Day 1: Sunday 26th December, 1993
“Rule 1: Never, ever start chatting with any person that may be sitting next to you, particularly towards the beginning of the journey ... be blunt and sullen to anyone who may initiate a conversation. They’re only after money, drugs, a place to ‘crash’ or a hand-job.” Rob Clarkson, Form Guide #1
The secret to surviving the bus is to stay as close to absolute zero as possible. You were rudely awakened from your sleep to get on the damned thing and you certainly can’t sleep in any normal fashion whilst in transit, so spend your time in whatever Twilight Zone is available. Think ‘semi-conscious, comatose’. This way, you’ll hardly notice the recirculating air conditioning sending desert-dry air straight into your cracking lips (Sick Bus Syndrome), the video (thank you, God, for busting the power inverter and denying us this particular pleasure on the first leg of the journey) or even the yapping moron next to you with the IQ of soap who keeps trying to start a conversation with you. And you can poke your elbow into him when you’re asleep.
The Bus isn’t an overpowering, full-on, in-your-face hell it’s a subtle one that works its magic by being vaguely unpleasant for a very long time. Stay sleepy. Do it right and you’ll get the best rest ever.
Make sure you bring full-cover headphones (the open-air type let out too much sound you need to be able to fake intense listening while your Walkman is actually off; they also look more imposing and say ‘fuck off’ more clearly), codeine (slows the thought processes with few side effects thank God for opiates and crook backs) and The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard (anyone trying to read this one over your shoulder gets what they deserve particularly the aforementioned cretin with the True Detective magazine and Conan The Barbarian black and white comic). Have food at every stop and on the journey. (Just a little bit draws blood to the gut and away from the brain. You may want to bring some with you rather than spend a fortune on chips, chips and more chips along the way.) Avoid movement (this might get the blood flowing), anything with caffeine in it (particularly Coca-Cola), thought or action. Have three or four thin layers of clothing that you can put on or take off whilst seated. And remember: even in mid-summer, the Nullarbor is cold at night. (Though the bus itself was actually slightly warmer by night than day ...)
As a merger between Greyhound and Pioneer, Greyhound-Pioneer has coaches from both fleets. The Pioneer seats are actually okay (i.e., passable if you’re six-four) and the Greyhound ones are completely ratshit. But if you wanted comfort you should have taken the plane, and I don’t mean economy. Bring a small cushion or pillow. If you actually want to sleep at any time overnight, bring a hat, a velvet eyemask or a black shirt (what I used) to stick over your eyes. This is vital.
Oh, yeah never use the toilet on the bus. If you do, I will have to kill you.
Hot day today; motherfuckin’ hot, actually. But the less you move, the more you can soak up the heat instead of sweating it out.
Now listening to Fast Forward #013. My handy-dandy Aiwa HS-J501 rechargeable walkie does take batteries for those little moments when you’re nowhere near a power socket for two days three and three-quarter hours continuous play from two black AAAs, six or seven from alkalines. You find this technical data dull? It’s of towering goddamn importance to me.
Fast Forward is an amazing beast: a cassette-magazine put out by Bruce Milne (founder of Au Go Go) and Andrew Maine (who left indie music, started gay where-to-go list the G’day Guide and died in 1989) from 1981 until late 1982. The magazine stopped due not to economic ruin, but personal differences between the editors; a pity, as it was a real winner and I recommend you obtain all the issues you can a valuable piece of Australian music history.
Coming from the first flush of Walkmans and large stereo ghetto-blasting boxes, when cassette culture was all the go and a vastly exciting concept, the idea of the magazine is that you listen to the tape (walking the streets, doing the dishes, travelling across the country) and dip into the booklet for the details on each track. Contains all sorts of happy surprises and indie oddities that will delight you.
Number thirteen features And An A (1981 demo “Holiday Crowd”), a Tiny Tim interview, **** **** (Cough Cough Canberra punk band; not too bad; in it for the music), Sacred Cowboys (“Is Nothing Sacred” four-track demo), some cretin from The Face (back when it was regarded as part of the music press), some Hunters and Collectors (Greg Perano era) on a day off doing a beautiful C’n’W version of “Shivers” with Perano singing (and it pretty much works, too), some live Laughing Clowns (damn fine), the Manikins, Philip Brophy on Subculture by Dick Hebidge (“every image means something and all styles convey meaning; the essence of all subculture is being conscious of style. Me? I just bought a whole lot of flared trousers”), Ted Milton a.k.a. Blurt, the Legendary Pink Dots, some hair care tips from the Cure and interview plus live stuff from Mark E. Smith and the Fall.
Any record nerd would kill for any issue of Fast Forward. You, however, should grab any you see because it’s good. Inspirational.
Lost the battle with consciousness; however, I have discovered that there is in fact someone I know on board, which is very reassuring Fleur Ruane, a friend of Liana’s, who is going to Melbourne as well and is seeing Liana before the latter pops off the next day to some hippy-fest. So I can see Li and give her the photos of her sideburns and catch up and whatnot. And Fleur also wants some of the PFs I’m smuggling across state lines twenty-one kilograms of unsaleable back issues, to be marked ‘FREE’ and chucked in shops.
Fleur has a tape-player, but brought a total of two tapes with her. Now I know why I brought twenty public assistance. Always good to help someone actually worth helping.
Day 2: Monday 27th December
I’m sure the Ceduna roadhouse gives a kickback to Greyhound-Pioneer. You get herded in bleary-eyed and have a menu shoved in front of you with “Minimum Charge $3.50” at the bottom. But there is the bottomless tea or coffee for $1.50. And quite nice it is, too. (Test your bladder capacity avoiding the bus toilet, however.)
The South Australian ‘countryside’ is way different to the trackless expanses of WA ‘bush’ more rolling hills and twisty highways ... more of a good old English sensibility to it.
Don’t try to take fresh fruit across the WASA border or it’ll just get taken by quarantine. Instead, share in the bags of apples and oranges that other fools have brought along and basically give away to fellow passengers rather than waste on officialdom.
I am amazed to discover that a car pulling into a roadhouse through dusty red gravel looks exactly like it does in a petrol ad on telly. I’m somewhat disappointed that the real thing doesn’t do better. Where’s the social cachet in leaving the house?
Just lent Fleur Generation X another great bus novel, and especially for an Xer on a cross-country trip. Like using American Roadtool as a US tour guide. Me, I’m busy with Sick Burn Cut by Deran Ludd a great little crime/gay/drug/rock’n’roll/gratuitous violence novel (“Mary is a 31-year-old man with a revolver in a cheap cotton dress”) that is, of course, highly recommended.
My Walkman is my best friend on this trip. Fast Forward, Kill Yr Idols comp, A Terminal Posture (the first time I’ve listened on headphones Jesus!), New Waver, Third Eye (Ollie Olsen), the Goons and now the NME Mighty Reel (a good 1982 comp). It’s a bit of a worry when the tape player’s plastic slipcase makes it easier to change the batteries than the tape, though.
A strange thing, but full-tilt rock’n’roll, despite being just the thing for a journey by car, is not the thing for the bus it may be the finest of music, but it’s not sonically varied enough to take your attention away from the unpleasant aspects of your surroundings you have no direct control over. Not enough ear-candy. However, live tapes of rock’n’roll work because the murky sound requires you to enter its space (thus leaving the one you’re in to some degree) and, of course, because you’re following the event.
At one point I made the error of scanning the radio nothing on bar a Sattleresque middle-class Nazi talkback circle-jerk and some of that pseudo-‘music’ stuff they play on those ‘commercial’ stations. Back to the tape and Robert Wyatt singing “’Round Midnight” ... phew, that’s more like it.
Fleur made the same radio discovery as me. We got off at Adelaide and went in search of a cashcard machine and a pub. Found hideous ‘restaurant’ where we were forced to buy gratuitous $2.50 chips with our $1.80 watered-down middies; left rapidly and wandered the streets until we found a fellow traveller (a nice country girl called Kylie) and a pub with one-dollar “schooners” (middies) and champagne. The champagne was piss-awful (Fleur had two), but it did have a strawberry stuck on the rim the secret is apparently to be smelling the strawberry while you swallow the stuff.
