Friday, March 31, 2006

It's a girl!

In approximately 11 days time (give or take a year - no aspersions on the good folks at MAD CDs, it's just one of those nerve-wracking nail-biting times) Touchwood gives birth to a new CD called Between Two Doors ("Fra Due Porte" if you speak Italian. If you speak Klingon: "Between Two Doors". Hmm - looks remarkably like English).

"BTD" (bacon, tomato and devon) is a CD of our own arrangements of traditional Northern Italian folk songs, as learnt from listening to archival interviews with Italian migrants in Australia. It's not as scary as it sounds. There's something for everyone, especially fans of a good whistling solo and enthusiasts of a good chicken impersonation (John Warner 'ware!). Other fascinating details to listen out for include a hot ukulele solo, a song about smoking taught to a small boy by some nuns, an accordion which sounds remarkably like two clarinets and a solo by young Isobel Andrews and her friends.

The project came about when Rob Willis sent us a few songs on CD. He like sto do this when he unearths something interesting in his travels collecting stories and songs around the country. I have a full set of twelve from him - they make very attractive drinks coasters and they scare the birds. Oh - and they inspired us to make a CD too.

Some of the songs on the CD are very well known in Northern Italy and in fact all over the country. Others are undiscovered gems. It's satisfying to release these songs knowing that very few songs from the NORTH of Italy have made it on the Australian folk radar. The songs we generally hear are from the South, and if you're not sure what the difference is, I dare you to pop into the Australian Calabrese Association*, select a patron at random, and tell them they bear a strinking resemblance to your cousin from Venice. Make sure there are no chairs in the room.

As for the difference in the music between north and south - I'm sure many theses have been written on the subject and what would we know anyway, we're just a bunch of Aussies who listen to Tom Waits a lot. There is an obvious difference in the dialects. There are a lot of songs about going off to war (the North is closer to the European battlefields of WW I and II). There are a lot of love songs in waltz time. They sing about smoking a lot so it must be cultural.**

The CD itself was recorded in a twelve hour session at Q Studios. The Beatles recorded "Please Please Me" in the same amount of time in 1962. Just Worth Noting. Our George Martin was the Great David Gilfillan, our engineer Michelle Barry. Afterwards we all went out and got smashed.**

The CD holds hidden delights, revealed only by inserting it into one's computer. There are lyrics, translations and a little story on each song - how we came to it, where it comes from, etc.

After a launch at the National Folk Festival we plan to launch it in Sydney and hopefully take it to Italy next year. Stay tuned. And by all means make someone very happy by purchasing one as a birthday gift, a graduation pressie, or a spontaneous show of affection.

* I don't think there's such a thing.
** I invite you to smell a rat. Figuratively, or literally if that's your thing.

Monday, August 22, 2005

coming soon to a newsagent near you

Only way we're getting a cover...

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Things They Say!

Funny kids' responses to our questions during the Blindman's Holiday schoolshow extravaganza:

BMH: Why wouldn't the gypsies pop a piano in their backpacks (explaining the portability of the voice)?
kid: Because you could have someone's eye out!

BMH: What's this (pointing to goatskin part of drum)?
kid: lion skin!
kid: bamboo! (Linda heard it as "band aids" which was funnier)

BMH: What garden vegetable is this (demonstrating a gourd)?
kid: a pea?
kid: a pear?
kid: a carrot?
but the most common response is "punkin", which is close enough.

BMH: What's the job of the drummer in the band?
(our quiet asides: drink a lot; tell banjo jokes; dribble ...)
kid; play the drums (we get that a lot).

BMH: What are we playing (demonstrating SE Asian wooden frogs)?
kid: a crocodile!


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Join the AAFA now!*

Gweetings from Mt Gambier where the Lake is Blue and the chocolate has all been eaten (by me). Sorry - I should have explained in my previous post that I am not on tour with Touchwood, but in fact Blindman's Holiday. I thought it was obvious - I know who I'm touring with so why shouldn't everyone else? But enough about me, let's talk about me.

Badgers do make me very very happy. Chocloate plus badgers have made Night One in Mt Gambier a very jolly one!

