Stranded. Australian Independent Music, 1976-1992. Revised and Expanded Edition
By Clinton Walker (The Visible Spectrum)
First issued in 1996, the brilliant “Stranded” was Clinton Walker's second "overground" success (his first being his biography of Bon Scott two years earlier), and was a more readily-available primer on how Australian music - as a whole - abruptly changed into something both credible and world-class.
Yeah, and you disagree? Look, prior to 1978 (say) there were only a handful of bands determined, lucky, and good enough to get above the parapet and charge stark-naked and take on the world.
Around 1978, everything changed - though I'll emphasise that the world-wide impending undercurrent of change started way back. Hip young kids taking the present culture and either embracing it or pouring gasoline on it (or both), and investigating the past cultures and appropriating what they identified with.
In his preface to this edition (with "invisibly" revised original text and very visible expansions), Walker makes several statements I vehemently disagree with. This is unremarkable, as the nature of The Life is that it is mercurial, shape-shifting. For example, where Walker is amused by Sonic Youth's title “1991: The Year Punk Broke”, I thought it insanely naff, wrong and downright stupid.
Adalita - Melbourne Town Hall
Adalita performed in the magnificent space of the Melbourne Town Hall, with J.P. Shilo playing the four storey-high Grand Organ. They were accompanied at various stages by Adalita's band, plus backing vocalists Charm of Finches and The Letter String Quartet. Adalita's emotive and well-crafted songs were driven home by her powerful guitar playing and the brooding sound of the swirling organ. A contender for one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen in my life.
Ed Kuepper and Jim White - Rising Festival
Ed Kuepper and Jim White opened the ill-fated Rising Festival in Melbourne at the Comedy Theatre and what a show it was. It felt pretty exciting to be at a gig in another iconic building. There was also an element of fear - in this seated though crowded space, was I going to get out of there virus free? All in the name of rock ’n' roll!!!
The Rising Festival had an eclectic, artistically challenging and ambitious programme of events but unfortunately was closed down on the second day due to you-know-what. Another one bites the dust.
Liz Reed photo
Execution Days: The Life and Times of Spencer P. Jones
By Patrick Emery (Love Police)
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Melbourne writer Patrick Emery’s exhaustively researched and engrossing biography of the late Spencer P. Jones is that it found a publisher.
Thanks to the internet, book publishing is a low-margin crap shoot. But Aussie publishing houses were already renowned for their lack of imagination and reluctance to take risks on books about anyone who’s not mainstream, middle-of-the-road or, ahem, National Living Treasures. Even those imprints that are outgrowths of universities, our bastions of free thought.
If you haven’t received a formal rejection letter from a friendly Aussie publisher after shopping a musician’s autobiography, you haven’t lived. The stupidity of not keeping and framing a letter that read, in part, “there is no market for this because Radio Birdman fans can’t read” is regrettable in hindsight – it should have gone straight to the pool room - but, fuck you, anyway, self-important publisher twat. You deserve to be shot by a ball of your own shit.
Patrick Emery suffered his share of similar fools while trying to place “Execution Days”.
Rachel Nagy of the Detroit Cobras.
The year 2022 is off to a very bad start. Over the weekend, the Detroit Cobras announced co-founder and vocalist Rachel Nagy had died.
Nagy co-founded the Detroit rock-soul band in 1994 with guitarist Mary Ramirez, and Greg Cartright (Reigning Sound, The Oblivians) was a musical collaborator. The band released four full-length albums, toured Australia in the 2000s and was scheduled to play US dates in March. No cause of death was revealed.
The weekend also claimed Nadalyn (Natalie) Schlossman, former manager of the Stooges fan club in the 1970s and a dedicated documenter and champion of the band since.
Known as “The Stoogeling”, Natalie lived in Philadelphia and ran the Stoogeaholics Facebook group where former Iggy and the Stooges guitarist James Williamson has paid tribute:
Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars
By Barry Adamson (Omnibus Press)
This autobiography is so sumptuous and clean that I don't want it to end, so I'm taking it in glorious nibbles. I haven't finished it yet, but sod that. You need to know how damned good it is, so I'm filing the review now. Just order it, buy it, demand it from your music emporium.
Barry Adamson is perhaps best known to the Australian rock 'n' roll world as a founder member of Magazine, covering for Tracy Pew while the latter was in jail, and the first four Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds LPs (and re-joining in 2013). He is also an accomplished producer of film scores.
His own band came to Australia in September 2012 on the back of his LP “I Will Set You Free”. I have very fond memories of that magnificent night in Adelaide, not least because I only recall three other friends there: one of whom we all miss terribly.
Simon Chainsaw with The Liberators at Frankies Pizza in Sydney. Anthony Mitchell photo.
2021 was a bit of a re-run of 2020.. lockdowns, gigs cancelled, industries decimated. While in 2020 I was inspired to create and consume, 2021 left me fatigued, lethargic and generally disinterested. Let’s hope 2022 too is not a rerun! However, there were some bright spots that come to mind.
At the MoshPit Bar in Sydney. Sandra Kingston photo
Celia Curtis’ Top Ten-ish of 2021 (in no particular order)
Pat Todd & The Rank Outsiders - “...there’s pretty things in Palookaville...” Album.
Sixteen songs from the Punk/ Country/ Blues/ Rock’n’roll master craftsman. Pat Todd is the real deal! Sure, it’s not as instantaneously enthralling as 2008’s “Holdin’ on to Troubles Hand”; But seriously, SHOW ME AN ALBUM THAT IS? “..pretty things” grows on you like a stubborn fungus.
Literally anything Pat does in a year is Top 10 worthy. Luckily he put this record out so I didn’t have to rate one of his turds. (Which would have been good shit by the way).
Kevin 'BIGDADDYK' Cherry
SYDNEY SOUNDS 2RRR 88.5 SATURDAY 6PM (Sydney time)
TOP 10 + 2 OF 2021.
DATELINE: FRESHWATER BEACH, SYDNEY, NSW: I'm fortunate to be living within 10 minutes walking distance to the birthplace of Australian surfing - affectionately known to the locals as Freshie. I usually go there in the early evening around 6pm when it's un-patrolled as there are less people and cooler so I’m less likely to get sunburnt. Water temperature has been tropical (around 21 degrees Celsius) but refreshing. A great, healthy and socially-distanced way to spend Summer.
The following 12 highlights (in no particular order) are by local bands recorded during Covid lockdown and regularly played on The Sydney Sounds Show ON SaturdayS 6pm 2RRR 88.5mz.
1. MOONLIGHT FIVE
Made their debut last year (and listed in my Top 10 of 2020) with the polarising song/video “Lockdown Blues”, followed a few months later with the more accessible “Listening to Gospel Music on The Radio” - both of which received radio airplay, locally and overseas, to critical acclaim. About to launch their third song/video “I Just Want To Be Me” which had its radio airplay debut on SYDNEY SOUNDS on January 8. A band that are not afraid to go out on a limb and create something a bit different from the usual Sydney rock sound.
Reverse Light Years – Even (El Reno)
This double album features Even at their creative best – a beautifully crafted 17-track, 81 minutes with something for all tastes. It provides a definitive, seminal record for long-time fans and will certainly open the door to new legions.
Ash Naylor is arguably the hardest working “stop and go man” in Oz music. He, (Wally) Roderick Kempton II (bass) and Matt Cotter (drums) make a formidable three-piece. And a durable one.