Attempted to call Thrash Grind Grunge when we got in at 6:30 p.m., but no-one was in ... oh, it’s a holiday. Duh. (‘Holiday’?)
Day 3: Tuesday 28th December
Trundled in at 7:00 a.m. (the freeway to Melbourne starts a hundred kilometres out at Ballarat) and was met by Leisal Florien and Darren O’Shanassy and carted off to La Maison Hula-Hoop, a charming little terrace house in Fitzroy, there to be fed cereal and coffee and dazzle Leisal, Darren and Maria Poletti with my wit and wisdom. (Babble like a loon.) Set up spare room (!), called Louise, showered and put my trip clothes outside. Thence to sleep.
Woke at 2:30 p.m., went downstairs to see the Ampersands in rehearsal action and waited for native guide Louise Dickinson (and native guide dog Arlo), who had arrived in Melbourne a week earlier. (Christmas with the folks, don’t you know.) Off to town we go. The old House of Hula-Hoop was at the southern end of Napier Street, right on Victoria Parade; catching trams into town from here is sorta like catching buses from my house in West Perth, i.e. it’s a non-trivial walk, but you’d have to be a bit bloody lazy to pay for a lift.
Melbourne is asthma city. Surrounded by farmland on all sides ... polluted ... cold ... I haven’t had asthma attacks as a daily feature of life since the age of seventeen and I don’t recommend them. My smoking approached zero this holiday as I certainly didn’t need to do anything voluntarily to lessen my lung function.
Louise and I wandered all around town, going nowhere in particular ... got back to Fitzroy, looked at the architectural-nightmare Housing Commission flats (two large free-standing blocks in the middle of a no-go area parkland ideal suicide location, apparently, though it has the best kids’ park Lou has ever seen), had a coupla pots at Squizzy Taylor’s (loser local and quite enjoyable; middies are called ‘pots’ here, presumably so as not to confuse Victorians with too many syllables) and back to Napier Street. The band had gone to tea, so we hung out with Arlo.
Day 4: Wednesday 29th December
Off wandering city streets again, this time with Leisal and Maria. Lucky Strikes (on croak: “As advertised on television!”) for $3.90 a packet! Must get some shipped over. Tried to explain smoking to Maria, didn’t manage to get it across.
The city centre of Melbourne has a different feel to Perth’s. It’s a little more pedestrian-oriented. Trams are omnipresent. Every pissweak alley has a street name and is lined with interesting shops. Melbourne didn’t go through the raze/rebuild cycle Perth suffered during the sixties mineral boom (and is still suffering currently in ‘raze’), so there’s still lots of nice architecture (cool old big things) there.
(Q. How do you play ‘chicken’ in the city centre of Melbourne? A. Cross when the light is green for you.)
Visited Au Go Go, bought some fanzines and did something I’ve always wanted to do: went up to the counter and asked, “Hey, I’m after this zine it’s called Party Fears and it’s from Perth. I haven’t seen it in a while, I know you used to have it in here ...” “Oh yeah,” said the bright young chappie behind the counter, “one came out a few months ago ... should be in any day now. Keep coming in.” “Oh, right. Thanks.”
(Went upstairs and asked the same question: “One came out two years ago, then a single-sheet about a year ago; I think it’s dissolved.” A little more like it ... sigh. I noted the first encounter on my customer response form and got back a letter from Bevan Richards explaining that some old PFs had been found and put out a few months earlier and the fellow downstairs may well have taken that to be the latest issue. I wasn’t offended/upset did find it quite funny.)
The downstairs of Au Go Go is the new and hip shop and has that ‘excitement’ vibe; upstairs is the collector’s shop, with horrible prices on great stuff and a selection of old zines. (Still had a copy of PF#2 from ’86 Stems, Marigolds, Greasy Pop for a dollar.) Both shops are incredibly cramped I’d feel unwelcome to do much even with no-one else there. (The upstairs has recently been extended.) Finest indie-head shop I saw in Melbourne, but. Or Sydney, for that matter.
Gaslight is an alternative (rather than indie) record shop, but its new-reduced rack is an occasional winner ... they must have a truly clueless buyer easily talked into things. Their loss is our gain. Incredibly small and crowded.
Popped into PolyEster Records for a howdy, chat & checkout; got Your Flesh #27, with a Daniel Clowes cover which made Leisal go, “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” then Maria go, “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” then the shop assistant go, “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.” I’d be pretty happy, guys.
A weird thing about this holiday: I thought I’d be buying a lot of records. I didn’t buy very many at all, because there was just about nothing new that I couldn’t get at House Of Wax. (Indie distribution is pretty worked-out in Australia now if you’re not through one of the two small-majors, you don’t exist.) What I did buy was fanzines. Zines, zines, zines! I spent somewhere around a hundred and fifty bucks on books and fanzines this holiday. These being the things that are somewhat harder to get interstate. Not what I expected to happen. Fine with me, but.
Maria ran me down to Mentone, a Godforsaken south-eastern suburb near Moorabbin, where Lou’s folks’ place is.
Day 5: Thursday 30th December
We drove around Melbourne in Louise’s brother Justin’s car. As Constable Care would say: “Just because you’re in the rain/ Doesn’t mean the other driver isn’t insane.” The roads are covered in a sprawling rococo mosaic of paint and objects, hardly resembling the minimalist aesthetic of Perth or Adelaide at all lane markings, tram lines, stop lines, really stop lines, parking-sign substitutes, stopping-the-other-way lines, bluestone gutters that crunch the front of your car ... Melbourne drivers have no concept of lanes because, between the trams and the parked cars, they really don’t mean a lot. Also, the rule is to do unto others before they do unto you: every hour is rush hour. Driving around Fitzroy in the daytime is an excellent way to raise your blood pressure.
One surprising point is that Melbourne drivers actually drive at the speed limit. Nepean Highway is an eight-lane horror running one trillion miles down to the Mornington Peninsula. Eighty all the way; in Perth (where speed limits are strictly advisory and left and right are interchangeable), it’d be a hundred normally and at least one-twenty in peak hour. There are lots of cameras, you see. Hence, the ‘70’ sign on main roads isn’t being generous; it actually means seventy, not one hundred as it would in Perth.
(The famed Melbourne hook turn to turn right at an intersection with crossing tram lines, you go over to the left lane and wait for the orange/red light before crossing; saves trams from being queued up behind right turners isn’t actually very scary, despite large numbers of people claiming it’d freak me out. In fact, it’s sensible in the circumstances.)
Listened to 3-RRR on the car radio at just about all times. I’m told this has lamed out severely of late, but it sounded just dandy to me. It’s so nice to tune in to a mostly-music station (as opposed to a bit-of-everything station like RTR) and hear actual rockin’ music just being broadcast, like it’s no big deal or something. Heartwarming. As Louise put it, “there’s no way you couldn’t grow up right listening to RRR.”
Visited Chapel Street in Prahran and saw ... lots of people with black clothes! Pointy shoes! Too much hair! Sunglasses! The genuine Melbourne Stereotype, come to life! This is the sort of thing a tourist wants to see! Every second-hand record bin had, unfortunately, been picked clean by people with knowledge ... Wandered up Greville Street and stopped at Greville Records, which is OK but didn’t radicalise my life, and Kill City, a real cool crime & related book store where I stocked up on back issues of Fatal Visions.
Further up Chapel Street are lots of the beautiful people in full 1993/94 fashion splendour ideal site for on-location filming of a drive-by, I think. Do as many takes as you deem necessary.
The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda has the right atmosphere and we managed to sneak Arlo in (dogs verboten in pubs since 1st July 1993). Decided on the Powder Monkeys as our New Year’s entertainment; then back to Fitzroy for ...
AMPERSANDS / CATWEASEL Empress, Melbourne, Thursday 30/12/93
Missed the first band, the Lounge Suite. Was told they were real good. Catweasel, however, are the sort of thing that happens a lot here, according to Maria lots of kids who learn musical instruments at school and then form an incredibly bad band. And no doubt go on to release an unlistenable CD through MDS which sells three copies. You don’t want to know. We stayed away.