More later ...

* The Australia Association of Futile Acronyms does not accept COD, DOA or DDT


This one's for Christina, because we miss her. And we know badgers make her happy.

>> click here <<

Sorry about that - back to what you were doing...

Monday, July 25, 2005

two-wheeled tricycle

Just to explain Christina's post from Adelaide (below)...

C is travelling and performing for three weeks with Another Band. BMH - or Blindmans Holiday - are another fine Sydney-based vocal trio, but that's about where the similarity to Touchwood ends.

Terry and I are stuck here in Sydney. Rehearsals will be thin indeed without the middle part!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Greetings from Adelaide!

Wise Jungle Saying: "it is faster to fly to Adelaide from Sydney than to drive". A nippy evening here in the City of Crutches but Musica Viva is kindly putting us up in luxury. Tomorrow we set off on a three-week tour of school shows. And cake-eating.

We strolled down Hindley Street this evening and I reminisced with myself about my time here with Kate and Terry just a few weeks ago. The big difference is that this time I had my new bag with me that has POODLES on it! I sure am taking this city by storm.

Flying with BMH is no mean feat. "I'm afraid you're going to have to pay an Excess Baggage Fee" drolled the check-in chick. No s&%t, Sherlock. Two speakers (each the size of a large-ish dog), an amplifier, a bombo, a darbukka, four mike stands, a bad of stuff that jingles, a cabassa and a suitcase each (including the Mother of All Suitcases, mine). What's 'excessive' about that? The fellas from Sirocco are going to have it worse - we bumped into them in the departure lounge and they had just about all that stuff I've just listed EACH. Not to mention the camel suit.

Right at this moment I'm having a "glass half empty" moment. I went to reception (which is 24 hour - just like a real hotel) to purchase some broadband connection and instead of selling me an hour's worth I got 24 hours' worth! I'd like to go to sleep in my enormous king sized bed, but I sitll have 11 hours of access. Bummer, eh?

Friday, July 08, 2005

number three ...

Yes, I too am back in the real world despite grossly exaggerated rumours that I was last seen riding towards the horizon on-llama.

Here are a few shots, including an excellent one of Terry and Kate tearing each other apart with their bare hands to claim the Backgammon Champion tag ...

Monday, July 04, 2005

tea in the desert

More than a week back at work and finally have pulled all my tour pics off the camera. This one was taken at the sunset viewing area on the day we arrived at Uluru in our rented campervan.

Tea is important to travel (well, Douglas Adams thought so) and we came close to not being able to enjoy the restorative brew shown here. For those of you hiring a Britz van, there is a SECOND gas stopcock concealed in the cupboard NEXT TO THE STOVE.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

champion of champions

Just so you know. Just so it's officially recorded for some digital approximation of posterity...

Christina was the winner of the backgammon tour-nement.

She beat me by two rounds.
I'll get her next time.

photos from the trip

For those of you who like looking at pictures, here is a link to a slideshow of my photos from our month away. Not many human interest ones, I'm afraid - but lots of rocks and trees!

Just click on the picture below:

Kate's photos of Touchwood's tour

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

caricatures (with hair)

Harking back to the days when we all had long hair, here is a sketch that has just come to hand from a gig in November 2003.

Thanks Amalina!

home again, home again, jiggety jig

Flew in this morning early from Darwin. Very early. All the flights seem to leave Darwin around 1am. One local told us "that's because the planes sleep in Darwin". Our host rather philosophically explained it thus: "Nothing flies out that hasn't flown in". Kind of a what-goes-up-must-come-down thing.

Glad to be back in our own homes, but sad to see another Touchwood adventure come to a close.

Now on to planning our UK trip for this time next year...

