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30.10.07 - When all the adults in the room seemed to
be falling over at Vince and Di's wedding on Saturday, (see
the gig report below), one young lady showed poise and
grace way beyond her years. Let's call her Harley, because that's
her name, and let's say she plays her own guitar, because that's
what she does, and let's say Robbo said that her pic would be
on the website, because that's exactly what he said. And let's
just agree that it's refreshing to see her dear little face
beaming out at us, because it surely is.
I wondered who this jolly gent was - it's Johnny Dick! 2) Vanessa
graciously posing with lucky Robbo
29.10.07 - Vanessa
Amorosi's manager, Ralph Carr, asked me to give him a call the
other day. I'd sent him the extract about Vanessa's performance
from my review of the Concert For Max (below), and I was wondering
what he might have to say, perhaps a little apprehensively given
my concluding plea. Well, for one thing he disabused me of any
notion that Ms Amorosi might have been the slightest bit disingenuous
in her preamble to her blowing us all away - she apparently
genuinely reveres the musos and music from 'our' era, and hung
around till the end of the show soaking it all up from the wings.
The photo with Robbo (pic 2) proves that she was indeed
there at the death - I was just out of shot demanding Robbo
get his bloody Volvo out from behind my van so I could get home
for some kip. Anyway, Ralph politely thanked me for my comments
and said he'd pass them on to Vanessa, so he couldn't have been
suddenly realises he really needs a drink..
Spectrum's wedding day
- Weddings aren't functions we get much call for. I guess that's
because we're pretty mean with covers, and that restricts us
to playing at the weddings of Spectrum fans mostly, which is
a measly three in the last nearly forty years by my reckoning.
A shame really, if today's occasion is anything to go by. Vince
and Di are regulars at St Andrews and frankly I thought they
were already married, so I was delighted when they asked if
we could play at the reception for their impending nuptials
at the Chirnside Park Country Club. It turned out to be a charming
affair, notable for people falling over, the last one being
Vince himself as he was escorted to the cab with Di waiting
stage at The Palais
Wilbur unconscious in our dressing room 2) Brian Mannix and
Paul Norton get in the mood for their spot
Stix Hicks and Bob Starkie get jolly in their dressing room
4) Swanee gives Kevin Borich a good licking
meeting Wendy here!
Max's benefit concert goes off big time!
22.10.07 - The tight schedule between St
Andrews and The Palais was always going to be slightly stressful,
and Wee Wally Bishop was a little concerned that the seats weren't
selling as quickly as he would've liked, but in the event we
made it (just) in time to do a sound check (minus Bill), and
the room was looking pretty chocker when we ambled out onto
the stage on the dot of 7.30. Our bit went just as Wally had
envisaged it, but was over in a flash, so after the first interval
I got myself a seat out in the audience and watched most of
the rest of the show from there, both because I needed to sit
down and because I was interested - and also so I could be there
at the end to make a pretty much redundant appearance with the
entire cast à la LWTTT. I really enjoyed the
show as it happened - and I got an e-mail from Wally
saying they'd made a cool $200,000.00 from the night!!
I missed seeing Kevin Borich, Wendy, Paul, Brian and Swanee,
Parkinson (I would've really liked
to have caught him), and only got a fragment of Dinah Lee,
The Delltones and Normie Rowe from the wings, so I can't really
comment on their performances. As the lone comic, he was incidental
to the music, but I enjoyed what I heard of George Smilovici's
routine - he's prepared to tackle the Big Issues as well as
make the more typical personal observations.
Wilbur Wilde opened the second of the three sets with a version
of Local Hero accompanied by Michael Christian on
guitar, and, if nothing else, it made one appreciate the shrewdness
of Knopfler's writing. Where the theme proper takes over from
the introspective preamble, you may as well have had the Radio
City chorus line appear, such was the Pavlovian response of
the audience - and it was still only the sax and guitar up
there when you opened your eyes again. If Wilbur looked as
if he'd just woken up, it was because he had. (pic 1)
Next up was Russell Morris with Hush and
The Real Thing, (see
large pic), which, I'd not realised till then, are
very similar songs. It's even possible that the success of
Hush informed the composition of The Real Thing
now that I think of it. There's a belated discovery
for you! Anyway, they're perennials that never seem to lose
their power, and the band rocked.
One technical observation that bugged nearly all the performances
was the non-appearance of guitar solos in the mix, in which
omission Ronnie Peers was the chief victim - as he was here.
