Thursday, May 29, 2008

Photo: Bird of Paradise

Here's a photo of a 'bird of paradise' I've taken just outside the house I'm currently minding. Amazing isn't she! God does wonderful work sometimes * often * always * !

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Canberra & the Killa Connection

Capitol hillcity of australia
it's about a 3hour straight drive down from Sydney
and it's about 100k inland from the nsw mid-south coast
it rises at about 2000 feet above see level
and lands at about 36 degrees south of the equator
Canberra is one of the relatively few places in australia
that is orchestrated by four distinct seasons
where summers can be hot breezeless and dry
nighttime winterwinds are criminally freezing
autumn laconically sheds its leaves in pawprints of green and red
and tourists come to watch the tulips bloom
in the springtime
Canberra is a planned capital city
originating at the beginning of the 20th century
the lake seperating north and south is artificial
but that doesn't make it that much less attractive...
the area of the city is flat
except for the pimples of a couple of mountain tops within the city
with icecream snow on top for winter
the aboriginal peoples had a name for Canberra
in their language it was 'meeting place'
for the vibe of Canberra is curiously opaque
there is no vibe as such
many people joke about Canberra as being boring
that's because there's no "feel" there to speak of
when you're in Canberra
and you're circumnavigating the lake that wasn't there 100 years ago today
or trying to make sense of streets that maze in circles for ever and ever
you get the feeling that this place doesn't really exist
that it could easily dissapear in a puff in that very moment *now*
unlike Sydney that is very grounded
and feels and feets like a team player
in the real world
as we know it
Canberra hosts the national art gallery and library
the national parliamentary idiot house
and an abundance of 50's style modernist'e' buildings
which are curiously pleasing in their own archaic way
Canberra does have one thing special going for it
aside from fresh air and bike tracks and big roads'n'roundabouts and pine plantations
southwards as you drive away from the city
you approach the beginning of the ranges
that lead to the sub-Alpine and alpine regions of southern nsw
it's one of the truly magical regions of the Earth

Tidbinbilla, Namadgi, Brindabella
ranges with names that sing themselves
these sub-alpine ranges in their cool-climate opaqueness and underlying beds of granite
stun me with their fathomless depths of passion and feeling
the northern nsw triangle around Murwillimbah & Byron Bay
has that warm heady spiritual energy
new england feels manored and a little Scot-like
the blue mountains west of sidney has a rather dank and unforgiving air about it
but the regions mentioned south of Canberra
are utterly vast in what they convey to the being
prior to entering the Tidbinbilla ranges for example
there is a space tracking station
when you drive around there particularly around dusk
you feel that you are in another totally uncognizant dimension
that you could be millions of light years away
that area as a whole generates this passion
that aside from its beauty and wonder as God's forests & mountains in a sub-alpine zone
the feeling you get there is a vastness and mightiness of being
of passion
that anything is possible
that anything is real
way beyond what our 'civilised' minds could ever hope to conceive of

Steve Kilbey is from Canberra
he spent his formative years there, from 10-25
it is utterly fitting to me that he is from Canberra
because his boundless and dimensionless creativity
as i see it
mirrors those qualities I've conveyed about the regions around Canberra
remember it is 'opaque'
there are no faeries in these forests
only kangaroos
Steve Kilbey may not have been too interested in forests in the 1970's
but his profound being would have registered *that* influence however unconsciously
he said as much himself in a recent blog
that all those years in a place with no distractions
allowed him to meld his creativity his own way
Canberra is too big for small-town tightness
and too small for much distraction
the clean air
the cold winters
the non-vibe
the views of snow-covered mountains
the profound sense of unconscious vastness
(if you're sensitive enough to register that)
is a Canberra phenomenon
and it filters into Kilbey's work even to this day
people from Canberra i find are generally a bit one-dimensional
either you shield yourself away from the glaring mirror of cold yet stupendous "nothingness"
by becoming very canberrean
or you face it
i don't think i could
Kilbey didn't need to do anything
his unconscious registered what it needed
and when the work was done
and when the Time was right
he moved on...

Sydney is where it happens
Sydney is where Kilbey waved his wand and allowed Magik to Happen
1979 to my memory
is when time sped-up
with a sort of newspaper blusteriness
to me the meeting of Marty Willson-Piper & Steve Kilbey
in 1980
is the most magical of meetings in rock music history
John met Paul at a village fete in July 1957
but practically they would have met up anyway
if not then, a few months down the track
they lived in the same city after all
Keith running into Mick carrying a few lps under his arm
was pretty spesh
a band forms in Adelaide in 1973
consisting of a local bassplayer
(who was gonna get kicked out anyway)
a 16-year old singer/drinker from Scotland who'd been on the adelaide tiles since age 5
a guitarist from Alice Springs just moved down after finishing hi-school
a drummer just come down from Liverpool (!) England just to check out the local scene
and a Ray Charles obsessed physicist/mathematician keyboardist who'd come down to work on weapons research
from new england Armidale
they were Cold Chisel
...but...the Church!!!
Marty heard the clarion call
and made his way to Australia to busk
saw a band
liked them
joined them
Steven had a intense inner-vision
of vastness and purity
Peter was his cohort from that vast place we call the nation's capital
yet the summoning of Marty
the most perfect member of the Church in foil to Pete & Steve
and who joined the best band that could ever possibly be created for him
and to come all the way from Liverpool England to Sydney Australia
is magic
Pure Magic
Marty had London at his beck and call
surely he enjoyed himself around Paris and Europe
why come to busk in Sydney Australia
...there is a lot more to this story than I know
but the thread of a global coming together
of a vast and heavenly sonic-vision
speaks of the magical meetings of beings
in the right time
and the right place
Australia is often touted 'the lucky country'
this is something Marty cannot deny

listen to early Church
like Fraulein & you got to go
it sounds very 'canberra' to me
yet deep and passionate
Kilbey's art is boundless
his bassplaying speaks like eons of creative force
rising through the deep unconscious of the earth
his lyrics and songs speak of a universe unbounded
aided and abbetted
by his guitar playing cohorts by his either side
Peter - no stranger to Canberra himself
aids with that dimensional paradigm of sonic heaven
Marty is grounded in pure artistry and northern hemisphere influence
everything is what it is
the Church are a magic band
what brought Steve from England to Dapto to Canberra and to Sydney
was the same force that brought Peter Koppes to Sydney
Richard Ploog to Sydney
and phenomenally,
Marty Willson-Piper to Sydney
and where were all the early-Church vids filmed??
Church music speaks of universes and uber-dimensions
of heavenly and fathomless sounds and words
and when i hike down in the ranges south of Canberra
i feel within my body
all these things precisely
as they are reflected in the earth around me

as a postlude...
all of the above may read outlandishly
but this is how i live my life
i allow the vastness of the earth to inform me
as much as possible
and so be it
under the milky way

