paul kelly - The I-94 Bar
Firstly, a big thumbs-up to compiler David Laing who is very much responsible for bringing us old bastards the best Australian ‘70s and ‘80s sounds that need to be re-issued (think “Do the Pop!” compilations, the Hitmen and Screaming Tribesmen reissues.)
Laingers (as we call him) has moved HQ from the “indie” Shock Records to the multinational Warner Music and has already unleashed cool comps of ‘60s Aussie garage (“Down Under Nuggets”) and 70s Aussie hard rock/ blues (“Boogie”). Now we have this fine collection of ‘70s Melbourne treats.
Spencer P Jones is a legend of the Australian music scene.
Spencer P Jones is a damn fine axeman.
Spencer P Jones is loved by all the countless bandmates, scattered across the globe.
Spencer P Jones is a mighty fine songwriter.
Spencer P Jones is loved by all his mates, full stop.
Spencer P Jones is also really unwell.
That's why his mates have gotten together in Melbourne to help him.
Jen Cloher - “Jen Cloher”
The Australian album of the year, and in many years. Name-dropping heroes who have gone before her – from the Saints to the Go-Betweens to the Triffids – Cloher proved herself the equal of any of them.
Peter Perrett - “How the West Was Won”
This album was miraculous on two levels: one, that Perrett was still alive to make it, two, that Perrett’s gift for droll wit and languid melody remained perfectly intact. His band includes his two sons, and they did the Only Ones proud.
Neil Finn - “Out of Silence”
In a good year for old stagers, Finn’s album was among his finest. Ten tiny, perfect pocket symphonies in the mould of the Beach Boys and late XTC.
Paul Kelly - “Life Is Fine”
Another old stager. Kelly returned to the charts – his first number-one, in fact – with an album that summoned the ghosts of his old band the Coloured Girls/Messengers.
The Dream Syndicate - “How Did I Find Myself Here”
Next to Peter Perrett, the year’s best and most unexpected comeback. The Dream Syndicate’s first album in nearly 30 years was as bracing as their celebrated debut "The Days of Wine and Roses".
John Dowler with his band The Vanity Project. David Laing photo.
In his 1981 feature on Australian powerpop pioneer John Dowler in Roadrunnermagazine, Melbourne rock writer Adrian Ryan commented on Dowler’s then-new band, the short lived Everybody’s So Glad. He said they played with a certain kind of soul, and a type of sound that hadn’t been heard in town since Paul Kelly & The Dots underwent a line-up change too many, and since the Saints were last here. It was the kind of sound that “had nothing to do with horn sections and screams, but rather with jangling guitars, a passionate beat, allusions to something half forgotten.”
I love that soul and those jangling guitars. Being Melbourne born, I heard a bit of at as I was getting into music. It’s not the jangle of some insipid jangle-pop band, it’s a hard jangle, which is where the Saints come in. Ryan was referring to the Saints that recorded such classic tracks as “Call It Mine”, “In The Mirror” and “Let’s Pretend”.
The long-rumoured and exhaustively researched biography of iconic Australian musician Spencer P Jonesis out tomorrow.
Hard on the heels of the James McCann-compiled tribute double album, “All The Way With SPJ”, “Execution Days - The Life and Times of Spencer P Jones” is being published by Love Police and can be ordered here.
“Execution Days” was written by Melbournite Patrick Emery, who whose work has graced The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Beat, The Brag, Time Off, X-Press, Mess and Noise, Faster/ Louder, “1001 Albums You Must Hear” and the I-94 Bar.
Patrick carried out 150 interviews with friends, relatives and bandmates of the late Spencer, as well as the man himself.
With a career spanning over 40 years, Spencer’s resumé is vast, deep and eclectic, ranging from the wild cowpunk of The Johnnys, to the garage swamp of Beasts of Bourbon to the rugged beauty of his solo albums, to cameos with Ian Rilen, Paul Kelly, Maurice Frawley, Rowland S. Howard, Renee Geyer, Mudhoney and Violent Femmes. He also toured Europe with Sonny Vincent’s Shotgun Rationale.
“Execution Days” traces Spencer’s life from his childhood in New Zealand to his evolution as a musician in Australia to his profound impact on those around him. Along the way there are stories of irreverence and excess, of frustration and heartache, of friends loved and lost.
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".
It’s a brilliant idea so why didn’t someone do it before?
What’s that? you say. Record a bunch of iconic, mostly Sydney, underground songs in a way that honours the originals but makes them their own – at least for a few minutes.
UK-born, Brisbane-bred John Kennedy became a fixture on Sydney inner-city scene in the 1980s after cutting his musical teeth in his hometown. His distinctive “urban western” songs, and his bands JFK and The Cuban Crisis and John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong, earned him a healthy niche in a city that back then was groaning with musical talent.
John Kennedy was always backed by excellent bands and inevitably joined his peers in spreading their versions of the word on the national touring circuit, before moving overseas for a time. He and various line-ups of his John Kennedy’s ‘68 Comeback Special have been kicking around the now skeletal Sydney scene (read: Inner-Western Delta) for the last decade or so.
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”.
“What's he doing reviewing THAT?”
Only people of a certain age will “get” this review. The term "Guilty Pleasure" will not be used at any point.
Admit it, punk. If you grew up in Australia in the 1970s and ‘80s (OK, you were might have been underage and still growing up, but you could sneak into licensed premises) and lived anywhere outside of Melbourne and Sydney’s inner-city regions, a dose of Pub Rock was unavoidable. A way of life, even.
SPENCER P. JONES
In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", Robert Pirsig interrogates the very nature of quality through the lens of motor mechanics. Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.
Spencer Jones knew a thing or two about quality - especially musical quality. Born in 1956, the Year of Elvis, Spencer wanted to be a working musician as long as he could remember. Spencer’s family moved from the regional town of Te Awamutu to Auckland in 1965, the same year the British invasion swept through New Zealand, with tours by The Rolling Stones and, infamously, The Pretty Things.
Spencer’s grandfather was a gifted musician; his mother, too, was born with a natural ear. Recognising Spencer’s musical abilities, Spencer’s elder brother Ashley recommended his parents buy Spencer a guitar.
Carbie Warbie photo