Monday, June 20, 2005

litchfield national park

Today we drove out in our little air-conditioned (yay!) hire car to Litchfield National Park, an hour or so out of Darwin. When I was last there 14 years ago, it was all dirt roads, and the reward for driving on the corrugated surfaces and traipsing along the dusty paths was a series of idyllic swimming holes populated by only a handful of other dedicated folks.
Sadly (or happily, depending on your perspective), the roads are now all sealed right up to the waterholes. Wangi Falls was full of people for whom the wilderness seems a little too confronting. I witnessed one pair of blokes walk down the pebblecreted path - holding the handy stainless-steel handrail all the way - right into the cool fresh water, only to complain about the roughness of the stones on the floor of the waterhole ("Gee, you'd think they could have shipped in some sand!" - I kid you not).
Still, the entire park remains a magnificent place to go to escape the relentless tropical heat of Darwin, and Buley Rockhole has to be one of the all-time greatest swimming experiences. Here are Christina and Terry doing their very best mermaid impressions sitting in the rapids of Buley Rockhole.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

doo wah diddy

Kate being a doo wop girl in an all-Aussie dinky di entertainment segment at Kings Canyon. Dig those dreads! For her trouble she won $20 (Monopoly money) and a certificate to show that she is now certified. Wacky, zany fun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

the birds (a film re-enactment)

When we arrived in Kings Canyon caravan park yesterday, it was to find our campsite infested by Native Mynahs.
These fellas have no fear, and snatched food from our hands (en route to our hungry mouths). Christina had to take refuge in the campervan - here she is eyeing off one bird who was threatening to jump up into the cab with her.

Today we went on a big walk up to the top of the canyon and around the rim of it - magnificent. To reward ourselves for such uncharacteristic exertion, we took ourselves off to Kathleen Springs for a quiet picninc out in the bush.
Our lunch companion was a crow the size of a small pony. He was so peeved at our refusal to share our hard-earned ham sandwiches with him, that he proceeded to scvenge around underneath our campervan. We imagined him to be picking off squashed bugs from under the front bumper, but it turned out he was maliciousl removing the foam insulation from around the radiator. How to explain this to the hire company?!
(Oh, and then he shat on the window too.)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

we miss you jasmine!

Look - here we are on Jasmine's photo gallery - just as we were about to drive away from her home to travel across her homeland (The Mallee - didn't you know Jasmine's A Mallee Girl?) towards Adelaide.

more alice weirdness

Last night produced some more evidence for the case that Alice Springs is built on a point of confluence of powerful universal forces (like wow, man)...

It rained heavily in Alice for the first time in a year
This had to happen on the night we were booked to play in the open air on a restaurant rooftop. The sound system had to be turned off, so we huddled under the awning with the audience and played them a few songs from behind the bar. We did every song we know that mentions rain - Raining On Our Parade was a particular hit. Everyone ended up having a lot of fun.

NoKTuRNL played support for us
If you don't know who these guys are, you need to either listen to more triplej or visit their website. These guys are serious famous. and normally Very Loud. They were playing last night under an assumed name so as not to alert their minders and fans to the fact that they were playing a nice little acoustic gig in their home town

Another duo featured a local Lutheran minister on lead vocals
The Super Raelene Brothers are actually siblings, unlike the Flying Burrito Brothers. Two fine local musos with political yet funky songs - they even sang Leon Rosselson's World Turned Upside Down. One of them works for the Greens, and we had met him earlier in the day at the Bob Brown thing. The other turns out to be a Lutheran minister. I want to be in his church!

I met a friend from high school...
... and we both recognised eachother. Turns out Astri has been living and working in the centre for 10 years or so.
Then to add freakiness to weirdness- after another two or three hours, Christina says "Oh - I know HER!" Turns out they worked together on a project a little while back, but only ever talked on the phone.

We met two women who had never heard of Senator Bob Brown
Of course, they both work at Pine Gap, so I guess they don't move in those circles. But how weird is it that we have fans from Pine Gap?

We got offered a free trip to Uluru next time we visit
The owner of a tour company was at the gig, and was impressed by how unflappable we were in the face of inevitable electrocution.

Today we go on another explore around town, before another gig at The Lane tonight - lets see what adventures this one holds...

Friday, June 10, 2005

smile for the camera!

The sign said "We like having our photo taken".
They didn't lie - this emu stood posing for us at the Alice Springs Desert Park for absolutely ages.

a place of freaky connections

There we were at the Alice Springs Desert Park attending a session about the local Indigenous language when the presenter asked for our names for a session of "Go Fish" in Arrente.

