Labour of love produces a stunning legacy

bored bookBORED! THIS WAS GEELONG (Loco Mosquito)

Sometimes there are insufficient words of adequare to do justice to something and this is one of those times. Let’s be clear: If you’re a fan of underground Australian rock and roll from the 1980s and ‘90s, make it your life’s immediate priority to get a hold of this book.

It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a watershed in Australian music publishing. All 678 pages of it. Don’t be deterred by its singling out of Geelong as its geographical focus. The city on the western flank of Melbourne is its anchor - but its coverage and spirit extends far past its boundaries.

“Bored!” is many things but first and foremost it’s an outpouring of love for rock and roll by its creator, principal author and driving force Maree Robertson.

Maree – “Rock and Roll Maree” from the Brother Brick song – was a dear friend of the late Dave Thomas of key Geelong band Bored! Besides documenting the band’s rise and its creation of a scene from their mutual hometown of Geelong, Maree wanted to generate profits from book sales to help Dave’s family.

Get a little slice of Matt Ryan's Melbourne rock and roll obsessions in your mailbox

munster 35Munster Times Issue 35

Outside Melbourne? Glad you asked, then. Munster Times is a zine covering Australian underground music that’s still published in hard copy form - and that fact alone makes it stand out from the crowd.

Its Melbourne publisher and occasional I-94 Bar scribe, Matt Ryan, (right) is a fixture on Melbourne’s fertile live music scene. Run the rule over its content and you’ll realise it’s a compelling “must read” even if you live outside of Victoria’s windy/rainy/cold capital city. (OK, my Sydney is showing).

Much of the star billing in this issue goes to people and bands from outside Melbourne – Adam Brzozowski (Woy Woy) of Outtaspace Records, The Dunhill Blues and The Link and Pin Café, Howlin’ Threads (Yass and Wollongong) and Dez Dare (Geelong old boy now in the UK). You might call Munster Times location agnostic.

No less than Dave Graney reckons there’s a lot of the charm of the old St Kilda in the Times and who are we to argue with a member of the Melbourne Music Mafia? The zine has a homespun quality and is home to the legendary Fred Negro and his Pub comic strip.

For the unaware, Pub has institution status in Melbourne (which is about the only place in Australia that still confers such honours). I like Equal Opportunity, and if you read Pub long enough, you’ll find it has something to offend everybody.  

Munster Time is A4, mostly black and white and has the odd spelling howler. Good. As long as Matt has no plans to do a Prince of Wales Hotel reno job and expunge any dirt or charm from his own zine’s pages, that’s fine with us.

Fascinating dive into Oz music's hit factories and backyards

suburban songbookSuburban Songbook. Writing Hits in Post-War Pre-Countdown Australia
By Clinton Walker
(Goldentone)

Only got this one recently, but I'm damned glad I did.

Once upon a Big Day Out, an event I only occasionally attended, I was mildly shocked by the text messages winding their way across a big screen (people paid a small fee to have their inane twatter up in on a big screen - you know, 'Best summer evah!' and 'Totally awesome!') which dissed 'old people' in favour of 'us hip cool young folk'...

Now, I won't say I wasn't like that to some degree when I was a teenager (and even in my twenties). But I don't recall being quite that dismissive of music simply because it was 'old'. I was brought up on my dad's music, as so many of us are: big band stuff, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, as well as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole ... you get the idea. Proto-rock'n'roll, you could say.

So when I got interested in modern music at the age of 12 (courtesy my chum Paul's record collection) we both knew that it didn't matter how old something was ... as long as it wasn't boring. We investigated everything we could lay our hands on ... dismissed so much, revelled in long-lost jewels. It was our secret joy - no other bastard seemed interested.

Fast forward a few years and Clinton Walker's first book, “Inner City Sound' came out. (A revised edition has recently been published - get it here. Mick Middles wrote in “Record Collector'”: "A shockingly vast document ... the most striking aspect is the prevailing musical sophistication". Well, yeah. 

THIS WORLD IS ONLY GOING TO BREAK YOUR HEART

WGWilsey Book cvrWICKED GAME – The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey
by Michael Goldberg
(Hozac Books)

Spooky, soulful, nitro-twang genius, James Calvin Wilsey, Chris Isaak's beautiful guitarist, who conjured up all those memorable Ennio Morricone spaghetti western, eerie “Twin Peaks” vibes, was born in the Midwest but did not stay there long. His dad was one of those real old time, no nonsense, hard knocks, military aggressors.

