Almanac Music: Songs to Brush By

I’m home from Saturday morning sport. Liam’s tennis team has just had a resounding victory over their purple-and-yellow opponents. We enter the home triumphant. He’s completed a season without losing a set. Great moments in sport!

All of a sudden the house is empty. They all have places to be. Except me. I feel like Happy Hammond after the kids had gone home.

The garden is calling me. Weeds are consuming the plants. But I promised I would clean the dunnies. “It’s a man’s job,” I get told (repeatedly). So on go the rubber gloves. And the iPod into the dock. Really loudly. Sod the neighbours.

I feel like anthems. Big, robust, self-indulgent anthems. They’re not written very often these days. You know the songs I’m talking about; the 12-minute air guitar gem by Credence, “Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Genius.

I hit “play,” then start pouring blue, toxic-looking fluid into the toilet bowls.

“Sweet Child In Time.” Deep Purple.

“Oohh, oohh, oohh. Aahh, aahh, aahh!!!” My air singing is magnificent. My air guitar is better. The walls are vibrating. This is so 1970s. Long hair, big screaming voice, squealing guitars; a protest song against Vietnam. Every self-respecting band in the 70s had one of these in the repertoire. The world was waking up.

Then the gutsy guitar of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” (with intro – the Rock N Roll Animal version) explodes into the family room. I’m playing in front of thousands of screaming fans. There’s Lou bent over his guitar. And I’m standing next to him, jamming. With a dunny brush.

From “Sweet Jane” I’m taken to “Heroin”. Lou Reed again. Rock N Roll Animal again. This song is so wrong on many fronts. And brilliant. I’m transported by Reed’s world-weary voice from calmness to calamity; from soft storytelling to a manic lead-guitar frenzy.


“I don’t know where I’m going,

But I’m going to try for the kingdom if I can,

‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man.”


Have you ever brushed out a dunny to the beat of Lou Reed’s “Heroin”? Try it.

I tone things down a bit. “Belfast Child” by Simple Minds. Melodic, poetic, melancholy. Wonderful rhythms and tempo. A story of Ireland’s troubles; senseless, damaging troubles. Played up loud in my house. That’s how music can move us. For a moment I was in Ireland again. Walking the impossibly green fields, drinking Guinness and Murphy’s, dodging the armoured vehicles that patrolled the streets of Derry, filled, as they were, with nervous English military recruits.

I need grunty, grounded guitar again. It’s an easy decision. Neil Young smashing out “Rockin’ In The Free World”. When I saw him play this live at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne (probably 10 years ago now!), it was one of the greatest live versions of anything I’ve ever heard. He’s a ripper.


“I see a woman in the night,

With a baby in her hand,

Under an old street light,

Near a garbage can.

Now she puts the kid away,

And she’s gone to get a hit.

She hates her life,

And what she’s done to it.

There’s one more kid

That will never go to school,

Never get to fall in love,

Never get to be cool.”


Superb. Ballsy and stirring. Neil Young with Crazy Horse is unpredictable and compelling. There is no certainty as to where he will take his guitar riffs. He seems to go where the light leads him.

Then I play one of my all-time favourites. It’s one of the most underrated songs. The Corey Enright of ’80s music. “Private Investigations” by Dire Straits. Deep, throbbing bass, gravelly, pack-of-Marlboros-a-day voice, a strong sense of foreboding. Mark Knopfler can nurture a guitar to life like very few others, with just a few plucks of the strings. I’ve always felt that most of Dire Straits was just pocket money for him. But not this song.

I’m halfway through “The Crime Of The Century” (Supertramp). The toilets are gleaming. This songs evokes memories of my oldest brother sitting in the front yard on warm summer nights with his long-haired, hippy mates, cooling themselves with Carlton Draught. Oh how badly I wanted to be 18 when I saw that.


“Who are these men of lust, greed and glory?

Rip off the masks and let’s see”


There’s a car in the driveway. The music goes down. The windows stop vibrating. I’m not alone anymore. I’m back to being me. Standing in the family room with green rubber gloves on and a dunny brush in my hands. Father, husband, brother, dunny cleaner. But sated nonetheless.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Tim O'Donnell says

    brilliant. Let’s not forget ” oooh ooh ooh ,down the roooaadd…. I go!”

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Almanac crowdfunding idea 342- “Dip’s Dunny Classic’s”. Double CD or Vinyl, $29.95. Signed by Dips, $50. Signed album, green gloves and bottle of Harpic, $85.
    Very entertaining Dips.

  3. I hear ya, Dips, I hear ya.
    There is plenty of music in my collection that Mrs Smokie cannot and will not listen to.
    So when I am home on m own, that’s when my music gets turned up loud!

  4. How dirty are your toilets Dips? One suspects there was more time spent riffing yer head off than scrubbing. Respect!

  5. Cheers boys. Can’t believe I left out a song. Truly one of the greats:

    Johnny Cash – “When The Man Comes Around”.

    Absolute snorter of a track.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    First track on Dips’ Dunny Classics:

    Creedence – Up Around The (S) Bend

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great soundtrack Dips, ‘Sweet Jane’ is a pearler. I turn to Johnny Cash when I have to clean the joint. Usually starts off with ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ then ‘Man In Black’ followed by ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. Make of that what you will.

  8. darren groves says

    hi Dips,bloody long time no see.Absolutely love your writings,they bring back so many wonderful memories.They are so precise and articulate and tremendous to see how your family has evolved over the many years that have elapsed.God bless mate.Cheers Daz.

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