I say my name. She says "I used to live next door to you in Newcastle". The penny drops from on high. Thought she looked familiar, but NEVER would have twigged unless she had.

Jodie and her partner Daniel were post-earthquake neighbours of myself and my two former Newcastle flatmates in Council St Cooks Hill. When they moved from Newcastle they moved here and stayed. They love it and won't be going back. We talked about cats - both now sadly deceased. A feeling of weirdness descends.

sir bob brown

We've just got back to the yoof hostel after having a refreshing morning cuppa with Senator Bob Brown (National-Treasure-in-waiting).

He claimed to remember having seen us sing Old Blevins in the cabaret at Cygnet Festival last year, but I'm sure he was just being nice.

He's such an able media performer for someone who is so authentic and a fundamentally decent bloke - it must be so hard for him to spend so much time toe-to-toe with dissemblers and fraudsters in parliament. He arrived here from Darwin this morning, and this afternoon heads off to Melbourne and Hobart before filming Meet The Press in Sydney on Saturday. All the guy wants to do is go home to the Liffey to see his horses, poor bastard.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

alice springs update

Greetings from the Red Centre.
This is our fourth day in Alice, and it still feels strangely like another planet.
We hired a car on Tuesday and drove out along the Western McDonnell ranges - Simpson's Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Big Hole (gotta love that name), Serpentine Gorge and Glen Helen - alien landscapes of giant red gorges rising out of the desert with icy pools of water at the base. Little oases of ghost gums and prehistoric cycads. We saw a black-footed rock wallaby at a distance, and lots of English tourists at close range.

Yesterday we ran a harmony singing workshop at the Cultural Precinct, a wonderful arts complex just out of town. We met some folks who used to sing with the Adelaide Trade Union Choir - and are trying to work out how to help them get a solid community chopir of some sort happening out here. It's difficult, given the largely transient nature of the population here.

Back at the ranch (the Pioneer YHA), we were winding down with a couple of games of backgammon when we met up with some brave souls from Nowra who are leading a tour of their school concert band. 37 high-school kids for 6 days!!!
They were disappointed that they hadn't been able to squeeze one of our workshops here into their busy schedule, so we're organised to give them a custom-built version at Uluru on Sunday.
The people you meet!

Off to be tourists...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

We're in Adelaide, still

We met James' lovely tortoise-shell cats today, as well as his guinea pig "Bitey" and one of her offspring. We also got to hear some of his recordings featuring sampled sounds of cats purring and guinea pigs squeaking. And then we sang through some old (old, old, old) songs with he and Laura while Terry played lute and James playes bass viol.

Just look at those three sentences, willya? I have never had reason to utter them before and am fairly sure I never will again!

And to top it off, a great exchange between Kate and the taxi driver who brought us back to the YHA:
Kate: We're going to the big backpackers' place on Light Square please.
Cabbie: Oh - is that the place where all the backpackers hang out?
Kate: ... ... ... yes ...
Cabbie: which way do you want me to go?
Kate: We're from out of town - that's why we're going to the youth hostel. We don't know our way around at all.
From the back seat: sound of stifled giggles as Terry and I attempt to maintain decorum ...

Off to Alice Springs tomorrow.

Old Blevins live

Last Thursday we stopped in at ABC Radio Ballarat for an interview with Kathy Bedford for the Statewide Drive program in Victoria. We've now been posted to the ABC site in streaming audio (you need Real Player to hear us). Click here

Saturday, June 04, 2005

spooky events in adelaide

When touring performers come home and tell the tales of their adventures, they (we) can make the most dismal of gigs sound like a huge event only ever before seen in the likes of Wembley Stadium.

We're going to be honest here.

We played at the SA Folk Centre tonight, and Six People Turned Up. Six. S - I - X.
There were another five or so staff, and the three of us as well, so that's Almost A Crowd.
Nevertheless, we had a great time. Let me tell you why...