The Ampersands were fun and pretty OK. I chatted to a penpal I’d never met (Bart) and I suspect we were each exactly what the other expected us to be, which is cool. The point being that the Ampersands were the right backing music for the job. Also good ‘front’ music, i.e. to focus your attention on. It’s cosy cute indie-pop of the Cannanes-follower genre, but with aspirations to more. (Aspirations realised on the forthcoming second album.) Cool sunflowers hanging off Kim’s kit. All of Catweazel’s friends left, but that’s no loss.
Day 6: Friday 31st December
Zooming around again. Got a pic of the Dogs In Space house one for the tourist checklist; it has sheets instead of curtains, so it may well be a rock’n’roll house again.
Went to a nice park in St Kilda (gotta sample the kids’ stuff, y’know; very punk rock), then visited Mentone Beach, which is a disgusting shithole. Melbourne is on the northern rim of Port Philip Bay, and all the silt, gunge and slime of the Yarra pours into the bay. The water was brown and slimy and the beach was seaweed-saturated and covered in weirdly-decayed fish and lots of garbage left behind by people who didn’t give a shit. Louise talked of childhood picnics and lovely times on this very beach and started expressing environmentalist urges for the first time.
POWDER MONKEYS / SEMINAL RATS Great Britain, Melbourne, Friday 31/12/93
The Great Britain in Richmond is a hip venue and a grotty little dive. It’s the sort of dive people fall in love with, though. Apparently, bands that play there have to pay the venue for their door-person so that the door-person can let the ‘regulars’ in free. The GB’s New Year gift to the punters was to admit only ticket-holders (three dollars entry), thus keeping the crowd down to legal capacity and the air breathable. Sound is OK and layout would probably be tolerable in all except sardine circumstances.
The Seminal Rats have always seemed completely pointless to me on record another Birdman/Stooges band. Woo woo but live is their reason for existence. They are fuckin’ hot. The drummer hits incredibly hard and precise. The rock is there. Nice to see.
The Powder Monkeys feature Tim Hemensley, ex-God and Bored!, and John Nolan, also ex-Bored! Tim needs to go to kindergarten for a couple of years to learn some social skills (if I’d been the mixer receiving the abuse Tim gave and the mix was perfect I’d have been seriously tempted to spin every knob and walk), but the Powder Monkeys were goddamned brilliant as well. Particular points to the harpist, Jed Sayers. Lou says this show wasn’t as good as it should have been (compared to their track record), but (a) it worked as far as I’m concerned (and further) and (b) she rocked out wildly just fine, thank you. There’s a particular look in the eye that glowering loners get in the presence of pure high-energy rock’n’roll. We had a fine time this New Year.
Day 7: Saturday 1st January, 1994
Woke up at Lou’s folks’, packed our stuff and went for a long drive down to the Mornington Peninsula for a fun day out. A hundred-odd kilometres down Nepean Highway with an out-of-date road map (missing lots of recent freeways), listening to the JJJ Hot One Hundred and cursing Dave Graney’s low placing. Past Frankston (end of the railway line; a bogan hell that Gosnells and Kelmscott could only aspire to just keep moving!), through hill and vale, onto the Mornington Freeway (a freeway that starts in the middle of nowhere and goes to the middle of nowhere huh?) and there you are.
Zipped around the Mornington Peninsula a bit. Flinders has a great spot to see the ocean from. There’s one place further along the southern coast (the ‘back’ beach) I forget the name of which you have to pay a toll to visit; we chose not to, deciding it was time to go to the ‘front’ beach Rosebud, Rye and Sorrento, on the inside of the bay.
The day was bloody perfect. The water is clean and lovely (not like Mentone it’s close enough to the ocean outflow here) and has almost no waves whatsoever. (We actually got Arlo to go into the water!) Way too many people (particularly families), but I suspect everyone else had exactly the same idea as us for a nice New Year’s Day.
Someone told me the RRR program manager lives around here and commutes the hundred and twenty kilometres to Fitzroy. I can see someone loving it enough.
Mentone is where Louise had the inestimable joy of growing up. It could be a Perth suburb just like the one I grew up in that I just hadn’t ever gotten around to visiting (or ever would, had I any say in it; but never mind). On Saturday evening, we rented a video of Heathers and sat in a suburban bedroom in a suburban house watching a video, just as if we couldn’t watch Heathers in any suburb anywhere in the world.
Day 8: Sunday 2nd January
Train into town; went to all the shops. (Every shop in the city centre is open on Sunday!) Peril 305 was entertaining: on your right is a CD shop full of techno-industrial-goth (and a second-hand vinyl bin of ten-year-old New Wave!), on your left is a goth candle shop and upstairs is a science-fiction bookshop of the sort that has twenty different Star Trek novels and no J.G. Ballard. Goth-nerds, don’tcha love ’em? What a great shop that was.
(Actually, the industrial shop is damn fine. Everything is full price or more, but I guess you can’t buy discount all your life ... try as I might. It’s specialist, it knows what it’s about, check it out.)
Spent the day with Leisal including a visit to record shop Sister Ray. Way-cool name; the shop doesn’t really measure up. Also stocks Doc Marten shoes, 501 jeans and an extensive line of hip T-shirts. Presumably the idea is that you can walk in naked with a credit card and walk out fully subcultured your One-Stop Grunge Shop. The second-hand prices start at the unlikely and shoot right for the outrageous and various corporate policies seem designed to keep the riff-raff out (if you want to examine second-hand vinyl, you’re supposed to take it up to the counter and have them show it to you. Yeah, right). Leisal shopped there because it was literally around the corner from her house and because they’ve been good with conventional orders (don’t expect obscurities); I could pass it by real easy.
Darren came over and we went out to a secret bunker in Abbotsford to get a rough mix of the Ampersands’ second album, but I have been foresworn to reveal no further detail. (Sure is fun watching a mixdown, but.) Later on we (us three and mad supergenius pop legend Simon Grounds) went out for a night of bad pubbing.
Checked a band called Long Black Limousine at the North Melbourne (a dive), who were horrifying. All fantastically good musicians in the soul-funk-jazz-blues line, playing a muso mishmash that was perfect in every detail, but only in the detail. They were so insanely goddamn boring ... I was actually impressed with their fantastic musicianship, which is pretty rare for me, but they didn’t play one song of the faintest musical interest; if they had, it would have been the best thing ever heard. Some musicians are born sessioners; always beware of a sideman who starts talking about “finally playing the stuff we’ve always really wanted to play, man.” We quickly realised we had no reason to be there and left. (After Simon had done the conversational rounds, of course what a social moth.)
Thence to the Evelyn, to be famed in song on the second Ampersands album. Another dive, of course; you can’t see the stage if there’s an audience. Band was a hideous pile of shit called Clowns Of Decadence who sounded like Skyhooks at their worst (and were way too loud, of course); had clown makeup and everything. I got heavily into Cascade (Tasmania) for the first time damn fine, both varieties. Got horribly pissed and made it home alive.
Simon Grounds is a great man. Pop star, producer, mixer, bon vivant ... In ten thousand years, when the human race has evolved, everyone will look like Simon Grounds. Simon Grounds belongs on kids’ T-shirts.
Day 9: Monday 3rd January
Intermittently pissing down, but I decided to go for a walk up Brunswick Street on my own.
PolyEster Books: they’ve got this one right. As Bart put it: “yeah, it’s a sex, drugs & rock’n’roll bookshop.” I circled the place once (as you do when you’re in a new shop for the first time) and picked up fifty dollars of stuff I could not live without. Dangerous place to enter carrying money. I could get used to this. Nice neon “Bob”-face on the back wall.
(A word on convenience and Melbourne: maybe this only applies in Fitzroy, but everything is so easy and available. Every petrol station is open twenty-four hours and has a mini-supermarket in it. 7Elevens from sea to shining sea. Sure, they charge like wounded bulls on most things, but a 500ml Mountain Dew is always $1.40$1.50. And that’s the sort of thing that counts. Most shops on Brunswick Street are open seven days a week and until midnight six of those days; they may not open in the morning until ten, but hey, it’s not like you work or anything. This level of convenience is the difference between a real city like Melbourne and a pretend one like Perth. Yeah, I liked Fitzroy a whole lot.)
