A Big Beat that's worth every cent
The Big Beat by Donald Robertson and others
The Howing Owl, Adelaide
Wednesday, October r16 2019
Can't take Her anywhere.
We've just witnessed Donald Robertson, mainspring behind Adelaide's monthly Roadrunner magazine (1978-1983) be inducted into the SA Music Hall of Fame (the 111th member) by John Schumann (of Redgum).
Preceding that was a couple of short speeches (including one from Jim Kerr of Simple Minds), a rather entertaining Q&A chaired by Suzy Ramone (of, among many other things, the Molting Vultures), and prior to that much chinwagging by a bunch of old coots who hadn't seen each other in - literally in some cases - several decades.
You know that thing, where you instantly recognise someone despite the (insert description of degraded human symptoms of age here)? This was happening. Harry Butler, of DNA magazine (and many noisy bands) was there. Chris Loft (soundman and former music promoter) was there. Artist (former drummer) Andrew Steel was there. Dave from 3D's "Smash It Up" show was there. Oddly, strangers who ambled in off the street were also there.
Author Donald Robertson chattign with Suzy Ramone. Paul Weston photo.
I was glad She came, because you know, my past is a messy old sofa, and this sort of thing can be awfully dull. However, there was much bonhomie and warming chatter (helped, doubtless, by the extraordinary array of gins the place has). She had an espresso martini ("Oooh! this is strong!") and I had a Laphroag, which I hadn't had for far too
I think I'll be back to the H. Owl.
Anyway. We're lined up, me with my two 50s, to buy the book. She sees me and says, "I don't want a copy". I look at her, puzzled, and say, "Okay".
"You've got two 50's! Are you buying two copies?"
"No, I'm just getting one."
The line moves forward a little. Three folks now in front of me.
"How much is this book?!" (increasingly louder.)
"Er... " (swallowing hard) "$100."
The line shuffles forward.
"A HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A BOOK?! I WOULDN'T PAY A HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR THIS BOOK! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING OF? A HUNDRED DOLLARS."
People around us are staring.
"Well, dear, that's how much it costs."
The line moves forward again, and the publisher is looking at me quizzically.
My beloved continues chuntering on until I'm about to approach Donald myself, when she says, "Oh! I don't need to be in the line at all, do I?" and totters off toward the bar.
Suzy Ramone with John Schumann. Paul Weston photo.
Anyway, really briefly. Roadrunner was up there with RAM and Juke (and better than Scream! and Spunky) following modern music. The writing is evocative and exciting, and, unlike in the other mags mentioned just now, with Roadrunner, Australia felt like it was on the verge of participating in, if not actually developing, some sort of cultural wave. And it kind of was.
Bands who would usually never get much of a look-in from the stodgy music industry get treated with respect and even sometimes a front cover - Redgum, Stranglers, XTC, the Angels, Sports, The Members, Sunnyboys, Young Modern ... The Residents - who, curiously, were a profound influence on a number of notable underground bands here.
There's an early interview with Deniz Tek; there are articles on No Fixed Address, Boys Next Door, The Moodists (nee Sputniks), the Models, The Radiators, The Reels, The Church, The Dagoes, Jo Jo Zep, the Hitmen, The Saints and the list unreels like a slinky down the stairs ...
"The Big Beat" is a fabulous mixed bag from the period, and that's the key to understanding the book: it's of its time, as things were splaying out ... so there's not much on Rose Tattoo or X while Filth feature on four pages (rather spectacularly, it must be said). All of the singles reviews are there - it was an era where the single was a magical creature; while the articles have been selected with care to provide a dip-able and browsable book suitable for reading, treasuring, spilling coffee (or espresso martinis) over, or twatting Mormons.
It's heavyish, over 500 pages and has a big index (so you can skip to that Adam Ant interview) which is brilliant except when Donald spells Rowland S. Howard 'Roland', mixing the poor chap up with an organ. Frankly, that seems like the only flaw...
It's a fucking brilliant read, a wonderful document of a strange sparkling moment in Adelaide's past, and I'm very glad I was there.
The next day, She told me She didn't have a hangover.