Almanac Music: Not Quite Bob – In our own backyard: Blokes

Almanac Music


Not Quite Bob – In Our Own Backyard – Blokes – John Kennedy, Richard Clapton, Maurice Frawley, Charles Jenkins, Mark Gillespie, The Blackeyed Susans, Louis Tillett, Ed Kuepper, Chris Bailey (The Saints), Hugo Race, Nick Cave, Don Walker, Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers and yes … Midnight Oil


A few of these pieces have looked at the great Australian artists that fit the NQB brief I set for myself.  This week I thought I’d create a playlist featuring a swag of local blokes that (broadly) fit the bill.  All songwriters, all poets in their own way, all with their own take on the music they clearly love.  And mostly all still here to enjoy somewhere near you.  Perhaps criminally brief biogs as I identify each track that I’ve picked.  Here is the playlist and I’ll lob a few clips into the mix as we go.






Track 1 – King Street – John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong


Sydney’s Paul Kelly for a time (although of course Paul did live there for a crucial time in his career), an English born migrant to Brisbane while very young, earliest bands there before a move to Sydney.  Middle name Francis thus his first band is JFK & the Cuban Crisis.  Then Love Gone Wrong, the Honeymooners and the Lone Gunmen.  A flair for great band names and catchy songs.  Still appearing live today.  His best known song.  ‘Life in Newtown in the 70’s and 80’s’.  Sydney’s Fitzroy without the plane trees.




Track 2 – Casanova’s Got The Blues – Richard Clapton


Another great Sydney singer/songwriter, a near contemporary of Bob’s with his own distinctive voice, he produced a string of great records from the early 70’s through the 80’s and still records today.  His best known song is ‘Girls On The Avenue’ which is here.





The track I picked however is from Main Street Jive which I think is his best album.  A frequent tourer when we were standing in crowded pubs in the 70’s and 80’s.  We always caught him when he came down here.




Track 3 – Bad Wine and Women – Maurice Frawley


A very Bob local muso, now sadly deceased, a victim of liver cancer in 2009, Maurice played with the best of them, had his own funky band name fetish with the Working Class Ringos, the Yard Hands and the Olympic SideburnsLong Gone Whistle is a triple CD put together by friends and band mates after his death featuring performances by Paul Kelly, Chrissie Amphlett, Adalita, Dan Sultan, Tex Perkins, The Drones and Megan Washington doing covers of his songs.  His own originals are there too.  Worth hunting out.




Track 4 – Swing Bridge – Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos


Born in Mildura, Charles’ career starts in Adelaide, first solo then as a member of The Mad Turks From Istanbul.  Moves to Melbourne and forms the Icecream Hands, a terrific local indie pop band.  Several great albums and then he’s solo again or leading bands in his own name and … the Zhivagos.  More great records and songs including this one from Walk This Ocean.  Plays live in Melbourne a lot.  A regular at the Retreat in Brunswick on a Sunday afternoon.  Never disappoints.  He’s the answer to the question “Which Australian artist should have been a huge star in world music?”  His hook laden tunes and distinctive voice elude lesser talents who ‘make it’.  Beats me.  On the plus side?  Ten bucks and a couple of schooners and a bowl of chips will get you transported for two hours in a small bar northside.  Make sure you take advantage of that.




Track 5 – Mayday In Arcadia – Mark Gillespie


Another Almanacker has written about Mark in more detail so I won’t go over that ground again except to say this.  He was the artist I most wanted to see live one more time but sadly again, he died late last year in Bangladesh after living a reclusive life as a volunteer worker for over 30 years.  I still have vivid memories of live gigs at the Conti and other local venues with packed rooms when we were out and about and more ready to sing and dance to our favorite songs.  This song is the one I waited for each night.



Track 6 – If I Can Dream – The Blackeyed Susans


The Susans featured David McComb (The Triffids) and Rob Snarski as vocalists in their initial lineup, formed in Perth in 1988.  It was initially a side project for band members of The Triffids and continued that way until McComb’s death in 1999 of heart disease.  Again another piece has been written on this site about a film just released called Love In Bright Landscapes by long time RRR presenter in Jonathan Alley charting McComb’s life and premature demise.  Catch it if you can.  The Blackeyed Susans continued on and released an album of covers called Dedicated To The Ones We Love in 2001.  On it is this, Elvis Presley’s best song.  Contested space I know.  I reckon Rob Snarski is as good a singer as we’ve had.  Velvet.