Made it home with zine pile, a book and some records (grabbed some strangely-underpriced second-handers from Sister Ray) in the pouring, freezing rain. I looked at the sky and thought: It’s summer in Perth right now. Forty degrees never looked more attractive.
Day 10: Tuesday 4th January
BORED! Punter’s Club, Tuesday 4/1/94
Cosmic Psychos were also on the bill, but we left before them. Missed openers Aunty Theo, who apparently have some sort of ‘vibe’ happening, for what it’s worth ... Bored! were goddamn fine. Louise says they weren’t as hot as usual, but a support slot is a fine place to ease up and just play. They didn’t look into wild performance ... but the playing and the music was damn perfect. “Apparently, this is our reunion show ... I didn’t know we’d split, but I guess you can always believe the music press ...” Yeah, or your publicist, mate. Bored! are a purist musical band and you wouldn’t believe how boring the photos we got were, but anything not music isn’t the point here. Hey, I’m real glad I got to see them at last.
Day 11: Wednesday 5th January
Wednesday wandering around Mentone. Today Louise got a tattoo, something she’s wanted to do since the age of about thirteen. It’s a pretty cool one.
Spent the evening at Bart Cummings and Andrew Withycombe’s place. A couple of vats of fine homebrew maturing in the kitchen. We got into severe record-playing and discussion of the indie-pop aesthetic.
The International Pop Underground is a weird creature. It exists on cassette, in fanzines and by mail network. In fact, I would compare it to the hardcore network at its mid-80s height, in terms of something that lives and breathes by interpersonal networking and can still shift a reasonable (whatever you want to call reasonable) number of copies of stuff. (As one person mixed up in it put it: “Yeah, it’s really weird when you send away for a fanzine and get back an offer to do a record ...”) Of course, the music is generally a hell of a lot better. Heh.
In fact, let’s go into some depth here. The Postcard bands are the obscure blues men of the far past. All indie-pop is Scottish in its roots. (The Go-Betweens are an anomaly in this regard, but since they recorded for Postcard we can paper over this one for the moment.) The Cannanes are the Beatles; Beat Happening are the Rolling Stones. (This might be the other way around.) The Ampersands know the Cannanes (one cool point) and did an indie zine, Zeeeeen! (two cool points), so they’re pretty damn cool. The Cat’s Miaow (Bart’s unit) know the Ampersands (half a cool point) and Bart wrote for Zeeeeen! (another half) and Andrew was in the Ampersands and is in Cat’s Miaow (another half) and are good (all you’d need in any sane world, but for the present purpose it means another half cool point), so are also pretty damn cool and get hand-duplicated tapes into the Ajax and Toytown catalogues. The Summer Suns are extremely good and have girls on their record sleeves (bar the latest single) and Kim Williams runs a shop and answers his mail, so that’s two to three cool points. If you’re from Dunedin you get a free five cool points, being Xpressway-linked nets you another five. Being on Flying Nun used to score you ten cool points, but now gets you two flat rocks and a bottle-cap. Etcetera.
Cool shit played: unreleased Cannanes recordings (the third album, Caveat Emptor, is finally out after two years’ delay, and it’s a killer. They’ve learnt to play, and the world will never be safe again), a Neu! record and some mind-bogglingly obscure New Zealand album (the band is called Dadamah, apparently a Christchurch-scene band with connections to the Terminals ... I’m taking Andrew’s word on this) with a thick brown card cover, like the record sleeves of suburban loser bands who don’t have a clue about how to do a record independently (let alone music listenably) and get every element weirdly off-kilter. Except this band are profoundly talented rather than profoundly talentless.
Day 12: Thursday 6th January
Up nice and early (the room I crashed in at Leisal’s had no curtain and faced east), walked up Brunswick Street and discovered (as noted above) that nothing is open until ten. Not even the laundromat opens until nine. Weird.
Spent the day going all around town with Louise, doing the shops and looking for batteries for her Kim Salmon interview (harder than I would have expected in a city). Got myself a photocopied map of the city centre (don’t you hate it when a shop insists on doing it for you and can’t actually work their own copier?), something I should have done before leaving Perth pages 1A and 1B of the Melways, that’s the go.
Free PFs at Au Go Go. Visited Minotaur Books, a fine science fiction/fantasy/comics shop trying to cyberpunk itself up into a sex, drugs & rock’n’roll bookshop. However, the Sexy Robot Trading Cards (?!) near the entrance don’t really cut it. So many nerds in one place ... I did buy some nice things there (Comic Relief, Journal of Irreproducible Results). For EFTPOS you have to go down to the basement and they don’t do cash out. (What happened to that lovely Melbourne convenience?)
Dropped Lou at Sir Kim’s (there to hear of Brett Rixon’s death) and went to visit Greg Wadley, brother of mah good friend and PF correspondent Ian (who I’d called in the hope he was in town; he wasn’t, but passed me on to Greg).
Mr Wadley is the brain behind New Waver (Middle-Class Man, Low Self-Opinion, Perverted By Wheat, Hard-Driving Beat, Aspects Of Loserdom), the Spill label (hundreds of Spill Compilation Two CDs, inserts and boxes on his bedroom floor) and retired publisher of Loser magazine. Loser was (still is) truly a magazine for today: being a glowering loner with an analytical mind and an artistic vision doesn’t necessarily mean your unique and hard-fought individual vision is worth any more than the other millions of pretty much identical individual visions. Aren’t you thrilled by people who think analysis and persistence can substitute for actual intelligence and clue? Once the office loser, always the office loser ...
Greg was (at this time) living in a house in Fitzroy that was actually being severely renovated the back half being demolished and rebuilt, no less. This left it kitchenless, but the owner asked Greg to stay on at a peppercorn rent; and at twenty-five dollars a week (!) for a house just off Brunswick Street, you can afford to eat out every night. No need to leave his bedroom otherwise home studio (guitar, keyboard, eight-track reel and microphone) set up for instant access when inspiration strikes and laptop computer at hand for his doctoral thesis in zoology: that humans are addicted to wheat. Heaven on a stick, hey?
Evening at Lou’s folks’. On the evening news, we saw the reports of bushfires in Sydney ... specifically the ones running down the Lane Cove River to Lane Cove, where every goddamned thing Louise owned (the CDs! the Macintosh! the CD player!) was.
Day 13: Friday 7th January
Circled the city centre on my own, checking out every shop. Ye olde Missing Link is tucked away on the south edge; I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t tripped over it. There’s lots of musician-wanted ads and zines (got an old Eddie) and hardcore records. It’s still there.
Au Go Go didn’t have the freed back issues I’d chucked in there, but upstairs did have Party Fears #111/2, the first of the 1991 free ones, on sale for a dollar ($1.00 price tag over the word ‘FREE’). I left a ‘howdy’ note and a request for seventy-five cents of that dollar in the suggestion box. (Reply letter from Mr Milne with apology and promise of investigation and a similar letter later from Bevan Richards thank you. Apparently procedures have been markedly tightened and the offender tracked down and killed horribly.)
Back home, spent several hours reading Darren’s zine collection and noticed what an effect the Macintosh has had on minimum standards of zine production. I mean, you certainly don’t need a Macintosh (witness Woozy) ... but fuck, zines looked bad in the mid-eighties. At least these days, people absorb half a clue about design from the environment of everyone else using Macs. (Even Woozy wouldn’t look like it does without the Mac influence the idea that anyone can make their zine look like something.) Photocopying (both for reduction and for printing) is easier to steal and of higher quality nowadays too.
At some point, Darren and I were discussing generational wank and came to the realisation that people like us (we’re both twenty-seven) are still going to be doing bands and zines and shit when we’re seventy and beyond. Yes, there’ll always be a spiritual heartland to go to. It might not be a very big one, mind you ...