The guy who does the food at the Folk Centre - a young gentleman called James - was evidently sent to us through a portal to a parallel universe. One in which people (apart from Terry) can tell the difference between a Renaissance guitar and a vihuela. James knew the bass part (and all the other parts as well) to some of our early music repertoire, so we got him up on stage to sing with us.
This does not happen every day. Sure, people sing along with us to Hard Times or Old Blevins, but we're talking about a 1528 Parisien chanson here.

The new lineup.

James sings (and plays) in a three piece called Wol (read your Winnie The Pooh). Two girls with shortish hair and one guy with long hair. They sing three part arrangements ranging from early music to pop. Sound familiar?
The final piece in the freak-puzzle dropped when we realised he knew many of the African songs we used to sing in the Solidarity Choir.
So we ended the evening sitting around singing four-part harmony with the cook, and then helping him with his neglected washing up (come on, there were six people, that's not much washing up).

And tomorrow night we're going to Do Stuff. Hang Out. Sing Siyahamba.

and now adelaide...

It's getting late here in Adelaide, but after spending eight hours in the car today driving here from shiny Newstead, we're tired of being still and loath to go to bed.

We drove North from Newstead and then West across the Mallee. So very dry. Travelling across this country, you realise that Fred Williams was a photorealist painter after all - hours and hours of shimmering golden brown plains with occasional outcrops of dark scrub. We watched the setting sun turn the clouds into a rainbow of feathers across the horizon.

God bless iPods. We listened to the collected works of the Finn brothers, a bit of Tom Waits, and our driving favourite - Steve Nieve.

Our other pastime today was making up tourist board slogans for each tiny town we drove through. Example: "Welcome to Boinka. You don't have to be boinkas to live here, but it helps." Sherlock was even better.

Tell your friends about our gig tomorrow night at the South Australian Folk Centre!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Day Four

Jasmine has a heart like a rainbow. We're staying in her house just outside of Newstead in Victoria, except that this is not a house, it's an artwork in progress. I think of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia (without the height, devotion or mosaics). We are surrounded by mudbrick, quilted walls, books, and we've been told there are phascogales at night. This is the kind of place I want to live in when I grow up. Through the top window I can see Terry collecting wood for the fires downstairs. Above the computer (my mobile is dead but the broadband struggles bravely on) there is a jumble of books. I picked one up and opened a page at an Emily Dickinson poem:

I died for Beauty - but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room -

He questioned softly "Why I failed?"
"For Beauty," I replied -
"And I - for Truth - Themself are One -
We Bretheren, are," He said -

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night -
We talked between the Rooms -
Until the Moss had reached our lips -
And covered up - our names -

We've had so many adventures already - and it's only Day Four: being shown around the Mercy and Justice Centre in Bathurst I came across an old brown stairway I see in dreams ... in Jindera we have the WHOLE audience making bears' paws at us during "Waltzing With Bears" ... sitting around Jane and James' table sharing songs - they sing Cath Tait songs for us and I can't wait to hear them play more as a duo ... hearing the wonderful Sweet Monas fill the hall with their harmonies ...

Off to investigate what my pals are up to.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

three more sleeps...

...and we're out on the road again!

In many ways, this trip - through NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory - has been trickier to organise than a UK tour...
The distances to cover between gigs are far, far greater.
Much of the landscape will be much more alien.
And the extremes of temperature between sub-zero nights in the red centre and tropical days in Dawin will put our internal thermostats (not to mention clothes-packing abilities) to the test.

But it's always fun to be travelling together, singing (whether in the car or on stage) and meeting other singers.

Here we go, here we go, here we go! (That's the a cappella version.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

songs we've been asked to learn

Sometimes - nay, often - someone will come up to us after a gig and say "hey - you guys should sing THIS song...". This is a fine thing. Often it's a really good idea and it sits and percolates for a month, or a couple of years, until we realise the incredible insight and wisdom of the suggestion - even though in our ignorance we may have scoffed or looked vaguely appalled in the first instance.

Some of the songs that have been put forward - but not yet attempted - include:
  • Nights in White Satin

  • Horse With No Name

  • A song about gnomes, publicans and toilets

  • The Rose

  • Nearly every christmas carol in christendom

Chris and Terry might be able to recall others, and add them as a comment to this post. And you, our solitary reader, may like to suggest still more titles.