Track 7 – Dead End Street In The Lucky Country – Louis Tillett


If that last assertion is true Louis Tillett from Sydney band The Wet Taxis would give Snarski a run for his money.  After that band ran out of puff Louis went solo and recorded a number of fine albums starting with Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell in 1987.  This track is from that.  They’re all on Spotify and worth a listen.  Louis also recorded with Charlie Owen and Ed Kuepper but recent ill-health has curtailed his output.  A helluva singer though.  Velvet in a cloak of gruff baritone.




Track 8 – Eternally Yours – Ed Kuepper


A Saint. Or more accurately a founding member of The Saints with Chris Bailey.  It’s Brisbane in 1973.  Joh Bjelke-Petersen is in charge in Queensland.  A local in Ivor Hay and Irish raised Chris Bailey and German born Ed Kuepper are schoolmates and kicking against authority as teenagers do.  Elsewhere the Ramones and the Sex Pistols are rousing the kids in their towns and pubs.  Enter The Saints with ‘I’m Stranded’.  Phwoarr!  Bob Geldof attributes the rise of punk rock to those 3 bands.  After a brief and fiery period Kuepper leaves first to create a terrific batch of solo albums as well as recordings with the Laughing Clowns.  A lot of Kuepper’s albums are hard to find now but this cover of an early Saints song will give you the flavour of his style.  It’s a pity the albums aren’t on Spotify except for collections because Today Wonder, Honey Steel’s Gold, Black Ticket Day and Serene Machine are classics and there are plenty of others besides.  For a total spinout you might have a listen to Asteroid Ekosystem which Ed recorded and released last year with a jazz outfit called the Alister Spence Trio.  Not for squibs.




Track 9 – Ghost Ships – Chris Bailey (The Saints)


Chris Bailey lead a hard life and also passed away recently.  After Kuepper’s departure The Saints were really his band and continued that way spasmodically over many years.  This song opens 1984’s A Little Madness To Be Free.





Bugger all to do with anything Bob-themed but how could I leave it out?  A truly original talent, trailblazer, iconoclast, a great of the local scene.



Track 10 – In The Pines – Hugo Race


A Bad Seed at 19, an early departure a couple of years later to form The Wreckery described as “inner-city angst kings [which] proffered a lurching brand of gutbucket St Kilda blues by way of the Mississippi delta.”  Hugo Race later went on to be a true musical nomad, an adventurer, many styles and bands, the Fatalists, the True Spirit and a great outfit called Dirtmusic formed with two US indie heroes in Chris Brokaw and Chris Eckman.  The premise?  Music you could play acoustically on the front porch.  Nice.  I can’t resist including this clip where they play with musicians from Mali.





The track on the playlist though is Hugo with the Fatalists with a great rendition of David McComb’s ‘In The Pines’.  Rightly oft covered (The Blackeyed Susans did a great one) this one shows off Hugo’s growl and sparse attack on melody.




Track 11 – Red Right Hand – Nick Cave


I can’t add much to the Nick Cave story.  It’s well covered elsewhere; everything I said about Chris Bailey in the last sentence above is true of Nick.  It’s a long way from Warracknabeal to Wangaratta and even further to the cloisters of Caulfield Grammar.  Consider then at 19 being told of your father’s death in a car crash as your mother is bailing you out of a St Kilda cop shop for burglary.  You form The Birthday Party and go to live in Berlin not yet 25, they break up and then follows the Bad Seeds, fame, acclaim, the world’s stages and many iterations of the Seeds, solo work and collaborations with his right hand man in Warren Ellis.  This track is the signature, covered severally, used on more than one screen tale (big and small), most notably as the theme song for Peaky Blinders.  Rightly considered a classic of Australian song craft.  Unfortunately Nick’s life can be best described as turbulent as family tragedy has attended his many successes.  He prevails though and has built a long career marked by excellence.  Prominent filmmaker Andrew Dominik (Chopper) has just released a film called This Much I Know To Be True focussing on his career and his work with Warren Ellis.