PLIP PLOP AMPERSANDS / RED TEXTAS / STINKY FIRE ENGINE / EARTHMEN / SUGARGLIDERS Punter’s Club, Melbourne, Friday 7/1/94
The Ampersands came on at nine o’clock to the crowd they brought and the other bands and not many others. No-one showed on time (plenty arrived later and asked when they were going on) and they played brilliantly a planned-out half-hour presentation set. Andrew’s last live show, by the way. I was there and you weren’t.
Stinky Fire Engine played their third show in four years. I can see why they don’t bring it out more often. (Though tonight’s set apparently got them an immediate offer of another show.) The band is the brainchild of pop mogul Wayne Davidson and has Wayne and three women on vocals, keyboards, percussion and backing tapes. The music is electro-pop that pays deep and sincere homage to the golden early ’80s era of the stuff and is really good in itself. Most of the music is on the tape; the band sing, tap keys, mime the percussion really badly (keeping in time is for videos this is a show, dammit!), shuffle a few dance steps, shoot toy light-up ray guns at the crowd, throw lots of sweets (cue mad scramble on floor. Wayne: “We know we can buy your affection ...”), throw a beach-ball around the room ... basically show that they’re there to have fun. I suppose it is the sort of thing you bring out once a year. Comparing this with the bands immediately preceding and following is a strong argument against the conventional ‘rock’ setup this isn’t poker, so two guitars, bass and drums doesn’t automatically beat two keyboards, props/videos and a tape. Lighten up.
The above were the two good bands and, as it happened, the ones I wanted to see. Red Textas have a good name, but that’s about it. A mediocre three-piece I can’t be bothered categorising. Y’know, here I am trying to have a conversation and this band insist on playing. The Earthmen had poo for a mix, but that’s probably a good thing music and clothes were like a bad newspaper article on ‘grunge’. Having the Earthmen follow Stinky Fire Engine seems almost contrived to make ‘rock’ look lame and useless. The Sugargliders were an OK pop band, but too precisely what I’d expected reasonably accomplished indie-pop to the Summershine/Sarah stereotype without an actual spark. They were easier to talk over than the Earthmen.
Spoke to Bart over the Red Textas and Iain MacIntyre over the Earthmen and Sugargliders. What an excellent happenstance, having failed to contact Iain before coming over. Mapped out the epic Party Fears wank for Woozy. Also spoke to someone who was just bogged down in hatred.
Incidentally, people sat on the floor (early on, when the floor wasn’t full) and watched and applauded, just like they do in Perth. So no shit on this, please.
Day 14: Saturday 8th January
Lunch with my boss and his wife. (I work in Perth, but he happens to be a consultant from Melbourne; temp worker with temp boss in an important function actually works out quite well in terms of office politics. Hell, it took me a whole six months there before I started counting down the days ’til I either quit or killed a co-worker.) Went to his place in Box Hill and then to a goddamn gorgeous spot way up the Yarra for a pricey lunch I didn’t pay for. What a corporate cocksucker, hey? This sort of thing is not supposed to be what you do on holiday ...
Spent the afternoon and evening in bed with a cold, occasionally shuffling down to the petrol station or 7Eleven for Mountain Dew. This definitely isn’t supposed to be what you do on holiday.
SUNSET STRIP / FREELOADERS / ATTILA HUNNY Punter’s Club, Melbourne, Saturday 8/1
Pub guy on phone was a lying prick. “Yeah, Sunset Strip are on second. Yeah, real soon now.” Rush down (sick as a dog and pumped full of drugs if I’d had any detectable brain I’d have gone to bed at seven and stayed there) past all the beautiful people cafιing in Brunswick Street (I was honestly wishing we’d gone via back streets to avoid ’em) and arrive in time to catch just about all of Attila Hunny. Funky bluesy shit with organ, and I do mean shit. We sat around near the pinball machines. Sipped lemonade and tried to keep breathing.
The people here (the girls definitely) are dressed ‘up’ and ‘fashionably’, which is to say gratuitous flares and platforms. I suppose it’s a good thing to see fashion victims at a genuine-article rock’n’roll show ... the two crowds did cross over in Perth maybe eight years ago, but no way now. These are the people you’d like to strap down and play good music at, so I suppose seeing them show voluntarily is a good thing. As long as they paid to get in and don’t get in the way of the righteous folk.
The Freeloaders are three ex-Philisteins and one ex-God and play Detroit. Woo woo.
Bart tells me that my two-week stay just happening to include a Sunset Strip show was God at work “you could have come for a month before Christmas and missed ’em.” I love the Sunset Strip and resolved not to leave until the ambulance-men actually came to drag my blood-coughing form away. And even then I’d demand to hear the end of that song at least.
Warwick Brown looks uptight as hell, but I would guess he feels pretty fine about the world and the Strip, particularly the latter. Andy Turner just exudes niceness I’ve rarely seen someone project such an atmosphere of ‘What a nice guy!’ while rocking out like that. It took me a while to work out that it was Tim Hemensley on bass, ’cos he was so much more pleasant than at the Powder Monkeys show ... I guess he’s around good influences here. (And wasn’t pissed.) Drummer Michael Glenn is from Hoss.
Um, what can I say? They played and played and played, and I was actually glad of complete sobriety let’s face it, the main function of alcohol at a show (not counting payday or the end of a hard week) is to try to tell yourself you’re not as bored as you are, and there was no need for that here as you could concentrate all attention (had to concentrate all attention every bit of perception you could muster) on the finest details of the finest sounds coming straight from Heaven to you. The Sunset Strip are the greatest. I’ll be telling my grandchildren about this one.
Day 15: Sunday 9th January
Spent the morning dragging myself (Lou helped) ’round the city shopping for presents (a heart-shaped box of potpourri for Mazz and Dazz and CD covers for Leisal) and went on a tram, tourist thrill, woo woo (a bus on rails, yeah) and the afternoon packing like a loon. Maria, Darren and Leisal dropped me at the bus terminal and I seated myself next to a Malaysian student tourist debating nerd. (His favourite subject of conversation was the lack of censorship in Australia; but was his main concern the opportunity to discuss democracy, society, meaningful protest, history, freedom of thought/speech/association/religion, quality of life? No, he hovered around the pornography racks at all the roadhouses, looking like he was afraid he was going to get spanked.)
3-RRR gives out all in one go you’ve got it, then you’ve lost it (just as the goth show was starting, too!) somewhere just over a hundred kilometres north along the Hume Highway. I was astral-travelling by then, sinking gratefully into the rest so cruelly denied me all day. The Ampersands tape was pleasant and blotted out (b) any chance of conversation with Mr Student next to me (he got me later), but, more importantly, (a) the Elton John tape the driver saw fit to play at non-subliminal levels to make up for the (I can hardly believe my luck) non-working video. Even when I fell into semi-unconsciousness during side two (and started hallucinating to the lyrics) and switched off, damn those headphones made fine isolators. The Bus would turn even the most gregarious social moth into a glowering loner.
If there’s all these bushfires, why is it so bloody cold?
The bus companies have got to get a kickback from the roadhouse at Albury. We were told over and over about the restaurant and how “you gotta go straight in to get your order at the restaurant, hurry, hurry, hurry,” but not a word about the front petrol-station bit, where there is lots of nice crappy food real cheap instead of the mediocre-mediocre food at exorbitant prices in the restaurant. Nine twenty for one bit of fish and what would be a dollar’s chips in the real world ... yeah, right.
Day 16: Monday 10th January
Arrive at 5:40 a.m. and was taxied (by what I later discover to be the most circuitous route possible on two maps) to the famous Abercrombie Street mansion of Sir Ian of Underwood, a fine fellow and host. Also resident were Sir Russell of Hopkinson, owner of a Sega MegaDrive (hence cub reporter for Hyper) and all hyped up for his new position with You Am I (today was first rehearsal since the Beasts support in December, and it was heartwarming to see his enthusiasm level rise steadily as the week’s practice progressed “Hey, just had the best jam!”) and two others called Scotty and Glen. The house was also notable for a fine photo board and a large Banana In Pyjamas wearing a St George scarf. I’m sure the hot water system was grossly illegal, but it suited my purposes.
Louise got in (by plane) that afternoon and we went a-journeying through Newtown and into Enmore.
