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“The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil.” David Cameron
“The murderous fools who cut the heads off of Americans must be destroyed.” Barak Obama
Dear President Obama,
When are you and your ilk going to stop reacting like dads hearing their son’s or daughter’s death metal CD for the first time?!
When are you world leaders going to stop with the obvious rhetoric and start with some not-so-obvious, covert action?!
In regard to the two aforementioned quotes, I would like to paraphrase Mike from the Young Ones: we already know that, and they don’t care!!!
The world knows these are evil and inhuman acts, we don’t need stiffs to tell us the sky is blue. The group that perpetrated these acts (whom I refuse to name for reasons outlined below) don’t care a bee’s dick what anyone thinks, especially the leaders of countries they have addressed in their videos.
These very conventional reactions, and your recent strange behaviour (golf?! Are you fucking serious?! Seriously, this places you dangerously in the same league as your numbskull predecessor), are not what the world needs right now!!
Yeah right, you’re mobilising 40 countries and their armed services to tackle this “cancer” head on. Do you think they weren’t expecting this to happen? Do you seriously think they are trembling in their boots now they’ve knocked the beehive out of the tree?
Air strikes?! Maybe they work well when the civilian population aren’t a concern. In this case they are a huge concern. You don’t want to be collateral-damaging Sunni families when the group you’re after is Sunni. You don’t want to be blowing away innocent Shi’a, who make up the majority of people there, because one of your greatest allies, Prime Minister al-Abadi is one. You also don’t want to be indiscriminately, but unintentionally, killing Kurds either, as your Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Masum is one. You better do this right this time. Your reckless drone wars over the last few years have achieve nothing but fomenting hatred against your country. Don’t fuck this one up.
Surely, there’s a little voice that says to you “let’s have a look at what worked and what didn’t work in terms of rooting out a problem while keeping the local population on side”. Just like you “should have anticipated the optics” of your golfing fiasco, shouldn’t you be checking in the ‘Where We Went Wrong’ files?
Yes, they are earning $3 million a day through black market oil sales. Yes, they are the largest terrorist group ever assembled in the known history of the world. Yes, they have potential branches in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and elsewhere (where you claim to have had victories).
Yet they are not the slightest bit conventional, so you need to tackle this from a non-conventional angle. Here are a few ideas:
Media organisations and world leaders alike cannot decide on a consistent term of reference for this terrorist organisation, invariably veering from one acronym to another (each of the three acronyms have been been provided by the media-savvy terror group themselves). Even calling them a terrorist organisation seems to put them in a category that we are all too familiar with – so familiar with in fact, that this term alone – terrorist – has become so much smaller than the thing it describes, and thus the power (the awesome, terrifying power) that lies within this term of reference has also become smaller, a sound we hear or read every hour of every day in the news. Try saying any word over and over – it eventually loses it’s meaning, becoming just a sound. In losing its meaning, it also loses its power, its ability to crystallize the object it is describing with context. You could argue that this same phenomenon could happen, and indeed has already happened, to the current terrorist organisation – their acronym being breathlessly included in just about every bite-sized media utterance. But that we are using the term supplied for us by them betrays our acknowledgement of their authority over those modes of transmission we all love and use. By continuing to use the appellation (or the various versions of it) that it has chosen for itself is reinforcing their existence as a serious entity, and acknowledging their identity as a force to be feared. Isn’t that just what they want? Aren’t we just playing into their hands? What if we stopped using any name for them? What if we just used a sound, like a cartoon cowbell, or a roadrunner raspberry, or the sound that we hear when Wile E. Coyote sits on a cactus. Anything that removes the weight of the aforementioned acronyms, that reduces the heavy associations with their unspeakable actions. Not as comic relief for us devourers of conveniently packaged instant news, but as an attempt to knock some of the wind out of their sails, at least in terms of not taking them seriously on the surface, while enacting their imminent demise in the background.
