Sunday, June 22, 2008

Goodbye Jock

Well it’s been 3 months since I’ve put finger to keyboard. Partly out of laziness, partly out of busyness and partly out of trepidation. The major event in that time being the death of Jock. Too sad. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything until now. Too painful to confront. Another friend gone. No more great conversation over a glass of red or a spliff. No more listening with great enjoyment and admiration as he played guitar. Watching him go from a vibrant, warm, intelligent, talented human being into a wasted away frail figure who couldn’t move his limbs or even speak a coherent sentence. His fear of dying and discomfort there for all to see as he lay in the hospital bed. So many friends who loved him. Some who had been with him for his whole life of 50 years. And loving brothers and family. And those from his band who he spent so much time with in the studio and on the road. He was the seemingly sane one in their musical process. But with demons of his own. I knew about them but never really saw them myself. The painful split with Matty following bouts of depression and drunken wanderings. I met up with him in London during that period. He wept as he told me of the events that had unfolded back in the St.Kilda flat. The later implosion when Matty became pregnant and decided to keep the baby. The fallout still felt today among friends who no longer see each other. The metamorphosis into the most beautiful father of all time. Always time for Ella and all of the other children who played around. My children among them. Jock was always the one with the patience and love to push the swing, play hide and seek and just keep a watchful eye over them. We all sat and talked, taking a moment of respite, glad that Jock was able to take them away for a while. Knowing they were always safe with him, and more than that, were having fun. Sometimes I’d feel guilt that I wasn’t pulling my weight and was leaving it all to Jock. That would be mixed with a certain envy that the kids were hanging out with him and I wasn’t. I’d be happy when either he came back to us or I overcame my atrophy and joined in with him and the kids. The last time we all went to the park, Jock was in the midst of cancer. The treatment had supposedly worked at that stage, but he was weak. I only realised how weak when we had a kick of the footy with Finn and after a short while he had to sit down, almost exhausted. His lung was partially removed. His energy had been diminished. He still had the life force then and some hope, but as it turned out, only a few months to live.

And Matty. What a strong, courageous person. Witnessing the painful death of her mother from lung cancer to then be told only a month afterwards that her partner and father of her child had the same illness. In the last few days I felt almost like an intruder in the hospital. Though Jock could hardly speak, it seemed clear that he didn’t like all the attention and would rather die in dignity with only family around him. But I just had to go in. I wanted to see Jock knowing that I wouldn’t be able to for much longer. But I also felt a burning desire to be with Matty.

I loved watching Jock play guitar. Be it with TISM, Blind Lemon Chicken, slide guitar with Bruce at our wedding, or just twiddling away in a lounge room. He was a generous musician. He never robbed others with his ego. Even when I felt too inhibited to pick up a guitar around anybody else, Jock would always put me at ease on those occasions when I played with him. Always making me feel an equal as a musician in the moment, even though he was far more accomplished. His enthusiasm would give me confidence.

And such a depth of conversation. It didn’t matter the topic. Jock always had an opinion or related fact worth hearing. Theological discussion where he could draw on a wealth of knowledge on all manner of beliefs, social discourse on the plight of man, world history, literature, music and musicians, film. Even just some gossip about what was going down with the people we knew. Ever incisive. Amusing. Interesting. Wise. And often just plain funny.

We’re all going away on holiday together in a few weeks. Up to the sunny climes and beaches of Port Douglas. Swedoshs, Cunninghams, Bruce and Lynne, Matty and Ella. I expect it will be a beautiful relaxing time with my family and some great friends. There’ll be jams with guitar, banjo, didge and variety of percussion. An ample flowing of beer, wine and spliffs. Days lounging around the pool or beach. Excursions full of adventure for the kids. The only one missing will be Jock. We’ll always miss you Jock.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Friends? in England

When is a friend no longer a friend. How irritating and fundamentally offensive can they be before you decide to see them no more? Or is it just a stage? A symptom of some neuroses they are afflicted with at the time. But what if they were truly obnoxious last time as well. And what if they are so rapt up in their own self that they don’t really have much view for your opinion. Or is it that you are now so full of yourself that it inspires some level of strange competition in who can outdo the other one. I’m doing this now and this is so much better than whatever it is that you’re doing. But don’t really care what you’re doing because I just want to talk about me. And here’s my opinion on this as well while I’m at it.