Newtown is a planet unto itself. It’s a different place. You could very easily stay in Greater Newtown all the time and never, ever leave. There’s venues, shops, bookshops and even a handy university. (No cool record shop since Scratches died, however. And Louise says Scratches wasn’t cool anyway.)
It’s a pretty PC sort of place, and those places are always nice to live. A visible gay and lesbian populace, which helps keep airborne testosterone levels down. Lots of punk culture still about. There’s lots of quasi-Situationist graffiti, which is one of those things you think’d be really cool to have all over the place (to make Joe Suburban-Corporate pause and think, man) until you see it in the world and realise it hasn’t instantly brought about the Transformation of Society. Oh well.
The park opposite the Victoria Hotel in Enmore (hence Vic On The Park) has astroturf underneath the kids’ stuff.
Somewhat surprising to find that Newtown does actually shut at night I thought real cities had convenience. Doing the shop-your-way-through-Newtown thing by day is significantly more fun than the same thing in Perth, however.
There is the odd delight of place-name recognition (Newtown! King Street! Cleveland Street! Marrickville! The Hub! These places are in my record collection!). It’s weird how familiar Sydney seems, in some subliminal sense.
I guess it’s because Sydney is the centre of the culture industry in Australia and pumps out its own image all the time. (Note: I did not say centre of culture itself.) It’s like Los Angeles thinking that it’s the whole world because all the speech, music and images you buy come from or through there. This is the local market that all the ‘national’ media are actually aimed at. JJJ is a local station. You notice that people here speak with the exact accent you hear on television, not just something like it.
It takes about two seconds to take in Sydney’s complacency as Top Town (see previous paragraph). Melbourne may be competing with Sydney, but Sydney isn’t competing with Melbourne. Australia equals Sydney plus regional centres. Rock’n’roll starts in the inner city of Sydney, diffuses through the suburbs and disappears (though there’s been this annoying far-southern town of late). Etc. Also, everyone in Sydney is in a hurry, whether they are or not.
Moving from the boredom of Perth to the excitement of Sydney is like moving from the boredom of the frying pan to the excitement of the fire. If you want an actual change of environment, go to Melbourne. Melbourne actually smells different to Perth, whereas Sydney smells the same except worse.
South Sydney City Council has recycling crates which are the same width as and twice the length of the Perth City Council ones and are just as useful for storing twelve-inch vinyl. “Ahh, yeah, can we have another couple? The previous tenants must have ’em ... someone nicked ’em ... they burnt down ...”
Evening: beers with Cameron from Lemon at some loser pub in Chippendale (next to Newtown). Nice. I’m not sure what licensed hours here are, but they’re a fuckin’ lot better than Perth’s.
Day 17: Tuesday 11th January
Spent the day on a journey starting at Chippendale, going through Redfern and north through to the city centre, bloody-mindedly ticking off tourist attractions and getting shitty at each other. Oh well. Got sunburnt as well, which was a real surprise after the impossibility of such in Melbourne.
The city centre of Sydney is architecturally similar to the Perth one (apparently went through the same trauma in the sixties), with the monorail to make it even more hideous. Did the record shops to some extent. Phantom is average, though their in-house special productions (see OtS and Drum each week) mean you’ll shop there a fair bit. Red Eye has two shops, shop one pricing everything at $xx.98 (ninety-eight?) and shop two being the ‘collector’ shop, where I saw the same Madonna remix CDs that were selling for fifteen bucks (the proper price) in Melbourne four days earlier at forty dollars, fifty-five dollars and sixty-five dollars. Shop one does look pretty good selection-wise, though. Couldn’t find Waterfront.
Far more to my interest were the second-hand shops. These are worth coming to Sydney for! The shops are Lawson’s, Ashwoods and The Pitt, located three in a row on Pitt Street a block south of Phantom. Excellent vinyl in good condition at reasonable prices. I bought up.
Went all the way up to the Harbour Bridge (woo woo), then the train home. Two-storey train carriages. If I lived in Abercrombie Street and worked in the city, this’d be fine.
Spent the evening at Lane Cove with the two friends of Louise who were the guardians of all her possessions. Due to their extreme debt, I will refer to them as ‘Adam’ and ‘Phil’. There’s a certain mind-set that accompanies spectacular business failure: the feeling that money is a purely abstract concept that just keeps meaningless track in some pointless game of symbols. There’s a lot of difference between having a thousand dollars and having nothing at all, but the difference between being twenty thousand down and twenty-one thousand down is next to nothing. Y’know, they’re not even dollars any more. So Adam got himself a day job in computer repair to pay his debts (“In January, always go on a wage you do about two or three hours’ work a day and spend the rest of the time sitting around ”) and, when told he had to buy a car to do the job (and have a fifth of his wage taken to go towards paying it off), decided to shoot for the top: a Lancer GSR with electric everything, cruise whatsit, central doodle, wank turbo, four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, anti-lock brakes and probably electric dick attachment. It only runs on premium unleaded (at eighty cents per litre, which latter fact Adam only found out after he got it) and is red, of course; apart from the absence of tinting on the windows “I decided to stop short of looking like a pimp” it’s really the ideal car for the near-bankrupt.
Despite being Japanese-designed and manufactured, the Lancer GSR is precisely adapted to Australian conditions: driving around the suburbs of Sydney at one hundred and twenty kilometres per hour and scaring the shit outa your passengers. The four-wheel drive and steering and anti-lock brakes are not mere fripperies, as Adam is the Sydney driver you hear so much about. Also, this car is the ideal tool for going through the Harbour Bridge toll (two bucks going into the city) and waving a fifty-dollar note at the bloke with the words, “Sorry, mate, haven’t got anything smaller.”
The fires burnt down along the Lane Cove River and through the strip of bush/parkland across the road from the house, apparently getting within four hundred metres.
Day 18: Wednesday 12th January
Woke up this morning, looked outside and could see the air. Jesus. I know it’s the bushfires, but this isn’t something to give someone who’s been fed Sydney pollution stories. It’s apparently five times normal levels ... but I don’t want even a fifth of this.
Mind you, the asthma’s gone away. The petrol fumes are probably worse, but I seem to cope with them a lot better. Guess I’m a city boy.
Visited Half-A-Cow in Glebe, a tiny little room with a decent selection of books and comics and a very few CDs. (Don’t believe the hype though it’s fine for what it is.) Also noted was the Cherry Poptart  towel on display, which fits in well with the ideological purity of the shop that banned Lemon for the nasty things it said about Club Hoy.
Spent the afternoon wandering around Newtown (i.e., down King Street) of my own accord. There is a huge remaindered bookshop called Gould’s which would be hell to look for anything specific in but is excellent for a day (not an hour) of completely aimless browsing. Picked up Wetware by Rudy Rucker. Also, you know the photocopies of Steal This Book and Do It! that are presently in circulation? You can get the reprints they were copied from here.
Visited the medium-crappy Jewel supermarket above the Newtown train station; prices are actually okay comparable to Perth but Louise warns that you gotta check the use-by date on everything. Bump into Richard Corey (rock star) outside, wearing the old faithful Kryptonics 69 shirt. He says how he likes Sydney now, but hated it for a year at first. Why do I keep hearing Perth people say this?
WHITE TRASH MAMAS Kinsela’s, Sydney, Wednesday 12/1/94
Went to Surry Hills, the exciting nightclub district (like a whole suburb of James Street), to this exciting rock’n’roll-nightclub-thing place (woo). The White Trash Mamas include Miss Monica from the Prickles (C’n’W), who is trying to get into acting, and two actresses, one from Home and Away and one from The Year My Voice Broke, who are trying to get into singing. Is this where actors do their ‘cred’ band before trying to convince people that they’re really doing a record for the music? We got a good table. (With Simon Day at the next one, no less.) The audience combined the beautiful people with really bloody ugly ones.
