Almanac Music: Music is your only friend.

 

MUSIC IS YOUR ONLY FRIEND

 

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture were from, everyone loves music.

-Billy Joel

 

We all have defining moments in our lives and vivid childhood memories. One of mine was seeing The Beatles for the very first time on a black and white television set in the lounge room of our home in Shepparton in regional Victoria. I think it was 1965 or 1966 and I was about six years old at the time. From that moment on I was besotted by the four mop tops and wanted to play the guitar. I was captured by the catchy four chord tunes, immaculate suits, high heeled boots, the hair and of course the screaming teenage girls in total orgasmic frenzy.

 

Toy guitar 1966

 

1967 first acoustic guitar

 

That Christmas my parents bought me a ukulele so I could pretend to be one of the Fab Four. Up until then I would grab one of Mum’s wooden Slazenger tennis rackets and pluck at the cat gut strings singing,  ‘She Loves You’ Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! I soon had my first acoustic guitar to play around with, but it wasn’t until I was about 11 that I took group guitar lessons at an old Church hall in Box Hill. I hated the lessons partly because the teacher was a cranky old man but also the lessons revolved around endless scales off sheet music. I was impatient and wanted to strum chords and chord progressions to sound like The Beatles.

 

I gave those lessons away and waited a couple of years to have private guitar lessons at school. My first teacher was a real groovy cat in flares, floral shirts and long hair.  He asked me who did I want to play like, and I said Rob Mackenzie from Australian prog rock group Mackenzie Theory. He looked at me strangely and said what about Page, Clapton or Hendrix? “And them,” I replied.

 

But it was the arrival of Faye Pasky as the school’s new guitar teacher in 1973 that things turned for me. Faye was of Polish descent and was an accomplished musician who travelled the world playing and studying music and eventually settled in Melbourne, drawn by its live music venues. She taught guitar across public and private schools as diverse as Northcote High and Jordanville Tech to Methodist Ladies College and Carey Grammar. She was a music teacher during the day, a driving instructor in her free hours and on weekends performed live with duos, bands and as a solo performer.

 

She did not care much about theory and complicated scales. She taught me about technique and feel and rhythm. She would stand behind me while I was seated and correctly position my left hand on the fret board with my thumb well behind the neck. She would grab my strumming hand and shake it in attempt to loosen it up for better rhythmic strokes. She would study how I held the plectrum and would make the necessary adjustments to ensure I struck the strings with accuracy.

 

Faye Pasky was the turning point in my love of the guitar, and she gave me the confidence to pursue my playing. She died of Alzheimer’s disease at her home in Springvale, Melbourne at the age of 76.

 

With some proficiency behind me it was time to join a garage band. Slowly I gravitated to other kids at school who played an instrument and had the same musical taste as me. Enter Simon Baker, Rob Fraturo and Mike Parncutt. We got together and formed a band with one proviso – originals only. And no skinhead/sharpie music!

 

I was on bass guitar with Simon and Rob on lead and rhythm guitar and Mike on drums. We came up with a suite of originals that we were proud of – all originals and all instrumentals. No-one could sing a note in tune, so we relied on interesting, complex and musically challenging pieces. We would rehearse at home and occasionally travel to Simon’s parents farm at Red Hill and jam all weekend. We recruited another schoolmate of mine to be our ‘roadie’ as he had left school and drove a VW Kombie. We played mostly private parties and school dances. We supported Madder Lake at Nunawading High, Ariel, Hot City Bump Band and Dutch Tilders. As we grew older and left school the band eventually fell apart, but it was great fun at the time.

 

My brother also loved his music and during my mid-teens would drive me to pubs all over Melbourne to see bands  such as the early iteration of Split Enz, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Phil Manning, Sebastian Hardie, Skyhooks and our beloved Ariel with the legendary Mike Rudd (of ‘I’ll Be Gone fame’) and the sadly departed Bill Putt.

 

The Melbourne progressive rock music scene was flourishing in the early to mid-seventies. At the time bands such as Spectrum who morphed into the Indelible Murtceps then Ariel, Sid Rumpo, Ayres Rock, Mackenzie Theory and Sebastian Hardie were the bands I admired the most for their diverse musical talents – music beyond pure rock.

 

I did see AC/DC before they became famous as the support act for Lou Reed at Melbourne’s Festival Hall around 1973/74. Reed was touring his recently released Transformer album which was soon to become one of the highest selling albums worldwide. All I can remember was how loud ACCA/DACCA were and pondering as to why the little scrawny bloke playing the SG Gibson was wearing a school uniform with one of those old leather school bags on his back? And the singer’s got no front teeth!

