Almanac Music: Stereo Stories – early Breakfast at Sweethearts

It’s late night or early morning in the cranky house. Pete is cranky because he is working late – or early – and the physio’s advice is out the window as the neck and shoulders suffer for the greater good of road safety. And websurfing and stuff.

I fear sleep so start searching for something different on iTunes, away from the recent overload of Flying Nun and PJ Harvey.

Something desperate drew my eye to Chisel. Yes, the right amount of soul and energy, something to keep me sitting up straight, shoulders back. Not East, not Circus Animals. Time to give my actual fave album a full run, in the absence of children and the East-loving partner.

I had the intro sorted by the end of Conversations, but gave it another run just to feel all 1979 again. There was no typing during Merry-go-Round, just hipwiggling reminiscing. Dresden a chance to reflect on the policy objectives and the strategic framework, a song for contemplation and deep thinking.

The salmon Season’s here to stay And etched into each shoulder-bone the mark of Cain is on display As stone above each measured stone Old Dresden burns above the breeze The traveller, he’s on his knees He’s watching sledge-wings dip and plays so far above the holy throne.

Mossy’s on fire and I think of Wayne Clark and Michael Roach and Manikato and Bill Hayden and Afghanistan and the Goodies. And road safety.

Goodbye is the stuff of letter-thumping analytical crescendo. I am the Don Walker of the bluetooth keyboard, Jerry Lee Lewis with a thesaurus and a template. Plaza is come and gone before I can even repaginate.

Shipping Steel captures the swagger of the band and the OzRawk era better for me than Choir Girl or Standing on the Outside. Might be the Prt Kembla blood on both sides, and the relentless pursuit of economic geography at an early age.

I have to stop myself from shouting with Jimmy on Roll Ya, the kids have school tomorrow, the new cat is just learning to stay inside. Some screams are better left unsaid. By now the policy options are clear, there are no losers, only winners.

Showtime is time for a stretch, the metronomic riff and the lyrics affording the space to reset for the final frenzy.

But first is Sweethearts, my least favourite song on the disc, possibly I am just too young to relate to that specific bohemia – see above re Kim Hughes and Warri Symbol and Terry Fahey and Ken Gabb and Ralph Nader and Tom Baker. That’s some supergroup, better than Asia even.

By the time The Door comes I know I won’t finish by the end of the album and that’s OK, I can always play it again, it might be another 20 years before it smashes me out of the park.

No, It Ain’t Wrong. Chisels at their peak, it’s only 1:45, I’m almost finished. You wouldn’t be dead or asleep for quids… road safety is the winner!


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About Peter Warrington

Richmond fan; Kim Hughes tragic; geographer; kids' book author; Evertonian; Manikato; Harold Park trots 1980; father of two; cat lover, dancer with dogs; wannabe PJ HArvey backing vocalist; delusional...


  1. DBalassone says

    Beautiful stuff Cranky Pete. Don Walker is our greatest songwriter by the length of the Barkly Highway. Funnily enough, this is the Chisel album I return to the most (as good as East and Circus Animals are), for much the same reasons as you e.g. Conversations, Shipping Steel, Plaza, Dresden, etc. Ah Dresden: how angelic does Jimmy sound? How melodic is Mossy’s guitar work? And how poetically mysterious are Walker’s lyrics? Walker’s spirit dominates this album more so than the later albums (when the others started to write more). It’s a nice forerunner t to his 3 stunning solo albums and songs like ‘At the Piccolo Bar’, ‘Young Girls’ and ‘I am the King’. I could go on.

  2. Rick Kane says

    Reads like a crankyless time was had by Mr Cranky Pete. Great piece of reminiscing. Nothing beats old faves holding up and especially at certain moments when everything feels just about right. I loved Cold Chisel and saw them as many times as one could growing up in Perth at that time. I don’t have an album that stays with me. I reckon a best of playlist (the old compilation tapes you’d make up back then to flog as you you’d drive around) makes a better Chisel album than their released stuff. One too many creaks from song 1 to 12 for me. And DB, we’ll have to argue the toss over Walker vs Kelly … Cheers

  3. E.regnans says

    Love it cranky.
    What a cracking song, that Breakfast at Sweethearts.
    The opening.
    The drums throughout.
    The story.