As a terrorist organisation, they make al Qaeda look like the Cattanooga Cats. Their videos of barbaric executions, published globally for anyone and everyone to see on the Internet, serve as effective recruitment propaganda for the many disenfranchised young Muslim men, and women, all over the world. In the days after they published their video of the beheading of James Foley (the Guardian called them a “production company for manufactured evil”), it seemed that the most any world leader could was to indignantly state the obvious – that it was an atrocity. How about stop reporting everything that they do?! How about stop giving them the platform they crave?! How about the mass media just fucking wake up to the fact that they are giving them more and more power every day?!
And finally, don’t you have a thick file there somewhere that contains the details of all the underhanded, scheming, immoral, illegal maneuverings that your predecessors have undertaken, through the CIA, to topple governments and entire countries around the world? If not, you should check the internet, it’s under General Knowledge. In there you’ll find that your predecessors actually succeeded in their nefarious goals by using stealth, subterfuge, lies, deceit, money, etc. Just think, bombing the fuck out of a country hasn’t worked in the past, but these background methods, these non-conventional methods have worked a treat! You could send in your spies to infiltrate, spread rumours, sabotage, turn them against each other, let this organisation eat itself up from the inside.
In summing up, talking about how bad these people are is ridiculous. Letting the mass media pander to their desires is a mistake. Bombing the crap out of Iraq and Syria spells doom for the world.
Try renaming this group with cartoon sound effects, stop reporting everything they do, and finally send in your scumbag, lowlife spies to erode this group from the core. Just a thought.
During my hiatus from the club band, I spent quality time with the practice kit and the metronome, studiously working on my tempos. Did I rejoin the club band after honing my time-keeping? To be honest, I don’t remember!
But the next thing I do remember is being in a band called The Suspects (perfect 80s style name). Wow! I was now in a ‘real’ rock band! It was 1982/3.
The amazing Samantha Fletcher was on vocals. She was unlike anyone else in Wagga at that time. She was odd (in the best way one could be in a town that was, at the time, dominated by blokes that had ‘normal’ jobs and played either rugby league or union, or VFL, and the ), confident and outspoken (as a great front person should be), completely individual (in dress, attitude and behaviour) and could deliver the covers de jour with great conviction and aplomb. Among those covers were ‘Boys In Town’ by the Divinyls, ‘Roxanne’, and ‘Message in A Bottle’ by The Police, and others which unfortunately escape me at the moment. (Maybe someone can help me here).
On one guitar was Rob Ludwig, who I remember seeing the previous year at another Battle of the Bands (I think his band won that (1982?) one). He walked past me, maybe a year or two older than me, wearing a Hendrix-style headband, his Gibson Firebird lazily hanging from his shoulders, and his piercing black eyes fixing me for what seemed like ages, making me think “wow, he’s the real deal, very cool”. Now I was in a band with him! He and Sam would share the banter at gigs, with Rob offering the cynical, close-to-the-bone, and invariably funny comments, which would sometimes make us wonder if we would get beaten up after the gig. Great guitar player, and cool person to be in a band with.
Now for a slight digression in order to give a little background information for what amounts to a fairly dull anecdote: Wagga has, on one side, the Forest Hill RAAF base, located about 10 kms southeast, and on the other side, about 10 kms southwest, the Kapooka Military base, or Army Recruit Training Centre. Both these institutions served the country’s efforts in WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and continue to be among Australia’s primary producers of military personnel. Indeed, I’m pretty sure my father spent a little time at Kapooka after his time at Puckapunyal during WWII, and I have clear memories of my older brother, Bruce’s passing out parade there during the Vietnam war. Apparently during the 60s and 70s new recruits from these two arms of the military would meet at the bridge on Fitzmaurice Street and beat each other to pulps for some reason.
