Tag Archives: music


In place of my usual Sunday Post of 200 words, I thought I’d share this little fragment of memoir…

They haunt from a distance.  Lonely, mournful strains.  My footsteps halt, my head cocks to one side.  Some inner radar tries to pinpoint the source.  Anticipation causes my heart to skip one beat, then another.  I grasp my child’s hand and guide us toward the melancholy sound.  The music is louder now, caressing my body and sending tingling shafts down my spine. 
            And then I see them:  proud glorious men in their incongruous kilts and knee-high socks, marching slowly toward me, oblivious to the kaleidoscope of memories erupting in my brain.  My eyelids flutter to a close as I fall hopelessly under the spell of the bagpipes.  A mist of my own making engulfs me and I let go.


My mother had an uncanny gift for detecting these magnificent plaintive strains, long before anyone else.  Her eyes would light up and the hand that clasped my tiny one would stiffen. 
            ‘Listen!’ she’d whisper urgently, her head cocked.
            She’d tug my hand and I’d follow her, weaving my way through the stockings and slacks and dangerous looking shoes of the big people, as mother – frantically alive and excited – searched for the kilted men.
            Once she’d found them, she would become transfixed and I’d let go of her hand so that I could step away to watch her.  She stood, like a statue of a beautiful Roman goddess, the tilt of her head showing the graceful line of her long pale neck, eyes glazed and lips wearing a small contented smile.           

Magnificent Bagpipers

Sometimes, she would lift me up into her arms and we’d follow the marching band of strangely dressed men who produced such beautiful soul-wrenching music.  But reality always returned and mother would set me down and lead me away, back to our grocery shopping or bill-paying, her proud chin jutting and her lips set in their customary businesslike line.
            In the evening, I would sometimes wander restlessly from my bedroom and pass the open door of the lounge-room to catch a glimpse of mother – wrapped in her pale green dressing-gown – sitting in her favourite chair by the hearth.  I would peak through the crack of the door as the flames cast dancing shadows across her angelic face and watch the sparkle of tears making tracks down her porcelain cheeks.   


I am jolted from the maze of memories by a small, smooth, warm hand tugging at mine.  I fight off the mist with a sigh which sounds strangely familiar and my child and I continue on with mundane chores.
            Later that night – when all is quiet – I sit in the crook of the bay window and replay the plaintive strains of the bagpipes in my head.  The music has left a longing inside me: a strange, intangible yearning.  I grapple for understanding but it eludes me.  A tear surprises me by escaping over my lower lid and tickling my cheek.
            Is this my legacy?  This bitter-sweet haunting?

The Answer to Friday’s Fictionary Dictionary…
JARP is to strike or smash, esp. the shell of an egg.

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Leonard Cohen Concert Review

Absolute front row.  Almost dead centre.  Brisbane Entertainment Centre.  

An eerie hush is broken by thunderous ear-splitting applause as he appears.  The seventy-six-year-old ‘Ladies Man’, is down on bended knee singing Dance me to the End of Love and I wonder momentarily if I have drifted into a parallel – and absolutely perfect – universe.

Age has not wearied the man with the golden voice and he still oozes sex appeal from the tips of his toes to his rakishly perched hat. The drooped corners of his wise and somewhat sad eyes evoke a sense of mystery, while his rare smiles reveal a child-like mischievousness.   

He is accompanied on stage by top-notch musicians and back-up singers, yet nothing surpasses the sound of him alone, dragging notes from the gravelly sole of his boot and broadcasting them from his lofty window in The Tower of Song.  His recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep reminded us that a poet of such magnitude needs no accoutrements.

The poignancy of Suzanne with her ‘tea and oranges’ and her ‘rags and feathers from salvation army counters’  had me watching Leonard through a gauze of tears as his poetic fingertips soothed my soul.  And when he sang I’m your Man, I sighed ‘oh yeah’, along with thousands of other concert-goers.

We Cohen fans came to Boondall with one thing on our minds – Leonard – so it was with considerable finesse that Clair Bowditch, as support act, bewitched the crowd with her sweet-and-sultry lyrics and soft bluesy voice.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with a couple of LC forum fans and was presented with a very official-looking lanyard by Dean from Adelaide which I happily wore with pride. Dean is spending a huge chunk of time, not to mention a considerable fist-full of cash, to attend a heap of concerts.  You can follow his progress at lcdownunder2010.

Life, as they say, is full of regrets.  I thought I would forever live with the regret of missing out on the Leonard Cohen experience when I failed to get tickets in 2009.  I never dreamed I would get a second chance.  So now I have one less regret to pack into life’s suitcase and my baggage feels all the lighter for it.

Mr Cohen may have left the building but I for one will never forget him.

PostScript:  My novel, 8 States of Catastrophe, is due for release in January 2011 and will be distributed by Pan Macmillan.  Fans of Leonard Cohen may enjoy it for its references to the great man and his lyrics.  I’ll post launch details as soon as they come to hand.  If you would like to go into the draw to win a signed copy of the book, please complete the survey.

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Countdown to Cohen: No. 3

Well, the year might not have turned out quite as well as expected with the release date for 8 States of Catastrophe still not set in stone (we are talking January but the publisher can’t confirm the date). 
           But, hey, the year isn’t over yet.  As of posting time, there are just 34,143 minutes before Leonard’s Brisbane concert. 
           It keeps a smile on my dial.


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Countdown to Leonard: update

Today my car became a church, complete with the obligatory mad woman who can’t hold a tune but insists on lung-busting.
          Just a 40 minute drive with a Leonard Cohen CD as my companion and I’m singing ‘Hallelujah’ like some sort of born-again freak. 
          As of right now, I only have to wait for another 173,165 minutes to see the Brisbane concert.
          Hallelujah, indeed.


