30 days of undone things

In December 2011, Amy wrote a blog post about making a 2011 mix tape of what she was listening to (right here). She said:

In 2009 I made a Mix Tape (CD) of my favourite songs from that year. Not songs that were necessarily released that year, but my favourite songs for the year. I burned a copy for a friend and he vowed to send me his… I’m still waiting. Sad face.

I sat down last night and went through my iTunes and found my favourite songs for 2011 and I’ve compiled a 2011 Mix Tape (CD). And I thought we might like to swap. What do you think? If you think this is an ace idea, and I really hope you do, leave a comment here and I’ll contact you for your postal address. Then we can swap our 2011 Mix Tapes (CD) and all enjoy some new music.

And I said: Me me me please!

And so it was agreed.

And I sat down and I compiled a 2011 Mix Tape on iTunes.

And I wrote out some liner notes for it because I wanted to explain my choices.

But I had too many songs for a CD and it was too hard to figure out which one (one!!) to leave out.

So it sat there.

And sat there.

And every now and then I’d see the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy in iTunes and feel terribly bad about not having finished it. I even added it to my list of 100 Things to do in 2013 (it was #40).  And we all know what happened to that list.

And it was November 2016 and the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy playlist was still sitting in my iTunes. And every time I saw it I thought that I really had to finish it and send it to her.

Two weeks ago I was inspired to make a Paul Kelly mix tape, and knowing how much Amy loves Paul Kelly, this reminded me I had to finish her mix tape too.

And so I completed the liner notes and made the Mix Tape CD. I contacted Amy, got her address and sent her the CD. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Yes, it took me five years to do something that I got done in 20 minutes. And I crossed another item off my “100 things to do in 2013” list.

I’ve gone in and updated the list, and I looked at all the little things that I could do fairly easily if I just went in and did them. So, I thought, why not make my next 30-day challenge “do 30 annoying undone things”? That is, do 30 things that won’t take long to do but that I’m putting off because even though they’re niggling things that irritate me for not having done, they require just a little effort to complete.

Sew on a button. Throw something out. Clear off a table top. Book in a skin check. And a blood donation while I’m at it. Burn a CD.

The first challenge is coming up with the list, so that will be item number 1.

If you want to play along, that would be great – let’s see how much unresolved stuff we can clear off the decks in 30 days. I’m going to start my 30 days on 1 December, because there’s nothing like the start of the festive season to make me want to take on a new project.

Ha.

I will post my list of 30 things on Thursday. (There, I said it on the Internet, so I have to do it.) I’m trying to think of a catchy hashtag. I think #30undonethings will be fine.

Join me!

Make your list. Share it with me and we can be accountability buddies! Tweet me (@straitlinesgirl) or Instagram me (@straightlinesgirl) and let’s get those annoying undone things done and off our to-do lists.

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Death’s Dateless Night

St David’s Cathedral, on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets in Hobart, is a building I see almost every day and, consequently, have become immune to its presence.

Originally it was a replacement for the wooden St David’s Church that was erected in St David’s Park over the grave of Lieutenant David Collins, and which blew over in a gale a few months later. Construction of the second St David’s Church commenced on the present site in 1817. When Hobart was granted city status in 1842, St David’s Church became St David’s Cathedral.

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The foundation stone for the current cathedral (the third St David’s Church) was laid in 1868, and the building was designed by the Victorian architect George Frederick Bodley. It was completed in 1874 and the old cathedral was pulled down. The final stage was the construction of the cathedral tower, which was completed on 1936, 68 years after the works started.

But I digress.

Much as I love finding out the history of Hobart’s old buildings, I wasn’t there on Tuesday night to look at the cathedral. I was there, as were a lot of other people, to hear the magical music of Paul Kelly and slide guitarist extraordinaire Charlie Owen come to life as they performed their Death’s Dateless Night show.

As I mentioned in my last post, this tour is a tour of the album, Death’s Dateless Night, a collection of songs that PK and Charlie have sung at funerals over the years. They are accompanied by PK’s daughters Maddy and Memphis Kelly, on backing vocals.

