Wagga, Music, 1980s – Part 3

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.

Wagga, Music, 1980s – Part 2.

Fur-covered drums

Actually around 1984-ish… I had covered my drums in fur, of course.

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.

Ronnie Montrose

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.

Wagga, Music, 1980s – Part 1.

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.

WordPress app fail

Jeez, the crap I had to go through to post that last post!!!

WordPress on iPad is increasingly frustrating the hell out of me. Like this:

I had written that last post (the one whining about leaf blowers), in PlainText because I couldn’t log into my WP blog. Why couldn’t I log in? Who the hell knows. I hadn’t changed my password. I put in every iteration of every password I’ve ever had. Nothing. And of course the iPad WP app gives you no options to get yourself a new password, so I went into WP via Safari. Eventually found how to renew my password (can’t for the life of me remember now though), and did it.

New password later, plus entering my mobile authentication code (!!! – more steps away from posting, and more steps closer to something gong wrong) I’m ready to copy my new post out of PlainText and into a new post field.

But WP is onto me. Oh no you don’t, I can hear it say, as it proceeds to refuse either a paste or any key operation in the post field. Everything ends up in the Subject field!!!


I had to borrow a computer just throw up a fucking post.

Sorry, I keep complaining about technology.

PS – I just deleted the app from the iPad, and reinstalled it.

Now I’m frozen out of my WP blog – after entering my email address, new password and URL, I get the charming message ‘Sorry, we can’t log you in. Please try entering your login details again.’

How many times would you like me to do that WordPress?

PPS – no amount of trawling through endless forums of people with login problems gets me any closer to a solution.

Therefore, WordPress you give me no choice but to delete you permanently from my mobile devices.

Death to leaf blowers

When I lived in Peel St., across the road from Melbourne’s great Queen Victoria Markets, from 2002 to about 2006, I would fill a box with vegetables every Saturday, stroll through every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday on my way to work, or chat with the elderly Chinese man who rented or owned the warehouse next door on Sundays. It was a great place to live, shop and relax. 

But, in the evenings, once the last of the stall holders had packed up and left, it all changed.

No, it wasn’t over-run with drug addicts or drunk arseholes, it became the sole domain of a team of cleaners contracted to work through the evening until around 11:30pm. It seemed that their primary objective was to pollute the area with as much noise as possible, consistently, indefatigably, deafeningly, until late at night. Cleaning the markets was a byproduct. 

My poor little sash window, which did a poor job at best keeping the traffic noise below out, would be almost vibrating in indignation at the aural assault from across the road. I would half hang out that window, yelling at the top of my lungs to shut up and get a broom, but to no avail – those clever cleaners were wearing ear protectors, oblivious to the stress and consternation they were causing, concerned only with blowing the odd lettuce leaf, or newspaper page from here to there.

Of course brooms must have been outlawed following some horrible accident, and I’d missed that news report. 

Of course filling up the tank with 2-stroke, yanking the ripcord, putting on the goggles and ear protectors, and strapping on the screaming beast in order to move these bits of rubbish from here to there, is far more efficient than picking up a broom, risking callouses, not to mention that mysterious accident, and getting your back into some physical work! Who knows the horrific extent of calamities awaiting the poor fool still using this antiquated, and obviously dangerous tool. 

The noise generated by only one of these monsters is enough to make you want to rip it from the operator and severely beat him with it, however, I would be treated to a trio of these things, carousing and screaming at each other, echoing around the deserted markets. 

I was sorry to leave the area when I moved, but glad to be rid of this senseless crap.

Let’s jump forward to 2013, where I find myself living in a lovely little outer suburban town called Uneno, in Kawanishi City, in Hyogo Prefecture. All part of the greater Osaka metropolis really. At the end of our quiet little street, populated mainly by quiet little retired folk, is a quiet little temple, which my wife and I go to every day. In spring the cherry blossoms explode in glorious pink there; in summer the green jungle takes over, offering a canopy from the sun. In winter it becomes like a postcard of a quiet little Japanese temple in winter, and in autumn it features a carpet of red, yellow, orange and brown Japanese maple leaves. Uh oh. I thought it was too good to be true. Sure enough, this morning we woke to the unmistakable sound of a f&#king leaf blower, tearing up the atmosphere of our quiet little street and quiet little temple, like it was tissue paper. 

As my wife and I walked up towards the temple, my hatred bristling like the hair on the back of a drive-in dog, the screaming monster was even drowning out the house construction located directly between us and the temple. Climbing the stairs to what is usually a placid sanctuary, I’m greeted with the not unexpected scene of a little gardner blowing some leaves from here to over there, with a screaming beast strapped to his back. Obviously those evil brooms have been outlawed here too, even with Japan’s more relaxed workplace safety standards!

As we left the temple, watching the little gardner dealing with a rather stubborn leaf by pushing it along with the beast’s nozzle (be careful!! It’s almost like a broom!!), I thought to myself for the first time in almost a decade, “death to leaf blowers”.