    Very happily saw Don perform when he surprisingly appeared at a Tex & Charlie Owen show recently. Musical story-telling royalty. Brilliant.
    Happy policy.

  4. Great great stuff, Mr Cranky.
    What a band they were at their peak!
    They had everything: a charismatic/wild lead singer with a fabulous range,
    a lead guitarist who could play anything from bluesy ballads to scorching rock,
    a tight rhythm section in Small and Prestwich (ah, that snare drum),
    and a keyboard player who could write a hell of a song.
    I love Breakfast at Sweethearts – it has a slightly wistful tone at times, I reckon –
    and I could argue with you regarding the merits of their albums, but for me
    East stands the test of time. It remains one of the greatest albums in Australian music.

  5. yeah! I’m playing Bow River as I type and reminiscing (with myself) about watching Johnson butcher The King the day before the HSC Economics exam, when economics mattered (Campbell Inquiry etc).

    I love East, but everyone does. Star Hotel was the revolution we never managed. When I pretended to be actually cranky, it was one of my anthems, the pickup after Atlantic City or Stolen Car.

    and I am a Walker man more than a Kelly, but the best of either is sublime. some of the stuff on Cold Chisel is fantastic, too – Daskarzine and especially Juliet – maybe the best song ever, at least when you are playing it?

    interestingly, I read some material on wikipedia on the bus this AM, as I recovered from the late night fingertapping. it seemed the band HATED the album. oh well…

    I got to see Chisel a couple of times, once through a window, and then at the bloated Last Stand, which was sorta Last Waltz lite, and not in a good way. The awe of them being The Who at the Countdown Awards – it was actual punk.

    my mate down the road had “13 and beautiful” when it was a rarity. to me they were like Creedence – a band we could ALL believe in, much more so for me than the Oils.

    it saddens me to some degree that Flame Trees and Khe Sanh are played to death, they are both great songs, especially the former, but there are 20 classics in the catalogue.

    One of the great nights of the 90s – if you lived in Newtown – was to see our friends the Mules sisters hijack the Newtown RSL karaoke when some guy was trying to impress his mates with Cheap Wine – they grabbed the mike and screamed – in harmony – Ray Price and an Eric Grothe, Ray Price and an Eric Grothe, Sterlo, Sterlo… apparently it was a westie thing. It was up there with Jonesey jumping on stage with Guided by Voices. but I am derailing here.

    we watched some of famed Manly Vale show on youtube this AM and my eldest thought James looked like The Hobbit. I guess I could see her point, but suggested she never tell him that.

    Anyway, a potential playlist, assuming it was just me, and I had a bag of apples in the front seat and 200km to go:

    Four Walls
    My Turn to Cry
    Khe Sanh
    Shipping Steel
    No Good for You
    Just How Many Times
    Gonna Roll Ya
    The Door
    Standing on the Outside
    Choir Girl
    Forever Now
    Cheap Wine
    Best Kept Lies
    20th Century
    Wild Colonial Boy
    Numbers Fall
    No Sense
    Bow River
    Flame Trees
    Star Hotel

    I like to end as I begin, the big O.

    (O… and the policy was well received, and my neck didn’t hurt much. until I read the latest Dimma dribble, how we do and don’t need to rebuild because the list is both strong and weak, and the players love me but are all out of form and not playing for me, and we can still make the finals, and it’s great that we are again 1 and 6 because nobody coaches better at 1-6 than me… YOU GOT NOTHING I WANT!)

    nightynight, and here’s hoping we all think of us each other when BT emits another “chisels it to X” on the weekend. certainly long enough to avoid Darcy going “Paddy’s great, don’t you think, Richoooooooooo?”