Saw Sally last night. What a joy when everybody left and I could just talk to her. A year on since James died. She has to work out who she is on her own now. And seems to be doing so in a fantastic way. She’s strong. Such a generous soul. And smart. And loving. One of the genuinely beautiful people I’ve come to know. I’m so happy to know that she’ll be fine now. James would be proud of her. He always was.

And a journey of seeing my friends be rock stars. What an amazing buzz. Steve Guthrie running around on stage, swaying around with guitar face on. Right into it. And a good band he was part of. Kirk in his pomp. So at ease flirting with the girls in the front row. He’s addicted to the buzz of being a rock star. And why not? It looks like exceptional fun. Craig the bass man of a thousand bands. Sisters of Mercy original member. First and Last and Always.

And Steve Boakes with the Levellers at Brixton Academy. Home of some of my favourite all time gigs. Packed to capacity with their crazed fans. Plastic cups of unidentified liquids flying into the air and all over anybody in their wake. Beer, water, something and coke. Didn’t matter. It seems universal that the best part of the gig is always when Steve comes out and does his thing. A slightly mad body-painted shaman dancing and loping around blowing a didgeridoo.

And Steve G seems very happy with Marissa. They make a great couple. She’s a lovely and feisty one that one. Always up for a good verbal scrap. And very adept she is.

But no Andy. Very strange to be in England with Andy not around. Off in Istanbul teaching the Turks how to speak English. Holding sway over a captive audience listening to his every word. Flirting carefully with the more attractive students. Intellectualising over some old bollocks in the staff room. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

And a new BT contract along with a pathway for continuation on the project. An unanticipated feeling of security. They’ve given me a real opportunity. I truly realise now how great England has been for me. Even on a day when the ice wind blasts and the cold grey rain flows it’s a warm and welcoming place for me to come. There are many cosy pockets and they still seem to grow. I am grateful.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I’m trashed. Sunday arvo and still recovering from a big Friday night. One night great, two days bad. Died Pretty and Ed Kuepper at the Forum. The usual suspects. Lisa, Dan, Tal, Zaf etc. No Priscilla. Not sure if it’s cause she’s pregnant or not a fan of the bands. No Lila. But a few extras. And many and varied drinks. And spliffs outside in the laneway. The offer of an e around 1am was tempting. If not for the sense of Tori refusing I’d feel even more dazed and confused today. The sound not great for Ed. All set up for DP. They were superb. Ron Peno in fine voice. Somehow I had a random waltz with some jovial man in the crowd who obviously could see I was flying and up for it. And then This Final Twist. A great concert highlight moment for the ages. And then staggering to 3 below bar wherever that is. And I think somewhere else but all is pretty hazy around that point. A blur of reminisces to Dan of grand finals I have seen. I was recounting the 1970 final series. He wasn’t to be born for another 9 years. Both of us with similar sporting father legacies. His father a legend of the football club. He felt similarly destined to disappoint.

It’s another hot summer day in Melbourne. I should be outside with the kids around the pool. They are happy playing games on their computers. I’m feeling too lazy to disturb them. I can’t send them outside to play and slob around myself. Might as well leave them be. I’m between trips at the moment. Back last weekend from a week in LA. The XYPRO thing in Simi. Good to catch up with the crew. Good guitar hunting expeditions with Jackson that resulted in me now being the owner of a Guild 12 string. All in all a good time. Off to Singapore next weekend for a week. Staying with Hom as usual which is always nice. Haven’t seen him for a while. Then off to the UK to find out if I have a new BT contract or not. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on 6 months and then the end, but if I am to be told that this is the end, I won’t be altogether surprised. Have booked into a Brighton apartment and taken a few extra days to just veg around and catch up with friends. Just in case it truly is the last hoorah.

