hachette - The I-94 Bar
Paul Kelly: The Man, The Music And The Life In Between (Hachette Australia)
By Stuart Coupe
“I hear you like music. Do you like Paul Kelly? I’ve just been reading his autobiography, "How to Make Gravy". I love his music. Always have.”
It was an innocuous and inoffensive simple conversation starter one Sunday afternoon, uttered by a friend of my wife’s. To the extent there was question in there, it was almost opaque, and more likely rhetorical. Everyone likes Paul Kelly. How could anyone not like Paul Kelly? As it was, I fumbled around for an answer, and mumbled something about not having had the chance to listen to any of his music for a while.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t like Paul Kelly’s music. I’d first heard and seen him back in the early 1980s on Countdown with his then-band, The Dots. A few years later Kelly appeared again, this time with a new band, the Coloured Girls, and a batch of songs that would become staples of commercial radio playlists: "To Her Door", "Darling It Hurts", "From St Kilda to King’s Cross" and "Before Too Long".
He's the drummer chap in Joy Division and now New Order. Morris has written about how he got there, but with a rather rueful (and lucky for us, gently comic) look back at what a twat he once was. Cleverly written, sensibly contrite and a bit ashamed of himself, this is corking stuff. Even if you weren't interested in his music, in fact.
However, we're also in modern myth territory. That means the tragic suicide of frontman Ian Curtis; a death which seemed to grip the nation's rather maudlin youth and media of the day to such an extent that death of The Ruts' frontman, Malcolm Owen a couple of months later, was completely eclipsed; surely both were equally as tragic.
But no, the Joy Division wave, which was only just rearing up, hit the UK quite hard.
The “Secret History” part could have been easily replaced by “Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll and Driving…Lots Of Driving”. There are more miles in Stuart Coupe’s book than a shipping container load of Gregory’s street directories, but it’s much more fun to read.
The concept is simple: Speak to Australian road crew about their experiences and shape a chapter around each conversation. Do it chronologically. Change very few names to protect the infamous. You can guess a few of them anyway. This boat doesn’t need a lot of rowing. In most cases, the stories tell themselves.
If you’ve ever worked with, alongside, as a payer of or have been reliant on a roadie because you were performing, you’ll know that the good ones are (a.) usually full of war stories and (b.) indispensable. They are, quite simply, the people who make rock and roll shows happen. They see the good, bad and the ugly parts. They know where the bodies (and the drugs) are buried.