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mamapalooza 2008

(to be published in the next 'Songsmith')

On Saturday night 23 May Sydney hosted its third annual Mamapalooza event, the first being staged in May 2006. Mamapalooza is a worldwide event featured during the month of May and is the only cultural event of its kind featuring mom musicians, artists, authors, comics, dancers and filmmakers. The Mamapalooza Festival declares ‘May as Mothers Month’ creating positive, family friendly programming on stages throughout the world during the month of May annually. With an open door policy for mom performers and their families, these festivals celebrate creativity and diversity. The Sydney Mamapalooza concert event for 2008 and previous years was organised by singer-songwriter, filmmaker, scriptwriter & Society member Vee Malnar, and featured excellent artists; this year’s event was held at the Roxburgh Hotel in Glebe. This event was videotaped and will be sent to worldwide coordinator Joy Rose in New York for screening. Vee attended the Mamapalooza festival in New York in May 2007. Again Vee asked me to come and take photos so I happily went along.
I missed the first act, Tracey Trompf, as I was held up during the day due to inclement traffic owing to all things, a football game at the Sydney Showground (don’t get me started!) From 2007 I recall Tracey’s soulful bluesy voice and great stage presence, similar to Renee Geyer. Tracey hosts the ‘Life Matters’ program on Radio National.
Alex Seal was up next; she was performing as I got to the venue. Alex was a fluid and solid bassist and her band played a pleasing and rousing set of covers from 70s through to 90s.
Rock Chikz were up next featuring Vee Malner and her band. Sometimes they are called Ana Key and the Minority group though tonight they were performing songs from Vee’s musical F. Ana Brita Nilsson has left the band and Vee carried the front-woman’s role brilliantly, performing with energy and humour. Songs such as ‘Fucking my way to the top’ and ‘Pubic hair on the toilet seat’ were excellent post-punk style songs with great humour and well-written lyrics, and all well-crafted and memorable songs. Vee, without her acoustic guitar, was able to really rock out and act the songs as she sang them. The band were tight and loud and enjoyed every minute of it, brilliant!!
Girlz@Play featured 3 percussionists and performed percussion based instrumentals. Each song carried its own flavour and rhythmic signature and the three women swapped instruments with each song. They had the audience enthralled with their tight musicality and their obvious enjoyment of performing – it was a terrific set!
The Mothers of Intention took to the stage next; they were an lovely and invigorating blend of traditional & Celtic folk. They featured Rosie on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, and she was accompanied by violin, recorder, boran & backing vocals. They were just brilliant; while mixing covers with originals they did a particularly good version of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’, it was a fresh and spirited take on the song featuring some beautiful harmonising. Later I approached Rosie because her guitar sounded so good I wanted to ask her about it; she had it especially made for her by Sydney luthier Gerard Gillet and it featured Australian blackwood back and sides – it was the finest acoustic guitar I have ever heard!! Partly, the depth and beauty of the group’s music was related to the sound of that astoundingly celestial acoustic guitar!
Next up was Hiske who, on electric, got up on stage with her teenage son who accompanied his mum alternately on bass & drums. In the previous year’s concert her other son was performing guitar with them (Hiske was singing lead and playing bass) so that they were a bone-fide rock 3-piece! Hiske performed good strong underground Euro rock though I miss the full line-up of the three-piece as they appeared in the 2007 concert - now that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, a mum rocking out with her two sons in a band!!
All up it was a terrific concert although I did miss the presence of My Hearts Dezire (Pennie Lennon & Bruno Koenig), and other singer-songwriters such as Rebecca Moore, however time constraints do play a part in all of this. The concept of Mamapalooza is brilliant – mums do rock, more than anyone else perhaps; this was a concert full of excellent performances, writing and musicianship – everyone had a great night. Check out the Mamapalooza website ( for more details about worldwide events, and stay tuned for 2009’s event!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Anais is here

I find myself in a new place
and perhaps a new space
I haven't moved very far...technically
3 suburbs south from where i was before
this is a temporary housemind
though isn't everything temporary...?
i feel like i've moved 100 miles away
it's a lot quieter here
I feel good
that life is good
i don't have anything to complain about
i feel a little caccooned and protected
at 38
i'm 10 years younger than i was 10 years ago
as winter settles in
my instinct is to hibernate
and glower in my own warmth
i am alone
gloriously alone in fact
i have no love interest
except that
i've started reading the diaries of Anais Nin
a french writer who is possibly best well known for her erotic stories
i read these stories over half a lifetime ago
at a far more impressionable age
but even then i was struck by her suppleness
and poetic softness of tone
'pillowy' you might say
i recall how she referenced all genetalia
men's and women's
with the word sex
her sex his sex ectetera
it was all very deft and effective
...and affective
i think this is delta of venus and other stories
that i hope to revisit soon
in print
and in the flesh....
because you see
i think i'm falling for Anais Nin
I love her written expression
she's very vivid and florid with her phrasing
yet she's also supple and exotic
as an observer she's seemingly, precisely intuitive
as she articulates the emotionality and complexities of the people around her
this is matched with her evocative imagination
and poetic sensibility
for example her intense friendship with June Miller
that as yet has not melted into an affair
(as far as my reading has led me to)
is brimming with erotic tension
with barely anymore than clandestine suggestion
of sexual attraction between the two women
it's through power of Anais's gift (or gifts)
that she conveys this relationship with such passioned sensuality

during the last few days
as i've been walking around the uni campus
i've been on the lookout for Anais Nin
or at least a doppleganger of Her
In her diaries it seemed Anais was content to roam around her (dad's?) house
in the lovely village of Louveciennes near Paris
with its castle and cobblestone streets
built on a hill overlooking the Seine
Up until last week i could be seen roaming Queens Park
in the eastern suburbs of a big Australian city
for an evening or morning stroll
i would have to dodge the many instant pitches
covered over by touch-footy comps
and i notice women playing touch footy too
along with the boyz
i hate touch-footy
could you imagine Anais Nin playing touch footy??
i mean.....come on !
i don't date chicks that play touch
i haven't touched a footy
since september 1996
when it nearly snapped my finger off
and to this moment i still feel a soft pain within that 3rd finger
on my right hand
but it's ok
i'm not being sexist in saying what i just sed y'know
because i'm not interested in guys as friends
who are into that whole lifestyle either - at all
can you imagine Peter Steve & Marty from the church playing touch???
they're my kinda fellas...
Anais Nin as a body is long gone
she died the same year Elvis Presley died
but the spirit of Woman
so alive in that incandescent wonderful woman called A. Nin
is always here
it's just sometimes harder to find as we approach 2009 onwards
touch footy certainly dulls the Spirit