 

Around that time Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells were released. My musical inclination was cemented.

 

At Jim Morrison’s grave

 

In the late 60’s I was introduced to The Doors. I was intrigued by this band from the other side of the world with its Lizard King front man Jim Morrison singing lines about killing your father and fucking your mother! A far cry from The Beatles wanting to hold your hand. Nearly 40 years later I was able to hear Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger play Doors hits live in a reincarnation with Ian Astbury from The Cult. While obviously not the same without Jim Morrison and John Densmore (for more complicated reasons than being dead) it was wonderful to hear my heroes play live again before Ray’s death in 2013. I saw The Doors of the 21st Century play in Atlanta, Paris twice and when they toured in Australia in Brisbane and Melbourne.

 

Doors tribute band Brisbane

 

With ‘Jim’

 

I was so inspired by The Doors that for a brief stint I formed a Doors tribute band in Brisbane around 2018 where we played a few successful gigs much appreciated by some staunch Doors fans most of whom were in their 60s and early 70s.

 

Around 2011, when in Sydney, I hooked up with some musicians I happened to work with at a footy club. Craig Abercrombie had toured with The Wiggles and is a marvellous keyboard player, saxophone player and vocalist, former test cricketer Gavin Robertson of Six and Out fame is an accomplished drummer (and part-time comedian) while somehow we stumbled upon Darren Stapleton and Tommy ‘Dr Rock’ Monteith to form Big Big Sound. We played a few gigs around town, at footy events and even a Triple M Christmas Party. We played at the Wagga Wagga horse races, a 50th birthday party at The Opera House and other established venues around Sydney.

 

With Tommy “Dr Rock” Monteith

 

We even travelled to Noosa on the beautiful Sunshine Coast and had a two-night stint at the iconic Noosa Surf Club. On the first night our lead guitarist Tommy ‘Dr Rock’ Monteith consumed a few too many frothy ones during the day and turned up at the gig not in the best shape. We took to the stage ready to bring the house down. It quickly became apparent that Tommy was not quite in sync with the rest of the band. He was playing in the wrong key, forgetting parts and having terrible problems with his foot pedals. Feedback and distortion reigned supreme. There was only but one solution to the chaos. I crept over to his amp and carefully, slowly turned his volume down to zero. Problem fixed. Tommy continued to play on completely oblivious to the fact that nothing was coming out of his powerful Marshall amp. As the night wore on Tommy suddenly became very tired and while still thinking he was playing along with the rest of the band he placed his head on my shoulder and had a quick nap. The crowd loved it and thought it was all part of our ‘stage act.’

 

The following night was a real treat. Through a former work colleague, we arranged for Peter Koppes (who lived in Coolum) guitarist from The Church to join us on stage to play their hit ‘Under the Milky Way Tonight’. We called him to the stage during our second set and he took an acoustic guitar and started to strum those beautiful opening chords. We played magnificently with a brilliant vocal performance from Craig. We were tight and jammed brilliantly. When we finished the song, Peter turned to us all and congratulated us on doing justice to one of the most recognisable songs in Australian music history. “You guys were awesome!” He duly put the guitar down, left the stage, grabbed a beer from the bar and sat among the crowd as we belted out Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’, Free’s ‘All Right Now’ and the Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ and other classic rock hits.

 

With Nollsy

 

On another occasion we gigged with former Australian Idol runner up Shannon Noll who was a good friend of our drummer Gavin Robertson. We rehearsed with him once and found him to be just an ordinary, down to earth bloke from regional NSW. He joined us on stage at an event following a footy game and the punters in the crowd were rapt when we called Nollsy up to the stage. We performed about half a dozen songs including CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’, the INXS classic ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, Dragon’s ‘April Sun in Cuba’ and a couple of his original tunes including ‘Drive’ and ‘Lift’. But it was his rendition of the Moving Pictures classic ‘What About Me’ that had the small crowd in raptures. He put in a great cameo performance that night and gave it his all even though he was fronting a band of essentially amateur musicians he had never met.

 

It was around this time I met up with George Fahd, a sound engineer, who had his own recording studio underneath his house in Western Sydney. I said that I had some original pieces of music I had always wanted to record. I played them to him in a very raw fashion and he agreed that there was potential to do some great things with the music I had written and composed over the years.