Lots of travelling coming up. In the next few months there will be Sydney for a week, New Zealand, and back to the US for ITUG in June. That trip with Tori, taking in San Fran and Vegas for the anniversary. Should be fun. Japan is the wildcard. Will they or won’t they end up working with me. Who the fuck knows. It’s all very interesting though. I’m happy it’s a slow process. And I suppose I have to go to India again. Either that or just give it the flick. Mumbai is such a shithole. If I never had to go there again in my life that would be fine by me. Nice guys I’m dealing with there – Milind, Sunil, Altaf. Just a shit place. Crowded, smelly, noisy, polluted, poverty to the extreme. An assault on all senses. Great food its only salvation. But with the timebomb that any meal could potentially be the one that gives me Bombay belly. New Zealand will basically be a trip to go and get pissed with the guys from ANZ in Wellington and Stuart at ETSL in Auckland. That will be fun. Tori and the kids are coming with me to Sydney for the week I’m there but I’ll be doing the work thing and go and see all the customers and HP contacts. Then stay in a nice hotel for a few nights with Tori and Mike and Lisa’s weding on the Sunday.

I still feel trashed. But life is interesting and good.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tori’s 40th Birthday Extravaganza

Steve Kilbey and Ricky Maymi played at my house. On our front lawn. With a whole lot of friends gathered for the event of Tori's 40th. It was exceptional.

