Almanac Music: Richard Clapton and I

Richard Clapton and I


The Waurn Ponds Hotel, Geelong, September 3, 1980, seems like an aeon ago now …


We were with Richard Clapton. He seemed like a good bloke – friendly, smiling, happy to spend a little bit of time with us backstage, showing off his remodelled guitar. ‘We’ were the members of Murmurs, the band who were the support act for his appearance in Geelong that night. (I played bass guitar.) Clapton was on a national tour and, at fairly late notice, we replaced his usual support band. As Clapton pointed out to us what parts of his guitar had been altered (something to do with the neck and pickups, from memory), we smiled and nodded, keen to rub along smoothly with the main act for the evening.


Flash forward – or was it back – I’m not certain now, to the Murmurs on stage that night. I can’t remember performing amid so many aural irritations – the cacophanic electronic noise was very hard to play through. And who knows exactly what the audience was hearing. What had the guy responsible for the sound mixing done – or not done? (Who was he? One of the Clapton people? A hired outsider? I don’t know.) At any rate, it felt to me as if we were being undermined, in order that the main act would sound as good as possible. Wouldn’t have been the first time that something like that was done to the support band. (But not saying that RC had anything to do with it. I don’t believe he did.) Anyway, after a few songs – and, from memory, animated gesticulating from us towards the guy at the mixing desk – the sound problems lessened a little and we got through our set without major incident, even if there was a sense that the many hundreds of people packed into that smoky, close atmosphere weren’t super interested in what we were doing, but instead were waiting for the main man to come onto the stage.


When he did, the Clapton band launched into a recent song, ‘Hearts on the Nightline’.


And what was the sound quality like now?


Beautiful, fluid and as crystal clear as a pristine mountain stream.


Mmmm … I wasn’t surprised.


And, by the way … ‘Hearts on the Nightline’ itself … what a fabulously rocking song to start off his set: “Here on the razor’s edge, stranded here from my friends / Stumbling through the canyons / Wasting away in shady cafes / I don’t have a smile I can turn on …”. What searing lead guitar, and a wonderfully catchy chorus, too: “Hearts on the nightline / Words coming down the wire / I just can’t get things right / I put my heart on the nightline …”.

. . .

Oh … and the support band we replaced for the Geelong leg of Clapton’s national tour?


Some young, little-known group like us … their name was INXS.


Murmurs, 1980. Kevin Densley is closest to camera.



Read more from Kevin Densley HERE


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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Big fan of R.Clapton here Kevin. What an experience that must have been!

    Hard to imagine artists of the stature of Clapton, INXS & Murmurs at ‘The Ponds’ these days.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for the comments, Luke. Yes, meeting and chatting a little with RC with certainly a memorable thing. As I indicate in the story, he seemed like a good guy. And while I think Murmurs were a fine band, I think Clapton and INXS just had the edge on us!

  3. Kevin – the young you looks a bit like David McComb.

    Like a bit of RC.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Fair enough, Dips! (Though I’d always thought of myself more as the George Clooney type – ha!)

  5. Loved Richard Clapton. In the 70’s and 80’s he was Paul Kelly before we had Paul Kelly. Girls on the Avenue. Blue Bay Blues. Capricon Dancer. Goodbye Tiger. So many sweet bitter lyrical melodies with that sweet guitar sound. Lucky Country – singing my life back to me.
    “Standing on the corner, with the sunlight in my eyes,
    The streets are full of brown skinned girls,
    And yellow beach front signs,
    The radio plays the horses, the announcer calls ’em out,
    He’s got bets each way on a losing streak
    And the boys are leaving town
    We’re doing fine in the lucky country
    Doing alright ’cause we’re making money
    Down in the lucky country”

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Totally agree with your sentiments here, Peter (and great quote from the song).

    As the years have passed by, I’ve grown to love RC’s work more and more – and I liked it a lot to begin with.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    For more modern RC, loved his albums ‘Diamond Mine’ (2004) and ‘Harlequin Nights’ (2012) though found ‘The House of Orange’ (2016) a bit disappointing.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this info, Luke. I’ll make an effort to check these albums out. I mainly know RC from his “classic period”.

  9. Kevin Densley says

    .. and isn’t it amazing how often one doesn’t know all the correct lyrics to a classic song? For so long, up until very recently, I thought the chorus to “Girls on the Avenue” went “Don’t you play up, don’t you play up / In love with the girls on the avenue … ” when it’s actually “Don’t you slip, don’t you slip / In love with the girls on the avenue … “

  10. Thanks Kevin, I can listen to these stories all day! The support band poor sound thing always bugged me. All the way to big concerts at the Entertainment Centre. Are you still playing music?

    Re play up/slip mistake. That was one that I did get right (phew). In fact it was our silly way of playing with the song to over emphasise the sleee-up sound. RC was James Reyne before James.

    Re PBs observation linking PC to PK, I think that has merit. Coincidentally my fave RC song is Deep Water and my fave PK song is Deeper Water.

  11. “Sitting out on the Palm Beach Road,
    I’m so drunk and the car won’t go,
    And my crazy eyes keep looking out to sea”

    Just love this R Clapton verse from “Deep Water”. Unforgettable.

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Rick, for your comments, all of which I found interesting. I’ve just started to muck around on the six-string guitar a little after about a decade break – and am contemplating buying a plug-in/acoustic bass. Yes, I think the link between RC and PK is a highly worthwhile one, too.

    And yes, Smokie, those lines from “Deep Water” have stuck in my mind, too.

  13. Kevin Densley says

    Another thing about the adverse conditions we (Murmurs) had to perform under during this support gig – I was reminded of this recently by the lead singer of our band – was that the lighting we were provided with was so lacking that we couldn’t even read our set lists when we got on stage!

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