Tuesday, September 16, 2014


It has occurred to me the last few days how entitled I really feel and how much I need taking down some pegs. It is true, as has been pointed out to me not a few times in the last year, that I have a tendency to tease and ridicule people around me. When I consider why this might be, well, of course in part it is down to being insecure - just like everyone is, to a greater or lesser extent, it's a holding position between fight or flight, isn't it.

When I was a boy, in the 70s, we all loved Monty Python (well, boys did. Girls often less so. Why was that?). I think I have blogged about this before. The misogyny in MP was one thing. But there was also a not unrelated element of MP which involved 'cutting through the shit' of politeness and pleasantness and being 'real'. The underlying - no, overlaying! - message of MP was that social intercourse was all platitudes and niceties, and what people really wanted to do was abuse and use each other. It was pretty 'punk' in that regard, and fairly nihilistic, unless I'm misunderstanding what nihilism is. From this I got a hankering to always imagine the worst-case-scenario of the social faux pas. What is the worst thing anyone could say to someone to either burst their bubble, or clear away the falseness?

I was talking to Danny Butt about this last night, in regards firstly to the Bulletin cartoons I blogged about a few months ago, and this reminded me in an atypical cultural-reference leap of the film Big, in which Tom Hanks' character Josh reveals the truth of his situation to Elizabeth Perkins' character Susan, that he is just a little boy. In the case of the Bulletin cartoons I wondered out loud, the first time I'd considered this, whether perhaps the reason white middle-class Bulletin readers found the notion of 'primitive' people putting forward 'sophisticated' ideas funny, was not that they hated Aboriginals (though undoubtedly they did) but that they might be attracted to the idea of themselves as, on some level, 'primitive' or base. In Big, Josh's protestation that he is just a little boy is interpreted by Susan as a ploy to get out of a committed relationship. But she also agrees that, underneath, we are all children. I've had the same feeling - particularly when talking to certain friends and acquaintances - that whatever the subtlety or nuance or even sophistication of their words, they are really just screaming 'me - me'. Of course, when people get drunk, it's even more the case. See it a lot.

Anyway. It has also become clear to me that what is tolerable, perhaps even appealing, in a 10, 20, 30, even 40 year old male, is perhaps less appealing in a 50 year old one. So behaviour modification begins today (actually, it began yesterday). I am going to put the anxiety over the possibility that I might appear less interesting or witty (ha) on the back burner in favour of being polite and encouraging. No-one really likes being teased, and of course I hate it pretty much more than anything you can imagine. It's a bad scene. 

What has this to do with 1969, you may ask. Well, it's the year my world turned upside down, and shortly after, the world turned upside down. My brother Michael was born in January 1969, and I was no longer the only child with all the attention of my parents, grandparents and for all I knew everyone else on the planet, bestowed upon me. I am glad I had that 3 years 9 months of the spotlight, I guess, although perhaps if I hadn't had it I would have a little more humility... who knows. But it was certainly character forming. Then later in 1969 the rest of the world got to know what I had been through, because you know, Altamont. Also, 1969 is an amazing song by the Stooges which I always enjoy. But it's only taken me 45 years to appreciate what impact 1969 had on me, and one of those impacts is to feel like I should be the centre of attention and always deflating those around me lest they suddenly seem more interesting to someone else or themselves. That's probably why I love blogging too, you have been warned. 

More confezzional character suicide later peepz. 

when life gives you lemons, make time to walk in the long grass with beagles

Nature Prance: David Thomas' solo albums 1981-1987

'Atom Mind'

Hamann recorded/produced a lot of Pere Ubu/David Thomas material. Alan Greene is a well-known Ohio guitarist, who at this time was a member of a band called Breathless – hence his credit appended with ‘courtesy EMI.’ Carney was (and is) a member of Tin Huey (his intro really makes this track the marvel it is). He and Thomas were also on a track called ‘Sunset Over Hibernia’ with other Tin Huey members, included on a kind of a compilation album called Bowling Balls from Hell; the lyrics on that track were re-used for another song on the Pere Ubu album Song of the Bailing Man.


Sunday, September 14, 2014


Hi from Mascot. I am getting an early Tiger flight - the first of the day actually - back to Melbourne from Sydney where I cam specifically to attend a wonderful musical event you see advertised above. Sound was great. Bands were spectacular. Venue was tremendous. Food was pretty good too! Drinks were reasonably cheap. Company was very fine.

