“Someday soon, will you tell us when it’s time to play for you?” asks iconoclastic Australian music legend Ron S. Peno, towards the nd of “See You When I’m Looking At You”, the nearly nine-minute long "chain" song from Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission and friendsand released this week.
It’s a question that many artists hope will soon be answered, and one of many telling moments in an epic song, sung and worded by a cross-generational selection of some of Australia’s finest singer-songwriters in COVID-19 isolation.
Conceived by Thomas – the ARIA-winning singer-songwriter of Weddings Parties Anything – in April, “See You When I’m Looking At You” began life when Mick wrote a verse and a chorus while isolating in his Melbourne backyard.
From the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.
“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.
I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.
We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.
And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.