Not having been to a show at the Cathedral before, I was advised to arrive early to avoid getting stuck behind a pillar and not being able to see. We stationed ourselves at a bar across the road before 6pm to suss out the crowd.

  • Rookie Mistake Number 1: Believing that the doors would open at 6.30 as advised on the website.
  • Rookie Mistake Number 2: Not seeing a crowd outside the closed Murray Street door, assuming that this was because it wasn’t 6.30 yet, and assuming no one was waiting. They were waiting. Inside the Cathedral, having gone in the Macquarie Street door long before 6.30.

Ooops.

We found a pew, sort of behind a pillar, but which gave us a relatively unimpeded view of what we hoped would be PK’s mic.

We sat and waited for an hour, admiring the pillars, until the support act, a lovely duo called Sweet Jean, took to the stage. Sweet Jean is Sime Nugent and Alice Keath, who was one of the guest vocalists on PK’s Seven Sonnets and a Song album that came out earlier this year. Slabs has played some of their material on his radio show.

I enjoyed their music and it set the scene really well for the main story.

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Our view. We could just see PK!

The first “act”, as PK called it, was a play through of the Death’s Dateless Night album, minus Track 7. I couldn’t figure out which track had been missed, but it all made sense later on.

The standout for me was “Good Things”, written by PK and Charlie’s former band mate Maurice Frawley. I felt Charlie’s intense guitar during this track really captured a sense of grief for the loss of his friend. (Maurice Frawley died in 2009.)

The ‘folk song from the British Isles’ (“Let It Be”) has never been a favourite Beatles track of mine, and though I appreciate the work that PK, Charlie, Maddy and Memphis put into this, I’m still not a fan. Nevertheless as versions go, this wasn’t bad.

PK mentioned that he had seen Leonard Cohen work up close, and his version of “Bird On A Wire” was very moving, coming so soon after Cohen’s death.”Angel Of Death” was the end of Act One.

The second part of the show was a selection of mostly older material that PK had chosen because it fitted the theme. First up was two of the Sonnets from Seven Sonnets and a Song – “Sonnet 60” and “Sonnet 73”. Before Sonnet 73, PK pointed out all of the guitars and instruments Charlie had played on the new album, including his Bakelite guitar, which he used in this track.

Later: “Everyone’s so quiet in here,” said PK.

“It’s a church,” whispered someone in the audience.

“I know!” PK replied.

Next up was a Tex, Don and Charlie song, which I wasn’t familiar with, called “Postcard From Elvis”. It appears on their 1993 album Sad But True. This was followed by “Pretty Place”, originally on PK’s 2001 album … Nothing But a Dream. He spoke of how the title was inspired by Banjo Clarke, and the Pretty Place was where he used to go to get away from everything. (I googled Banjo Clarke. He was born in 1923 at the Frelmingham Mission in Victoria, on his family’s ancestral land and his mother was originally from Bruny Island.)

A concert of songs with the theme of death was never going to be complete without the one PK song that never fails to make me cry, “Deeper Water”, and this time was no exception. I was in tears from the very first riff. A song of love and of loss. Dammit I don’t even like the song, but I’m drawn to it like the people in the song are drawn to the deeper water.

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Spring and Fall from 2012 is one of PK’s albums I’m not super-familiar with, so I didn’t recognise the track “Time and Tide”, but he told the story of its origin, around a campfire in the Kimberleys. The one new song he played was the poem “Life Is Fine” by American poet Langston Hughes.

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love-

But for livin’ I was born

The next track needed no introduction – well actually it did, because it’s not a track that immediately comes to mind as a funeral song. PK explained he’d been asked to play his Christmas song “How To Make Gravy” at the funeral of Melbourne AFL player Rob Flower. It’s one of his best-loved songs. This rendition, with Charlie’s guitar, gave me a new appreciation of this song, especially towards the end, where the guitar amplifies the protagonist’s fear that his brother is going to steal his wife while he’s in prison, how gutted his is that he can’t be with his family at Christmas, and he’s so very sorry for what he’s done and for hurting his family. I could hear the anguish in every note. This song made me cry too.

