Monday, November 26, 2007

Under The Influence

Last year my brother, Neil, developed stomach Cancer. It came as quite a shock to our family, as Neil has always been the active one, the rugged outdoors type - forever building something, diving off something else, or embarking on another trip to far off places. He has always been an active sportsman, being quite handy at both Cricket and Golf. So it was quite a shock. It was surprising and sad as well. Our mother died several years earlier from Cancer, and a couple of years later our father developed prostate Cancer, which he has had to live with since.

Thankfully, my brother responded well to treatment, no doubt helped by his relatively young age, otherwise good health, and positive attitude. For the last couple of months he has enjoyed being officially classed as "in remission."

I have no musical reference for my brother, no list, no influence. He is, perhaps, without doubt, the most unmusical person I have ever met. There are only a couple of things that come to mind. He was always quite keen on Tom Jones' "She's A Lady" as a child, which would always get him stirred endlessly. Funny, it seems quite cool now. Then, of course, there was the Onkyo stereo, one of the best that money could buy, for its time. Unfortunately, Neil only had five or six records, which he never played! Plus, the damned thing was stuck on AM, alternating between the races and football. What a waste of equipment!! Meanwhile, I'm stuck somewhere wearing out needles and blowing up speakers, whilst he is rejoicing in the modulated, crystal clear sounds of sports radio...

In recent years, I seem to recall, he has ventured into cd territory. I have a memory of his wife waving a cd frantically, trying to let us know how hip they are now that they own something along the lines of "Dad's BBQ Album" or "Dad's Twenty Great Driving Songs." You know what I'm talking about - the type of cd that cost $2.00 at Crazy Waldo's Mad, Mad Discount World!

Now, on the other hand, my other brother, Terry, had a fantastic and lasting influence on me with regards to music. Whilst I like to think I would have found my way to him eventually, it was Terry who introduced me to the music of Frank Zappa. Sure, he started me with Billy The Mountain (Just Another Band From L.A.) and that "white album with the pencil on the front" (Live At The Fillmore).

By many standards, Terry has had a tough life, surrounded by cigarettes, alcohol and various other substances, along with the odd run in with the long arm of the law. (Cue: I Fought The Law & The Law Won by The Clash, Bad Boy For Love by Rose Tattoo and maybe The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy).

Terry, along with Neil, left school early. "Yes, leave quietly and quickly or be thrown out noisily on your ass!" The benefit to me was that Terry suddenly had money, which meant he suddenly started buying records. In amongst all the fights, the drunken arguments, the fear, the homelessness, and the guilt, there were some great moments discovering unforgettable music. He would come home nearly every week with another one or two albums, play them maybe once, and leave them around for me to soak up every last word, note, chord, lyric, and liner note. By the time he left a copy of Pop History Vol 7: The Mothers Of Invention, I was hooked. I spent the next few years making sure I had every Zappa release there was - not an easy trick in Australia in the mid-seventies!

Over the years, Terry came and went several times, but he always left behind The Music, so when I was working all I worried about was new stuff. Eventually, he would gather all of his albums and leave me with... what? It wasn't nothing - I still had all those memories doing what you can't do with a cd - pouring over the album artwork and liner notes of hundreds of great albums. He left me with a great legacy of extremely varied music - music that went beyond Top 40. Music that has for the most part, stood the test of time. And yes, I have collected most of those albums on cd, it's not the same as those old, worn record covers and crackly scratched vinyl.

I can still see him now, watching Matt Taylor sing Black And Blue or I Remember When I Was Young, or listening late at night in the dark as he tried to tell me just how good Lobby Lloyd & the Coloured Balls were...

The following are just a brief sample of some of the influence of my brother, Terry:

Made In Japan Deep Purple

We Sold Our Souls For Rock n Roll Black Sabbath

Babylon By Bus Bob Marley & The Wailers

In Search Of The Lost Chord The Moody Blues

Just Another Band From L.A. Frank Zappa & The Mothers

Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd

My Aim Is True Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Crime Of The Century Supertramp

Wired Jeff Beck

Physical Graffiti Led Zeppelin

Welcome To My Nightmare Alice Cooper

The Wedding Album Cheech & Chong

One More From The Road Lynyrd Skynyrd

Livin' In The Seventies Skyhooks

Rumours Fleetwood Mac

Four Seasons Sebastian Hardy

Boy From The Stars Jim Keyes

Aqualung Jethro Tull

A couple of weeks ago, I won a double pass to see Zappa Plays Zappa, a concert by Dweezil Zappa, featuring Frank's music, and image, on stage. Neither Terry or myself ever got to see Frank live, so this would have to be the next best thing. Last weekend my brother advised me he has Lung Cancer. His doctor told him he would "probably" make it to his 50th birthday in April, 2008. And so the battle begins again. This time he is not alone. In recent years he has found peace and love, with a wonderful partner and resides in idyllic, calm surroundings. I hope I can be as positive an influence on him as his musical influence has been on me.

"Eddie, are you, kidding?"


  1. Post script: The Zappa concert was brilliant. The seamless transition between FZ's solos and the stage band was outstanding. The three hours covered (honoured)every era of Zappa & The Mothers. Dweezil Zappa's control of the evening was superb as was his beautiful rendition of Yo'Mama. Also outstanding were the guest appearances of Steve Vai and Ray White. Ray's voice is as good as it was 25 years ago, and Steve Vai's guitar playing is just as fast and perhaps more bizarre than ever.


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