 

Trilogy – Died on a Trail of Tears’ are three pieces of music written, arranged and produced into one continuous piece of music with a few surprises along the way. It is a product influenced by the music and artists that I grew up with and loved. Trilogy is essentially a guitar concerto with the brilliant Rex Goh (Air Supply, Eurogliders and musical director of Australian Idol) out front leading the way with a virtuoso performance. Rex is one of the most respected musicians and session players in the land and he delivered exactly what I had swirling in my head for the lead guitar.

 

Also featured on the EP is legendary LA bass player now residing in Sydney in Leon Gaer who plays with much such precision and feel – his bass runs are exquisite. Leon’s credentials are way to vast for this commentary, but he is simply one of the best in the world. Leon was the long-time bass player for Doug Parkinson and like many of us was deeply saddened by his recent passing. Michael Ionotti and Guy Hopkins give stellar performances on guitar and drums respectively, but it is the work of George Fahd that made my music come to life just as I had imagined it.

 

George produced and engineered Trilogy and delivers a masterful piece of creativity, innovation and first-class production. I thanked George for believing in my music and still connect with him today.

 

The 16-minute piece can be heard via Soundcloud.

 

I was keen to get an assessment of my music from the man I had admired the most in Australian music history – Mike Rudd so I somehow made contact and sent him a CD to his home on the outskirts of Melbourne. I was chuffed when he came back to me with this succinct appraisal:

 

Mike Rudd

 

 

 

Richard,

 

Just to let you know that I’ve had a couple of spins of the CD you sent me. Not quite immersed you’ll understand, but very impressed, nonetheless. The production’s impeccable, the guitar sounds are frankly enviable, and the playing is wonderfully precise and apt. The compositions are fairly enigmatic but disciplined, (nothing’s too long), and imaginatively realised. Ideal TV/movie fodder I would’ve thought – there must be avenues for placement you could unearth if you felt like it.

 

Nice for my bands to get a mention in the cover notes. I should add that I was a late convert to The Doors as they hovered seductively between pop, horror pop (I made that up) and other stuff.

 

You must be pleased with your work. Thanks for sharing.

 

All the best,

 

Mike.

 

COVID-19 has butchered the music scene for professional artists who rely on performing to earn a quid, so my plight is totally insignificant by comparison. But I continue to tinker on the guitar at home and together with a good mate and via the help of Logic Pro we are in the process of recording some new, imaginative material. One day soon we hope to get back on stage and belt out some classic hits.

 

Music is your only friend – until the end.

 


Richard Griffiths and his band Big Big Sound performing LIVE @ The Annandale Hotel Sydney with Merrick Watts – Triple M live broadcast!

 

 

Read more stories from Almanac Music  HERE

 

If you would like to receive the Almanac Music and Poetry newsletter we will add you to the list. Please email us: [email protected]

 

To return to the www.footyalmanac.com.au  home page click HERE

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

 

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Ripper article Richard! I was at the same concert at Festival Hall with AC/DC supporting Lou Reed, August 1974. Like you, I was bemused with Angus. From where I was sitting, I initially could not work out if he was male or female – no wonder I now wear glasses! It was also pre Bon Scott.

  2. Murray Bingham says

    Another ripping read Griffo.

  3. This is an amazing story, Richard.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Good stuff Richard.

    The Doors were a great band.

    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-history-music-sport-and-footy-in-july-1971/

    Glen!

  5. Richard Griffiths says

    That’s a great story Glen. Love the doors and 1971 tie in. I was in Grade 6 in 1971 and I remember buying Go-Set with the Jim Morrison death story. I went to Koonung Heights PS which Jeff Kennett bulldozed. We are looking at a 50 year reunion maybe next year.

    And 1971 was super special – the Hawks won the Premiership!

    Cheers

  6. Thanks for sharing Richard.

    I was born in the post-Morrison era so didn’t really learn about The Doors until the late 80’s. I liked their ‘radio-friendly’ songs, but when I first heard ‘The End’ it blew my mind!

    Thankfully I was old enough to get into The Church and ‘Under the Milky Way’ when it first came out, and on its 30th anniversary tour pre-covid.

    It’s not quite The Beatles, but as a young lad I got caught up in the hype when KISS exploded here in the late 70’s. It was so spectacular and over the top and cartoonish that it hooked me in.

    Hopefully you can get back on stage soon.

Leave a Comment

*