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ISSUE #168

Mike's engrossed in Jimmy Barnes' #1 selling book wondering quite a lot of things
Mike's Pith & Wind - Middle-Class Man
I started reading the Jimmy Barnes’ book Working Class Man (WCM) that Terry gave me for Christmas on the plane to Adelaide last week. I had agreed to participate in an orgy of media interviews for the up-coming 1st BASE Fringe appearance at the German Club, coincidentally the venue for our two appearances, and I conspicuously brought the book with me into all the interviews, conspicuously because I’d travelled light and the book, being a hard-cover, is quite enormous and doesn’t fit into my dandy man-bag. Happily for this squinty old bloke the font is as generous as the book’s dimensions and I could honestly tell everyone it was an easy read, as it is in every sense.
I’ve read more than half of it and neither I nor my bands get a mention, which comes as no surprise given Jimmy’s constantly emphasising what he considers to be rock & roll and how far left of that I and my bands manifestly are. With the introduction of former Spectrum drummer Ray Arnott to the Barnesy mix there was certainly an opportunity for a mention, but at whose discretion the non-disclosure came about I couldn’t say. Incidentally, I’ve met Jimmy a couple of times and he seems a nice enough chap, but he may have walked away from our conversation and vomited for all I know, because in his book he affects high disdain for anything that doesn’t accord with his full-tilt definition of rock & roll.
Bill Putt passed on Don Walker’s book, Shots for me to read. Bill was disgusted with it and when I say disgusted I mean actually offended. Shots is described as an evocation rather than a conventional autobiography in the publicity blurb and if you’re familiar with Don’s approach to his lyrics with Chisel you’d be au fait with the style he applies to the book. Anyway, WCM is about as straightforward as Don’s book is oblique and I suspect, in fact I know for sure that Bill would totally approve.
I think an appraisal of Chisel from my perspective might be appropriate at this point. The disparity between Don and Jimmy’s approach is a good place to start. I’ve always maintained that lyrics matter but they’re pretty much obliterated by Jimmy in live performance – and on record for the most part. As a positive sidelight, Chisel fans might have been unwittingly drawn into a much more poetic vision than Jimmy’s snarling overlay might’ve suggested, ironically one which they might’ve resisted had they been more clearly expressed.

I only became aware of the lyrics to Flame Trees the other night on The Book Club when Jimmy (and his daughter Mahalia) sang an allegedly acoustic version of the song with a grand piano and violin accompaniment. (I witnessed Jimmy rendering his fold-back utterly redundant when sound-checking with Ross Wilson – even without amplification he’s fucking LOUD!)
I still couldn’t make out the words as Jimmy sang them mind you, he ground them into a rusty powder and made the audience’s.. read more
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Dick's Toolbox - History 2018
I enjoy history. This is surprising given that my schooling in the subject left only an enduring horror in having pretend to be interested in the Bill of Repeal (Importation Act 1846) aka the Corn Law Repeal Acts or the Irish Church Disestablishment Act of 1869. Perhaps the only interesting component of this latter Act’s existence was that it led to the coining of one the longest non-scientific words ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’ . Why this Act of the English Parliament was of signal importance to a New Zealand secondary school student in the 1960’s was never explained. Though when you consider it as part of the on-going separation of Church and State it could have been, as might the Corn Laws been see as an equivalent of the Country Party ensuring a local monopoly.
But we did it because it was in the syllabus, a syllabus probably set by some faceless grey bureaucratic clinging tenaciously like a survivor of the ‘Wreck of the Medusa’ to the last vestiges of the British Empire. And, like a recurring episode of Bubonic Plague, every year concluded with a terror filled examination to determine one’s knowledge, ignorance and rote memory. I excelled at ignorance if I recall.
Anyway as Henry Ford said, ”History was just one thing after another”. And that is how it seemed. Even at art school history was taught in the same programmatic, sequential way. Just one damn painter, printmaker or sculptor after another. Just one art movement after another. Learnt by rote and to be examined at the end of the year.
The lecturers’ general apathy was made apparent by one Anglo-American import who thrust his head into the lecture room and cried in a glottal Californian scream “Think about Cezanne!” and then disappeared for the remaining hour. We thought about Cezanne as best we could and then chatted amiably amongst ourselves. We emerged none the wiser about one of the greatest post-impressionist painters.
As you can imagine from this standard of instruction, art in the Antipodes has some very shaky foundations. Many artists based their ideas of ancient or modern art on yellowing low resolution photographs in overseas books or magazines. Jackson Pollock as a 10 by 15cm colour plate is a bit different from the real thing – and not just in size.
It was difficult to think about Cezanne when the standard reference was Jansen’s ‘History of Art’ that had limited space in what was a generally worthy compendium. We would have been much improved by some genuine artistic insights from a trained art historian.
It was only some years later when I sat in some university history lectures by a real Professor of History that I learnt that the past might actually be important, even if it only taught you that civilisation has the capacity to repeat variations of the same basic errors countless times over the centuries. It did make me aware that the renaissance was made possible not just by the odd genius or three but as much by double ledger bookkeeping .. read more
Wazza's Trans-Tasman Tales - What's vexing me..
According to the US homeland security chief, if Donald Trump’s a racist, so too is Malcolm Turnbull. Depending on your worldview you might well find that statement ironic, particularly if you are troubled by Australia’s erstwhile handling of prospective refugees/illegal immigrants. Even more so if you’re concerned about the dog-whistling carrying-on of the so-called Super-minister of Home Affairs Dutton. On our eastern side of the Tasman there’s been a noticeable turn in the tides of matters of social conscience since our change of government, much to the apparent consternation of your ‘conservative’ coalition. The scare quotes surround conservative because, as this piece points out, there’s more to being conservative than merely turning right and slagging off peoples-of-colours-other-than-white. Furthermore the venerable Age has published a view on this too. Even if you don’t share an ironic take on the US rejecting claims of racism against Trump by pointing to Turnbull’s immigration stance, you should be able to detect something a bit dodgy about both of their circumstances. NZ PM Jacinda Ardern certainly seems to have and has made her views not only known, but also proposed commensurate socially conscientious actions to alleviate some of the harms-way Australia has imposed on its offshore detainees. read more
mmMeet the TBN crew
M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D B I L L P U T T . C O MM M I K E R U D D