Almanac Music: The Smokers, 2000

We started playing in ‘98. I’d known Dave and Mark since ’86, shared houses, played in bands, casual rehearsals in loungerooms and suchlike, we’d messed about with a few folks, like Greg, Phil, Marie, that bloke and that other bloke, around mid 90s.


My personal life was getting a bit tough, I rang them, we got together at Sound Level rehearsal rooms. The Coke machine was stocked with beer, we smoked a lot of cigarettes. We wrote a few songs, like ‘Headster’ and ‘Dolly’, figured a bunch of covers.


The Smokers did a killer version of The Atlantics’ ‘Come On’, we played ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ one arvo and a couple of blokes from the Beatles tribute band stuck their heads in and asked “Where’s Iggy?”


We knew how to groove. We were friends who’d played together, we understood each other, we dug the same music, we talked and drank and smoked and played rock and roll. Mark had a beautiful drumming style, kinda like C Watts in the way he’d keep a steady beat that worked overall and throw in perfect fills. Dave’s guitar slashed across everything, riffs and solos and power chords, I yelled down the mic and played bass gtr and they’d look at me cos I knew when the changes came. That’s a bass guitarist’s job.


We got together at SL one arvo, Mark set up his kit, tuned it, Dave tuned his Stratocaster, my Black Eagle never lost tune, Dave hit an A chord, Mark and I came in with a rolling rhythm.


We went somewhere special. This was no repeating riff crap, no way, every bar or two was something different, we took it up, then back down, it was like surfing, rolling on the energy, we took it up and down and every time it went up it got a bit more loose, a bit more crazy, until the wave broke over us in a welter of electric noise, valves glowing hot, strings and skins rattling in a pure streak of thoughtless beauty.


Feedback, cymbals, it faded… We looked at each other, all wondering ‘where the fuck did that come from?’ Mark was the first to speak.


“Did we record that?”


“Of course not.”


The Smokers never played again after that day. Never played a show. There’d been opportunities, several, that we didn’t take. We were a potentially great rock and roll band.


We didn’t need to play a show, we were great, I’m glad we didn’t cos it would have ruined the perfection of Mark, Dave, me, in the room, drums thumping, Marshalls singing, an unspeakably perfect moment.



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About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.

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