The girls just sing, but there are three guys (including Stephen “Bones” Martin, for all you indie trainspotters) who play the actual music. The dark-haired one (The Year My Voice Broke) had a sour and embarrassed expression like you would when you’re doing something stupid for your career (we spotted her on the way in walking in barefoot holding a guitar that she didn’t actually end up playing plugged-in), but the blonde one (Home And Away) got right into it and was real cool. She also sung a lot of songs with ‘cunt’ in them (e.g. “I Knew He Was A Cunt”). (Sounds like one for Donahue: Women Who Say ‘Cunt’ And The Men Who Love Them.) A lust song to Tex Perkins in there too. It was a fine bit of fun and okay if you gotta go out and there’s zilch else to do. Louise loves ’em.
Day 19: Thursday 13th January
Another day spent following King Street, all the way to Erskineville, location of the old Lemon house (the famed House of Erko), complete with the view of the South Sydney industrial wasteland opposite (Sydney Park) that you’ll have seen in quite a few music videos. Newtown dole office, a dump. The Hare Krishnas, whose Sydney arrangement is quite different to (and considerably more relaxed than) the Perth cattle-trough approach; guess they haven’t done enough of a marketing push. And the other finest bookshop in my travels, Black Rose Books a non-profit anarchist bookshop that stocks all your favourites but at considerably lower prices (try $22 for a Re/Search book or $9 for Semiotext(e)/Autonomedia stuff) and, of course, has a fine political and quasi-political selection (picked up a nice pile of Situationist pamphlets I’ve been after for a while). I suggest you stop there and drop a more-than-token present in the donations box they’re recovering from a fire-bombing (!) and deserve every penny. I didn’t make it to Jura this tour, but I’m sure that’s fun too.
Bumped into our host Ian on the way back. He was drinking Pepsi Max. You know the ad: “subbed it, shot it, sodomised it, grunged it.” Guess what style of clothing Ian was wearing. Y’know, it’s sad when an ad hits its target market.
SEAWEED GOORILLAS / MACE / HARPOON Vic On The Park, Sydney, Thursday 13/1/94
Vic On The Park is a happy wander down King Street and Enmore Road from Chippendale. Alternately, you can take the bus. Heh. Like a wider, shorter Shents in dimensions. Stage is very large, theoretical capacity is 480 (estimated crush six hundred) and I think visibility would be okay.
We left early as the Seaweed Goorillas were on (got a bus to the Moon next morning, don’t you know ... not to mention musical taste), but you may be interested to know that the first band, Harpoon, features the guitars of James McCann of the Heathens and Raindogs and Tony Rushan of the Kryptonics. Certainly the finest thing James has ever been in his previous bands always struck me as the work of people with excellent taste (Birdman, Alice Cooper, New York Dolls) but not so much original expression of that taste. I actually liked the songs. A whole lot. Imagine the Raindogs a hundred times better and you’re getting the idea. The crowd was the Perth Kryptonics crowd of three to six years ago (here colloquially known as the ‘Front End Loader crowd’); made me wonder why I’d come across the country. Lots of howdy and catch-up.
Mace are a hardcore-ish band who are almost there. The rhythm section is damn fine (the bass-player has the rock and moves on stage; the drummer is flashy and can keep time and shape the rhythm), the guitarist is a technical doodler and doesn’t move and the (female) singer needs to jump around less and sing an octave up. Must be a lot better in the studio, ’cos they have a CD out already; I’d say they’ve got a lot of promise, but not enough to keep us from leaving during their set.
Day 20: Friday 14th January
Set the alarm to give me lots of time to get ready for the bus, and (can you guess?) the unspeakable lump of shit didn’t go off. Woke with five minutes to spare ... no shower, quickly brushed teeth and did final pack and fucked off to Lou’s crash-pad then bus terminal pronto.
Thought I was in severe luck as the bus was just about empty all the way to Canberra, but Canberra was where the bus packed for the journey through every pissweak hamlet from Sydney to Wagga to Mildura to Adelaide ... stopping at every single one.
My luck ran out in the video department also. What’s G-rated and would appeal to people who take the bus from nowhere in the country to nowhere in the country? The Man From Snowy River, of course. I thanked my headphones once more and got heavily into my John Cale (live ’86) and Nick Cave (live ’90) tapes.
A nice delicate pissweak young woman who obviously had no life whatsoever sat next to me for a short hop from Wagga Wagga. Rather than watch the video, she is reading her Bible. She keeps glancing up and around like the Devil is about to tap on her shoulder and whisk her away to Hell at any moment. (I suspect she might as well be there.) I gotta sneak one of these anti-Rock’n’Roll tracts into her bag. (Evangelist Danny Luttrell: Rock & Roll The Devil’s Revival? sterling classic.) I think she’s got a few tracts in there herself.
The Christian got off before I could enlighten her to the evils of rock music. The next companion (who, by way of generic conversational opener, started telling me about how much he hated Asians and Abos and ... I coulda just killed him there, but life is too short and there’s too many of the fuckers and anyway I might get caught, so I just grunted and shoved the blessed isolation-phones on again) got off just before Mildura, whereupon an obnoxious nerd got on and started loudly complaining that he couldn’t read because the reading lights were switched off. I explained it was one a.m. and I’d like to sleep; I don’t think he understood, but he did shut up.
Day 21: Saturday 15th January
Robert Brokenmouth met me in Adelaide at 6:30 a.m. with chicken and champagne. I consider this excellent hospitality for weary travellers and recommend the idea highly. We spent a happy (early) morning talking shit and talking more shit; Robert took me to the exciting Myer’s arcade with the rollercoaster on the top level (cool as! Wasn’t running at seven, thank God, but sure looked nice) and showed me where the exciting hole he worked in was. Cool. Adelaide and Perth are too similar. I know they’re nothing like each other really, but there’s something horribly reminiscent.
Getting on the bus to Perth, a Mr Neanderthal had his luggage sitting in the middle of the road. Everyone else had cleared theirs off, but for him the bus he was blocking had to toot. Mr Neanderthal gave the driver an abusive mouthful (not a very creative one, but they didn’t have literature back then) while Mrs Neanderthal tried to calm him down. Get on bus to wonderful scene of Mr and Mrs Neanderthal trying to work out how to cram an outsize piece of hand-luggage into the overhead rack. Duh ... dis way?
Met two nice people at Port Augusta (“Ass-hole, South Australia” Robert B.), Julie and Emma, both on the reverse journey. (Howdy.) Julie is another friend of Liana’s, a goth with a pierced lip and hair consisting of a pile of blue dreads coming out of the top of her head. Which I guess makes a fairly effective bus isolator. Julie was stuck next to a crazy man who hated women and was screaming out and ranting at everything; Emma stopped him from hassling her. I’m glad I didn’t run into any bus crazies this trip.
The Bus would send any aspiring novelist into paroxysms of joy at the stereotypes present in the flesh. (See above re: social moth, glowering loner, transformation.) The guy next to me for this leg is a young metal loser who doesn’t shave yet. He spends his time writing pages of what look like apocalyptic heavy metal lyrics (badly spelt), has copies of Guitar Wanker in the magazine rack and cassettes (two in total) of Metallica and Deep Purple. He decided at Port Augusta that it’d be a great idea to take his boots and socks off. We’re right in the back, mind you, and let me mention again that the air-conditioning recirculates. Beautiful. The boots are slip-on; guess he didn’t want to make it too hard for himself.
The video was working for this leg of the journey. Two were actually M-rated: Bird On A Wire, featuring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (crap, of course) and Ghost, featuring Patrick Swayze (soon to be killed) and Whoopi Goldberg, who is the best thing in it ... also included the word ‘fuck’, which surprised me for a bus video. I came out of my shell for the second half. Next was some hideous Christmas production, which I went straight back in for. Primevils and Bloodloss live ’86? A much better idea.
Day 1,000,000: Sunday 16th January
I haven’t showered or shaved since Thursday. (And there’s no fuckin’ way I’m paying two bucks for ten minutes of hot water! Well, not yet.) This bus sucks. The identikit roadhouses suck. The jerk next to me sucks. One of the finest features of cities is the potential loneliness in a crowd you can buy the pleasure of locking yourself away from the losers and seriously cultivating your contempt. Tell you what, a good bus ride’ll reassure you that you really are better than everyone else. I’m being as rude as I can to the loser kid next to me just for the sake of it borrowing his guitar magazines (one had a column trying to get across to muso-wankers what the point of ‘punk rock’ is ... written by a member of King Missile?!), asking him for sweets. Some people were just born with a bull’s eye on their forehead. I want to force him to listen to some of my tapes. Jerkoff.