Having said that, given the immense challenge of just getting
all the artists on stage at the same time, let alone looking
and sounding brilliant, the night was a credit to all the
crew (special mention here of our mate Scrooge Madigan) that
made our job just a matter of performing the songs to the
best of our ability.
I don't know why James Reyne always surprises me, but he does.
He exudes a calm confidence that gets you on his side before
he sings a note, and his guitar playing is relaxed and unequivocal.
He was joined by a guitarist (who eventually came up in the
mix) and a female singer who matched James' vocal idiosyncracies
nuance for nuance as he faultlessly rendered Reckless
and Downhearted (at least - there may have been another).
Daryl Breatherite hit the stage with Howzat!, (which
I'm still humming), followed by an extended version of the
Horses song, in which he featured a very
effective falsetto, a proclivity which had been unknown to
me before now. My goodness - he could do the entire Smokey
Robinson repertoire for the rest of his life if he runs out
of other ideas. He did get noticeably excited about this point,
and ran about the stage in a strangely disjointed manner,
adding some welcome quirkiness to what might've otherwise
been a run-of-the-mill Braithwaite performance.
Then came what was undoubtedly the highlight of the night's
performances, offered to us by no more or less than a child
representing the next generation of performers. Vanessa Amorosi
appeared on stage, all shoulder-length hair and innocence,
repleat with knee-high boots topped with a mini-dress of green
and gold. Her disarming protestations of humility and respect
smacked a little of Eve Harrington in All About Eve,
but only in retrospect, and I'm sure she meant it at the time
- sort of.
Then she simply launched into Piece of My Heart,
which up till then had been the exclusive domain of Janis
Joplin, repelling all challengers. Vanessa, this young girl,
who has never explored the darkest chasms of the soul by imbibing
every substance within reach, (to my knowledge anyway), actually
channelled Janis for the first verse and chorus, which is
no mean feat in itself; but by the time she'd finished with
the song, (and, I might add, employing full voice in a stratospheric
realm that Janis could only achieve harmonically), she'd utterly
eclipsed Janis' rendition for everybody in the room, and I'm
including hard-bitten professionals like me (who'd stopped
breathing after the first chorus).
It was, by way of osmosis, an astonishing bravura performance
by everybody on stage - her accompanying musicians were clearly
galvanised by this child's towering performance.
Christ! Somebody do something intelligent
with this talent.
Joe and the Black Sorrows were next. This is a man who has
slipped into his older self like it was a Maltese mafioso
dressing gown and slippers - and it suits him. I have to say
it was pretty scary in the corridors back stage seeing us
old folk up close, but with Joe it's like he's anticipated
everything. And so it is with his music. What was cool, remains
cool, and what's happening now in Joe's world is equally cool.
And it's distinctively Melbourne too, and I felt
a little swelling of pride in my trousers just thinking about
Peter Cupples opened the last set with a slightly wayward
version of Max's most successful song, Slippin' Away,
'wayward' in that Peter had actually changed the melody from
the one that people know and love. Sometimes that kind of
variation can breathe life into an old song, but in this case
it just sounded wrong. The crowd gasped when Billy Thorpe
appeared on the screen and introduced the song, and applauded
when it abruptly finished. The man exerts his charisma even
from the grave.
Jon English blundered onto the stage as if he was in some
G&W musical or other, cracked a joke or two and sang one
of his more famous songs. This was followed by a song that
I'm sure he said Max wrote for him (Turn The Page).
Before the count in he turned to the band and said, 'See you
at the other end', and then proceeded to leave the stage before
the song had finished.
Mike Brady's contribution was almost as mystifying, with an
adaption of Up There Cazaly that involved simply
changing the principal line to Up There Young Maxie.
He should be so lucky.
I think the crowd was getting tired by this stage, because
Ross Wilson and band could barely rouse them to murmur along
in Come Back Again, an infallible crowd-pleaser in
normal circumstances. An elfen-like Renee Geyer joined Ross
to sing an appropriately funky variation of his A Touch
Of Paradise, followed by a Max Merritt standard in Fanny
Mae, and although it's hard to imagine a less likely
couple - anywhere - at least there was some electricity crackling
in the vicinity.
I didn't see any of John Paul not-quite-so-Young's set, 'cause
I was trying to get back stage for the ensemble reprising
the LWTTT's Long Way To The Top finale. I wasn't
the only one who felt horribly redundant, but as I looked
out wanly into the sea of faces, I could see young Alana Galea
eight rows back, singing along like mad and completely lost
in some rock 'n' roll magic that was eluding old Uncle Mike
Lounge Room crowd goes bananas at the end of the night
Lounge Room Series One a smash!