Back to Rob Ludwig’s potentially dangerous banter (this is the aforementioned dull anecdote): one Sunday evening, The Suspects were playing at the RAAF base to a group of unimpressed ‘wingnuts’ (the RAAF recruits appellation at the time – for some reason the Kapooka recruits were called ‘chocos’), when Rob, frustrated at the profound indifference heaped upon us, told his ‘new joke’.
“How do you get wingnuts to dance?”
“Dunno, Rob” (That was Sam)
“Throw them out of a plane!”
Some nervous chortling from the band, and a distinct and sudden interest in us from the sauced up new recruits at the back of the room. I remember Rob turning around and looking at me with an expression of ‘there, that stirred things up a bit, now they know we’re here’, mixed with ‘whoops!’
We played on, the RAAF guys eventually decided we were slightly entertaining enough not to beat up, and we got paid.
On the other guitar was Steve Littlewood, a signwriter who had his own business with his dad I think, which later became a very successful business I recall. Again he was about one year older than me, and his sister Anne was in my year at high school. Very nice, peaceful, calm atmosphere surrounding both him and Anne, and as both Sam and Rob were apt to become fiery in their passion for what we were doing, this calmness was a great asset.
On bass was Mick Bromham. Now, where do I start with Mick? He was/still is the person you most want, or better, need to have with you in a band. Not only a very fine bass player, with an inherent knowledge of what is not only appropriate, but tasteful and good, but also the best backing vocalist I can think of through all that time playing with the many people I did there. Unassuming, polite, but assertive when he knew he was right about a part, he was not playing for himself, he was playing for the band. And I know he carried these attributes with him in whatever band, duo or group he joined, and no doubt still does. His sense of musicianship was inspiring, even if he had no idea about it, and like everyone else (except me), he loved a beer.
Most of our gigs were at the infamous ‘Bootleg’ where local knuckleheads, mixing with the emerging art students from the local college, meant that anything could happen and generally did. I will sign off here for the moment while I gather as much information about the Bootleg as possible. I will be recruiting the help of some people who were there, as their memories might serve the next chapter better than mine alone.
Stay tuned for Part 4, featuring the Bootleg, The John Macarthur Tavern and more.
Part 2, where I attempt to recall life as a musician in Wagga Wagga during the 1980s. This is rather on-going, so if you’re interested, stick with it, as I will be enlisting the help of a few friends, old and new, who shared this fertile and exciting time, in order to make this account as comprehensive and interesting as possible.
Picking up the story about the club band, during 1981, our weekly gigs at the RSL Club and Leagues Club saw us serving as backing band to many a strange assortment of artists. These artists would be beating a well-worn path through the country, some following the ‘I had a hit with this one in the 60s, you may remember it’ fading star, some basking in the reflected glory of whatever their tribute show may have been. One that springs to mind is a rather rotund, red-haired Elvis impersonator, who apparently was quite popular.
Then there were the old leathery comedians, who required the ‘bah-dum-cha!’ from the drums after punch lines, which meant I was the only band member on stage, sitting behind the comedian, trying to make myself as small as possible in an effort not to be noticed, and also trying to listen for when those punch lines might come. I didn’t want to attract too much attention, as I was only 17 at the time and too young to be in the club, let alone working there.
The Sunday morning ‘smoko’ sessions with these comedians was an eye-opener. Here they would present the x-rated version of their act, involving the filthiest jokes I’d ever heard at the time.
As fun and interesting as all this was, there came the time when I was pulled aside by Shep (John Shepherd, the keyboard player, who is the son of Wagga’s only hypnotherapist I believe, and was an huge inspiration to me, musically, and was side-split tingly funny to boot) and told, very nicely of course, that I should sit down with a metronome, practice my tempos, get more steady, meanwhile they carried on with their old drummer.
Well, that was a humbling experience, and if I was any less of a musician I would have got angry and convinced myself that they were wrong and didn’t recognise the ‘art’ in my playing, etc. But I knew that all my listening to, and playing along with, Keith Moon was great for my wrists and fast triplet fills, but terrible for keeping time, which was the requirement for this band, and many others to come.
