|..hair curl, but I had
the closed captions up on the telly and I was able to appreciate Don’s
world-weary lyrics for the first time, lyrics that include a finely
observed small town bar encounter that you would think might soften
Jimmy’s train-wreck approach a tad. But no, he demolishes the
train and the station as well.
To be fair, as he describes it in the book there were always these
tensions running in the band that I think led to some ideas not being
expressed satisfactorily, not only for the writer of the song, but
for the American market for example, which the band dallied with famously
for precious little result. Somehow Chisel’s songs struck a
big chord with the Australian psyche however and that could be as
much for the inherent flaws as the artistic aspirations.
That’s enough critiquing, although I should add I’m really
a big Chisel fan and it really doesn’t matter if some aspects
of the band’s output doesn’t appeal all the time. The
muscular yet lyrical guitar playing and vocal work of Ian Moss is
always totally satisfying and the writing from the other members of
the band (including Jimmy) sometimes unexpected but mostly very appealing.
It’s fitting that they never cracked it in America on their
own terms. A constrained Chisel just wouldn’t have been Chisel
Anyway, it was a useful ploy bringing Jimmy’s book along to
the interviews at the German Club and good opening gambit for an interview.
It’s not my story though. While I recognised some of the fame-induced
issues that Jimmy faced/faces from my own brush with semi-celebrity,
I never suffered the disadvantages that Jimmy endured in this and
the first of his books. (So I believe anyway, I haven’t read
the first book).
No, I started playing in bands because I loved pop music, which was
folk music with the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary et al
at the time. The Beatles changed everything for everybody, followed
by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Manfred Mann and The Who –
the British Invasion in other words.
My band (The Chants) peeled off at this point and started to opt for
the comparatively obscure stylings of The Pretty Things and the even
obscurer Downliners Sect, but also maintained an interest in American
rhythm & blues and soul music as practised by Ray Charles and
Otis Redding in particular, as well as the current pop tunes of the
times – famously (in our own bubble at least) They’re
Coming to take Me Away Ha Ha. We were happily ensconced in a
residency in my home-town of Christchurch for more than two years
and mindless eclecticism is an inevitable by-product. (Jimmy makes
the same observation with Chisel).
At the same time I was trying almost manfully to appear interested
in my course at Ilam Art School, but at the end of my second year
simply forgot to submit anything (I hadn’t done the work and
I was observed desperately attaching my ruler and an eraser to one
submission at the last minute) rather amazingly nevertheless getting
a qualified pass with a repeat year for the missing units. I took
it as a sign (that I was terminally lazy) and opted to become a PROFESSIONAL
musician, where laziness is tolerated and even applauded, much to
my granny’s despair.
How many English pop musicians came to their careers via Art School?
A lot. Same here in the Antipodes. Scratch a ‘70s rock musician
and he’ll quite likely bleed paint or ink. Madder Lake’s
Brenden Mason is a case in point. So I’m not alone in my middle-class
trajectory to rock music, but there are no anthems celebrating that
fact nor are there likely to be.
And no tell-all Rudd-type book either, BTW.