Who gets the new ball: Seasick Steve, Derek and The Dominos, Chad Morgan, or The Big Lebowski?

About two Southwark cans into the drive down the Port Kenny Road somebody pushed a cassette in. It might’ve been Snook or Jock. Or possibly Stink.

Chad Morgan started singing the “Banana Boat Song.” If under zombie attack, play this loud, you’ll be safe.

Years later, Chad performed in the Kimba pub. Heckled by a pair of Bundy-soaked punters he advised, “You shouldn’t drink on an empty head.”

Like my wife’s family, and Test cricketers Carl Rackemann and Nathan Hauritz, he’s from Wondai in Queensland. His signature song is “The Shiek of Scrubby Creek.” It’s vaudevillian, novelty. It evokes bush footy clubs and the unhurried Sunday BBQs of yesteryear.

The sheilas think I’m handsome

their fathers think I’m mad

their mothers think I’m a villain

but I’m just a loveable lad

Chad wrote it when he was sixteen. So for well over sixty years it’s been paying for his dinner and dentures. I’m more Vampire Weekend than weekend in Tamworth, but how fantastic is this?

At sixteen few of us do anything of creative consequence. Not many forge a career by drinking too much cider and falling into a bush.

Contrastingly, Annie Proulx was almost sixty when her literary life accelerated, courtesy of The Shipping News. Including “Brokeback Mountain” her recent Wyoming Stories trilogy is raw and remarkable.

And this brings me to Seasick Steve. In his seventies, and having served a colossal apprenticeship, he only found recognition in 2006 with Dog House Music. Among others, he uses a Cigar-Box Guitar, and The One-Stringed Diddley Bow. “The Last Song Is About A Rooster Who Ain’t Alive No Mo’…” from Cheap is great.

The intersection between fictional lyrics and autobiography intrigues me. Jagger sings of horizontal conquest with authority, and Seasick’s gravelly tales are lived in too. On “Thunderbird” he recounts

Going up north

Rootin’ potatoes

Freight down to Cali

Pick some tomaters

*

Newsflash! Fresh from his Sports Day success, our youngest, Max, breaks his wrist as I’m heading to the Marina Bay circuit. Ouch. Taxi. Hospital. Anaesthetic (son, not parents). Cast. Home.

No Seasick Steve for me.

I’m going to the Singapore Grand Prix with a friend who’s from Louisville, Kentucky. Not spotting a carbon-fibre conveyance won’t worrry me. I’m only here to enjoy some music.

Are the HQ Holdens racing? What? No Nitro Funny Cars? My interest in F1 parallels Fev’s passion for the Large Hadron Collider. Agreed, it’s like going to Glastonbury just to admire the tents. Trackside, Seasick Steve, I trust, takes the idiotically named Coyote Stage. Cultural hegemony anyone?

I’d love to visit Kentucky, home of the Derby, Hunter S Thompson and the Louisville Slugger. It also hosts the original Lebowski Fest, a celebration of the cult Coen brothers film. The Big Lebowski features the finest lines since Caddyshack.

That rug really tied the room together.

Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.

Is this your homework, Larry?

*

At least climatically, the blues fits here, with its muggy airlessness suggestive of the Mississippi Delta. Ash Grunwald did an outdoor gig in Clarke Quay last April. With his whirling dreadlocks, Dobro and BB King-inspired voice, it was hot, and it worked.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos was my initial excursion. As the title track was a constant on the then catholic SA-FM, my harmonica playing, air-traffic controller friend and I bought the vinyl during my final year at school. A critique described the seminal opening riff as a maelstrom. Scandinavian words (and images) are exciting to adolescent boys.

With a searing rock section, and the exquisite piano and slide guitar coda, “Layla” is incongruous on this blues album. Meandering across ten languid minutes, “Key to the Highway” still charms me as improvisation tsars, Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, have too much fun. It’s casual, soaring and laughably brilliant. A musical version of Darren Jarman, really.

Touring Adelaide’s beachside playgounds, I’d play Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs for my boys, supposing, like natural sugar, there’ll be enough pop in their acoustic diet. Only four, Alex’d ask, “Dad, can we hear those long songs?”

Where some see aural cruelty, I see schooling. The Wiggles are The Beatles for kids. Genius. But, without the blues’ swampy misery, how will they grow up happy?

One day I may even sneak some Chad Morgan on for them.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. What a lovely stroll through times and performers Mr Randall. Chad is the man. Bogga Wogga Wedding is a fave. I have no interest in The Wiggles. There’s enough great music for kids of any age to clap their hands and stamp their feet and sing off key to. Starting with ‘The Beatles’.

    If you haven’t heard Joe Henry, I think you’ll like him. He is one of the finest literate lyricists going around. This is from his latest:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRp1w8Zqr4g

    Enjoy

  2. Thanks Rick. I’d not heard Joe Henry, so thanks for that. Such brave, engaging lyrics- wonderful storytelling. Reminiscent of others like Tom Waits, but unique in his own right. Made my afternoon.

    If you’ve not seen it, the Chad Morgan documentary, “I’m Not Dead Yet” is great. Funny, poignant, authentic.

  3. Must agree about Joe Henry…so good.

    My driving songs were from the double album “it’s too late to stop now” by Van Morrison…What a cracker still!

  4. Thanks Vic. Listening to Joe Henry as I type! Also played the boys Willie Dixon and RL Burnside- especially “Let My Baby Ride.”

    I have a soft spot for Van’s early albums especially Astral Weeks, Moondance and Tupelo Honey. Fantastic melodies and fun lyrics. One of the first albums I loaded onto my new phone was Astral Weeks- it offers good insulation on Singapore’s MRT!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Sounds comparable to my knowledge of F1’s. Or cars in general.

    Brilliant line about Scandanavian words and images!

    Another fantastic read Mickey.

  6. Lovely stuff as always Mickey. Don’t know that I would characterise the rest of “Layla and other assorted love songs” as a Blues album. I always thought “Bell Bottom Blues” the equal of Layla as a melodic guitar rock anthem. “I Looked Away” and the cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” I remember as melodic and sublime.
    Have always agreed with Vic that Van’s “Too Late to Stop Now” is the greatest live album of all time. Honourable mentions to the Band’s “Rock of Ages” and “Last Waltz”. Brilliant horn arrangements that complement the originals.

  7. Thanks Luke. A couple times when buying cars the salesman moved to lift the bonnet and I’ve told him not to bother as it means nothing to me. I might as well look inside a freshly slaughtered goat. When I worked at a petrol station as a country yoof like yourself, people were always asking me to help in their mechanical problems. I was better placed to help them identify Winton’s fictional explorations of masculinity, but that’s of limited use when a Datsun 120Y has shat itself.

    Thanks Peter. Regardless of how we categorise it, it is a fantastic album. And I love the thought that like Astral Weeks, among others, it was recorded in only a few days. This seems especially impressive in today’s world.

  8. Yes, I’ve seen the doco on Chad, very interesting and funny and weird and all that. Truly and Aussie original.

    I put Joe Henry up on the same shelf as Tom Waits and Warren Zevon. Even though they are all very different writers they are consummate observers of the human condition.

  9. Agree with your thoughts Rick. Spotify’s related artists function took me to Sun Kil Moon from Joe Henry. I enjoyed his latest album. Great narratives too.
    Of course, Chad made it all possible!

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