Anais seems to take great pleasure and satisfaction
in imprinting every moment with great feeling and depth
or, seeing or feeling that depth in every moment
without the aid of drugs, she's keen to admit
i relate to that
i'm incredibly self-contained
every moment is full and real
and i love being a part of Life
i felt a sadness for a moment
when i wikipedia'd June and Henry Miller
(Anais' prime co-stars in her diaries)
June - the mercurial fanciful utterly impulsive and reckless wife of
Henry - author sardonic and savagely realist writer intensive
they all died close together
all in their seventies
June in 1979, 2 years after Anais
and Henry 1980, the same year of Peter Sellar's death
and that of John Winston Ono Lennon's
I realised these 3 were a tribe
almost meant to be together forever
and it made me sad to think
that all the passion, mood, utter sensuality, everything
so well conveyed by Anais in her diaries
die with those who've lived it
and conveyed it
and here we are now
a new batch of people
destined to die
along with everything we are or have been
our diaries will become historical too
And yet the spiritualists say...
that all these objectified people
...they may be long dead
are not dead at all
they are Life
in this body!
writing these words!
and reading these words!!!
All is One One is All (????)
...this means that all life is contained in the observer
that which is Life....I...the writer and reader of these words
as there is only one I in the universe
only one person each of us calls I
therefore "I" am Life
and with that i suppose
we are all connected
I love you Anais
and God bless you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Song to Eva

I've posted a new recording on myspace page; the song is called 'Song to Eva' and it can be heard first-up by clicking on This is a newly recorded version of the song featuring Brigette Ember on lead vocal. My original vocals on the track appearing on my 'Sea in June' album were, imo, diabolical; I may be being hard on myself but Brigette's are wonderful and somewhat fitting for the style and flavour of the song.

The song was inspired by Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones
and is dedicated to the late, great Eva Cassidy (1963-1996). In short the novel is narrated in the first person by 14-year old Susie Salmon, who'd been raped and murdered in the cornfields near her family home, and is speaking from her new vantage point in 'heaven'. She visits her family often - dad, mum, sister, brother etc - and observes their trials and tribulations as they cope with Susie's loss and the events that unfold around that. The Lovely Bones is an incredibly poignant and moving novel somehow relates very well to the quality and flavour of Eva Cassidy's music.

The novel reaches its apogee towards the end in a paragraph that contained the words of the novel's title. This paragraph blew me apart, for anyone who's ever had someone close to them die these words delivered a shattering yet universal perspective on life, and its neverending cycles:

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections - sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent - that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.

Here are the lyrics to 'Song to Eva'. I hope you enjoy the song, it is jazzy in an ersatz, nu-folk jazz kind of way. Note that the lyric "crink in the knees" relates to an injoke pertaining to the novel.

Song to Eva

Words & Music by Ross B © 2006

Lay me down in a hospital bed
a wreath of roses wrapped round my aching head
you don’t see me disappear
I swim around you like the floating deer, so

I've come to the end of a comatose life
Give me bread and gold to survive
I sense I’ve been too mercurial
to break the back of the merciful

I make my exit centre left
where the rooms blow in treble clef
Send your love to me
‘cause love is all that’s left of me

Trust me Lady, trust me please
I didn’t leave you for the crink in the knees
I only left you ‘cause the thread ran bare
it’s not up to me it’s up to them

I make my exit stage right
I drift away without sorrow or fright
I wobble gently like balloons in the air
I may be going but my body’s still there

I make my exit centre left
where the rooms sing in treble clef
send your love to me
‘cause love is all that’s left of me

send your love to me
‘cause love is all that’s left of me

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

under the influence

It's often quoted
"you learn something new everyday"
well sure as hell I learned this weekend
...never blog under the influence...
ie, drink don't blog
on Friday night I had an idea of what to write
and was in the mood for the blog
I had a glass of red wine with my dinner
...cabbage & vege sausages...
thing is, a red waxy bit of the cork came loose
so it was floating in the wine
I thoughts to myself better drink it all up then
...not a difficult decision to make...
it was Chilean organic grape wine
I had about the equivalent of 3 glasses
so then, belly full-o-sauce
i'm suddenly on the blog
my words and phrases aren't flowing like they usually do
when i'm totally clear
i feel the wine swishing between scalp & cranium
or are they one and the same??
and i feel my liver throwing up the swords
to deal with this onset of spirit
my writing is crusty
i'm not enjoying it
after the first verse
which was laboured and a bit naffy and bitchy and well...crusty
i go downstairs and drink myself a green tea
i feel clearer
i finish the blog
that becomes easier to write as my body becomes soberer
i wasn't happy with the finished product
not that my stuff has to have anything wondrous about it
but as long as to me, it has some degree of character and flow
even innocent, quirky character and flow
this blog, titled the homing pigeon, was jaded
and somehow what i wanted to convey seemed obtuse
and cubist
in a bitchy alcohol-slash-sleep affected way
so since then i've gone in and made tiny edits
no avail
now i've just gone in
and deleted that whole fucking first verse
because i don't want to go there with blogs
if you didn't read it
it was actually kosher
yet almost indecipherably ignoble all at once
and now...the homing pigeon rocks!

i've felt a bit crusty over the past couple of days
feeling a bit put out
with my nose a bit out of place
a bit intolerant of others at times
but mostly feeling the brunt
of writing the equivalent of burnt toast on my blog
i'm feeling fine now
had a good night out
did a good set on bass with the velvets at the Coogee Bay Hotel
the one of many velvet bands
we were 2nd after underground
then came slashes band
and all the rest of them you read in drum media
almost a dozen now
velvet sound, velvet rust, velvet scones, velvet pomeranians, velvet revolution
but i'm determined to stay clear
and steer this blogge with focus and clarity
i promise variety from this waffle
occasionally there will be naval-gazing
often most likely
but there'll be promos of my songs
that appear on my 'space'
there'll be reviews and articles
to amuse and titillate the senses
But i'm doing this for me and my journey
my own personal satisfaction and fulfilment
that friends and family and hopefully more will like it
is a welcome bonus
and so far the reviews have been positive

some may observe and believe that i am indeed
under the influence
well, on the surface that may be true
a lot of people know the culprit
a genius bassist singer songwriter poet painter lyricist from Canberra we shan't name
who happens to blog quite frequently
but really i don't copy anyone
i do this for me
and if i am influenced
believe me Anais Nin is probably the king serve in that respect
i've only started reading her diaries
being the voyeur i am of course
but i love the way she writes and observes
and how she seems so explicit about the people who come into her orbit
more on her another time, hopefully
those influences are fine
but i'll never B.U.I. ever again
i'll get picked up by the thought police
interrogated and sentenced for my lack of respect
for moonface & suns
for the footy show
for Johnny Farnham
for the wiggles
no I'll promiss to stay clear and open
and welcome all with outstretched arms

