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.