Thursday, June 23, 2011
That's right, folks... Don't touch that dial. You can now listen to me live on the radio every Sunday morning at 6.00 am (AEST) until 8.00 am on your local station 88.6 Plenty Valley FM with my brand new show Pleasant Valley Sunday Breakfast. Join me for the premiere June 26th at 6.00 am. Sure, it's early, but what else have you got planned? Sleep?
You can also listen through live streaming over the internet - www.pvfm.org.au
Artists included on the first show are:
Joe Strummer, Johnny Cash, The Blackeyed Susans, The Chieftains, Cousteau, Paul Kelly, Big Star, Radiohead, Christy Moore, Ryan Adams, Bap Kennedy, Cowboy Junkies, along with a feature on Gordon Lightfoot.
Let me know you're listening, or send me a request or comment at: email@example.com
Thursday, June 16, 2011
My brother in law Dino turns 50 today. He is as much a brother to me as my flesh and blood brothers. He passed away just over a year ago. And not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I miss him a great deal.
We had a few shared interests. Not a small part of which was marrying sisters, and becoming ‘The Outlaws’ in a large extended family. It seems like yesterday that, after saying goodnight to the sisters we dated, we would sit in his beat up Datsun, and talk about them, and their brothers, whilst we listened to some terrible Love Songs And Dedications radio show. Since then, we spent the best part of three decades fishing, drinking, watching footy, raising kids, camping, playing cards, disagreeing, and laughing. Laughing a lot.
And music has always played a big role in our shared experiences. In a way, Dino is responsible for me having a reasonably large collection of music. I hate to be caught out and fail at being able to play a request for someone. Being the second youngest of six, when my brothers and sisters left home, so did the majority of my music collection. By the time I was married, I had about five good years worth of my own music, but had not gone back and purchased the back catalogue of my youth. In Dino’s words, “Gee you’ve got a shit record collection.” I vowed from that day on to build a worthy collection of music, beginning from the music I grew up with. That still continues today. Thanks, mate.
Dino and I didn’t agree on everything when it came to music, but we did come together on some important pieces. He could never understand my passion for The Mothers Of Invention. I didn’t appreciate his love of The Highwaymen, although I did like some of their solo work, especially Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. We both really liked Gordon Lightfoot, and I treasure those Saturday nights spent listening to his love worn copy of Gord’s Gold. And then followed by Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night.
We both liked The Bushwackers – the more Australiana the better for Dino, where my preferences leant more towards the Irish background of bush, being a Pogues fan. Dino took a while to warm to The Pogues, but when he did, he basically took ownership of Dirty Old Town as his song. And although he wouldn’t be considered a fan of Leonard Cohen, he never complained when we played him, or banged on about his lyrics around campfires.
We both knew of Randy Newman and Ry Cooder, but it was out extended brothers that brought them to the fore. If a night didn’t end with Famous Blue Raincoat or Fairytale Of New York, then it would definitely end with Rednecks, Political Science, or the classic drunkard’s song, Yellow Roses (“Wait for the intro...!”). Usually it would be all five... And on some occasions, that would actually be the start, not the end, of a very, very late session.
We all loved listening to Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Young, Simon And Garfunkel, The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Jim Croce, just to name a few. Above all, Dino was a fan of good company, and good music to make a good night of it.
Dino had a very interesting record collection. I was very impressed with his older records that didn’t get played as much anymore, yet, were obviously still treasured. As laid back and relaxed as we were listening to more country oriented rock, we could still appreciate the early works of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper.
The music we have shared really has been the soundtrack of our lives. Having a barbecue and listening to American Graffiti Soundtrack through the thick smoke of a flue that never ever worked. Fast forward to Kevington and Like A Hurricane as we enjoyed cold beers from stolen stubbie holders. Fast forward once more to Badger Creek, or Warburton, and listen Van Morrison accompanying the swish of a breeze through the trees, or the gentle sound of the river rolling along.
As Dino fought a brave battle against the cancer that would eventually take his life, we still had time for music. I tried to make playlists of the music he liked as the brothers all travelled first to Thornton, then Seymour and Yea, and eventually our final journey through Tasmania (“How many old houses and trees can a person look at?!”). Desperadoes Waiting For A Train. It was a sad time. It was a time that came and went far too quickly.
As I listen to Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Billy Thorpe, I wonder if one day we’ll all meet up again. And if Heaven exists, I imagine it’s an eternal journey through your favourite places with the people you love. Dino’s wry smile and a roll of the eyes as we make “just a quick stop” to enjoy an ice cold beer and a game of pool at the Alexandra Pub. A moment of reflection around a campfire at Lake Eildon. The thrill of a winning bet on an unknown horse at Yea Picnic races. The beauty of sunrise and moonlight over the Derwent River. Home, and firing up the barbecue for family and friends.
Happy 50th Birthday, Dino. RIP.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
When Neil Young released Harvest in 1972 it was met with quite a lot of indifference, to put it mildly. Fans, who appreciated his constantly changing musical persona, got on board, as opposed to the critics, who rated it as quaint, at best, and complete rubbish at worst. Young has never released anything in response to what he was expected to by either fans or critics. By the time one album was released, he was already deeply immersed in folk, screeching electric rock, country, or what would eventually be called grunge.
The song Old Man now has a place amongst the best of Young’s work, and is one of several excellent tracks on the album. Harvest, Out On The Weekend, and Heart Of Gold are all brilliant compositions, and help create a unified theme and texture on the album. But, Old Man is the track that I play most, and extracts a greater emotional response.
Old man is one of those unique songs that allows for multiple interpretations and responses that shift and grow with the passage of time. With age and experience, we gain a deeper appreciation of the perspective of both the singer and the subject.
Many observers thought the song to be Young’s appraisal of his relationship with his estranged father. However, it has been confirmed by Young that the inspiration for the song was the old ranch manager on Young’s farm. But, could the same song have been written if Neil Young had a different upbringing? Clearly, his relationship with his father, even subconsciously, has influenced the choice of words, and style of music.
Regardless of the subject, the themes resonate strongly across a broad spectrum. If confesses all the fears and hopes of us as young men, a few years into adulthood, and all the promises and regrets that go with it. As we slide through our thirties, there is a dual appreciation of each perspective. Not siding with either but having a greater understanding of both. And finally, when approaching fifty, especially with a son around twenty four, there is a clear bond with the Old Man. Never losing sight of what the song meant when first heard, it grows in meaning and depth with each passing year.
It is a tribute to Neil Young’s song-writing ability to produce a work of art so mature, so complex, and so dynamic. And even though he has a huge repertoire of songs just as impressive, this one piece alone places him equally alongside other modern poetic masters, like Cohen, Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, and Springsteen.
The conviction of Neil Young’s cross-generational conversation rings true with each word sung, and each note played. It is such a beautifully sad and sweet piece of music. Hear the young man pleading for a chance to be heard. Feel the old man pleading for a chance to shake his younger self to listen.
Old Man is a timeless song that you can return to again and again. It’s like a good friend that you comfortably and dependably grow old with. And if you can, you should introduce the Old Man to a younger person and keep sharing the wisdom.