Thursday, 31 October 2013


(1) Launceston. 1972.

Listening to the first and second Velvets albums in Launceston (on vinyl – natch . . .) with my friend David Woodhall at his house. We were both 16 or 17. We smoked a lot of pot. At the end of the night – after multiple plays of Sister Ray – I said to David “what if we’re already dead and this is what happens next?” We were young but the Velvets were part of our psyche – then and now. We both owed Melbourne’s David N. Pepperell for the tip in the first place.

(2) Adelaide. 1974.

I’m in Adelaide as a Tasmania representative at the Under 18′s for the Australian Squash Championships. My friend David has asked if I want to see Lou that night. I go to the official opening party in my green blazer and nice pants then race to the venue. We’re in the 10th row. It’s AC/DC as the support. A month before Bon takes over on vocals. They’re wearing pink flares. Come the break and I’m feeling kinda self conscious in my squash party uniform. Did I say this was Adelaide in 1974?
Show time. The band hits with Sweet Jane as Lou wanders out. Amazing show. Two moments. Lou teases a guy near the front. Beckons him to get onstage and dance. Eventually the guy does, Lou turns his back as the bouncers throw the guy out. Show ends. Lou goes to leave. Doors only exist because of walls. Lou would appear to have a choice. He walks straight into the wall. His minders navigate the other option.

(3) Australia. 1985.

I’m managing the Hoodoo Gurus. We’re doing a national tour with Lou. I never get to meet him. But on the morning of our flight from Adelaide to Melbourne we’re boarding the plane and Lou and my eyes meet. He winks. That was it. Ken West promoted the tour. He used to have a framed tour poster on his wall. It read “To Ken – nice try – Lou.

(4) Sydney. 1995.

Lou and I are talking. My attempts at matching it with ‘intellectual’ Lou are falling flat. Questions about Paul Auster and Vaclav Havel are going nowhere. The conversation is spiralling – downwards. I mention the 30th Anniversary Bob Dylan show at Madison Square Garden. Lou become frighteningly nice: “You’ve got to understand, to my right was Booker T, behind me was Duck Dunn, and to the left was Steve Cropper for Christ’s sake . . . I was in heaven. I couldn’t even imagine more fun.”
From this point on Lou and I were bonding – over music. My closing to the story went:
Just as we hang up Reed tells me it was nice talking. Coming from him it’s a big compliment. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Ten minutes later he’d dissecting a woman at Triple J with the sensitivity of a demented, pathological surgeon. Oh, that’s right. He IS an arsehole. An extraordinarily talented arsehole.


Things to listen to:

- All four Velvets albums – Loaded is my favourite followed by the Third Album
- Pretty much any version of ‘Sweet Jane’. The greatest opening riff in rock’n'roll history.
Live At Max’s and 1969 Live (double album) for the best glimpse of the Velvets live.
The Quine Tapes – cassette recordings by the guy who would later be Lou’s (inspired) guitar foil.
New York - for its searing dissection of New York.
Songs For Drella – Lou and John Cale pay a beautiful tribute to Andy Warhol.
- ‘Coney Island Baby’ – for the lines “I wanna play football for the coach.”
Rock’n'Roll Animal - Lou’s greatest post-Velvets live album.
Take No Prisoners – Lou’s second best (and nastiest – and funniest) live album.
- ‘Street Hassle’ – for the line “that bitch will never fuck again” and Bruce Springsteen’s cameo at the end.
- ‘Walk On The Walk Side’, ‘Vicious’, ‘Perfect Day’ – the hits. And they were great hits.
- ‘This Magic Moment’ – by Doc Pomus on Till The Night Comes: A Tribute To Doc Pomus. One of Lou’s heroes and a major inspiration for the Magic & Loss album.
- Berlin - is this or Big Stars Third Album/Sister Lovers the most haunting album ever?
… I could go on.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


After realising I wasn't cut out to be an English, Speech & Drama teacher I left Launceston in the mid 1970s for Adelaide to pretend to study at Flinders University, considered then to be the most radical university in the country. Initially I lived in the suburb of Collinswood in a big spiralling typically Adelaidian sandstone house with the also re-located-from-Launceston David Woodhall and his girlfriend and her sister.