I picked Steve up from the airport on the afternoon of the party, with a little apprehension having read his previous day's blog the night before. He'd been feeling harassed, angry and still had a lingering bad cold and croaky voice. The vitriol rolled right out of the page. But when I met him at the airport, he was cheery and happy to see me. Perhaps relieved that someone had actually arrived to get him. Either way, it was a welcome beginning. Here was me chatting comfortably with my all time favourite singer songwriter who I had seen on stage dozens of times, but only met briefly backstage a few fleeting times post gig trying not to gush too much with sickening adulation. So we drove and we chatted. He was friendly, interesting, interested in what I had to offer and forthcoming on all topics of conversation. I found out that Nick Cave is currently dying his moustache, which particularly amused Steve. "The Prince of Darkness dyes his moustache black". A few days before the party Steve had emailed me and said he had a really good friend from the US named Ricky Maymi who would be in Melbourne the night of the party and who really wanted to come and play with him. Did I mind. Ricky is the guitarist with the Brian Jonestown Massacre so it just seemed to be getting better and better. Did I mind? Not at all!!! Apart from the fact that I was going to be having an extra internationally famous musician coming along, I felt really happy about Ricky’s presence because I knew that Steve would more likely have a good time if a friend of his was around. We drove to Lisa's house to pick her up, along with the incredible food she'd prepared for our spectacular vegan feast. Not only were Steve and Ricky coming to play a gig, they were also coming for dinner. We then picked Ricky up from where he was staying in Carlton and headed on down to Warrandyte.
Now I've had a long time policy of not smoking too early on at a party, especially if it's my party and there's a load of stuff to be done, but the prospect of sharing a smoke with Steve Kilbey and Ricky Maymi on my front porch was just too tempting a proposition for me to resist. Rolled pure, a cocktail of Steve's natural and Mr's hydro, it did the job and after a great initial conversation, I plummetted into surreal land. And still with heaps to do. And feeling like all tasks now had an extra degree of difficulty. And with extreme summer heat beating down . And with the time before the party growing shorter. Anxiety. And gurning. Oh no!!! I'd blown it. Got too out of it and was doomed for the party. And the forecast saying thunder storms and showers were a certainty. And is that a cold I feel coming on at the back of my throat. And the gig with the PA and guitars and lights and people and food and drinks was to be outside, under tarps of dubious quality, one of which had ripped and come down the night before in the previous night’s rain. My paranoia told me a disaster was lurking. I managed to scrape enough words together on the phone to the B&B to work out when Steve needed to check in. ASAP they said, so next thing I was back in the car driving Mr.Kilbey down to Jireh Lodge, mouth like the Sahara, and no longer feeling the poise in conversation to know what I wanted to say. Steve was thriving on the smoke. In full flight. Erudite, relaxed and entertaining. Sharing jokes with the landlady about being a male stripper. I could hardly speak with my mouth sticking together when I tried to talk. The only time Steve seemed flustered was while I was looking to exit the car from the B&B carpark on to the busy Warrandyte Road, blind corners in both directions and cars zooming around at speed only metres away. Luckily for both of us the physical and potentially life threatening task helped to focus me. We picked up bags of ice from the Warrandyte pub and Steve suggested we get some energy drinks. What a glorious idea! I couldn't think of anything better than an icy cold, liquid refreshment that provided energy. Mother. An energy drink with the same flavour as a Glug. It hit the spot perfectly and prompted an entertaining conversation about Glugs, Sunny Boys and Razzes. Back at our house my head was still swimming with all of the things left to do to get the party ready. Beers and Yellowglen bubbly to get on ice. Parking signs to put up in various locations to stop a major pile up in our drive way. Ladders and other crap to clear away. Dripping with sweat. And with a seemingly increased sense of anxiety now that the caffeine and guarana from the energy drink had kicked in. And the hour getting later and pressure from everybody that it was time to sit down and eat the feast that Lisa had prepared. Beautiful food. From a beautiful and talented person. Made with love. Lisa, being a vegan, and knowing that Steve was a vegan, had offered very early in proceedings to do the catering. Around a dinner table were Tori, Nat, Bruce and Lynne, Lisa, Steve and Ricky. I'd been running around with Steve so hadn't seen Ricky for a while. He'd been off rehearsing. I soon discovered that he'd been having a similar predicament to me and could barely speak.
Having finally decided all my tasks were finished and fed with excellent food, I slunk off to have a relax and a shower. And from there, my evening began to turn around significantly for the better. I thought I'd take 15 minutes to rest and calm myself. Lying on my bed listening to Steve and Ricky rehearse just outside my window. An Interlude, Just for You, Buffalo... songs I'd lay on my bed and listened too many times over the years on vinyl, tape and CD, but now I was listening to these favourite songs being played live while lying on my bed. Tori came in getting ready and I got to share some of the moment with her. And a kiss. I was back in town!

And from there, the night entered the zone of bliss, which never really left, and a couple of days later still welcomely lingers. A throng of people gathered, perhaps a hundred or so. Some who I haven’t seen for ages. Julie McBride. Toggy. Marion. Mike and Lisa down from Sydney. Sister Nat down from Queensland. Many people were there who I’d never seen at a full scale party before. The Warrandyte crew. Terese and Kim. Kate and Tony. A whole lot of relatively new friends. Still, I can do without that start to a party where people arrive and it’s all the initial hello’s. Ricky saved me from a good deal of that when he came up to me asking if I had a copy of Almost With You on CD. We disappeared into Finn’s room with CD and my Martin guitar which he was to be using. The lead break was just eluding him and he felt he needed to nail it. So began a very enjoyable guitar moment for me. I listened to the song 7 or 8 times with Ricky, while he played the lead looking to me to see what I thought. He still wasn't happy with one section. I told him that I’d spent hours years ago doing exactly what he was doing now and suggested that I could show him how I played it. So we swapped roles and I played and he watched. The guitar went to and fro between us a few times before he felt he had it. When I walked back out to the party, I was buzzing.
Around 10pm I grabbed the mic and brought Tori to the stage. She was overcome with emotion so I stayed there with her, my arm around her shoulder. I felt very close to her and proud to be standing up with the beautiful woman I’ve shared my life with for the last 19 years. And then of course the show. Steve and Ricky playing songs in my front yard. So many highlights. I just glided around.

