20 Apr 1998

Piece for The Australian 1998

Piece for The Australian 1998


The A-Z of Australian pop, by Paul Kelly


“And another thing I’ve been wondering lately…” The unforgettable first line of What’s My Scene by the Hoodoo Gurus. Straight away you’re in the middle of a story and the song’s only just started. The acceleration never dies.


Born Sandy Devotional – The Triffids. A cathedral of a record with Graham Lee’s incandescent Pedal Steel setting up the stately, sonic architecture. David McComb delivered the sermon in priestly black and at one stage of my life I worshipped there almost every day.


Charcoal Lane is the title song from Archie Roach’s debut album. Every song on the album is a love song and every song political. Archie, more then anyone else, showed that you can write both at the same time.


Died Pretty. On a good night they were/are total majesty. I wanted to cover Planning Days from their first EP but couldn’t work out the words from the record. I asked Ron Peno, their singer, for them but he never could tell me. Maybe he didn’t want his song murdered.


Ever Loving Man, The Loved One, Sad Dark Eyes. Three cuts of genius from the Loved Ones. Hair-raising singing straight from Dionysus. Divine, primal madness.


Filthy Lucre. The Melbourne DJ team who transformed an odd funk rock song – Treaty – with a makeshift chorus into a dance floor hit for Yothu Yindi. Theirs was the final laying of hands on a song that began faltering around Yirrkala campfire and passed through many stages.


The Go-Betweens. I remember hearing Cattle and Cane for the first time on the car radio and having to pull over and stop by the side of the road – a strange beat, mysterious singing and words you could smell.


Ross Hannaford, Ross Wilson, Wayne Duncan and Gary Young made up Daddy Cool. I saw them first in a freezing cold tent at Canberra University in 1972. Ross Wilson’s falsetto is still something I aspire to. Hannaford is a deeply funky national treasure who plays every Monday at The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda – for free- which makes Melbourne one of the great cities in the world.


I Will Lick Your Arsehole from Regurgitator’s Unit LP. They’re rude, they funny, they groove – and they’re from Brisbane. How can they go wrong?


Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons. It was an event in Adelaide in the mid-1970’s when Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons came to town. They meant business, they were drilled, they came to show the country cousins just how it was done. And how to dress.


Ed Kuepper and I once shared the bill at The Paddington RSL. I was using my capo the wrong way (upside down) and Ed set me straight. The Way I Made You Feel is one of the all time great bedroom songs.


Love, the one and only album from Mixed Relations who were the best live band in the country around ‘89, ‘90. Led by Bart Willoughby, the founder of No Fixed Address, they blended reggae, country, didgeridoo, rock ‘n’ roll and movie music into a heady, entrancing, anthemic brew. Political dance music pre-Yothu Yindi. Way ahead of their time.


The Manzill Room. You never started playing till one in the morning. You’d do two, sometimes three sets. You’d finish at four am but that didn’t mean you would go home then. A mysterious, inflexible low decreed that you could never leave the Manzill Room until it was well daylight. Brett Whiteley once danced to us there. It closed years ago but I suspect there are still people trapped inside searching the floor for the change to buy one last drink, one more deal.


Night of the Wolverine. Dave Graney stepped into the ring with this record. He had a big, fat vibrato and knew how to use it. Cinematic songs and a lyric about Maggie Cassidy. Jack Kerouac’s first love, that was just too hip, baby.


Ollie Olsen. Melbourne dance guru. Check out Third Eye’s Morphics Resonance and Dying. Turn it up and shake the walls of the house. Ollie always puts a little cry in the machine.


Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow. I cottoned onto The Saints around the time of Prehistoric Sounds, their third album. Paralytic Tonight is a four track EP that came not long after. I played it over and over again in a flat on Punt Road. This was their great middle period. Always and In The Mirror were soon to come.


You Am I. Spencer Jones and I were playing in Philadelphia recently. There was a guy in the audience who looked like Tim Rogers. I broke a string and he came up and changed it for me, returning my guitar one song later, perfectly in tune and with no spraingy bits sticking up at the end. After the show I couldn’t see him anywhere. “That guy sure looked liked like Tim Rogers” I said to Spence. “It was Tim Rogers,” he said, “They’re playing next door” (Spencer knows everything). By the time we made it next door You Am I were at the bar. We all stayed there a long time talking football and stuff, until a tour manager came to collect them and drive them to another American city in the middle of the night. And that’s how I met the guy who looks like Tim Rogers.


O Zambesi, Dragon’s third album contained the hit singles Are You Old Enough and Still In Love, written by Paul Hewson. I shared a flat with Paul in Kings Cross in 1984 and we watched the Olympics on TV when the Russians didn’t come. Dean Lukin inspired us to write our first and only song together.