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Countdown to Cohen and My Publishing Adventures

Well, this year is turning out to be an absolute corker!
          Last year, a cloud of indigo descended upon me when I was unable to see Leonard Cohen in concert in Australia.  With a strangely defeatist attitude, I resigned myself to missing out on ever seeing him ‘in the flesh’ and, after a period of mourning, I gathered up the threads of my dignity and reminded myself that the world was full of starving and neglected children, oppressed women, and tortured men. 
          Now, I am on cloud 1,099 after scoring presale front-row platinum tickets to the Brisbane leg of Leonard’s 2010 world tour (and I bow my thank you to the almighty VISA).

So it seems I have two momentous count-downs happening simultaneously. 
          The world of book publishing being what it is, the publication date for my novel is still somewhat fluid but I live in hope that it will before the inimitable ‘poet of our age’ graces our shores again. 
          Why?  Because Mr Cohen – and particularly his song Suzanne – provides the ‘soundtrack’ to a section of my novel and it just makes perfect sense in my strange little ‘perfect bubble of a world’ that I should watch my first Cohen concert as a fully-fledged published author.
          I’d love to hear your thoughts on Leonard Cohen.  Anyone got a concert experience to whet my appetite?
          At the time of publishing this post, I am counting down the months until my novel hits the bookstores but at least I can confidently say that in 135 days Leonard Cohen will command the stage in Brisbane and I will be there inRow AA.   


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Awesome song.  Have a listen to Better Luck Next Time by The Smog Brothers at Triple J Unearthed Don’t forget to vote.

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A blonde and a brunette walk into a bar.
‘What’s the concert tonight?’ one of them asks the bar-tender.
Slyhooks,’ says the barman.
‘What did he say?’ says the blonde.
Skyhooks,’ says the Brunette, not picking up on the altered letter.
‘Can’t be,’ says the blonde. ‘They’re all dead!’


  By the time the first bars of ‘Living in the Seventies’ thumped out from the Helensvale Bowls Club stage, the two forty-somethings were nicely primed courtesy of what looked like a very fine bottle of Chardonnay and, through the haze of stage-fog and the flashing lights, they appeared momentarily stunned at the sight of ‘Shirl’, seemingly reincarnated.
     Of course the real Shirl – Graeme Strachan – died in a helicopter accident in 2001 but Scott Dean almost brings him back to life with his curly wig, boyishly bare chest and satin pants, and – most importantly – a voice that is uncannily ‘Shirl’.
It’s anyone’s guess what the remaining – very much alive – members of the real seventies band would make of Slyhooks, but there is no doubt this tribute band has captured the essence of the archetypes. The guys have the official endorsement of Skyhooks bass guitarist and song-writing maestro Greg Macainsh.
Listening to Slyhooks was, for me, like stepping into a time machine. I didn’t even need to close my eyes to be transported back to Melbourne’s Festival Hall in 1975. Or the Myer music bowl. Or Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide. I told you; big fan.
I must declare an interest on more than one level. Slyhooks guitarist – Bob (Bongo) Champion is my brother (and let me just say the sight of him in lipstick was rather confronting). But any bias that this relationship could bring is counteracted by my status as a die-hard Skyhooks fan who almost fainted at the thought of a tribute band. This is someone who didn’t speak to her best friend for a year after falling out over who was the better band – Skyhooks or Sherbet (those saccharin clean-cut boys that some girls swooned over through the seventies). Why anyone would even consider comparing the gooey lyrics of songs like Sherbet’s ‘Summer Love’ to the raw sexuality of ‘Balwyn Calling’ or the Carlton drug deals in ‘Lygon Street Limbo’ defies logic.
The rest of the line-up in this glam-rock reincarnation – apart from Dean as Shirl and Champion as Bongo – consists of Tom Matthews as Greg in his white suit and blue eye-shadow, Pete (Freddy) Leighton on drums – who got a huge cheer after his solo (those drummers always were the baddest of the bad boys) – and Doug Savage on lead guitar looking so much like Red Symons, its eerie. All the guys come from diverse and lengthy musical backgrounds. Dean is a veteran of revival shows, with Credence and Led Zeppelin under his belt, while Leighton – the original drummer for Buffalo – has worked with Oz-rock luminaries like Jeff St John and Doug Parkinson.
The audience at Helensvale was an eclectic mix: old hippie Skyhooks fans like me, who remember nights of heavy passion sound-tracked by ‘You just like me ‘cos I’m good in Bed’ (which, incidentally, was the song chosen by triple-jays frontrunner 2JJ to kick-off their station transmission in 1975), to club regulars who came for a meal and stayed on. Arms waved and a cacophony of voices sang along to ‘All my friends are getting married’ and a couple of boot-scooters busted some moves to ‘Blue Jeans’.
The energetic hype calmed a little toward the end of the second half – the multiple key changes make some of the original Skyhooks numbers hard to dance to – but, after a short intermission and some more well-known classics, the crowd grooved and stomped and whistled and cheered till the end. Dean Scott, as Shirl, interacted with the fans: leading a conga line, giving necklaces away to some ‘Mercedes Ladies’, and convincing a few people to have a go at the limbo. Most found it impossible to keep their seats when the band belted out ‘Women in Uniform’ and there were younger rebels who joined in exuberantly to the finale; ‘Why don’t you all get …’. It was Skyhooks’ unrefined suburbia to a tee.
What happened to the blonde and the brunette? No idea. I saw them dancing and belting out the lyrics to ‘Ego is not a Dirty Word’ but I didn’t look for them at the end of the show. I was far too busy being introduced by my brother to his fellow band members.
I always did want to say ‘I’m with the band’. 

I'm with the BAND!





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