Workshy by Dave Graney (Affirm Press)
Let's get one thing straight: Musicians do work. It may not be work as we know it, Jim, but it is a form of employment, and it requires a well-defined skillset.
Talent is important but so is patience. Professional musicians do more waiting around than almost any other occupation on Earth. Other than midwives - and at least they receive universal praise.
Solo artist, ex-Moodist and leadr of the White Buffalos, Coral Snakes and more, Dave Graney, knows this about his trade and much more. He conveys much wisdom in "Workshy". It is the ideal read for anyone thinking about sending their offspring into rock and roll. Which is where Dave hides. Pun intended.
"Workshy" is Dave's second autobiography. I know what you're thinking: He might have been crowned King of Australian Pop but where does Graney get off writing TWO books about himself? Well, Billy Thorpe managed to do it. And more of Dave's books might be true. Both men have bodies of work with parts that are wryly funny. I could be referring here to The Aztecs' "The Hoax Is Over". "Workshy" is considerably more focussed than that mess.
"Workshy" tells the Dave Graney story from growing up in the ratline sticks of Mount Gambier to the present day, and in doing so lays out much of the history of the Australian underground - and overground - music industry. From Oz punk's early days, down-and-out in London (a familiar Oz music right of passage in the '80s), and onwards to unlikely chart success and a life in the cottage industry that is "the scene" out on the edges.
Graney tells his tale with dry wit, a great deal of detail and not a little self-deprecation. For a guy who did a lot of interminable waiting around, it's incredibly hard to put down. Dave is a lyrics guy with a deep love of a variety of sounds. You can hear that in his writing with its unique turns of phrase. It has a recognisable cadence. He's an Australian version of a beat writer. He's Kerouac without the self-loathing.
"Workshy" is a story of a perpetual outsider. There's a central battle underway: D. Graney versus The Straight World (aka Full-time Employment.) He jumped into the latter only as required in the first half of his working life and he always had music as a lifeline with which to haul himself back out.
By his own telling, Dave was the nerdy but well dressed bloke who was always doing his best to resist swallowing the pubic service pep pill in those team bonding off-sites. A round peg not fitting into holes that strictly were for the squares. His resistance to being moulded by the straight music industry tells the same tale.
His recorded works (those things called albums) serve as milestones in the Graney narrative. He has nearly 25 to his credit. It doesn't hurt if you know the man's music, but even if "You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel" is the only one you've bought, it's not going to stop you enjoying a rollicking read.
You get a sense that you're not seeing all of Dave Graney. Rock and Roll is still where he hides. For instance, he refers to his partner/drummer/muse, Clare Moore, always by her full name. And you never hear the part about him ripping off corporate Australia of millions of dollars, how he masterminded Kylie's success or the role he played in the Truro Bodies in the Barrels Murders. OK, I'm making up those last bits. If you want angst and cheap thrills, go read Jimmy Barnes.
"Workshy" is a recommended without hesitation. If you're smart, you'll track down a copy. Me, I'm off to dig out my copy of "1001 Australian Nights : An Aesthetic Memoir" for an encore.