In a related vein... a gentlemen once asked us if we had thought of doing Tant Que Vivrai as a round (bear in mind that we're talking about a polyphonic Renaissance French chanson here), and another remarked proudly (at the Same Gig) that his band did an a cappella version of "Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go...". That's obviously quite a different kettle of fish to the orchestral version.

Friday, May 13, 2005

stand down code orange

Very disappointed here. A couple of weeks ago, we were contacted by a gentleman with amorous intentions. Not towards any of us, mind you, but for some lucky lady he'd been eyeing for a while.

So where do we come in?
He wanted to book us to play Cyrano to his Baron Christian de Neuvillette. That is, we were to stand beneath her window (or maybe outside her place of work, or even in Woolies, I'm not sure) and sing of his love for her.
OK, so Cyrano din't sing, but you get the idea.

There were a couple of potential problems with the plan from the outset...
  1. Most of our songs are about sadness and suffering - not such a good way to start a relationship.
    We managed to find one that would work - suitably sweet, with not too much of a stalking edge to it.

  2. What if she turned him down?
    Terry suggested that at least we could flog her an autographed CD, so it wouldn't be a total waste.

  3. What if she fancied him, but hated our music?
    Ha ha ha - only joking.

We've been on code orange since he was last in contact. Sleeping in our best serenading clothes, just in case we should get the call.

Happily, the couple concerned managed to find their way together without our musical intervention. No, really - we're just thrilled for them.

But we were kind of liking the idea. Any dumbstruck lovers out there want to hire a band?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

we're coming - hua hua huaaaaa!

Not many sleeps to go until Touchwood's next big adventure West, South, Souther, Central and further up. For full details of our itinerary please visit our website's gig page which Kate has lovingly updated.

(Silly) things we're excited about:

  • We get to meet The Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst (they are providing the venue) and find out if they are yet departed or gone (thanks Leonard).

  • We get to see if the giant pink poodle statue (? effigy?) has been reinstated outside the vet's in Albury (we always look out for it but it has been missing for some time now. Is there a pound for lost paper mache dogs? ).

  • Having a big ukelele rave with Jeremy, Kate, Angourie and Kalliope in Darwin. Rock on!

  • Arguing about whether to listen to Steve Nieve's "Mumu" in the right track order or on "random".

Special reasons to squeal "eeeeh!":

  • All the best people sing (have sung or will one day sing) in a choir. We'll be meeting a hearty number of those folk in Jindera and Adelaide.

  • We get to see the red centre (first time for me) and hopefully do the circumnavigation of Uluru.

  • Looking forward to a little of that Blackwood magic as we pass through Maldon.

Hope to keep cyberspace up to date with our adventures as we go, so stay tuned (as the choir leader said to the bishop).

Monday, April 11, 2005

Website revamp

Finally I've got my act together and done a redesign of the Touchwood website.
I wanted to make it a bit more straighforwardly-functional, seeing as we're using this-here blog to do all the news stuff.
Gigs on the front page, links to CD order forms etc. etc. - it's all there in its purply goodness.

Now we just have to get some photos done without all the long hair!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

National Folk Festival

cup pyramid
Plastic cup pyramid created by teenagers at the 2005 National Folk Festival
with used cups collected in the Budawang. Keep those Tibetan monks away!!

Monday, February 28, 2005

A new folk legend is born!

So said our MC at the Cobargo Folk Festival last weekend, speaking of our collaborator and Partner In Crime - Louise Watson.
Louise played cello with us at the festival, as she is wont to do. And, for the first time, she sang with us for one song as well. It was a real treat for us, and (we're sure) for the audience. But we're a bit worried that the MC's praise might go to her head...

Our other adventure of the festival (because we're not counting pneumonia as an adventure) was presenting our workshop on English bawdy songs of the 17th and 18th centuries. Smut in three part harmony - very fine.

See you in Canberra at Easter!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Music Everywhere!