Friday, May 9, 2008

the homing pigeon

Last Saturday night
Empire hotel Annandale
close to midnight
and i'm feelin' like a pumpkin already
'groovin to the beat'
and standing by the doorway
a group of people waft in
Stephen Frosoni was among the pack
they'd been to the annandale hotel
seeing an american 60's style garage band
that were apparently very good
i been to school with stephen since age 5
we developed a distant sort of friendship in hi-school that's been maintained ever since
he's the one person on this planet i'm most likely to run into
in all the most unexpected places and times
he plays in a genuinely good band called the Men from U.N.C.L.E.
they do that 60's garage go-go space sci-fi lounge rock groove stuff
and dress the part too
Stephen was at the first Church gig I'd been to
which was at the Tivoli in November 1987
I also caught him at the Church gig in the open air at the Rocks in November 2004
he told me he saw the Church recently support the divynls
i said i saw that gig too i asked him which night do you go on
second night
i said i went the first night
what form was kilbey in that night?
kilbey was going on about swans in a park in glebe said Stephen
i said the kilbey the tease hissed to us that we were a 'curiously charismatic audience'
i told Stephen i read Kilbey's blog
as a daily exercise in headspin
and that he lives in Bondi
Stephen told me he's seen Kilbey in the shopping centre at Bondi Junction
and that he saw a Steve Kilbey solo dvd at jbhifi in the mall
so doubtless I'll be seeing Stephen Frosoni again
if not at a men from Uncle gig
then at Church

come morning
sprightly Sunday
i'm out the screen-door
i face a drive-in-bottlo and a perpetual line-of-cars
waiting for the lights to turn green
i brisk my way to b j
the temple looms
i'm there to purchase earthly produce
from a ritzy boutique fruiterer called Norton Street
its my nearest grannysmith'n'broccoli shop
aside from growin my friggin own
which i plan to start doin quick smart
this oversized shopping complex is barely tolerable on weekdays
but on sunday morning it is anathema
i walk in and feel like i'm running on a4 batteries
everyone looks the same way
we're sunday morning zombies looking to do our thing
and just fuckin' split

i bored the escalator going down
hazily gazing down toward the bottom of the sliding staircase
on the ramp that making its way up
steps on Steve Kilbey
here at a bondi junction soupercenta
on sunday morning surrounded by coles supramarket and vintage liquour
and loads of workaday people traffic
a sudden brickwall alertness holds me
Kilbey's eyes glisten and roll for a split second
so used to he is that sort of recognition
his antennas immediately sense my waves
without having to look at me
he immediately focusses his attention back to what he was doing
quite rightly
tending and talking to his little daughter as they are carried upwards
speaking to her lovingly in sage gravelly tones
i'm not one to usually care about how a guy looks
unless you're in the beatles
but Steve Kilbey is an amazing looking human being
he's alarmingly handsome
even at the age of 53
he's a unanimously gifted being
he looks it too
it's imprinted all over his aura
poet painter writer blogger bassist-extraordinaire singer and songwriter
and likely he's a wonderful dad & husband too
i sometimes see people as energies
i see, and saw, Steve Kilbey's head as a light bulb
a yellow large light bulb
his head is shaped a little that way too
so when i got to the bottom of that lift
i remembered immediately what Stephen Frosoni had told me
after i purr-chased my earthly produce
i about turned
back up that elevator into jbhifi
and bought kilbeys solo dvd
also bought Lennons live at Toronto 69 concert
and beach boys live at Knebworth 80 concert
both going for 10bucks each
a worthwhile venture all-round!

late that night i got to watch the Kilbey dvd
it was excellently filmed and edited
kilbey was in fine playing and singing form
playing some exquisite songs
such as providence
the Magnificent tristesse
almost with you
the list goes on...
I watched the xtras too
there was an interview filmed at an Auckland radio station
on the day of the gig
the radio announcer said along the lines
'poet painter musician really are a renaissance man aren't you!'
'renaissance man' is being bandied about kilbey's blog
but it's apt isn't it?
if anyone on the planet lays claim to the sub-title of 'Renaissance man'
then Steve Kilbey is it
who knows, maybe Peter Koppes can be the purple sage
Marty the Arty One
hey, i respect those guys immensely!
but yeah, killa
Steve Kilbey is renaissance man

it got me thinking what would they call me
little ross b from syd-a-nee
gav a musomate calls me 'the ukeduke'
because i play the ukulele of course
and i carry the thing around with the don't-give-a-fuck swagger of a James Dean
but really i'd just say i'm the homing pigeon
because for whatever adventures have brought me to this point
bits of travel bits of thought
bits of lovin' bits of naught
home is where it's at
home is what we're here for
not a structure or 4walls
that will one day fall and crumble
but to discover home
the temple of our own human body

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

month of maya

prithee may i tell thee
may is thee fondest time of yeare
I'd say May is my favourite month
having sydney as my playground
as april turns to may
and leaves turn to red and fall
the warmth drops into a cool familiar pleasantness
sunny days are welcomingly mild
nights become very sleepable as the blankets pile on
i almost feel that may 1 should be new yeares day
because it feels like that to me
with the change in weather
there is clarity of mind
a positivity of step
fresh perspective n new ideas
and a looking forward to a beauticious sidney winter
cool but not freezing
snuggly but not inaccesibley vicous or icy
anzac day could be the new xmas day
but heck xmas is celebrated in july
in some of the colder regions of aus
such as the blue mountains west of sidney

i sense changes afoot
i've discovered new hobbies
blogging is what i've wanted to do for a very long time
but hadn't actually real-ised that
i was into writing at uni
then i did a spate of music reviews
published in various little bits and pieces
and of course i wrote those things
that appear on the jukebox on myspace for egg sample
but i didn't feel like putting pen to paper no more
because that's a skill thats been swamped over by the computer keypad
blogging is the way
just as stillness is the way...
and i've taken up sudoku
just to give my brain a logic twist
its like numerology really
because you're dealing only with the numbers 1 to 9
in sequential logical patterns
i better be careful
too much of that and i'll be seeing everything in number code
i buy a skinnylatte
thats a nine hollers my subconscious mind
a vegewrap
thats a two
guitar strings
...make that six

