lengthy, multi-sectioned songs, and “Paranoid Android” is superb. There’s venom in Thom Yorke’s

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy

The album is additionally embedded with references to the cult novel “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!” How excellent is this? Satire, existentialism and guitars!

Despite its anguished doom, OK Computer becomes a happy soundtrack for me. Living in Hertfordshire, we listened to it once before enjoying Terry Wogan’s wine-soaked Eurovision commentary. In his brogue he noted

They’ve got four languages in Belgium and they’re singing in an imaginary one. The essence of Eurovision.

We laugh at the songs, and are bewitched by the geopolitics. It was 2003, defined by the charming nadir of England’s nul points.

I remember Triple J first featuring OK Computer. On breakfast, Mikey Robins and the Sandman considered life’s unknowns

Sandman: I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to be a woman.

Mikey: Come here.

Like gates clanging in a prison movie, the Exeter finally shuts. Nick drifts to his Hutt Street townhouse and I taxi home to Glenelg.

*

Rampaging Roy Slaven famously spoke of playing golf with Seve Ballesteros. As an ornament to rugby league, fishing, cricket, horse racing (he piloted Rooting King), and pig shooting, he is peerless. Roy’s vanquished are “hopeless pillows” or “mooks.”

Obviously, the big man from Lithgow was towelling the Spaniard. Without warning, Seve walked quietly over to his opponent’s bag and went the bushman’s hanky all over Roy’s clubs. Standing “ashen-faced and tight-lipped,” Roy then turned to his caddy and said, “You know, there’s something I just don’t like about this bloke.”

*

I wake during the last quarter, wander out to the lounge, flick on the TV, and see Liberatore’s snap on goal. He jumps haughtily onto his team mates, fists a-pumping. The result’s a formality, the remaining time, an irritant. His Dogs are home.

But I know what Atticus Finch would think. I remember what Roy Slaven said.

And the goal umpire signals a behind. Premature exaltation. The braggadocio is scorched.

The quarter’s been goalless, and we’re down by four straight kicks with ten minutes to go. As the bride’s still asleep I choose to endure the ending. It’ll be a Saints and Bulldogs decider.

On the siren, car horns hop in our windows, zigzag over Jetty Road, and vault about the esplanade like acoustic exclamation marks! The wife stirs.

Having spent the match in a torpor, Darren Jarman contributed three majors. He was learning to love final quarters.

With its lengthening afternoons, pledge of an enriching, outdoorsy lifestyle, and barbeque bouquets freewheeling about like sociable phantasms, late September’s always been good.

Just then, it got much, much better.

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