I had a lot of close friends who played guitars in my middle school early garage bands, who had fathers like that. Ex-military, real macho, gonna make a manly man outta ya, big game hunter, type o guys. So yeah, being from smalltown Kentucky, my grandfolks family who raised me, were all old veterans and I was not like my cousins. I was never gonna be a 4-H show cattle, play sports, go to war for college money, type of person.

Then, we moved to a town whose only industry was building tanks in Ohio. man, that was a disaster for a little kid like me who could not catch a fucking football. My grandma had gotten me into Elvis from like, birth, almost. I used to wear a pink Presley concert ticket from the Rupp Areana show he never played because he died around in my middle school fedora during my "Pretty In Pink" years.

For me, it all started with Elvis. From there, I inherited an aunt's Monkees records and started seeing their show reruns on WXIX TV. My mother was a school teacher who tried to get me piano lessons, drums in the school band, a folk guitar that got stolen at Baptist reform school, but I sucked as a player. When I discovered Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop, I kinda decided I should be a loudmouthed frontman because I had all this feeling inside me, I wanted to express about the conflict I had with the sports and military culture I grew up in.

Rides don't get much wilder and crazier than this

when can i flyWhen Can I Fly? The Sleepers, Tuxedomoon & Beyond
By Michael Belfer
 Foreword by Jon Savage
Hozac Books 

I'm not that into art rock or prog rock, or Devo or the Residents, or any shit like that, right? I'm a Dead Boys guy, not a Pere Ubu guy, you know what I mean? Man oh man, though, once you get about 20 pages into this book by San Francisco punk scene pioneer Michael Belfer (guitarist with The Sleepers and Tuxedomoon) it reads like a crazy fuckin' movie. What a wild freakin' life this dude had! WHOA!

If you read my columns and rants on a semi regular basis, you are probably already hip to my ongoing theory that there ain't many good bands no more in part because controlled media consolidation pummels us all day with time-waster buy shit/puppet celebrity fakes we never asked for, and partly, because there is such a shortage of affordable real estate spaces available to rehearse in, since the banking scum jacked up all the rents everywhere under Obama and Holder who actually even went to work for 'em after failing to prosecute anybody for the mass mortgage scams, and the landlords who used to rent working class homes to working class people flipped all their rentals into Airbnb’s and act like they're doing you some big fuckin' favor for painting their front porch steps purple, adding a hot tub and a Buddha statue to the yard and charging you $300 a night. These old punk bands paid like $300 a month, ya know?

SPJ bio reflects on rock and roll's underground glory days

execution days lgeExecution Days: The Life and Times of Spencer P Jones
By Patrick Emery 
Love Police

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.-Voltaire

"I was stripped of all my dignity, blackest clouds hanging over me, I just waited as the moments ticked away, it was like my execution day..." -Spencer P. Jones

"I thought, hold on, I've got a rock band around here some place!"  - Tex Perkins

"Grief felt like fear"  - C.S. Lewis

I WAS ALWAYS ON YOUR SIDE

Man I'm a little bit furious that those fucked-up Fascists at Facebook permanently locked me out and I knew it was coming, because I saw them doing all that same shit to all my friends who are antiwar, pro human rights and civil liberties, all us poor suckers who fell hard for all that phony shit they told us when we were growing up about the Bill Of Rights that they covertly dismantled but insist we still have, even though we very clearly do not, or anyone advocating for freedom for Julian Assange.

The bullshit fact checking, accusations of violating their so-called community standards, all that shit. I posted a lot of links to antiwar organizers and truth tellers who've been purged from Mocking Bird mass media. Zuckerberg and his Great Lockstep cronies decided it was better to purge some of us completely, rather than have us actively factchecking the factcheckers and pushing back against their dangerous bullshit police state narratives.

Thankfully, a very thoughtful and considerate friend thought to send me an electronic copy of a book I'd been yearning to read and I guzzled the whole thing down like a pint while I was unable to contact my comrades on social media.

Voice of the exiles

stranded updated coverStranded. 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.

The Axeman's Story gets the book it deserves

execution days lgeExecution 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”.

Ex-Bad Seed a consummate tale teller

up above the city down beneath the starsUp 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.

Brace of books that celebrate Aussie blues - and rock and roll

blues portraits vol 1 and2Blues Portrait Volume 2 by Pauline Bailey 
Blues Portrait Volume 3 by Pauline Bailey

If you want to pick an argument, get into a discussion with a professional musician about what constitutes blues music.

There are those who regard themselves as “blues players” and those who do not, and never the twain shall meet.

There’s a mindset among some self-described blues players that they’re the “real deal” and everyone else is not. It must really rankle for them to have seen the annual Bluesfest evolve into a (mostly bland) celebration of the mainstream.

I-94 Bar