Dave getting up to sing Tristesse was one of the great impromptu performances I have ever seen. Note perfect with all of the feel and passion. Dave on stage, singing an all time favourite song, with Steve Kilbey playing guitar to accompany him. Beautiful. And Lisa and Stephen McKenzie singing Don’t Look Back.

I was standing next to Geoff and Dave watching the show in my garden. The three of us had been standing together back in 1982 when we all saw the Church play for the first time. Sharing a J with Julie, something I'd done many times over the years at gigs. Steve playing Caroline Says after a conversation we’d had earlier in the day where I told him how disappointed I was that Lou Reed had only done the Berlin show in Sydney and not brought it to Melbourne. He had tried to get tickets and missed out himself. Berlin was his favourite Lou Reed album he told me. And an encore of An Interlude. From hearing it in the afternoon from my bed, I just had to hear it again up on the stage. And through the whole event, Steve was pure entertainment. Funny. Very funny. Happy to drag in local references of the party to songs and banter. He was having a good time. And then the whirr and blurr of the party as everybody buzzed out in euphoria at what a special thing they had just been part of. The mood was exceptional. The balcony had become the “backstage” haven for Steve and Ricky and a number of people had joined them to smoke and chat. I left them to it. They all seemed to be having a very nice time. I flitted around on my own euphoric cloud from person to person. And Jazzy. What an amazing little 7 year old girl I have there. Still going strong at 5am. She’d been whipping all comers at table soccer around 4am. Wayne. Dave Mollet. And here she was now at 5am, sitting with me and Tori on our bed helping Tori open presents. I’d told her she could stay up as late as she liked as long as she was being a good party guest, and she was superb. After everyone else had gone, Jazzy had finally crashed and only Tori and I were awake, I took out Steve’s 12 string that he’d left with me and had a play. All of the Church songs that I could muster, to hear how they sounded with me playing them on Steve’s guitar. Magical.

The next morning seemed to start all too soon and in very hazy fashion. Less people than I expected were still around the house. Tony Smith draped asleep across the couch. Milla already up and having transformed the front yard from a party zone into some state of order and Wayne who was now playing table soccer with Finn. I had to somehow get through my hazy lack of sleep and get it together to pack up and return the PA and take Steve to the airport. I got to his B&B around midday and sat around talking with him for 20 minutes while he had some breakfast. Going through the party post-mortem. I have a really nice group of friends he told me. Which I know but was glad he thought so too. Some bloke I was talking to said “I’ve got me girlfriend up the duff” he told me with total amusement. Guy about 40, beautiful girlfriend with long black hair. It wasn’t until later that it hit me that he’d been talking to Tal. What does Tori do he asked. When I told him that she was an artist and he realized that the pictures he’d been admiring at dinner were her work, he was disappointed he hadn’t told her. He said he loved her art. We left the B&B and went down to the Yarra to share a spliff for the road. A stop for another energy drink (“You’ll be addicted to them now too he said after handing me his favourite red V”) and then a relaxed and enjoyable drive to the airport with discussions of siblings, kids, his time living in Melbourne, the fact that he always felt more of an affinity with Victoria than New South Wales, old school days, the time he carved Essendon into a school desk, a whole range of topics, each flowing easily on to the next. I’d seen Steve play on my front lawn and that was a huge highlight. But I’d also been spending time just hanging out with him over a couple of days. To me that was the biggest buzz. When I saw him off at the airport, we exchanged a warm farewell. So what did I think of his guitar he inquired. I told him I’d had a 12 string on my wish list for a long time and it was great to play his. That’s the one I played on all those Church hits you know. You should go out and buy yourself a 12 string. What’s stopping you? You can afford it. Go out exploring for a second hand Guild. He’d had a good time and was glad he came down. He seemed sincere when he said that as I had his email address, I should use it and stay in contact. I might just do that. First I think I'll go and buy myself that 12 string guitar.