some things fall away
all of a sudden there are less gigs to play
but i welcome that respite
soon i'll be moving into a temporary housemind
that'll cover the wintertime
so it'll be like hibernation
no i'll just keep on writin' my blogge
play my sudoku
maybe take up astrology
or numerology
to get a fix of brainbuzz
practise and perform with brigette
and hopefully land some eva cassidy shows
there'll be single women to date
woolley jackets to don
sleep to sleep
love to love
for now's the month of maying
the birds are gently swaying
jonne donne said that
may is the nicest time of year
in sydney-oz
i said that

we're All in the same Boat

where mars crosses neptune’s borders
dissonance afloats
we had two fatal boating accidents over the past week here in sunny ozz
one in Sydney one in Melbourne
the Sydney accident involved a heady group of young people and their case of beer
roaring around in a small jetty
and crashing it mid-harbour
5 people died last I heard
the Melbourne boat disaster is the one that particularly intrigues me
this involved a man of 48 years
he clinched a boating deal on Saturday morning
a week after he officially paid for the boat
a reconditioned 1955 model
he was so excited about it
after lunch he was to take his extended family out for a spin
along the yarra entwines
after refuelling the boat
it instantly blew up into heavy black smoke and fuelled flame
the boat disintegrated immediately
as did Anthony’s parents who were in the boat
some of the family were injured
some seriously some not
the sunday paper snapped a photo of Anthony
being rushed away on a stretcher
he had red curlyish hair and beard
wearing a footy tshirt over a grey pullover
he looked like he was a gym workerouterer
he was sitting upright on that stretcher
screaming aloud for his parents
who’d obviously combusted to nothingness
prior to any glint of cognition or awareness on their part
it was the look on Anthony’s face that got me
I thought he was in his mid-30’s maybe
he was actually 48
psychically the photo had him looking like a boy of 6
in his abject look of screaming frozen terror
similar to ‘action’ photos of Vietnamese children whose villages had just been napalmed
it’s almost as if 40 years of teenager cum adulthood
were irretrievably blown out from his psyche
utterly shaken to it’s foundations
in THAT one horrifying instant

life doesn’t compromise
life is
life is the fact
when I was 19 I was really getting into Castaneda books
such as the legendary journey to ixlan
(still one of my favourites)
I was reminded of one of don juan’s lessons
a warrior lives his life as if it’s his last dance on earth
at the time I imbibed this stuff with keen enthusiasm and excitation
though the fact is you gotta clear a whole lot of sludgy emotional shit from yerself
before you come anywhere close to truly ‘getting’ this
and now at 38 years
these ideas are dawning on me from a deep place
I don’t particularly care if I win or lose money
just have a naturally zen approach to things
though losing the people I love – that’s hard, hard for anyone
including Anthony
all the worldly time and universal momentum
required to develop a boy into a man
all the man’s desires
recreational pursuits
his desire for sex and having it sated
his barbecues his cars his 4wds his cricket and footy and all the rest of it
his kids

mainly his unchallenged expectancy that life is all of the aforementioned and that’s about it

built up over a whole life
were shattered, irreversibly blown apart in a single instant
it was plastered on his face
like the sea of Hell
Anthony may have been a “good bloke” in the true ozzie sense of the word
and god nose he does not deserve this
but I sense that Anthony may not have delved into the facts of life too deeply
that what one expects can be taken away from us at any given moment
that the people we love can be blown away – without compunction or mercy
life is the fact
the fact is death
time is what separates us from our separation from our physical bodies
all are born to die
as all we love will pass away or leave us
…including the civil structures we work and leisure in
and as our loves and passions wane with the encroachment of physical impairment
or physical death
well that can happen to any of us
at any given moment
is this not the fact???
better to live it than ignore it
because true understanding can rain
on those inevitable times of trauma
Anthony will be demonised for the rest of his life
with utter guilt and remorse
it’s likely to eat him away
unless of course he understands the truth
that lyfe is the fact
life is a tapestry of circumstantial events
with cause and effect factors
events are mere externalities or gateways
hiding more profound and underhanded realities
sometimes these can be read as symbols of sorts
sometimes events involve tragic deaths
but factual
like the old saying
when’yr number’s up, it’s up!
life is the fact or would you deny it?
it’s all cosmic Will isn’t it?
living Itself in the eternal now
with the sublime moments
coexisting with the darkest most life-shattering events
appearing in the moment least expected
...I wish Anthony well

Monday, May 5, 2008

Songsmith: Letter to the editor

Dear ed.

I'm sad to inform you and your readership that the Coogee Bay Hotel is forgoing its Monday night open mics as of 26 May. Apparently the cover duos on Tuesday and Wednesday nights are going too.

The Coogee Bay Hotel for me has been an excellent stomping and training ground in developing my solo skills - it's not everyone's cup of tea...a lot of people don't like playing to drunk backpackers and the aggro eastie crowd but I enjoy putting myself up against brickheads, sometimes its been hard but it's a challenge I rise up to and the results have been well worth it.

More importantly than that it's about giving good solo acts/artists a place to gig to an audience (albiet rowdy) for 30 minutes. I'm concerned that more pubs are letting this form of entertainment fall by the wayside - it seems to be the pattern with the 'Launch Squad' too. Jason Mannell (and more recently Simon) have grown and maintained this gig successfully for 4 and a half years. Simon has told me tonight from what he knows, the pub is cutting back on entertainment expenses. Personally I don't see where the "expense" in Monday nights lie given that their only expense is paying either Jason or Simon for setting up and convening the gig as performers don't get paid nor receive a complimentary drink. Apparently anti-smoking laws are causing a revenue drop ( the poke-ies particularly) so they take it out on the musos. And Monday night's are always packed - I sense quite obviously that people enjoy this stuff - it adds an immediacy and vibrancy to the venue that's otherwise lacking if you just have a jukebox or something. And ed, this also means that the unplugged version of 'Velvet Road' has lost its best, most supportive gig!! ;)

I suppose it's up to us who are keen to be proactive, either hunt further gigs down, or create our own!

Either way it's a bit of a shit for the pub to have done that...I don't see the logic in it at all.

Regards, Ross

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Article: Ringside Cold Chisel

An article on Chisel I got published in 2003 by Ross Bruzzese ©2003

Cold Chisel have reformed once again, to headline a series of ‘Ringside’ concerts Elvis-style at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, amongst other dates & venues including one of their favoured stomping-grounds, Newcastle. The date is 3 June 2003 and that’s exactly thirty years ahead of the time this 5-piece formed in Adelaide, Australia. Since forming as ‘Orange’ in Adelaide 1973 – to change their name to ‘Cold Chisel’ at the end of that year – the band have endured only one line-up change, and that’s when founding member / bassist Les Kaczmarek was replaced in 1975 on bass by Phil Small. And along with Jim Barnes (vocals), Ian Moss (guitar), Steve Prestwich (drums), & Don Walker (keyboards), these guys set out to become an enduring Australian success story.