It wasn’t quite the end though, and we were treated to a solo performance of “Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air”. The missing track from the album. And then, an encore, “I Wasted Time”, with the appropriate words:

I see old friends at funerals now and then

It’s down to this – it’s either me or them

Charlie returned to the stage for another moving track, “They Thought I Was Asleep” (from Foggy Highway), and Maddy and Memphis reappeared for the last song of the evening, a real oldie, “Cities of Texas”.

And then they were gone.

It was a serene, contemplative evening. Unlike many other PK shows, there were no loud talkers and no drunken calls to “play To Her Door” – although I didn’t expect there would be. There was an air of solemnity about the show, and complete respect for the artists and their music.

I am grateful to have shared in this experience. Thank you PK, Charlie, Maddy and Memphis. And thanks Slabs for buying me tickets for my birthday!

Paul Kelly

I love Paul Kelly.

He’s my favourite artist of forever. The last time I saw him (other than at Hobart airport when I had to move Kramstable, who was dancing round, totally oblivious to the fact that he was between most people and the bathrooms, out of Mr Kelly’s way en route to said bathroom) was in February 2011 at the Theatre Royal when I caught the final of his A to Z series of shows with Dan Kelly.

I’ve missed the last couple of tours he’s done in Hobart for various reasons (I can’t remember, probably something lame, I don’t like crowds or big festivals) and said to Slabs that next time he comes, I don’t care what the show is, I’m going.

One thing I love about Mr Kelly is that he is constantly changing his act. if he’s not making new material, he’s reinventing old material or someone else’s material to make it his. He’s made soundtracks (Everynight Everynight, Jindabyne); he’s turned his music bluegrass (Uncle Bill, The Stormwater Boys); he’s made up bands to experiment with different styles of music (Professor Ratbaggy, Stardust 5); he’s been in a musical (One Night the Moon); he’s performed his material with a band, acoustically, and then with another band, and then another one. He’s done soul music (The Merri Soul Sessions); he’s combined with Neil Finn to produce one of the most divine musical experiences I have ever witnessed (Goin’ Your Way). He’s even put Shakespeare to song. He has collaborated with too many musicians to count on their albums and on his own.

He has been part of my life since late high school when I discovered Under The Sun for the first time, his 1987 follow-up album to Gossip. These were the days of cassettes, and my friend Graeme lent me his copy. These were also the days of the double cassette player, so I’m sure you know the story here.

Funds were limited, and Gossip was a double album with 24 tracks for only a couple of bucks more than the standard length Under The Sun, and in those days my focus was on the number of tracks I was getting for my dollar, not necessarily whether they were my favourite tracks, so I dutifully purchased Gossip on cassette for $13.99.

I didn’t actually have a double cassette player. I remember wanting one, but the budget I had for a portable stereo allowed either for a double cassette player or a single with removable speakers and a graphic equaliser. (These babies were expensive back then too, not $50 like they are now.) Rationally, I figured that removable speakers were much more important because I’d be able to set them up around me, and several of my friends already had double cassette players, so I didn’t actually need one.

Graeme was kind enough to lend me Under The Sun, even after the previous cassette he’d lent me, one of those Hot Hits of 198X or 198X with a Bullet compilations, had been shredded in a double cassette deck after being unable to cope with the strains of Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy. Most people would probably not see this as a bad thing, but I still went out and replaced it for him, thereby parting with the money I could have used on Under The Sun in the first place. That’s karma for you right there.

Needless to say I am now the legitimate owner of Under the Sun on CD, along with most of Mr Kelly’s back catalogue of released work, with the possible exception of some limited edition material I never quite managed to justify getting.

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My PK shelves

His most recent release accompanies the current tour. It’s called Death’s Dateless Night. It’s an album he recorded with Charlie Owen, slide guitarist extraordinaire, conceived out of a discussion they’d had driving to a friend’s funeral about songs they had played at funerals.

