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Monday, June 27, 2022

The Power In Naming





WE have been told many times how in many cultures you never give someone your ‘real’ name or ‘soul’ name as it gives whoever knows it the ability to command a certain amount of power over you. I was thinking about this as I drifted off last night and how it also works in the naming of songs and even albums. There is resonance in the naming as much as there is resonance in the very vibration of sound let alone music. So naming or connection the two can cause – let’s call them issues.

Now I am not saying this applies to all songs but with some songs the writer becomes especially attached to and they kind of lead to an almost prophetic glimpse into his destiny. A classic example John Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane seeing as how he met his death while flying an aircraft he built himself… An example closer to home was Ian Rilen with Bad Boy For Love; it’s is almost as if once written he felt obliged to live up to the title if nothing else. He was indeed ‘a bad boy to love’. Songs become attached to you by the public as well which also gives them (the song ) a certain power. ne has to wonder if Keith and Mick still Can’t Get No Satisfaction?

The song that I think (as a writer) that resonates most with me is a song called Don’t Cry No Tears. The lyric content could almost have been composed by a ‘future’ me in order to console and encourage the ‘developing’ me through the tragedies that all too often would plague my life. Tied in with this, the first complete song I ever wrote – Movin’ On – also seemed rather predictive, but then the sentiments of that tune could apply to most people.

What got me thinking about this specifically was an album I wrote and recorded called All Too Human. I thought it had a certain irony as the way it was recorded it was the most un-human recording I’d attempted at that time. Instead of an amp, I used a portable Rockman guitar processor (very unlike me) the drums were all electronic, though played manually and then dumped on to the one-inch tape. You see, I demoed all the song to simple loops and gave them to Doug Falconer who the ‘arranged the drum parts, recorded them on midi and gave them back to me and put them down to tape. Then I did all the guitar parts and demoed the bass lines I wanted. I gave a copy of this to Raggsy (Anthony Ragg, Kings Of The Sun) and asked him to “Use these lines but make them sound like a bass player” which he did beautifully. He then came back to my place and recorded his passes through a DI and that was that (apart from some keys laid down by Herbie Mayhem)

I need to backtrack… I had borrowed the Hunters and Collectors mobile 16 track recording unit for this project. It was huge and completely filled the lounge room in the weatherboard cottage I lived in with my wife (at the time) Amanda. She was pregnant with our daughter Madelaine so I wanted to keep it as quiet and (ironically) unobtrusive as possible, Hence no amps and no live drum kits. Doug was to take care of the drums and my vocals as co-engineer and I was to do the same with the guitars. We both were on hand for the bass and keys. So with all this automation and the personality quirks it developed, I thought it would be ironic to call it All Too Human. Machines being as subject to quirks and idiosyncrasy, as we mere mortals were.

On completion, Doug was obliged to o overseas on tour with the Hunters and Collectors and I got left holding the bag.  We pitched to the White label before he left and they turned it down.  Rather than sulk about it I enlisted Mike Duffy ( a good and close friend by then) to help produce the album instead of waiting for Doug to get back. I had my usual budget of fuck all but manage to get enough to get 2 days in Sing Sing to mix the album. Mike had something like 23 international gold records as a producer under his belt at that stage. he was and is a wonderful man with a very patient and gentle soul. Anyway, we blitzed the tracks and then once more went out into the world to shop it around.

My dear friend and sometimes manager Nick Chance found a home for the album with an independent label called Mighty Boy. Moira particularly loved it and contracts were exchanged and everything seemed to be going ahead nicely. A single – Count Yourself Lucky was chosen to lead the charge but meanwhile, other things were developing and unraveling. Looking back I don’t know what or how it happened but things got all confused. Confusion.. an all too human trait. I was having trouble with Nick and Brian DeCourcy was making overtures for management and another good friend of mine Simon Smith was in the picture somewhere. I would say ‘this is what happened’ but I honestly don’t know exactly what or how.