So, I licked my wounds and blew the dust off my metronome, and set myself the task of getting steady time-keeping in order. My reasoning being that if a drummer can’t at least do that, there will be no work.
And the work to come the following years (1982-3) was very interesting.
Bear with me while I try to form all my recollections about this period into another post.
Apart from his tasteful and superb work as guitarist for many projects, it is his appearance with Edgar Winter on Midnight Special, performing Frankenstein, that I want to draw your attention to. No, not his fantastic playing. It’s his haircut that struck me.
Now, the year was 1973, and yes, long hair was in. Just dial up anything on YouTube dated 1973 and you’ll see hair. Lots of it. Amazing afros (thank you Billy Preston), shameless shaggies (looking at you Rod Stewart), serious sideburns (yes, you Neil Young).
But the hairstyle that Ronnie Montrose is sporting in this 1973 TV appearance is definitely NOT from 1973. It’s like a hairdresser from exactly 20 years in the future teleported back to Burt Sugarman’s studios and asked for a volunteer to try a new cut, Ronnie’s hand was the first (in fact the only) one to go up, and so there he is, sporting a do that would not be seen again until Madchester was into it’s autumn years 20 years later.
Ronnie, beautiful player, see-er of future hair, and sadly missed.
In this, and future posts bearing this name, I will attempt to recall life as a musician in Wagga Wagga during the 1980s. I will be enlisting the help of a few friends, old and new, who shared this fertile and exciting time.
My introduction to the music scene of Wagga Wagga was a yellowing newspaper clipping of 4 young lads posing as many did at the time (and indeed still do), looking off-camera, some hands in pockets, trying to look natural, but succeeding only in looking self conscious. The caption below stated that they were another Riverina band going to crack the market in Melbourne. The clipping was probably from the late ’60s, the band was called The End, and I was about 10 when I found it in a family photo album. Now, none of my family were actually in this band, even though my older brother (older by 14 years) had cut a swathe through the Wagga music scene in the late ’60s and the early ’70s, and had by this time relocated to Sydney to pursue a successful career as session drummer, and later as a producer of music for television. I do recall my mother telling me that one of the members in the band shot was Pat Geaghan, former band-mate of my brother and friend of our family.
There is a great piece of research, or recollection, here, including a clip of The End (now known as The Final Four) in Melbourne and some great information, further detailing this band.
My first musical venture was with some school friends – John Roberts on guitar and Steve McGill on bass. It was either in our last year of school or second last year, 1980, and we jammed (somewhere), learning a bunch of covers of The Police, Troggs, Free, until we were joined by a charismatic lead singer called Mark Quinn. He was a few years older than us, going to college and living in a large house out of town – perfect for rehearsing in! Naturally we thought we were incredible, so we entered a Battle of the Bands, one of many throughout the preceding decade, and the ’80s, held in the enormous Civic Theatre. Needless to say we were shitting ourselves backstage as it slowly dawned on us that our first gig in front of anyone was in fact in front of a bunch of our peers, rivals and judges. And minutes before our allotted 15 minute slot we realise… “Mark’s gone!” Yes, our charismatic lead singer was nowhere to be found as we stood behind the curtain trying to wish ourselves out of there, and thinking the worst of our frontman. But lo! As the MC is introducing the next band (us!), and we had resigned ourselves to playing lame instrumental versions of our set, in bounds our frontman wearing a half-man-half-woman suit – inspired genius! With no time to even breathe a sigh of relief, the curtains opened to the terrifying sound of 10 people lazily clapping, with Mark facing the ‘man’ half of his costume towards the audience, and us nervously churning through the unmistakable motif of The Troggs’ ‘Wild Thing’.
I’m not sure, but I could swear there were shrieks of mirth as Mark spun around to reveal the ‘woman’ half of the suit as he started singing.
He went on to become mayor of Wagga.