I have to sort through a hundred really low-quality phone pics, to find you a handful of very low-quality phone pics. But that may not happen till I get back to Melbourne, and since I'm flying Tiger, I may not get back to Melbourne in one piece but many. If so, let it just be said that I had a very vivid and real last day on earth, thank you to all involved, and the new music discoveries of 13 Sept 2014 for me were spectacular, and I would also like to say, look: shizzle is shizzle, and even shizzletacular shizzle doesn't have to shizzle everyone's futz for all time. A bientot!

Too many people sayin' sorry these days. Don't be sorry. You did great to sell out.
 I was just thrilled by the ceiling in the Marrickville Bowling Club, as will be made clear by the following pics.

Below is Jane Grant with a young lady who, if I remember correctly, was called Ari (spelling? not sure). They were talking about the right age to have babies I think.
I don't know these people. They were at the bar. I was just taking this picture thinking, 'this is happening NOW'
This band is called Melon Melon Melon. The man in the short-sleeved shirt is Jack Lee, and while I have never met the woman on the right I believe she is Stephanie. The man in the middle I don't know. They were all great, but it was particularly good when Stephanie got on the drums, she is a great drummer.

 People getting food. Under the amazing ceiling.

The rest of the pictures are interesting to me but so ridiculously dark... I'll chuck a couple in just for, um, what might arguably be called 'interest's sake'.
These are, of course, people watching the band. There was a column to the side of the stage which had a mirror on it and from where I was standing this mirror gave a great insight into what people are like when they are in public, but are relatively unselfconscious and not aware they are visible front-on. I don't know if it's unethical to photograph them. What do you think?  (I took quite a few pics but most didn't turn out)

Below- Dick Diver, who were really great. The girl in the green dress with the brown jacket was way cool and with people she adored.
This guy in the Lobby Loyde t-shirt was singled out for discussion by a number of people. Great idea. I want one.
 Outside at the bowling club, late in the night.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nature Prance: David Thomas' Solo Albums 1981-87

Man's Best Friend

‘Man’s Best Friend’ is the last track on Sound of the Sand, and it picks up immediately from its predecessor on the album, ‘Sloop John B’ – how that may have happened, I can’t imagine, unless perhaps the musicians jammed a new song while they were still thinking about ‘Sloop John B’ (except: it’s a different band!). If ‘Sloop John B’ was, as has been suggested, a band playing a backing track to a pre-recorded vocal, there’s even more to marvel at in the group’s decision to adapt and extend the musical themes of the first in the second. The other possibility – I don’t know how to put this to the test – is that ‘Man’s Best Friend’ is an attempt at ‘Sloop John B’ – i.e., that the Pedestrians tried (and, in Thomas’ estimation, failed) to provide a backing track for ‘Sloop John B’; instead, he created The Eggs to record that song, and used this track as a new song.

It begins jauntily, and quickly disintegrates despite Eddie Thornton’s continued reference back to the simple, happy, irresistible tune he’s playing almost completely separately from the other musicians (though Moxham has kind of, sort of, got his back). 

This song has an explanatory note on the original vinyl release: ‘This song does not endorse Self reliance. It merely notes a temporary relief that can be found in the doing of simple things.’ Of course, it is not my place to suggest David Thomas is not telling the truth here or anywhere, but it is almost incomprehensible to me that this is a song about the ‘doing of simple things’, for ‘temporary relief’ or otherwise. It is also difficult to see how this song is about ‘man’s best friend’, which typically of course is assumed to be the dog (not mentioned here even by inference). Thomas tells us instead that his feet ‘are My Special Friends’ (capitalization as per the lyrics on the sleeve). He adds that his feet ‘push me home/They ask no questions’. I suppose we would have to take one’s feet, therefore, as the ‘best friend’ of the title, ignoring the inconsistencies of number. Yet, of the 29 lines of the song, only he last five are concerned with the friendly feet; the remainder is a gripe about the invasive qualities of Thomas’ ‘Fabulous Past’.

I am not sure what this is. It might have something to do with the reverence expressed by many, even in the early 1980s, for the mid-to-late 70s Pere Ubu of ‘Final Solution’, ’30 Seconds Over Tokyo’, and Dub Housing. This was the searing, scorching, disturbing Pere Ubu which many yearned for – rather than the ultra-weird Pere Ubu of Art of Walking (and they certainly weren’t hankering for the soft, contemplative, na├»ve Pere Ubu of Song of the Bailing Man, either).