What’s particularly astonishing about Chisel’s formation is the fact that, aside from founding member / bassist Les Kaczmarek and his replacement Phil Small, none of the band were actually from Adelaide. Jim Barnes had lived there the longest, migrating at age five from Glasgow, Scotland with his family to settle in the workers’ satellite town of Elizabeth in the northern outskirts of the city. Like the Great Coming of the Spheres, the rest of the band converged onto the city in the year prior to their meeting and formation; Ian Moss was born and bred in Alice Springs and moved to Adelaide in 1972 to attend high school where he played in a band with bassist Phil Small. Steve Prestwich was – like many a successful popster - a Liverpudlian, who migrated to Adelaide in 1972 at a relative’s recommendation, that the music scene was good etc. Steve was about to head back to Liverpool but cancelled his ticket after rehearsing with Chisel, it was Ian Moss singing the Ray Charles standard ‘Georgia on my mind’, that won him over to stay. As for Don Walker, he came over to Adelaide from Armidale NSW at the beginning of 1973 to take up a position with the Defence Department’s Centre for Weapons Research.

Cold Chisel’s long-term success is reflected by the fact that they’ve sold more records after their demise than during their time together as recording artists, which was 1978 – 1983/4. Their latest ‘best of’ package sold over a million copies, and their studio albums have been remastered & repackaged and continue to sell 150,000-200,000 copies annually. Their audience is predominantly Australia & New Zealand but they have accrued a sizeable cult following internationally over the years, and the band’s appeal is universal. This places Cold Chisel into a select group of bands whose stature grows with each passing year after their demise, in effect, they are transgenerational. Others of the like are the Beatles, the Doors, The Jam, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Cold Chisel are the only Australian band thus far to have done so. Their success is reflected in other ways; talent, self-belief, ambition, and the old adage of “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” rings absolutely true with Cold Chisel. These guys worked hard all through the ‘70’s, and took no short cuts. Their success is hard-earned, it could be said.

They were lucky as well. Firstly, they were lucky to find each other. As so often is the case with great bands, the sum of their parts was exponentially greater than the parts themselves. To see them up there at ‘Ringside’ in 2003 was to witness what appeared to be five very distinctive individuals – but put them together, something special happens, they are ‘right’ for each other, a “karass” as Walker once called them, a family, meant to be together. The various musical and personal synergies between members is remarkable; Barnes & Moss, Moss & Walker, Walker & Barnes, Barnes & Prestwich, Small & Moss, etc. The band knew they were destined from the start, and they proved themselves correct.

They were lucky for a second reason, they hit at precisely the right time. From an Australian perspective, whatever it was that made the 1970’s the “seventies” and the 1980’s the “eighties”, those years between 1978 and 1983 were the bridge, and Chisel rode that wave and articulated in their successive recorded works the mood & spirit of the times better than anyone else, another reason for their enduring quality. Their drawcard for this achievement is that they carried with them a great & intuitive songwriter, Don Walker.

Cold Chisel were the most multi-dimensional of the great Oz Rock bands, something that accounts for their wide-spread and continuing appeal. It’s difficult to pin them down in a sentence; they represent everything from rock’n’roll, jazz-blues, to soul, to swing, to country, to heavy rock. There’s always an underlying sophistication to their music – not “sophisticated” in the sense of a Cole Porter, but sophisticated in terms of innate talent, inspiration, street-smarts and musical influences. Their music can be best described as being a hybrid between the British heavy metal / white-boy blues typified by bands like Led Zepplin, Deep Purple & Free, mixed primarily with American soul & blues. With Prestwich’s big bass drum and Small’s punchy Fender Precision sound, they even sounded quite like boogie. Maybe Barnes said it the best when he opined in 1978, “…when we’re in our cool moods we’re one of the pseudo blues / jazz / root-type bands, but really we’re just a heavy rock band with different influences, that’s all.”
Many of these “different influences” can be attributed to Don Walker’s own musical and songwriting influences, ranging from the jazz blues of black American artists such as Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, and in particular Ray Charles, to the rock’n’roll piano stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis, to the erudite verbosity and highway street-smarts of Bob Dylan & Bruce Springsteen. Walker also shared a passion for the contemporary rock bands favoured by the rest of the band, and with that, as a pianist/organist, a liking for the Doors & The Band.

Cold Chisel began getting gigs towards the end of 1973, hustled and pulled together by Les Kaczmarek. Early in 1974, Walker pulled the plug on the band by returning to Armidale and UNE to complete an honours degree in Quantum Physics. The rest of the band, in an unusual yet telling display of allegiance, followed him up and set-up camp in a farmhouse outside Armidale and continued on as a 4-piece, rehearsing & organising their own gigs while Walker stayed at the Uni and studied. In August, the four-piece Chisel moved back to Adelaide while Walker completed his studies and, incidentally, won a local song-contest organised by Mike McClellan. Meanwhile in Adelaide, the 4-piece Cold Chisel made their first important connection by hooking up with promoter Vince Lovegrove who became their first manager and life-long confidant. Lovegrove gave the band their first gigs, among them support spots for bands such as Skyhooks, who were told by lead singer Jim Barnes at the time, “Just wait till our keyboard player gets back, then we’ll do all originals too. And we’ll be big.”

He was right, but he’d have to wait longer than expected. Walker’s return to Adelaide and showcase of new songs which slanted towards a slower jazz-blues style left Lovegrove nonplussed and the band were at an odds as to whether to continue on as a covers band with their retinue of songs from Zepplin, Deep Purple, Free, & Bad Company. They decided to continue the covers while adding faster, harder originals to the set. Les Kaczmarek was the only member of the band with a day job and wasn’t comfortable with the blusier, urgent style the band were gravitating towards. He was replaced with Phil Small halfway through 1975. Jim Barnes soon left for a few months to join his brother’s band Feather, at which Ian Moss took over the lead vocal reigns. Nonetheless, 1975 saw Cold Chisel consolidate their position as the premier band in Adelaide, and got a few key supports including Joe Cocker & Deep Purple. Early in 1976, with Barnes returning, they moved to Melbourne, and later on in the year, Sydney. This was the toughest time for the band and starving and going without food became a common for them. Early in 1977, with Walker as manager, the band began getting bookings at all the major Sydney city nightspots – most of them now gone. The band scored particularly well in Newcastle. By mid-1977, Chisel began to attract a sizeable following and were known as the only band headlining at the Bondi Lifesaver (now a car-park, shopping centre, Coles supermarket & apartment blocks) not to have a record contract. During this period the band were knocked back by every major record label.