Very straight-looking not-so-young woman wearing nun's shoes ("if the shoe fits, it's ugly") walks into a bar, oops, I mean a very hip record shop on Oxford Street. The aforementioned person is - let's say - me. I look around and everyone has stepped straight out of "Run Lola Run" or some other film where young people are groovy. And there's me - the slime that crawled in from off the street, and the piano player almost stops playing. I ignore the nervous eyes ("omigosh - someone from the suburbs")and march straight over to Pop/Rock and under "M" find the Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs". Thanks to james and the blue cat the day would have been ruined if I hadn't found it. I take the TRIPLE CD (there really are 69 songs on it!) to the counter. The sales assistant's face lights up.

"This is THE BEST ALBUM ever made" she enthuses, brushing back a wisp of green hair, and the rest of the staff look over and nod appreciatively. Suddenly, I know how it is to be cool. It's cool.

Now the CD is MINE - hua hua huaaaaa!

I'm enjoying disk one a lot so far. Haven't listened to the other two because:

Col is a gentleman. And I don't mean that he knows how to play the banjo and chooses not to. I actuallly don't know if he can play banjo. Col is a gentleman because has lent me (in two batches) the new CD releases of Elvis Costello's back catalogue. They all come with a bonus CD containing outtakes, demo and acoustic of the songs as well as witty writings by EC on the making of the album and the inclusion of the extra tracks. A goldfield!

When I heard that Col had gone out and bought the CDs I suggested he and Katherine come around for dinner one night. Col knew better. He knew that I would be counting the minutes until the guests had gone so that I could give the CDs and liner notes my undivided attention. So he has just lent them to me! This makes him a gentleman!

The most impressive one so far has been "Goodbye Cruel World". I've always found that album impossible to listen to. Talk about a wall of sound - this is more like a plastic egg-carton of sound. To hear the songs in their pared down form is just fantastic. They are wonderful and well-crafted songs and it could well be giving "Brutal Youth" a run for its money as my favourite EC album. The stand-out track for me is an earlier version of "The Comedians", later recorded by Roy Orbison with different words. It's a perfect song for the Big O. But the original is pretty bloody good too. So I'm thinking of arranging a version for Touchwood.

This will keep the adrenalin up in the lead-up to the Cobargo Folk Festival in a few weeks (will we be able to learn it in time?!) and also distract Louise away from wanting us to do "I Am the Walrus".

Sounds like a plan.

In the final stages of preparing to record with Blindman's Holiday. We're very very close - only three more sleeps before we start! We stood in the double doorway into the big room at Q Studios and sang out to the back wall. What a sound! Crystal clear and so warm. I'm enjoying the lead up a lot. Everyone is very open to new ideas and trying stuff out. Greg White who is producing the album is enthusiastic and full of ideas about how it could work. We're all keen to get some low instruments in there. After all, an instrument can never be too low. We'e toying with the idea of bringing in a double bass and bass clarinet (intersting aside: did you know that Eric Dolphy died at just 36 years of age from a diabetic coma?). Exciting days ahead.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Happy Nightmares

I must be nice. Or at least Kate and Terry must think I'm nice because they bought me a ticket to see "The Black Rider" last night. I'd been looking forward to it for ages. What a treat - a night at a real theatre made out of proper bought things (instead of egg cartons and a splash of orange paint) and dressed up people.

The show was superb. The music bowled me over. What an ensemble. Lots of nice low instruments - bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone sax, double bass. Also A SAW!! Played majestically. [Help - I'm running out of superlatives. I'll just use the word 'elephant' instead of trying to come up with meaningful ones.] It was a creepy creepy show. Tom Waits and William Burroughs in the same spoonful was bound to be past-dentist's-chair part-abalone-three-legged-race, and this elephant production exceeded all expectations.

The inamtes of an asylum/freakshow, led by Pegleg, tell us a story: Wilhelm wants to marry the keeper's daughter, but he is not a good enough marksman to earn her. So he makes a pact with the devil who gives him magic silver bullets. To say any more would give too much away. Suffice to say, it's not a happy ending for our hero. Let that be a lesson to you, kids.

