Almanac Music – Ed Kuepper: Reward for Effort

“Tonight I’m gonna be playing some stuff from my new album.” Normally this would send shudders through the audience, more so when the artist is in their fortieth year or so of performing. Last night, in my fortieth or so year of being a fan of his work, I finally made the effort to see Ed Kuepper live, knowing that he would be “showcasing new material”.

Ed played at the Melbourne Recital Centre (a venue that I’d only been to previously for some end of year suburban dance class concerts) rather than a more intimate, more rocking venue that one may expect.

Even from my cheap(skate) seats, we were rewarded with a night of warmth and humour, with his new album Lost Cities to the fore.

Accompanied for the first time in a few years by drummer Mark Dawson, Ed opened with a pair of tunes from his (their?) 1990 Today Wonder album, Horse Under Water and What You Don’t Know.

His relaxed introductory patter continued throughout the two and a bit hours. It was more like “I wrote this one when I was in East Berlin around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall…” than “1-2-3-4”. The languid meander through his career portrayed an artist pretty content with his lot. The “tea” that Ed supped between each number may have helped.

I wasn’t yet familiar with his new album, Lost Cities, which was next played almost in its entirety, but I can tell you that there wasn’t a fidget, yawn or cat-call throughout this section. The queues afterwards to grab a copy from the merch stand (what, no t-shirts?) were an indication of its popularity. It will be a fixture in my car stereo for a while.

The next hour saw Ed and Mark give us a sliver of Ed’s huge body of work (Lost Cities is album #50), with songs that we were all mostly familiar with.

A personal favourite, Electrical Storm, recaptured the same tension that the original did 30 years ago. If this was the only old one that he played, I would have gone home happy. I didn’t expect that Ed would delve further into his past, the forty three year old (according to Ed’s precise recollection) Messin’ With The Kid was an impromptu addition to the set. This Saints slow-burner can now be seen as a signpost to Ed’s future works, but when I first heard this as a 16 year old, it meant as much as the white-hot ripsnorters on their debut album.

The Way I Made You Feel (that “mass destruction” song as my offsider called it) followed by a stonking version of the Laughing Clowns’ Eternally Yours and Ed and Mark were done.

There wasn’t the whooping and hollering that I’d expect to have erupted at the end of the performance. Maybe it was the polite venue, but that the 700 or so punters (none of them under 50 by my reckoning) made enough noise to rouse an encore. It’s Lunacy was a mildly obscure choice to lead the encore, followed by an elongated crowd-assisted Know Your Product, or at least the Da-Da-Da-Da-Daaa Da-Da-Da-Da-Daaa bits.

I don’t do sing-alongs, but many around me did, as Ed finished with  Everything I’ve Got Belongs To You, surely in the Top 5 of singalong songs whose lyrics don’t match their happy hummy vibe and in the Top 1 of songs about comeuppance.

I still wish I’d had the sense to see Ed in any of his incarnations before now, but I’m sure as hell glad I went last night. I’d witnessed one of Australia’s finest. A room full of magnificent.

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. You’ve brought some some memories Mark.
    The one and only time I saw Ed was in Melbourne in the winter of 1988. I can’t remember the venue but it was packed and the music was great.
    I was with a few members of Adelaide band Where’s the Pope whom we had watched play a gig earlier in the night at a pub somewhere in front of no one except me, my mate Darren and a few Kiwi females who had no idea what they were listening to but tried to dance anyway .
    Darren and I had left Adelaide a few weeks earlier on our Jack Kerouac On The Road adventure. We were pathetic.
    Ed blew us away, it was like being in a happy dream.
    Great music scene in Adelaide and Melbourne in the 80’s.
    1988 was also the year I got see many other great bands in Melbourne. Cosmic Psychos, Died Pretty, Hunters and Collectors, Painters and Dockers.

  2. Did he have the tea towels at the merch stand Swish?

    The tea is usually a single malt scotch. He can raconteur with the best of them on the subject.

  3. Swish, I want to see him this time. round, been a while Caught one of the Clowns’ last shows at the Trade and then we saw him almost every week across 87-89 with the Yard. We’d all cobble petrol money and cram a heap of us into a bomb and go to Banjo’s or the Caringbah, pay $2 on the door, this was before Today Wonder broadened his audience to the Clive Robertson set. It was the Rebecca Hancock days, nothing changes in my house…

    I got to see him and review him in Edinbugh in the mid 90s. Was chuffed to see him be a Bad Seed. At the Opera House; there is a dog!

    But one of the best shows was him just playing rhythm in a version of the Apartments at the Harold Park maybe 91. Jesus christ he could thrash, it was like listening to Prehistoric Sounds all over again.

    He is a genius and if you are not a follower of his on facebook, you should, he is a very, very funny and clever man.

  4. Swish. I saw the Laughing Clowns on Sunday, but Ed was not in the lineup. He is a gap in my musical education, so will see what they have on Apple Music. Didn’t really know much about the Saints until Bruce did “Fire Would”. Extraordinary song, and the Saints original version is great. Was Ed in that lineup?

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Daly, even back then I wasn’t much of a pub gig goer, but I have fond memories of the Painters and Dockers at the Tivoli.

    Gus, looks like the tea towels are all gone, I could have grabbed a tote bag, might have given me some cachet at the McKinnon Road hot bread shop at 6:30am

    Peter W – love the line about “the Clive Robertson set”

    PB – Chris Bailey took the Saints name with him after the original incarnation, “Fire Would” was from that time. Ed of course fronted The Aints in the 90s, draw your own conclusions.

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Saw Ed play the Central Club in Richmond back in ’88. Loved his guitar work.

  7. Rick Kane says

    What PW said.

    If you have to split the difference Ed beats Bailey every time.

    I reckon his shows with Dawson through the years have been spellbinding. It’s hard to believe there’s only one guitar making all that wonderful noise. They do a pretty damn good version of Ring of Fire as well.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Plenty of life left in him Phil and Rick. Catch him if you can next time he’s in town.

    Lost Cities bears up to repeated listening, Some Said… is top of my list right now

  9. John Butler says

    Onya Swish.

    Ed has always been the epitome of droll. Whereas nowadays his old sparring partner Bailey seems to exclusively channel prat.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Swish, my knowledge of Ed’s work is limited. Inspired by this piece, have listened to the ‘Lost Cities’ album on Spotify at work this afternoon. Twice. It’s fantastic.
    1 album down, 49 to go!

  11. Rabid Dog says

    Swish – EK played at The Gov last Friday – managed to get along. Have a photo of EK and I having a chat afterwards. Excellent show, and a fun night had by all.

  12. Circa 1989 …I loved Ed.

    Backpacking With a group from cairns to cape York..E.K was the soundtrack to this trip. No one had heard of him…. Including the Aussies.

    Thx Swish for reminding me.

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