It should also be noted that the Pere Ubu song ‘The Fabulous Sequel (Have Shoes, Will Walk)’ on New Picnic Time references both the concept of ‘fabulousness’ and walking/feet. Presumably in both cases the idea of the ‘fabulous’ is to be taken not in the common sense of ‘amazing, wonderful’ but in the sense of ‘pertaining to fable’.

I mentioned previously that Mayo Thompson plays on this song; he performs on the accordion, an instrument in which I suspect he was not necessarily well versed (the relatively recent Red Krayola album Introduction also features accordion prominently – not played by Thompson). While ‘Man’s Best Friend’ is not about a dog (and Thompson does not receive a writing credit on this song) Thompson’s main songwriting contribution to Song of the Bailing Man, ‘The Use of a Dog’, probably is. But this is a connection that undoubtedly does not need to be made, as it is surely irrelevant.

In sum then, The Sound of the Sand is a fascinating, but only partially successful album. It is, no doubt, an attempt to establish Thomas as a solo artist, with an emphasis placed much more heavily on his vocal and lyrical capacities than on the experimental interests of a band (most particularly, recording studio experiments, such as were increasingly the province of Pere Ubu by the time of The Art of Walking). Almost all of the songs on Sound of the Sand are hypothetically replicable by a live band (I assume Thomas did play some shows to promote this album, with a full rock band of some description. A browse through the Hearpen releases pages show a distinct lack of Thomas live material from the 1980s however. It does, though, reveal three tracks of unissued outtakes from Sound of the Sand which will have to be examined in a separate post - http://www.hearpen.com/hr141.html).

Sound of the Sand is the difficult process of one individual breaking with the past (fabulous or otherwise) to carve a new future. As I have mentioned previously, it presents a number of facets and possibilities, and while it was the next Thomas studio album which was called Variations on a Theme this is actually a far more fractured and segmented series of ‘variations’ than that record.

I mentioned in my discussion of ‘The Birds are Good Ideas’ that Sound of the Sand is not a solo album, In fact in certain respects it’s a Rough Trade records supergroup, just like The Red Crayola’s Kangaroo album from the same year. Just as one might wonder what Thomas was planning to make of his career – as mentioned, he was still a young man and one with considerable credibility as an artist (a credibility which of course he retains to this day) – one might also wonder what his record label had planned, if anything, to make of the 1980s. The Smiths were just around the corner; they would alter the fortunes and focus of the label forever. Thomas’ drawing on the English alternative scene of the early 70s (Henry Cow) and the considerable talents of the journeyman guitarist Richard Thompson (Fairport Convention, etc) was, if not a backwards step, at least a declaration of intent. The future beckoned.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

abbotsford market

I went to Abbotsford Market on the weekend, sorry it took me a while to tell you all about it. The first thing that struck me was the bourgeois nature of the stallholders’ (I assume) parked cars which you can see here. The second thing was the smallness and the reasonableness and the interestingness of most of the stalls. True to form I bought mainly junk and records, by which I mean, two Albert Ayler CDs one of which (I’ve only listened to one) is a-ma-zing. I also bought a small stable (by which I mean, a model of one; ‘it looks handmade’ said the man, who mustn’t have had his Weeties yet, of course it was friggin’ handmade, what a bizarre comment) a tea pot and two mugs that might have been once the property of Fred and Betty Flintstone, they look very rough-hewn and stoney. (If you will indulge me in an irrelevant aside, or indulge me indulging myself etc, I remember The Flintstones as the first show I ever saw on what was then known as Channel 0, it later became Channel 10, it was at the Curtains’ house opposite Princes Park in Kew, I felt, though I am not sure if this was true, that we were not allowed to watch Channel 0 at our house, maybe we just couldn’t receive it, but my father was very embittered by Reg Ansett’s promise to fill Channel 0 with quality programming, a promise he did not live up to, let me tell you). There was also a coffee stall (ground coffee), a sausage sizzle, plants, soy candles, and these nice blankety-shawly things that in truth I don’t know what the use was. All in all, it was diverting but hardly essential, as they say.

I also went to Coburg trash and treasure but I have even less to say about THAT.