In a very condensed version, this is what unraveled. I needed a ‘live band’ to promote the single/album and Doug and Raggsy were fat too busy to go to so I enlisted my friends Chris Gormly, Boris Falovic and his partner Paula Sheldrake to become The Groody Frenzy (the named inspired by the voracious breastfeeding of my newborn daughter (Groodies being slang for breasts in Clockwork Orange speak). Boris taught Paula all the bass lines (he was a fantastic guitarist and Paula did a great job delivering them through an enormous W bin normally used for PAs. Boris fleshed out and gave some extra flourish to my leads and I played guitar and sang as usual. Chris was a dynamo on the drums, I’d played with him before in a band I had called The Feel back in the early ’80s. Simon Smith I think was managing or booking the band by now and we were doing some fantastic shows. One that stands out in my memory was supporting the Cramps at The Palace (Melb) while members of The Sweet watched from the VIP lounge. (I was later called up for an ‘audience’ with them and they asked if I’d finish the tour they were on and go back to the States with them (as lead vocalist) if Brian didn’t recover from a ‘breakdown). I thanked them but declined, I had my own band and I didn’t want to blow them off/ I must have been nuts, but loyalty was everything to me then.

So we were gigging in Melbourne and the occasional Sydney show. The single finally came out and was given high rotation on 2JJ! Things always look brightest before the storm…  cracks were beginning to show in the band and I was really wanting more than anything to just be with my wife and child. Music seemed not so important anymore. But the next thing I know is that the single has entered the FOX FM charts with a bullet! My publishers were starting to congratulate me on my ‘hit’ when it all went to shit. Mighty Boy folded and went into liquidation. All the stock was ceased, the store could not be serviced and my world imploded. Simon was on my back about getting a new and ‘better’ bass player (inconceivable, I couldn’t separate Boris and Paula. Chris was getting more and more obvious in his lust for said Paula. Though projected in-jokes or innuendo it was becoming more and more stressful. But I couldn’t sack Chris because he was my friend (even though I was being advised to by other parties. Avarice, lust, anger, and envy all too human traits were beginning to raise their ugly heads. So the band was already imploding, at least from where I stood.

Then everything started going wrong, our dog (Mr bear died) and anyone who loved a family pet know how hard that can be. My label was bust, the songs were no longer getting airplay and the final most devastating blow was my wife leaving me. My world was in pieces and a black and oppressive depression settled over my life blanketing out just about everything but the love of my baby daughter and my son. I lost everything and called an end to the band. I don’t know. I don’t know what was said. I just knew everything was over. I could not see the point in carrying on… sound all too human?

But I survived. I was approached by a band called Bigger Than Jesus, they needed a new frontman and wanted me. The band and the music gave a chance to really vent and get a lot of shit out of my system. I began to come back into myself again. So here’s the thing that started all this remembering. last night, in the middle of the night I was bombarded by a series of texts, sometimes abusing me, sometimes saying I fucked the ‘Groodies’ around by breaking up the band, how I fucked around so and so (people and names I have no recollection of at all) and getting the most ridiculous and incredible versions of what went down around that time. 45 text messages!!!! Rejection, another All Too Human trait. I figured out who the anonymous texter was early in the rants, but hung on waiting for them to fess up.

“Groody Frenzy must not die with me? There is a piece of rock and roll history missing? The JJJ live to air needs to be released…  “so and so hates you… etc,etc, etc. If there is one lesson that has been drummed ceaselessly into my head over the year when it comes to music especially my music – YES, MY MUSIC – I wrote it, words and music – I arranged it and recruited the lineups. Nobody and no-one have the right to tell ME what to do with it. Call it egotistical, call it selfish, call it whatever you want. If and when I choose to release the JJJ live to air tapes I will. AND I will graciously and most humbly thank all those involved in making it happen. As it is I lost my only copies of the session and am now in the process of tracking down the masters. If the anonymous texter wishes to hand over a copy of the live footage from the Palace claimed to be in his possession I will gladly put it up on youtube. But at the moment they are playing games. I get accused of historical neglect while they sit on archival footage!!! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black (another all too human trait) Below are pics of Groody Frenzy (the live line up) Me and Boris, Paula and Chris… though not necessarily in that order.

Here is a homemade clip… the rights of sourced images from the net are graciously acknowledged as well as my own rights pertaining to the music from the album All Too Human.