Track 12 – The Long Way Home – Don Walker


Another banana bender Don Walker becomes the keyboard player and songwriting mainstay in Cold Chisel formed in 1973,  quickly becoming fan favorites in the pubs of Adelaide and later, well, everywhere.  ‘Choirgirl’, ‘Khe Sahn’, ‘Flame Trees’ and ‘Cheap Wine’ are notable tracks on his CV and after they break up in 1983 he takes off on a solo career and work with a host of others including Tex Perkins, Charlie Owen, Mick Harvey, Jeff Lang and Wendy Mathews amongst many. This track is from the 2013 Hully Gully recorded with his band the Suave F**** (rude word meaning intimate act with a willing partner).  The album is great and so is this.  Don Walker sits comfortably amongst Australia’s best songwriters.




Track 13 – Paycheques – Tex, Don & Charlie


Gregory Stephen Perkins (Tex) is a big fella with a big career.  From the sound and fury of the Beasts of Bourbon to the languid, surf sounds of The Cruel Sea via the folky/country solo stuff and the Ausicana of Tex, Don (Walker) and Charlie (Owen).  He covers a lot of ground does Tex and is great in all those styles.  When younger Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne, he now lives with the hippies on the north coast of NSW and tours and records regularly with various outfits.  The ones I’ve mentioned plus the Dark Horses with Cruel Sea alumni and most recently with his Fat Rubber Band with whom he released a great self titled album last year.  This track is from a Tex, Don and Charlie album called All Is Forgiven, a collection of wry and melancholy tunes with a touch of the laconic humour he is known for.  Another with a very strong catalogue of great material.  Has toured his Johnny Cash tribute show called The Man In Black for many years.  Amongst our finest.




Track 14 – You’ve Been So Good To Me So Far – Tim Rogers & the Twin Set


Tim has a similar career to Tex.  Hard driving indie rock with You Am I, solo stuff, acting on stage, on TV and in film, soundtracks, radio shows, Stones tributes you name it Tim has had a crack at it.  Energy, drive, talent, passion.  He grows up in Kalgoorlie, has lived in most Australian capitals and most recently resides in Melbourne.  But in 1998 with You Am I in recess, he is in Sydney and, after a breakup with a girl, in his late 20’s he writes and produces an album called What Rhymes With Cars and Girls.  A tender set of songs of melancholy and regret, it’s a standout in his collection.  This song is from that album. (A note to E Regnans: checkout the Joni Mitchell name check in the lyrics.)





The songs from the album inspired an MTC play of the same name written by Aidan Fennessy and there are plans afoot to adapt it further as a film.  Of interest to Almanac readers is that Tim is an erstwhile North Melbourne fan and has turned out numerous times for the Rockdogs in the annual musos V. PBS/RRR Megahertz charity footy match for the Sacred Heart Mission.  As I said, a versatile performer.




Track 15 – Bedlam Bridge – Midnight Oil


I’ve been looking for an excuse to include the Oils in this series the whole way through.  I still haven’t found one.  I’ve seen them twice in the last 12 months at magical gigs at Mt Duneed.  Awesome.  They don’t do this live but it’s my favorite Midnight Oil song.





I might have to start a series called Not Really Very Bob.  Except.  The protest.  The snarl.  The message.  NQB but near enough.



PS:  Don Walker and the Suave F**** is the clubhouse leader for great band names here or anywhere.



You can read more from Trevor Blainey HERE.



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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Another fabulous and comprehensive piece Trevor. Some cracking Oz acts there, in particular Charles Jenkins, one of the unsung acts and a true talent who deserves far more recognition than he receives at the moment.

  2. Trevor Blainey says

    I’m a big fan of Charles Jenkins too. So many great songs.

  3. E.regnans says

    Oh thanks, yes Trev.
    Recently I have indeed been doin’ all those things which I used to hate the worst.

    Love your choices here.
    “Can anyone be hypnotised?” is a beauty from C Jenkins.

    Here’s a stream I once wrote to celebrate the great “What rhymes with cars and girls.” Magic.

  4. Trevor Blainey says

    It is a great album David. I wasn’t paying attention to the excellent music writing here 3 years ago but your piece is a poem to a work of poetry. I’m struck by Tim’s age when he made the record and how it sang to a similarly aged Regnans at the time. The music I hang onto is like that for me too. Recollection plays a big part.

  5. Thanks for this, Trevor.

    I have been a huge Oils fan for over forty years (blimey!!!).
    I reckon the Cruel Sea are one of the most underrated Australian bands of all time.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Hi TB

    And then there is Dave Warner, who none less than Dylan himself, when touring Australia in 1978 was given a cassette of Warner live at the Victoria Hotel, stated that Dave (and Richard Clapton) were the best Aussie acts he had heard.


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