To anyone who isn’t an avid collector of Mr Kelly’s music and is mostly familiar with his more commercial work, this album might not appeal. It’s very mellow, as you’d expect. Contemplative, reflective.

Only two of the songs are written by Mr Kelly – Nukkanya (from the 1994 album Wanted Man) and Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air (from Foggy Highway, which he recorded with Uncle Bill in 2005), so if you’d hoped for a reinterpretation of his own songs you’d probably be disappointed. The album includes some classics, like Don’t Fence Me In, and Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, which seems particularly appropriate, given Mr Cohen died last week. There is a lovely track called Good Things, which was written by former member of Mr Kelly’s band the Dots, the late Maurice Frawley, as well as a version of Let It Be, which is a Beatles song I have never liked all that much.

It’s not a big “jump out and grab you” album. It’s one that sits there, grows on you and subtly reminds you that (in the words of Kasey Chambers) we’re all going to die someday. It’s deliberately understated. Mr Kelly says:

We kept the sound live and sparse, just the two of us, except for the occasional vocal by family members – my sister Mary Jo and my daughters Maddy and Memphis. I stuck to singing and playing acoustic guitar. Charlie was the swing man, playing dobro, lap steel, electric guitar, synthesizer and piano.  I managed to talk him into singing some harmonies too.

So this is the show that I’ll be going to see next week. The shows are all being played in churches and cathedrals, and not having set foot in one of these places since possibly a wedding I attended in 1999 (and a couple of minor churches in the UK, you know, like Salisbury Cathedral and St Paul’s), I think it will feel weird to sit in St David’s Cathedral to see a show.

I’ve been listening to the album over the past few days so I’m familiar with the material when I see the show.

Speaking to someone earlier in the week who said they didn’t really like this album inspired me to revisit Mr Kelly’s back catalogue and create my own playlist of alternatives to the greatest hits that people who are mostly familiar with his better-known material might not have heard. That is, my favourite songs that you can’t find on Songs from the South (Volumes 1 or 2).

I tried to include at least one track from each Mr Kelly’s albums, and the only criteria were (a) I had to like the song and (b) the song (or the version of  it in a couple of cases) wasn’t included on Songs From The South. I haven’t included work from soundtracks like Funerals and Circuses, Jindabyne, Conversations with Ghosts etc as I haven’t listened to these enough. I did look at his work with the Dots (I know he has disassociated himself from this work, but I do like some of the songs. They are very much of their time.)

This is the playlist.