Walker met their final (still-current) manager Rod Willis mid-way through 1977. Coinciding with that, a young A&R guy from WEA, Dave Sinclair signed the band in August 1977 for an album on a modest budget. Finally. Demos were made in September 1977 (all fine songs & performances that are available as extra tracks on the remastered versions of Chisel’s first two albums), and the band began recording their first album, the eponymously titled ‘Cold Chisel’, in January 1978. Here’s a run-down of the albums:

Cold Chisel ; recorded January 1978 at Trafalgar Studios in Annandale, produced by Peter Walker, released in April 1978. Chisel recorded their first two albums in between heavy gig schedules, no breaks for them. Critics do not usually distinguish their first album but in many ways, it’s their finest album and possibly one of the greatest albums ever made. Very few records capture the perfect musical synergy between members and with that, a perfect chemistry between band and songwriter, which in this case, was crafted and grafted through all their years of playing together. Don Walker composed all of the album’s eight songs with the opening track ‘Juliet’ a co-write with Barnes. The writing is simply extraordinary. The mood of the album is so unselfconscious, almost as if exists in its own bubble, a timeless testament to life in the seventies. Only ‘Khe Sahn’ seems to be the hook to the present moment – a song that became their first single (albeit banned from radio play). Key to the songwriting is Walker’s narratives, and the wide range of blues-related stylings on much of the album’s material. Amongst the best songs are ‘Khe Sahn’, ‘One Long Day’, & ‘Rosaline’. ‘One Long Day’ is an ambitious yet awesome bluesy epic in four parts that structurally resembles ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and ‘Rosaline’ is simply one of the finest jazz-blues songs ever created, sung by the angelic-voiced Ian Moss. The album draws the listener back to what appears to be a more innocent time, and although one can virtually smell the leaded petrol emanating off the playing grooves, it’s an album that provides listeners, both new and familiar, with a rewarding and challenging experience with every listen. It’s very much an album of the seventies, but like all great works of art, it exudes a sense of timelessness. Arguably, of all their albums, it is Cold Chisel’s debut album whose force or value increases with the passing of time.

Breakfast at Sweethearts ; recorded in bits during the second half of ’78 at Alberts Studios, Neutral Bay, produced by Richard Batchens and released in February 1979. The mix and production of this album is fiercely disappointing. Much of it is almost bland demo quality. Batchens was unsympathetic to the band and the band themselves were tired from relentless gigging and touring. Nonetheless, it’s good enough to be a classic. The album is the band’s most erudite lyrically with some of the songs, namely ‘Dresden’ reaching something akin to high poetry, as good as anything Bob Dylan ever wrote. Again, Don Walker wrote the album with co-writes on two of the tracks. It’s an album that has a sense of up-to-dateness about it, the windswept feeling of the seventies drawing to a close. It’s a “happy” album in that reveals a romance of observing life both on the road, and from inner-city Sydney & Kings Cross (where Walker resided) from a vantage point of liberation and not having to get up in the morning, so to speak. Songs like ‘Conversations’ & ‘Merry-go-round’ added credence to the “socio-political awareness” tag that was bandied about the band at the time, ‘Dresden’ & ‘Shipping Steel’ reflected the expanse and freedom of life on the road, escaping, whilst ‘The Door’, ‘Plaza’, & the Smokey Robinson-influenced ‘Breakfast at Sweethearts’ were penned from Walker’s own inner-Sydney city living experiences, the latter & title track a magnificent expression of Chisel music and songwriting in general.

The band fired through 1979 with the ascendant of the zeitgeist, their fan-base and crowd attendances soaring exponentially. They had their first holiday in June of that year, a two-week break. Towards the end of that year, with Walker intent on writing a chart song, they encountered their producer-to-be Mark Opitz and scored a Top 20 hit with ‘Choirgirl’. Early in 1980, the band re-entered the studio to record their third album, and for the first time, were allowed the privilege of recording an album in comfortable surrounds without the distractions of gigging.

East; recorded March – April 1980 at Paradise Studios Woolloomooloo, produced by Mark Opitz, released June 1980. ‘East’ is the most celebrated Chisel album, cohesive, radio-friendly and infused with a sparkling confidence and dynamism not witnessed in their first two albums; Jim Barnes’s voice in particular improving in a quantum leap from the previous albums with a poise, presence, control, clarity & soulfulness that helped give this album such a fresh and invigorating sound. The band’s most enduring and popular album, it rendered them at the very top of the tree. For the first time, other members besides Walker contributed complete songs, all five members got on the album. Jim had ‘Rising Sun’ and ‘My Turn to Cry’, Moss had ‘Never Before’, Prestwich had ‘Best Kept Lies’ and Phil Small had ‘My Baby’. Walker himself had hits with the soulful ‘Choirgirl’ and ‘Cheap Wine’, his other songs on East dealt with life both in and out of gaol (‘Standing on the Outside’, ‘Four Walls’, ‘Tomorrow’), the ‘socio-political’ awareness theme of ‘Star Hotel’, plus one delightful pop quirk, ‘Ita’, a tongue-in-cheek take on the allure of Ita Buttrose.

On the day of the completion of East, 12 April 1980, two of the original Chisel roadies Alan Dallow and Billy Rowe died in a car smash in the Southern Highlands whilst roadie-ing for Barnes’ brother, John Swan. Chisel found themselves at the top of the Australian pop and rock tree and were patently and demonstrably uncomfortable with the trappings, rock awards, TV Week pin-ups etc. In 1981, their first tour of America proved to be something of a dead end, and embittered by the loss of Billy and Alan and the ickyness of chart success, Walker penned a new set of songs in an entirely different direction that would make up the band’s fourth album.
Circus Animals ; recorded September – October 1981 at Paradise studios, produced by Mark Opitz, released March 1982. Recorded same place with same producer as East, with Walker writing half the album while the remaining songs were written by the other members, exactly like East. That’s where the similarities end. Prestwich wrote the pop songs for this album, ‘Forever Now’ and ‘When the War is Over’, Moss pulled in his finest song ‘Bow River’, while Barnes delivered an OzRock screamer, (written about the American experience), ‘You Got Nothing I Want’. Walker’s aggressively-edged songs were not pretty or charming, yet were in a way, elementally sublime. They featured expansive arrangements akin to sprawling mathematical equations with an intensity and integrity rarely witnessed in rock music. There’s the suffocating humidity of ‘Taipan’, the “mathematical” bingo/boogie sound of ‘Numbers Fall’, the elemental rock of ‘Hound Dog’ & ‘Wild Colonial Boy’, and an ode to lost friends, ‘Letter to Alan’. What distinguishes these songs from Walker’s earlier fare is the loss of innocence; where Walker’s principles and values were implied on earlier albums, here they are spelled out in writing. It was clear that chart success did not sit easy with him and with the deaths of Billy & Alan and the souring American experience, it was time to be explicit about where he and his band were coming from, as the last verse of the album’s closing track ‘Letter to Alan’ reveals, “…and if I don’t hang around our old gambling grounds, it does not mean that I’ve forgotten / We believed and I still do…”.

