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Mike's Pith & Wind (cont.)
..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 anymore.
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.
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