The roadhouse remaindered-paperback rack (my favourite source of reading material these days) has a Ballard (The Kindness Of Women) and I am broke. Fuck.
My lift meets me at the terminal in East Perth and ferries me home. Set up the precariously-transported CD player and test it. Trumpets by Club Hoy: yep, works just fine. Shower, shave ... iron a shirt. Work tomorrow.
Things I Learned On My Trip:
1. No record shop I saw came close to House Of Wax for power of obscurity and knowledge. (Well, OK ... Au Go Go.) Count yourselves extremely lucky, kids Kim deals with hundreds of distributors on an ongoing basis for you.
2. This year, Melbourne is Rock City.
3. Perth door charges are outrageous, particularly considering what the bands actually get paid.
4. The traffic isn’t that bad over there.
5. For Melbourne, arrange a car (and buy a pocket Melways) or you’ll regret it. Sydney isn’t somewhere I’d take a car.
6. If you’re bored to tears with Perth and want a complete change, go to Melbourne. Perth people who go to Melbourne feel like fish back in water (“where have you been all my life? ... Where have I been all my life?!”), whereas Perth people in Sydney take a year or so to acclimatise.
7. I’ll see you in Melbourne in several months. (And I know I’ve said that and many other things before ...)
Thanks and howdy to: (namedrop, namedrop) Mine hosts Darren O’Shanassy and Maria Poletti (Melbourne) mine hosts Ian Underwood, Russell Hopkinson, Scotty and Glen (Sydney) Robert Brokenmouth Bart Cummings Louise Dickinson and Arlo Hound (my intermittent travel companions and tour guides) Justin Dickinson for the car (thank you, sir!) Beth Dickinson (Lou’s mum) Paul Elliott (and Mark Gorham for the excellent bookshop) Liana Ferndale Leisal Florien (who spent a year nagging me to visit her) Simon Grounds Kim Lester (Ampersands) Lora MacFarlane (who was in Perth when I was in Melbourne and in Melbourne when I was in Sydney: poverty jet set!) Iain McIntyre Joanne Mihailov (twice missed meeting up with you by thaaat much ...) Ian and Greg Wadley Andrew Withycombe Ben Butler (a man with a mission) Julie, Emma, Samantha, David (nice folk on the PerthAdelaide and AdelaidePerth legs) ex-Perthians Richard Corey, Peter Kostic, Tony Rushan, Matt Snashall (just four of the Perth Sydney mafia) cheers.
Thanks to Lou for these.
Any info on available records or reissues greatly appreciated! I have the Abstract #6 LP magazine and had (but let slip) the Factory Quartet album ... please write.
Generation X by Douglas Coupland, Abacus 0349103313, $14.95 most places; readily available. Any PF reader would get right into it. (Unless you’re running out of patience with middle-class kids who think they have problems, but never mind.) You and everyone you know can be found in this book.
Semiotext(e) 0936756853; $15 at an independent bookshop if you can find it (mine was the one and only copy at the Arcane Bookshop and I saw one at Polyester), else send SASE (or two IRCs, I guess) to 522 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University, New York NY 10027, USA for list.
New one: You’re Standing On My Hula Hoop Productions, 66 Newry Street, North Fitzroy 3068; SASE for catalogue.
The most disgusting thing I’ve seen in rock’n’roll culture is the limited-edition sleeve of “Headache” by Big Black. Collectors get everything they deserve. You don’t want a copy, kids. Although the booklet is good.
In a particularly intelligence-insulting move, the 1993 Hot One Hundred didn’t let you vote for whatever you wanted no, you had to select from the list of JJJ-playlisted songs they gave you. Keep the market under firm control, now.
Update 8/94: the jeans are no longer present.
Apropos of nothing: asked hi-fi advice from Mr Grounds (who should know) and he says that if you have to have a CD player (he doesn’t), get a NAD superlative tracking and conversion. No multi-disc changers, but for those you might as well go Sony. The best Sony is as good as a NAD costing half as much. Hope this is of use.
Whoa! Fourth album Short Poppy Syndrome out already, though I’m not sure whether it’s the tape Bart had. Purchase, treasure, idolise ...
Spill, GPO Box 2637, Melbourne 3001; SASE for catalogue.
“I’ve moved from the demolition house now ... the dust and noise became too much ... Most of my time is taken up with Spill or New Waver stuff, mostly running around doing shit work of the type you apparently do for PF, as described in the new Woozy ... Incidentally, I never eat out, but am currently addicted to chocolate (about 300-400g/day) and coke (about 500ml/day), so it’s nice to live near a 711 ...”
No, a PC is not just as good these days really for desktop publishing, i.e. page layout (but they still make excellent typewriter substitutes), unless you happen to have a ‘good’ one just sitting around and have already bent your brain into the weird twists and turns needed to work the thing properly. Or have a large supply of antacid tablets to go. The only people who think otherwise are terminal nerds for whom technical power over a machine that barely works at the best of times, when they should be pumping out zines, is the closest they ever come to happiness. You, on the other hand, should save yourself an ulcer. Alternately, use a typewriter. Or handwriting!
I don’t mean the big production numbers (B-Side, Bucketfull Of Brains) or their direct emulators (Party Fears), but mainly all the fluff of few-issue wonders ... back then, either you looked like shit or you worked your butt off not to. Huh. Don’t know they’re born these days.
Toytown, PO Box 295, St Kilda 3182; SASE for catalogue and then all your money for everything in it. In fact, you should just send all your money and feel privileged should they deign to send you something. As underground as the international pop underground gets. You won’t regret it.
What I did for a living: dressed in a clown suit, went to work, did some stupid and pointless bullshit (I got quite good at it) and also did all my laser printing and photocopying (mainly a ton of Lemon #16½) and got paid lots of money every two weeks. Which has its nice points, y’know.
“What’s a Situationist?” The official Situ line on this is to call the question meaningless. What I mean here is the sort of art designed to throw a spanner into the works. (In the present day, the ‘works’ have adapted to the capture and sale of spanner-images, making the task more difficult a good example of an evolutionary ‘arms race’.) Further reading: Vague magazine; anything on Jamie Reid’s work with the Sex Pistols, unless it’s by Greil Marcus, who doesn’t know shit about shit; Re/Search Pranks!; anything else that looks interesting. And remember: it’s not proofed against being taken wrongly and stupidly, so take all commentaries with a sack of salt.
Note that two of these are John Kennedy songs, neither of which I could get out of my head when in King Street or Marrickville.
The Pitt has since shifted its record stock to Gould’s in Newtown and Leichhardt.
i.e. on the Internet.
Just heard about Adam and Phil’s latest toy a hired heater with a remote control ... Makes you wanna go broke, really.
A comic whose central character is a large-breasted blonde girlie-thing who spends all her time having sex. Yeah, it’s classy as hell. The towel features her in a bikini, which is two items of clothing more than usual.
Miss Monica may be seen in the video for “Berlin Chair” by You Am I, with P.J. (a.k.a. Meat-Tray), a regular from the Prickles’ shows, in the silver suit; the band wanted P.J., but he wouldn’t do it unless Miss Monica came along. Single-shot vids are the coolest, non?
(Late Note: Miss Monica has skipped the country. The Prickles now have a new “Miss Monica”.)
Black Rose, 583a King Street, Newtown 2042; SASE for catalogue.
Jura, 110 Crystal Street, Petersham 2049; SASE for catalogue.
Says he got into the Max because his girlfriend’s household lives on the stuff. But still.
“In our major cities, the drug addicts brag that long hair is a badge of drug usage. Some wear it to attract other homo-sexuals into ‘gay’ parties or pornograhy-filled [sic] places of immorality.” I knew all rock’n’roll was homosexual, but ... Send US$5 for a thousand to Old Paths Tract Society, Inc., Shoals IN 47581, USA (tract #T4-125).
Barring zine gaffes (snicker).