22.10.07 - Saturday night - and Bill and
I cruised into Frankston South looking for The Ridge. Robbo
was already there, having given young Lochie a drum lesson or
two at home before today. We set up in an extravagantly-sized
lounge room with a polished wood floor and the-view-of-the-Bay-to-die-for
while The Simpsons played on the LCD. We ate exquisite vegetarian
Indian with our hosts, Lee and Shane (and Lochie) till the guests
started arriving, which was my cue to have a tectonic movement
Our host, Lee McIntosh, with Sally admiring Nurse Betty's
umm.. pendant 2) Shane McIntosh with Col Vaughan
kids in the kitchen, Cath and Chipper Gothard
|the upstairs bog, undoubtedly one
detail too many most of you. This is the first of the Lounge
Room Series of gigs that Lee has envisaged, and we were originally
going to do it as the Crudd/ Pump duopoly, but Robbo insisted
he join us. Ultimately I was glad he did, because it got a little
willing at the end of the night. Having said that, because we
were playing at a much more genteel level than yer average pub
gig, we gladly took the opportunity to subtly reinterpret some
of our standard fare, mostly to its advantage. Bill Dettmer
was in the room (with Sally, of course) and it was good to catch
up with his life story, but the room was buzzing with a bunch
of people who seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves - all while
actually paying attention to the musicians. It's a helluva notion
- let's have more of it!
feigns utter trustworthiness 2) Mike and Wendy Stapleton wait
for the cameras
news and the WrokDown TV show
17.10.07 - Despite suffering the
effects of a caffeine-induced meltdown, I managed to get out
and about yesterday and retrieved a couple of guitar leads from
the Ormond Hall before dropping in to see Ted Lethborg at Aztec
to chat about this and that. Whilst we were chatting, Ted surreptitiously
|a cleanskin CD into his player and
turned it up. It was Fly (Without Its Wings) from Milesago,
and it sounded really nice. It was then that Ted revealed that
Gil had mastered it from the vinyl, and I have to say I was
astonished at the pristine quality. If any tracks are in fact
missing from the tapes of Milesago that EMI should
have been preserving, I'm now quite sanguine about Gil's ability
to render them indistinguishable from the tape versions.
Today my navigational anxiety was tested to the limit, first
finding the Channel 31 studio and then arriving bang on time
for my WrokDown 'interview' with Wendy Stapleton. I
was greeted by the director/producer Anita Monk and escorted
to a cupboard where Wendy Stapleton was applying her makeup.
She offered me some of her 'Golden Glow', or some such enhancement
that had been a hit on the Countdown Tour, which was duly applied
to my shiny bits before going before the cameras and chatting
about Spectrum, past, present and future. Wendy is a natural
TV host, (still looking good), and managed
to stay awake and even look interested as I droned on interminably.
Wrokdown is coming up to St Andrews to film us on Sunday,
so if you'd like to be on TV, we'll see you there. My bit is
due to go to air in December. WrokDown is intended
to be a gig guide for the infirm and bemused (that's you and
me) and should be a bit of a giggle, as well as informative.
i.e. hysterical as well as historical. I'll let you know
when it's on.
explains the details while Fran looks on
Fran and Rob say goodbye to Lancefield
14.10.07 - It was just as I reached the
Bolte Bridge I realised that I'd left my clothes bag at home,
but it was later, when I was setting up in the Curly
Flat Vineyards dining room, that I made my most annoying
discovery - that I'd left three crucial guitar leads at Ormond
Hall the week before. (There's no point in sending an idiot
to do an idiot check). I managed to scrounge a spare lead
from Curly Flat's Phillip Moraghan, himself a guitarist and
budding drummer as well as fine vintner, (Jeni gave me a parting
gift of the 2004 Pinot - yum!), and he observed there were
enough musos at the party to field a couple of bands. Despite
some misgivings about the acoustics of the
| dining room, (which is undergoing
somewhat of a makeover before the new chef arrives in November),
Bill and I had quite a deal of fun. If there are any restrictions
as to what we can play as a duo, we haven't discovered them
yet. I'll look forward to hearing from Fran and Rob about another
party booking after they've relocated to the NT. In the meantime,
all the best to Fran and Rob from Mike, Bill & Robbo. It's
been nice knowing you, and Lancefield will be a much more subdued
place for your leaving. If
you'd like to book Mike & Bill for your party, check the
Mike (with trophy Curly Flat pinot), Fran and Bill 3) Lynne
Rowley, Rob, Bill and guitarist Peter Rowley (pics
Bishop with Mike at the Sullivan studio
for Max update (see
Gigs page for
11.10.07 - Highett Road is weird
- the numbering doesn't match left with right, so I overshot
Peter Sullivan's studio and had to double back. I found it quite
easily the second time round, but I was still a couple of minutes
early and the unassuming shop front that houses the studio was
locked up and impervious to my efforts to even peek inside.
