Almanac Music: Al and I… and Ron


The Footy Almanac reprises this story by Matt Zurbo as a tribute to Ron S Reno of Died Pretty who passed away yesterday.


The place was a cave, down a lane, an afterthought under skyscrapers. This ghost in the machine.

I needed it, on a Wednesday night. To forget why I was in the city, to forget a lot of things. I brought Al with me. My overweight, Greek friend, youngest of seven, in two bands. Each one full of fire, love and fun. Both mirrors of him. The humanity that life and music should be built around.


“Your shout,” I told him, the family man.


The second we hit the bar I couldn’t remember where we were before, other than poor Al was already struggling. Two new kids will do that.


The barwoman had the most tired eyes, that had seen it all, that didn’t care – that Beast of Burden was written about and for – kicking me loose and in love. I picked the stool directly opposite her, knowing nothing would impress, nothing phase, ordered shots and beer and start obsessing over an insanely luscious wall.


Eventually, something emerged from the blur of hip grunge.


“I fucking worshiped this band,” I said.


A beautiful, winding song, ten-fifteen years old. Too good, too poetic from me or here.


Even drunk, Al continued to be so damn likable. “Hmm… Why?” he asked, through closed eyes.


“Mostly the singer, Ron,” I said. “They were junkies, I think. Their music had that swirl, those highs and troughs, that winding, unwinding power. His voice, I couldn’t understand a word, but it just… consumed you with its raw emotion. It hurt and felt and was, I dunno, pure.”


“Oh, that’s him beside you…” Al mumbled.


It was.


The long hair was gone, up close he was small, tiny, but still had that presence, the power of his voice extended through his frame.


I brought him a drink, which descended into a love triangle of drinks and music, until my brain kicked loose, and the world spun, as free as planned.


“Let’s dance,” Ron said.


My hero, my idle.


By now I was holding Al on his stool. He half slept and mumbled and didn’t spill a drop, the trouper.


“Give me a second, I’ll just dust him off,” I said.


“No,” Ron insisted. “Just me, just you…”


And my hero, who fed and expressed so much of my early-years emotion, moved in, nose-to-nose, doing some flamingo think, all gypsy, arms wide, fingers clicking, pout, pouting, pout, pouting, breathing.


Really fucking breathing.


I hadn’t given up on those tired eyes behind the bar. The lostness they invited you to fall into. Apparently, I knew Ron, and drank like a human. They watched, the mouth under them talked. She talked.


Oh, I needed her! No thoughts, no agendas, just this one word, felt, not explained. Even though I knew I really needed to want her, to feel something. The potential of lust and romance for a remote mountains man.


A woman who understood music, wore it, indifferently, on her back while she worked, in her hair.


It must have been the sight; me, trying to hit on a casual goddess, while holding up my dearest friend who had to get back to his family, while having my other leg humped to hell and back by my flamingo dancing musical idle.


In that moment, strangely, I felt invincible. This was the picture, the frame. The story.



But there was a Part II, what, five years, a decade later again. Living in a mountain shack in nowhere off nowhere, in the Tassie highlands, I had come to Melbourne, and found myself in the Old Bar, another small cave full of shadows and noise, a simple stage that fed memories and housed souls.


There, with my new tall, attractive, nymphomaniac lover. The sex, not being a kid, was wearing me down. Ron was playing, just him and a dude and the dude’s guitar. As small as it was, the place was full, perfect. The worshiper’s of an abandoned man, who’s band once ruled the underground, giving him a crowd.


He was old now, bald. Sentences trailed off. I wondered what was left, then he sang.


At one stage, at song’s end, he let loose a note, this sound, that pinned back hearts and ears and carried and carried and just plain fucking held. That had a run-up, the one shape, no words, even though it started as a word, tried to kid you it was a word.


This power.


I wondered if I was projecting. The nymph and I were not going well.


But, as the note ran dry, a woman beside me, old, dressed in her dyed black beehive, as if 20 yeas ago, gasped, breathing; “Oh, Ron…”


He still had it, even if the charts had long, long forgotten. And her voice, escaping in sigh, remains, to this day, one of the purest expressions of love, the most beautiful of things, I have ever, ever heard.


You can read more from Matt Zurbo Here.


Read Ian Wilson’s tribute to Died Pretty Here


Read more stories from Almanac Music  HERE


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  1. Love it, old dog.
    Beauty can be felt, heard, experienced in the most interesting and surprising of places

  2. Beautiful, Matt. “Passion” doesn’t even cut it – that’s a love letter. Go Ron.

  3. Malby Dangles says

    Love it! You’re a legend mate and so is Ron and the staff at the bar :)

  4. Thank you all.

    And thanks for the night, Malby.

  5. Malby Dangles says

    RIP Ron Peno.
    His voice was/is something magnificent.

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