Perhaps the pressure of procuring this level of intensity took its toll on Chisel. Although many of their gigs of 1982 were regarded as their finest, by 1983 things were going awry when on a German tour, the band were dismayed at their perception that they weren’t playing well. Prestwich left the band soon after to be replaced by Ray Arnott. Unfortunately, other headaches and hassles got in the way and as such, in August 1983, the band decided to split at the end of that year. Prestwich was called in for the final string of concerts while Ray Arnott continued recording with the band. Cold Chisel played their final gig on 15 December 1983 at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney, and wouldn’t reform to play for another 14 years, until 1997.

Twentieth Century ; released in 1984 is the band’s most haphazard album and was recorded throughout 1983 and early ’84 with a variety of producers, mostly at the Capitol Theatre off Broadway. It’s almost ‘not’ a Chisel album with Prestwich featuring on few tracks; as fine a drummer as Ray Arnott was on these sessions no-one could take the place of Prestwich whose sound – that percussive almost melodic elasticity – was the Chisel sound. Nonetheless, it’s a fine collection of songs and heralds in a new era of which Chisel were not to play a part, with songs like ‘Saturday Night’ & ‘Twentieth Century’. ‘Build this Love’ was a precursor to the direction Walker was to take with his band Catfish five years later, and ‘Janelle’ is a bona-fide jazz/blues classic ala Ray Charles, a Walker gem. Unfortunately, this album is where Barnes began ‘screaming’ his vocals, to become something of trademark for him during his solo years. The album contains ‘Flame Trees’ which is something of a swansong for the band. The band closed this era with a full-length feature film, ‘The Last Stand’, centred around their last concerts in Sydney in December 1983.

In 1984, Cold Chisel were no more. At this time in Australian music, Midnight Oil were peaking with two of their finest albums, ‘10-1’ of 1983 and then ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ of 1984. INXS made what was possibly their finest album in 1984, ‘The Swing’ and were on the verge of riding a 5-year international fame wave. The eighties as we know it had taken off.
During the “studio years” of Chisel, they released one live EP and two live LP’s, ‘You’re 13, you’re beautiful and you’re mine’, ‘Swingshift’, & ‘Barking Spiders Live’. Posthumously, there has not been no shortage of “best of…” style packages, such as ‘Radio Songs’, ‘Razor Songs’, ‘Gold Chisel’ etc. The Last Stand film was released on video and CD and is about to be re-released on DVD with extended footage. In 1994, Cold Chisel released a most interesting collection of demos and offcuts, the 16-track album ‘Teenage Love’. In 1997/8 they reformed for a new tour and album and in 1999 the original studio albums were remastered and repackaged and included bonus tracks on each CD, often demonstrating the more eclectic side of the band’s musical range.
And so to Ringside in June 2003. What you saw up there was what you got. Simply, they were no more or less a great band playing great songs, with it must be added, a commanding sense of dynamics. Only Phil Small’s 5-string active Fender bass & Mossy’s impressive array of stomp boxes suggested that this could be 2003, and not 1978. Walker’s keyboard set-up was a traditional Yamaha grand and electric Hammond organ. They played a selection from each studio album, including their latest from 1998, ‘The Last Wave of Summer’. Jazz/blues, soul, rockabilly, country (they did a Johnny Cash cover), rock’n’roll was the key to the night. David Blight, one of the original members of the Chisel “family” way back from the Adelaide days, featured extensively on harmonica, and Andy Bickers played sax as well. Moss’s voice was stunning, better than ever. Even Walker sang a couple and his voice has improved markedly since the Catfish days. He sang one called ‘Fallen Angel’ which sounded very Kurt Weill, one humorous lad from the audience shouted out “Go Donny” which left a large segment of the audience laughing. He sang a great song from the last album, ‘Bal-a-Versailles’, there were constant calls from the audience such as “wrap it up Don!” which might be a nice-ish way of saying luv ya work mate but let Barnsey do the singing…, either that or they were very aware of Walker’s lyrical prolixity which often knows no end. Moss sang his crowning glory, ‘Bow River’, and did a stunning rendition of ‘Plaza’ off the Breakfast at Sweethearts album. Moss sang a jazz standard ‘Cry me a River’, and, the pick of the bunch, the classic ‘Rosaline’. Barnes was solid and professional and in good voice, although I felt that his take on ‘Breakfast at Sweethearts’ could have been performed with more subtlety. Phil Small was solid and flawless, seemingly a background figure though his musicality is always a prominent feature of the Chisel sound. Steve Prestwich was solid and commanding, and stunned everyone when he got on acoustic guitar to sing a couple of new songs with the band backing. His voice was strong and fine, stony & bluesy with fine songs from the drummer who in the Chisel days, demonstrated himself to be the most promising songwriter of the band, Walker aside.

As for Don Walker, the band would not have achieved its lasting success and ‘transgenerational’ status without him. His organisational and leadership skills helped get them through those early, lean years, along with the songs he kept bringing to the band. It’s inarguable that Walker’s talents, capabilities and capacities as a songwriter are truly extraordinary. Much of his work has a somewhat “mathematical” quality to it, maybe that’s a nebulous concept, but it’s possible and even likely that the years he spent studying maths and physics at a post-graduate level helped stimulate his innate compositional talents – now there’s something they don’t teach in songwriting courses!!

Prestwich’s ‘When the War is Over’ was one of the more stunning numbers of the set, Prestwich on shaker, Walker on organ, Mossy on acoustic and he and Barnes superb on vocals – this is one song that speaks for today as much as anytime. The band simply were what they were on stage, there was no blazing zeitgeist running through them as say it did in 1979 with set-fire-to-the-town tours and touring posters of burning monks etc, still, on ‘Flame Trees’, in that middle section after that striking key change towards the end of it, the band were all at the microphones singing “…do you remember nothing stopped us on the field in our day…” and that electric synergy was running through them as a collective…you could tell then, so clearly, that these guys had been or are something uniquely special, a true phenomenon.
by Ross Bruzzese ©2003


enjoying a bevvy Awakening to the ‘good’ in our lives and to the fulfilling sense of gratitude which follows often comes to us via ...