David was presenting the rock show on the recently established ABC FM station right around the corner from where we lived. At the time the station didn't have much of a record library so David and I concocted a plan whereby I'd put my rather large record collection in the ABC library and charge them a weekly fee (maybe $30 which was about a third of what you needed to live on in those days) for the use of them. If I woke at night with the burning desire to hear a particular album I'd just wander around to the ABC and borrow it back.

One album that never seemed to make it to the ABC library was Television's debut album Marquee Moon which was released in 1977. It seemed like we played the ultra thin Australian pressing of the Elektra album till we wore out the grooves. Night after night after night.

There were the stock standard record shops in Adelaide in those days and two that we gravitated to. There was a small import store in a little arcade off Rundle Mall and then a guy called Bo opened a shop in a little side street not that far away. It was called Modern Love Songs and it quickly became the mecca for every punk/new wave fan in Adelaide. it's where I bought albums and singles by not only Television but The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Pere Ubu, Richard Hell, Talking Heads, Dave Edmunds, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, Generation X, The Clash and so many others. It was the place where if you were lucky you might pick up an original (or pseudo) copy of Television's debut single Little Johnny Jewel on the Ork label from 1975. 

Without sounding too old and I was there-ish, being a music fanatic was different in those days. Put it this way - the morning the Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks came out there was a queue right down the block from Modern Love Songs waiting for the doors to open. I was in that queue. It's awhile since I've seen that if you get my drift.

Amidst all this music Television always seemed so cool and mysterious. Marquee Moon and it's follow up Adventure from 1978 (which I sometimes prefer to the debut) were the constant soundtrack to those years. Tom Verlaine and his mates Richard Lloyd, Billy Ficca and Fred Smith were creating this seemingly timeless aural genius that we listened to again and again and again.

Unlike most of their contemporaries Television never toured Australia which just added to the mystique. About ten years ago they did a couple of shows in New York City whilst I was there. I was exhausted after a gruelling SXSW and two weeks of tramping the streets on NYC and just couldn't raise the energy levels to get out - a decision that will continue to haunt me forever. I remember David Fricke, who naturally went to both shows,  gently chiding me: "Stuart, don't worry, they'll do it again in, well, maybe 15 years."

Which sorta brings us to 2013 when Verlaine, Ficca and Smith along with long standing replacement for Richard Lloyd, Jimmy Rip are in Australia, initially for All Tomorrow's Parties and then for some additional shows in Sydney, Perth, Auckland and Hobart.

"I just met Tom Verlaine smoking a cigarette up the road outside" grinned my awestruck friend Ken Gormley as he walked into the Enmore Theatre. It was that sorta night. Predominantly male fans of a certain age coming to see something that most of us never expected to experience. Television.

Hipsters were bemoaning the absence of Lloyd but there was no cause of concern as Rip proved to be every bit the inventive foil for Verlaine that Lloyd had once been. The set was essentially Marquee Moon (but not in the order of the recorded version) along with Little Johnny Jewel, a couple of other songs and a closing cover of the Count Five's Psychotic Reaction.

As expected Television made few concessions to the occasion. The lighting could only be described as basic. There was a constant hum from the PA almost all night, along with a lot of between song tuning. And whoever was hired to mix Verlaine's vocals was obviously only paid to turn up for the last four songs. But it was Television. Glorious, glorious Television. They soared. They cajoled. They teased. They were ferocious. They were gentle. They were just cool. I kept looking at them and my over-riding throughout was "wow, these guys have experienced New York City since at least the early 1970s. This is the sound of that city and I'm so jealous I'm not them".

Of course I bought a T shirt. Then I came home, fired up the turntable and listened to Marquee Moon for the 1345th time. I was in Lewisham. I was in New York City. And I was in Adelaide in 1977.