Almanac Music – Aussie album review: Weddings Parties Anything ‘Roaring Days’

 

 

I find myself wondering what type of city Melbourne will be, once it finally emerges from this seemingly eternal lockdown…

 

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I could not even begin to count how many times I saw Weddings Parties Anything play live. In the mid to late-80’s, they were one of my go-to live bands. From a small gig in the ramshackle back room of the Junction Hotel in Newport, to sold-out shows at the Forrester’s Arms in Oakleigh and The Old Greek Theatre in Richmond, they never disappointed. For years, I attended the sweaty sing-along pre-Christmas shows at the Central Club with my mate Macca. In the 90’s I was fortunate enough to attend Weddo’s shows with my wife Margaret, who became something of a fan of the band.

 

In April 2008, some twenty years after I had first seen them play, WPA performed five sold-out shows at the Corner Hotel as part of a ten-year reunion tour. Marg and I took our three young sons to the Sunday evening all-ages show – and to this day the boys still fondly recall their first ever live concert. Of course, by that stage of their lives (aged 13, 11, and 9 respectively) I had ensured that they already knew the words to “A Tale They Won’t Believe”, amongst many other tracks. They even knew to throw the obligatory coins at the band during “Ticket in Tatts”.

 

 

 

 

While achieving a modest level of fame, including winning a number of ARIA awards, Weddings Parties Anything often seemed to be on the verge of success without ever quite managing to break through. The band’s fanatical followers (myself included, I guess) sustained their existence for many years but, in the end, it probably was just not enough. The Weddos left behind a legacy of six albums, a few extended plays and a double live offering “They Were Better Live” which serves as a reminder of their on-stage potency.

 

My favourite Weddings Parties Anything album has always been “Roaring Days”, which was released only thirteen months after their superb debut “Scorn of the Women”. Some thirty-three years on, many of the tracks on that second album collectively stand as something of a love-letter to Melbourne, and I have found myself playing it regularly in recent months.

 

The album opens with the rocking “Industrial Town”, Mick Thomas mixing fond and not-so-fond memories of a boy growing up in a coal-mining town, who returns years later to find it deserted. Then it is straight into the jaunty “Under the Clocks”, one of the great musical tributes to the city of Melbourne. Among others, the lyrics reference Collingwood, Chapel St, Fawkner Park, and Thomas’ beloved Saints ‘Tell me this, is there anywhere you’d rather be than with me at the MCG?’

 

Dave Steel, who left the band to pursue a solo career after the release of this album, contributes the excellent but dark “Gun” and “Big River”, the latter a sad tale of a country boy who comes to Melbourne (‘the train pulled into Spencer Street’) in search of work but meets a tragic fate. Steel and Thomas also trade lyrics on Paul Kelly’s “Laughing Boy”, his tribute to the Irish poet Brendan Behan.

 

But overall, the album is a showcase of the improving song-writing of Mick Thomas, and the displaying of a harder edge from the Weddos, which would find its peak on the following album “The Big Don’t Argue”. “Sisters of Mercy” is a beautiful re-telling of the Melbourne nurses’ strike of 1986; “Summons in the Morning” a raucous tale of a run-in with a police officer (very similar in theme to the cover of “Sergeant Small”); “Roaring Days” (referencing the name of a Henry Lawson poem) a wistful consideration of what life may have been like in Lawson’s day compared to now, as Thomas drains those glasses “like rockets” at Young and Jacksons; “Morton (Song for Tex)” a wonderful childhood reminiscence of Thomas waiting in a Colac hall to see his hero, the troubadour Tex Morton, perform.

 

The highlight for me is the song “Brunswick”, in which Thomas paints a vivid picture of a suburb whose sights, sounds and smells he desperately misses “The air was rife with a Tip-Top bread…” but which he possibly did not appreciate enough at the time. The chorus rings true to anyone who might fondly recall times long gone “And if I see things through a hallowed gaze, Well is it such a crime, For I ain’t been to Brunswick for a long long time”.

 

The band was in excellent form around the time of this album’s release in May 1988. Drummer Marcus Schintler and bassist Pete Lawler formed a tight rhythm section, Steel is simply a huge musical talent, and Mark ‘Squeezebox Wally’ Wallace gave it everything on the piano accordion. I know, because I was there in the crowd. Many times.

 

There is the possibility of further Weddo’s reunions (Byron? Port Fairy?) in 2022. I hope so, because I miss them. Like I miss the Melbourne I once knew. But until we get our city back, “Roaring Days” will just have to do.

 

 

More from Smokie Dawson can be read HERE

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021 – as will the 2021 edition to celebrate the Dees’ magnificent premiership season.
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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. You don’t miss a beat, Smokie. Such knowledgable enthusiasm. Such articulate appreciation.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Terrific review of a brilliant album Smokie.

    You know how much Mick and the Weddos have influenced my life.

    Still one of the few albums I can listen to without jumping a track. Hard to believe Roaring Days is 33 years old.

  3. Ta Smokie, good memories of the pre Xmas W P A performances @ the Central Club. There were also gigs at the long gone Punters Club, where Mick Thomas lived upstairs for a while. They were the ‘Roaring Days’!

    My favourite song was always ‘Streets of Forbes’, which they released as a single. To my knowledge the only album it’s on is a compilation. Poor old Ben Hall, a sad way to die, then to parade his body through the Streets of Forbes was such an ignominy.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Mick Thomas perform. He had a band called the Sure Things a while back.

    After Melbourne’s break through flag maybe Mick’s Saints can finally bring home the big one.

    Glen!

  4. Ta Smoke.

    I obviously don’t have ‘The Big Don’t Argue’ CD in my collection.

    Glen!

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    I am making my debut appearance as a punter at Byron Bluesfest in 2022. Weddos are playing on the Sunday. I will pass on your regards. Unless of course you want to join us yourself. The invitation is there.

  6. Thanks for all your comments. Much appreciated.

  7. Great read Smokie. I want to be there right now at any one of those wonderful venues long gone, although I could take myself off to the clocks, I guess.

  8. Mark Poustie says

    Smokie thank you for a great review; this takes me way back. Weddings Parties Anything were fantastic live and The Old Greek Theatre was a venue I loved. I distinctly remember, circa 1988, emerging after a late Weddo’s gig after too many VB cans hearing the birds singing in the predawn light and and thinking, “That’s the sign of a good night”.

    Digressing a little I see that Liverpoool University is offering an M.A on the Beatles. I eagerly await Melbourne Uni’s lighter equivalent for perhaps, Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls, Rose Tattoo or Dave Warner from the Suburbs.

  9. Thanks Smoke.

    Interesting for a Queenslander like myself to arrive in Melbourne to learn of the significance of Weddos. (And to also come to understand the importance of the independence and creativity of elements of Melbourne life generally – as represented by the whole 3RRR thing which is such a feature of Mebourne).

    Great to have Mick Thomas write the foreword to one of our early editions of The Footy Almanac – the choice was a no brainer, and his piece was terrific.

    Also great to see the band in the backyard of Almanac stalwart Tim Adam – a brilliant night.

  10. Haje Halabi says

    Great band one of my favs and they always told a story we could relate to.thanks for writing smoky.

  11. A most passionate review Smokie. I always feel a twinge of guilt whenever WPA is mentioned on this site because, try as I might, I’ve never really hopped on board. It’s clearly not a Melbourne adversion as Skyhooks, Aussie Crawl, Black Sorrows, TISM, Nick Cave et al are right up there for me. I comfort myself by thinking of one of my favourite uni lecturers who hated The Beatles!

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