Almanac Music: ‘Sonic Boom’


There was no need to aim. Cutting down from the tropics, though the Outback was a form of falling. After six months of backbreaking work in the remote, Indigenous Tip communities, music and genuine motion were filling the ute again. I watched the dog lazing in hot winds until, 2am, we hit an opal mining town.


Word was, 5k out its other side, there were hot water springs, rising from the earth’s core. None of the deck’s songs were sticking. Everything laying loose around the ute’s cabin was scratched, dusty, stale.


Only the Sonics never faded. Five teenagers from the early 60s, belting it out, raw – punk’s first punks, ten years before that poxy label. Wailing, grinding, bashing through obscurity, while everybody was carping on about how balls-out the Beatles were for Love, Love Me Do.


Every Sonics song pushed, fast or slow, a motor without oil, feeding me, always. The simplicity of their wailing vocals, pounding drums.


Word had it, when they were given a contract, and, with it, a recording studio, they stripped the walls of padding, then attacked their speakers with axe handles, until they sounded like car wrecks and live shows. And in the distortion and feedback invented fuzztone.


Eventually, the desert gave way to falling off the map. Work in Tasmania, snow and pain. Two weeks in I heard the Sonics had reformed and would be in Australia soon.


It made me want to ring Piggy, from Missing Link Records. When I was a lost teenager, frustrated, aimless, spending too much time in his cave of a store, he had said; “Give this a go…” and held out Sonic Boom. Then, later, Here Are the Sonics.


Music that over the next few decades would feed me, where alternative and mainstream, careers and locations and so much else failed.


I rang the venue where they were doing their only Melbourne show. The Caravan Club, in Oakleigh. Something about the anonymity of that was perfect.


The venue owner answered. He had a boss’s content, middle-aged drawl.


“My dear boy, they sold out months ago. What on earth made you think you could still get a ticket?”


“The Tip is another world,” I told him. “No news gets through the termite mounds.”


“Be that as it may…” he insisted.


I explained what the band meant to me. That I’d already paid for a flight over. That I’d find a way.  


“Well,” he said. “We always keep a pair of tickets for me. Music’s meant to be about passion. You obviously love them more than I do. You can have mine.”


Come the big day, I worked cutting wood in the Tassie highlands drizzle until lunch, and then, a mad, varied scramble across oceans, found me in the sea of Melbourne’s suburbs.


Boot-stomping Serenity met me outside the venue. She watched me watching all that red leather hidden under he luscious jacket.


“An S&M party straight after the show,” she said.


The woman was perfect for this. Everything was perfect. The goddamn Sonics






would be on soon. 40 years in the waiting, this moment a lifetime in the making. A pocket of another time. But driven by a voice that was timeless.


The owner strolled into the foyer, easy royalty of his own lifeboat.


“For you,” I said, giving him one of my YA novels. Fuck all, but still a thank you.


“I thought you were a bush worker,” he raised his eyebrows in parting, and we went in. To see the Sonics. Me and boot-stomping, S&M girl.


The lights dimmed, there was an intro, my hair stood on end. They were all about 70 now. I didn’t give a damn!


The drummer and keyboardist pounded out the opening beats to Boss Hoss, one of their rawest, gutsiest, most driving songs. Tears started streaming down my face. They just wouldn’t stop falling. This… anticipation!


Then, the lead singer, Jerry, the siren, the wailer, the earthquake, who’s voice put blood and bone into my life’s soundtrack, leaned into the microphone….


But its power was gone – so was the drummer’s, the mix could have been better, everything collapsing into simple nostalgia.




I didn’t give a damn, didn’t blame anybody! There was nothing to blame. 


That moment, those first few, thumping beats, shook the earth, brought down civilisations. They were everything. Everything!


The stuff of Gods and legends.



More from Matt Zurbo can be read here.




Two books will be published in the lead-up to Christmas 2021. The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020  as will the 2021 edition to celebrate the Dees’ magnificent premiership season (title is up for discussion at the moment!). These books will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers and Demons season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from these two Covid winters. Enquiries  HERE


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