Almanac Memories: When the sun sets over Carlton.

I am fifteen. Beyond a boy, still a cheap impression of a man.Fluttering as I am between youth and an odd future. My hair is surfer blonde, bleached by the sun. I am wearing a really cool Hawaiian shirt  that I wish I still owned. Wish that it hadn’t gone to the moths. A pukka shell necklace.  I’m looking pretty spiffy.  It’s a daggy decade, according to unborn hipster fashionistas. But as Johnny Topper would tell ya… “I’ll be a Dag for ya baby.”


I’m trying to look eighteen-legal drinking age, and 729 days beyond where I currently stand. I have no idea of the adventures that are, as yet, to be navigated over those 729 days. I’m flanked by two mates, trying to pay a small cover charge at a ratty little pub called Martinis in Carlton. Fellow grommets-well sorta. Bernie is a grown man and I’m hiding in the shadow of his shoulder. Another mate, about a year older: a tall German kid, who will root a lot of women and break hearts is bringing up the rear. He’s doing his best to add to the illusion of grown blokiness.


I have no phoney driver’s license. It’s all bluff. Like a bad poker hand. The worst case scenario is they won’t let me, and maybe Grant in. (The Aryan specimen and rooter of hot chicks.) We’d have  to cool our jets in the car park scoffing down six, already procured, cans of Carlton Draught. Bernie would proceed to join our two groups of friends, all barely legal. Gathered, as they are, around a knot of tables. Jostling pot glasses, jugs of beer, and bottles of cheap Spumante. My brother and his girlfriend Ileanna. A country boy; Tony Hill. Tony, who’s doing his best to adopt a lifelong love of motorcycles and machinery to our surf going ways. Two girls. Jenny Davies and Linda Brown. Sweethearts, and part of the puzzle. We will fall in and out of each others lives, in many ways, across the years; but we will always be friends. Except for the Brother. But that is another story, for another time.


We’ve tried to time it just right. Not too early. Not too late. The brick shithouse bouncer, not yet re-branded as a security consultant, is checking out the girls in the line. Underage boys are off the radar for now.  With patience, guile and a smile we three have paid the small cover charge and are admitted as paying customers. We are too cool for school. The Christmas just gone, I’d seen tonight’s headliner, open the proceedings for The Skyhooks at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Skyhooks, an arty Carlton band, who had, without warning, launched themselves like a ballistic missile at the National conscience. Smart arses in that uniquely Australian way. Carried on the broad back of Greg Macainsh’s songs and the keening alto voice of a surfing carpenter, Graham “Shirley” Strachan. GBNF. And the little girls screamed, and wet their pants, like it was 1964. Many are Grandmothers now. Many still rocking out down the local pub. I know; because I know a few.


Opening for the biggest band in the land. A daunting task. Not for the faint and lonely hearted. Joseph Vincent Camilleri; baptized a Pelaco Brother, now leading his little helpers through a cracking version of Otis Redding’s, Security. Songs I had never heard before that would burrow deep into my ears, and hang about over the next forty years.  They closed their thirty minute set with a galloping version of Chuck Berry’s, Run Run Rudolph.  I remember it as one of the greatest Christmas gifts I was ever given. The group, now known as Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, started burning up Pubs, RSL’s, Leagues clubs and hodge podge discos across the sunburnt continent. We were truly, living it up in the 70s.


Joe Camilleri struts, shouts, croons, exhorts the crowd and honks a tenor saxophone. Wayne Burt looks shy, plays a red stratocaster. Writes great songs. (Criminally under recorded.) Gary Young bangs  the drums.The big bass player from America slams out a song called “ yes indeed” about Willie Dixon. I don’t know who Willie Dixon is. My education has begun.


It was  easy to get out and stop hanging around the holiday house. In those days. It was grouse. Peter Lillee convinced me.It was like a flood. Like watching a flower bloom. One of those slow motion Richard Attenborough documentaries. The creepy crawly critters crawled out of their burrows. The Models, JAB, Young Modern, The Birthday Party. All now old, and modern remembering the good old days. A time when a determined man should  go to Sydney to revive his lost career. It’s hard to describe the power of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons if you weren’t there. The Sports.  Gulliver Smith. Sidewinder, the mugs, the jugs. Standing  with jaws open. It was a grand time. Laurie Richards helped me to sneak into the the Tiger room at Francis Bourke’s pub, the Royal Oak, on Swan St. He gave me a gift.

About Charlie wells

I am an Australian singer and songwriter living in San Diego, California. Supported Geelong since I was knee high. I have strong opinions about the way the world should be, although I try to stay off my soapbox.I have been lucky to travel a lot in my life and go a lot further than I thought my beginnings would allow. I had a few fallow years where I was not writing much and wasn't playing at all. But I have rectified that problem and met some good players and i am busy again making up songs and performing them wherever i can. I have a couple of projects in the works. Coffin ship: which is a collection of songs that draw from the seven seas. Six string box: Songs that I call my square pegs for round holes. Jubilee: songs largely written during "Depression 2.0") That's a lot of new songs ain't it. So hopefully you'll get to hear them soon if you have an interest in what I am doing. When I grow up i want to go to the moon and mine Helium 3.


  1. Charlie- you paint a boisterous suburban picture here. Some cracking Australian names too such as Skyhooks and Camilleri.

    Willie Dixon goes pretty well too- in an attempt to educate/indoctrinate our boys I’ve played him to them also.

    Enjoying your voyages into the middle past. Thanks.

  2. Charlie wells says

    Thanks mate.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Skyhooks were the first group that got me to shell out my own $5.99 for their stuff.

    I see that The Falcons and The Sports will be doing a gig at the Melbourne Zoo Twilights in the upcoming summer.

    I wish I could track down the movie “Oz” – Jo Jo Zep had a fair chunk of the soundtrack.

    Thanks Charlie/Ron

  4. Charlie Wells says

    @mark. I believe it is on You tube. Beating around the bush is. Damn, wish i was there for that show. Ah, five years too serve on my sentence…

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Charlie, it’s been up for a few months. There goes my weekend.

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