Sully and son Tom arrived soon enough, and before I knew it
we were listening to the orchestral bed for the 'overture' that
Wally had envisioned, with Sully indicating where he wanted
me to insert the first few lines of you-know-which-song. Wally
(pic) arrived in time to see me put the definitive
version down - and it was over. I walked out into a shower of
wet stuff - rain I think it was..
10.10.07 - The Substitutes' Peter Summers
has put up his clip of Spectrum performing But That's All
Right (or But That's Alright - I can never decide),
which he filmed last Saturday night at the Ormond Halll Reunion.
If you've got a moment, you should check
it out and let me know what you think. It's appropriate
timing, with plans for the Aztec Music re-issue of the classic
Spectrum double album, Milesago, well under way - I
delivered the relevant scrapbooks to Ted Lethborg just yesterday.
Bill's coming over today to discuss details of the new Spectrum
releases (as mentioned in this month's Pith & Wind) - I'll
let you know what's going on as soon as I know.
Ormond Hall Reunion
Surprise! Paul Murphy and friend Sue 2) Marcie Jones (see
Go-Go girls dressed to thrill 4) And here's one thrilling the
Thompson was worried..
Reunions ain't what they used to be..
7.10.07 - If the Ormond Hall looked a little different
to how you remembered it, it's because it is a little
different. The left annex has been walled in, which makes for
a slightly smaller-looking space, but in most other respects
it's the same as it was the last time we were booked to play
there - as Ariel, on the fateful night of the Big Bust. We were
booked to play - but we never actually appeared on stage. That
was when it was Stoned Again and the local constabulary
decided that the moniker was just too provocative to
ignore and declared, 'This is a bust!' just before we got on
stage. Anyway, the crowd last night probably were more yer Opus
crowd on the whole, and more of a Substitutes (pic 4 )
crowd too, with their wholesome renditions of '60s hits. We
were the '70s troublemakers, with our drug references and unpredictable,
undanceable tunes. The Go-Go girls (pics 3 &
4) were splendid, but would only shimmy to a song that
|I enjoyed our set, and the struggling
PA and the inherently crappy acoustics of the room, (some things
never change), didn't detract from my enjoyment - and the other
guys seemed to be having fun too. My mind flashed back to when
our audience were most comfortable listening to us sitting on
the floor, but a quite a lot of people bravely elected to dance
all through the set, so I added Comin' Home Baby for
the dancers. We didn't have time for Fly, Red Hot Momma
or The Crab, but we managed to fit an uptempo
version of Going Home and a meandering version of Some
Good Advice in for the TF Much heads. We recently included
But That's Alright in our set at the instigation of
The Substitutes' Peter Summers, and I'm sure that's going to
continue to evolve. Incidentally, I really enjoyed what I saw
of The Subs - they do faithful reproductions of all my fave
'60s hits, made all the more palatable with the luxury of four
harmonies - and the Go-Go girls added some glam style to their
substance - but I had to get home to prepare myself for a 4.00am
rise to see the All Blacks lower the colours of the French Rugby
team. (You can read more about that sad adventure in
A Separate Reality). I would hope that we might do some more
gigs with the Substitutes and (re)make a connection with their
obviously thriving audience. In the meantime, our thanks to
Goldstar Entertainment's Paul Thompson (pic 5) for
making the Ormond Hall Reunion a reality.
benefit concert PR cranks up
- In case you're not an Age reader, I've reproduced the
article that appeared in yesterday's edition about Max Merritt's
upcoming benefit concert at the Palais in St Kilda at 7.30 on
Sunday 21st. I would've been there for the photoshoot myself
but for a long-standing medical appointment - happily Bill made
sure Spectrum was represented. It's only a couple of weeks away
now, so you should buy your tickets immediately to
avoid the embarrassment of missing out. Tickets at Ticketmaster.
In the meantime, there's a fun night to be had at the Ormond
Hall Reunion this Saturday night - with the utterly hugh-nique
Humania Lightshow (Hugh McSpedden) and now with Go-Go girls!
Check the gig guide for more details.
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