    I don’t want to know about tomorrow…

  6. DBalassone says

    I like the Creedence/Chisel analogy Pete. We are on a wavelength. East is a bit like Cosmo’s Factory – hit after hit after hit. Love cracking open that first album from time to time too – ‘jet lag cramps the lonely face’, ‘My whole life’s been on a long storm’, ‘Sometimes I get that gypsy urge to travel far’.
    Don Walker at the Caravan on June 4 if anyone’s interested. The Don. I’ll be there.
    Good luck for your Tiges this week.

  7. Peter Warrington says

    Eat us alive!

  8. Rick Kane says

    Whoa, slow down lads. The only comparison between the two bands is the first two initials in the band’s names. CC are a good bar band with an excellent songwriter but they are not in CCRs shadow. As good as Don Walker is as a writer he aint John Fogerty. Sorry to bring the party down …

  9. DBalassone says

    Fair point RK. What Fogerty achieved in 69-70 is pretty hard to top. But I think what PW is saying is that CC and CCR were similar in the way you believed in them. I can relate to this, having listened to them both religiously in the late 80s early 90s as a place of refuge to get away from the trashy 80s pop/early 90s grunge which I could not relate to. They were also similar in that their songs became so well known and received so much air play, that most people forgot how darn good they were. They also seemed to pump out their stuff in a short period of time: CCR 1968-72, Chisel 1978-83.
    Art is never a competition and opinions are always subjective but I reckon Walker is more introspective and has improved exponentially as a songwriter since 1983, as evidenced by his solo albums in ’94, ’06 and ’13 as well as his stuff with Tex, Don & Charlie. I have all Fogerty’s solo albums as well and, while there is some good stuff, I’m not as sure he has come close to topping his earlier work. He has one massive plus though, and that is his voice, ah what a voice.

  10. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Cranky Pete,
    Chisels and Henry Lawson dominated my musical and literary desires in my mid and late teens. Their lyrics and music reflected much about the isolation and uniqueness of living in Australia. Lucky enough to see them in 2011 and they rocked. Only wish Steve Prestwich was there, but his son Vaughn did a fine job. Tales of Jimmy and Steve’s pre-show punch ons are legendary and yet they remained good mates.

  11. DB nailed what I was thinking but couldn’t express

    i think Walker is a better lyricist than Fogerty – he is better than nearly everyone. but Fogerty was the better all-round package. Walker is Keating and Fogerty Hawke?

    one of my favourite memories is going to Pigeon House for a climb in 84, lonely, but pumping Creedence Gold as I rattled over the timber bridges made it seem sorta OK. Think I played the double sided tape 3 or 4 times in a row. Have You Ever Seen the Rain was probably my fave, but now we are Reborn on the Bayou because the girls love the Sapphires soundtrack.

    thanks Phil – late Chisels shows – I’m not paying, but if someone bought me one as a birthday etc present, I’d be stoked. work that out…

    right now, we’re listening to Tom Petty, I saw Fallon Cush and the Nature Strip last night, it’s 24 degrees in May.

  12. ‘policy objectives and the strategic framework’: two of many reasons why we need music. Crank it up.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Pete.
    Wonderful album.
    I’m finding lately that if I’m putting some Chisel on, it’s the debut album. Maybe because I’ve overlooked it a bit?
    Breakfast at Sweethearts has had a very good run on my CD player/ipod over the years.

  14. yep, love the first album, but we have it “only” on Vinyl. I will crack it open ASAP.

  15. Rob Woozle says

    Interesting to compare CCR and Cold Chisel. Both are honest, working class rock and boogie, both appeal to the people they are singing about and also managed to hold national level interest. I think that comparing Don Walker and John Fogerty is unfair as their lyrical content is chalk and cheese. Fogerty writes a great rock song with mainly singalong lyrics. Walker writes a huge range of music with much more lyrical depth.

  16. DBalassone says

    Nicely put Rob. Agreed that Walker has more lyrical depth, but Fogerty has that unique ability to evoke & paint pictures with very few words. Alongside Dylan, Zevon and Jackson Browne, Fogerty and Walker are my favourite songwriters, so absolutely loving this thread!

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