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Robbo's pics #2
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.

1) I wondered who this jolly gent was - it's Johnny Dick! 2) Vanessa graciously posing with lucky Robbo
Robbo's Max pics
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 too upset.

Vince suddenly realises he really needs a drink..
gig report
Spectrum's wedding day

27.10.07 - 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 inside impatiently.
Back stage at The Palais

1) Wilbur unconscious in our dressing room 2) Brian Mannix and Paul Norton get in the mood for their spot

3) Stix Hicks and Bob Starkie get jolly in their dressing room 4) Swanee gives Kevin Borich a good licking

4) Fancy meeting Wendy here!
gig report
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, and Doug

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 it.
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 entirely.


1) The Lounge Room crowd goes bananas at the end of the night
gig report
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 in

1) Our host, Lee McIntosh, with Sally admiring Nurse Betty's umm.. pendant 2) Shane McIntosh with Col Vaughan

3) The 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!

1) Ted feigns utter trustworthiness 2) Mike and Wendy Stapleton wait for the cameras
Aztec 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 inserted
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.

1) Rob explains the details while Fran looks on

gig report
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 Book Spectrum page.

2) Mike (with trophy Curly Flat pinot), Fran and Bill 3) Lynne Rowley, Rob, Bill and guitarist Peter Rowley (pics Fran)

Wee Wally Bishop with Mike at the Sullivan studio
Concert for Max update (see Gigs page for tickets)
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..
Spectrum on YouTube
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.
The Ormond Hall Reunion

1) Surprise! Surprise! Paul Murphy and friend Sue 2) Marcie Jones (see large pics)

3) The Go-Go girls dressed to thrill 4) And here's one thrilling the camera now..

5) Paul Thompson was worried..
gig report
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 they knew.
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.
Max's benefit concert PR cranks up
4.10.07 - 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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