What I really love about William Burroughs' work is that it IS the story rather than TELLS a story. Can't think of any other way to say it. It was elephant to see Robert Wilson bringing those words to life. To be honest, I had unfairly assumed that Wilson was going to be the short leg of the creative tripod. After all, he is responsible (in the main) for at least two generations of young actors being forced to endure hours of slow-walking training, and at leas 20 times as many audience members having to yawn their way through the stuff. There's no theatre like Noh theatre! Although the slow walking did make numerous appearances, I found it a good time to concentrate on the soundtrack, which, in case I haven't yet mentioned, was elephant.

Later I was rewarded with some right-proper nightmares. Woke up with the wind rattling my bedroom door at 4am and I was unreasonably paralysed with fear that some demon was trying to get into my room. Thanks Bill, Tom, Bob.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Should Have Known Better

Inept Salespersons R Us. When working in retail one asks the dreaded question "would you like some help there" with trepidation. Should the customer actually require assistance matching shapes and colours, I'd be up a certain creek. Lucky for me the trickiest question I've ever been asked is "does my bum look big in this?" (to which I should have replied "perhaps Madam would like to try a bigger size of tea cosy).

Anyway, on the way home from said job I stop at the local video shop to borrow a DVD which is about the best no-brainer way to end a no-brainer four hours sorting through large tea cosies. I thought I'd try to find the film where Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni play prison escapees. Couldn't remember the title and the movie didn't jump out of the shelves when I browsed.

Should have known better. I asked the salesperson for assistance.

ME: Excuse me - do you know stuff about movies? Can you help me?

10 YEAR OLD SALES ASST: Not really. (Looks uncomfortable. I know that feeling. Boy, I've been there!)

ME: I'm looking for a film. (After all, this IS a cheese shop)


ME: It stars Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni, it's in black and white and it's about their adventures as prison escapees. I'm trying to remember the title.

ASST: (Looks blank. I feel bad - maybe she doesn't know who Tom Waits or Roberto Benigni are. She's trying to think "what were the names of those guys who produced disco music in the 80s? Waits and Benigni? Finally, after a pause so lengthy it would have driven Harold Pinter to the nuthouse): The Great Escape?

ME: No (What to say?!)

ASST: You could look up the actors in that book there and find out what the film is.

ME: Thanks. (I look up the movie and it's "Down By Law". I report this happy news to her. She looks it up on the computer)

ASST: Sorry, we don't have that one. You could try Dr Watt in Bondi Junction. They often have (pause. What??? Weird? Old??) films there.

ME: Thanks for your help. (Exeunt)


Monday, January 10, 2005

dancefloor daze

Friday night saw the three of us meeting at the northernmost Touchwood abode (mine) to drive for two hours to hear Kris Demeanor and His Crack Band play in Newcastle.
They weren't expecting us - hopefully it was a pleasant surprise. It was certainly great for us to see Kris, Diane and Chantal again, and to meet their drummer Peter, making his first visit here from Canada.
There were plenty of people there, though few seemed intent on listening to the witty, incisive lyrics or marvelling at the energy of the band's performance. Heavy drinking, followed closely by frantic interpretive dance, was more the style of the evening.
We grooved away quietly at the perimeter, requesting and being rewarded with all our favourite songs. But some weren't happy with our level of (in)activity, and coerced us onto the dancefloor with varying degrees of subtelty and success. One gentlemanly fellow resquested that he be permitted to escort Christina onto the dancefloor, and then abandoned her as soon as she was out there - cad! Another woman, slightly more ripped, persisted in manhandling everyone within reach towards the sparkle of the mirrorball. God, she was strong. It got a bit scary when she started launching a few karate kicks. Kris and the Cracksters coped with it all without batting an eyelid.
A hearty aussie toast to the band!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Them Miserable Sods

Coogee Beach, new year's day, 2am. Them miserable sods playing Macedonian tunes and cliched bagpipe music was uz. Hurrah! What a way to welcome in the new year. And who was it that said live music was dead and gone in the 'burbs?!

Apologies to any Macedonian or Scottish people who respect the music of their respective cultures. We meant well.