  1. Want You Back (Paul Kelly and the Dots, Talk, 1981.)
  2. Alive And Well (Paul Kelly and the Dots, Manila, 1982.)
  3. Blues For Skip (Paul Kelly, Post, 1985 – I can remember hearing him play this live at the ANU Bar in the 1990s and not being familiar with it at all. It really struck me.)
  4. Gossip (Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, Gossip, 1986 – I love this song but it was left off the original CD release.)
  5. Forty Miles To Saturday Night (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Under The Sun, 1987 – this evokes memories of the end of school. A great time and one of my favourite of his songs.)
  6. You Can’t Take It With You (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, So Much Water So Close To Home, 1989. You really can’t.)
  7. Don’t Start Me Talking (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Comedy, 1991 – a follow up to Gossip perhaps?)
  8. Little Boy Don’t Lose Your Balls (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Comedy, 1991 – this is about exactly what the title says. Probably don’t play this one to your mum unless she doesn’t care if you say fuck. It has a hidden track at the end on the album.)
  9. Hey Boys (Paul Kelly and Mark Seymour, Garbos Soundtrack, 1992 – this is just great! I know I’ve seen the movie. I can’t remember it. Mark Seymour is of course, former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors.)
  10. Reckless (Paul Kelly and the Messengers Hidden Things, 1992 – Hidden Things was an album of rarities and previously unreleased tracks from 1986 to 1991. Reckless is a song by Australian Crawl. In this version you can understand the lyrics.)
  11. She’s Rare (Paul Kelly, Wanted Man, 1994 – Mr Kelly’s first album post The Coloured Girls/Messengers. I like its funkiness.)
  12. Maybe This Time For Sure (Paul Kelly, Wanted Man, 1994.)
  13. Anastasia Changes Her Mind (Paul Kelly, Deeper Water, 1995 -this track is cool. The “kiss on the mirror” line was inspired by a time Mr Kelly’s then wife went on a trip and left a lipstick kiss on their’s daughters’ bedroom mirror that stayed there fore months. Fascinating to think that a little thing like that could get mixed up with a a girl who fell in love and cancelled her travel plans. The title track of this album makes me cry.)
  14. Madeleines’s Song (Paul Kelly, Deeper Water, 1995 – written for his daughter Madeleine.)
  15. Beat Of Your Heart (Paul Kelly, Words and Music, 1998 – this song includes vocals by Renee Geyer and Rebecca Barnard, as well as musicians that Mr Kelly had either been working with and/or continued to work with with over the next few years including Bruce Haymes on keyboards, Peter Luscombe on drums, Shane O’Mara on guitar, Steve Hadley on bass and Spencer P Jones on guitar. I love the beat of this one.)
  16. Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (Paul Kelly, Words and Music, 1998.)
  17. Sydney From A 747 (Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill, Smoke, 1999 – a mix of old and new Paul Kelly songs given the bluegrass treatment with Melbourne band Uncle Bill. This song was originally called Sydney From A 727 when it appeared on the 1991 album Comedy. The plane got bigger over the years.)
  18. Taught By Experts (Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill, Smoke, 1999.)
  19. Coma (Professor Ratbaggy, Professor Ratbaggy, 1999 – released at the same time as Smoke, this was a side project with Steve Hadley, Bruce Haymes and Peter Luscombe. This song was written by all four band members, as were most of the tracks on this album. It was released as a single, but it was Love Letter that made it onto Songs from the South.)
  20. One Night The Moon (Memphis Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax, Paul Kelly, One Night The Moon, 2001 – from the movie One Night The Moon directed by Rachel Perkins, which tells the story of a missing child (played by Paul Kelly and Kaarin Fairfax’s daughter Memphis Kelly), the indigenous tracker (Kelton Pell) who searches for her, and her parents played by Mr Kelly and Ms Fairfax.
  21. This Land Is Mine (Paul Kelly, Kelton Pell, One Night The Moon, 2001 – explores the difference in attitude between the missing girl’s father, played by Paul Kelly, who “owns” the land, and indigenous tracker Albert Yang (Kelton Pell) who is “owned” by the land.)
  22. I Wasted Time (Paul Kelly, …Nothing But A Dream, 2001)
  23. To Be Good Takes A Long Time (Paul Kelly, Ways & Means, 2004 – the backing band was called the Boon Companions and included Mr Kelly’s nephew Dan Kelly, Peter Luscombe, Dan Luscombe and Bill McDonald.)
  24. Your Loving Is On My Mind (Paul Kelly, Ways & Means, 2004.)
  25. You’re Learning (Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys, Foggy Highway, 2005 – a bluegrass album featuring some old Paul Kelly songs and some new ones, as well as this cover version of a song by American country artists Charlie Louvin and Ira Louvin, which features Kasey Chambers on vocals.)
  26. Zoe (Stardust Five, Stardust Five, 2006 – a side project of Paul Kelly, Dan Kelly, Dan Luscombe, Peter Luscombe and Bill McDonald and this track features the vocals of Mr Kelly’s then-partner Sian Prior as well as (I think) Dan Luscombe.)
  27. The Lion And The Lamb (Paul Kelly, Stolen Apples, 2007 – the last album to feature the Boon Companions and is described as having a “biblical” theme. I don’t know this album very well but I like this song.)
  28. For The Ages (Paul Kelly, Spring And Fall, 2012 – this album came after the 2010 release of Mr Kelly’s epic 8 CD live box set of The A to Z Recordings and his 500+ page “mongrel memoir” How To Make Gravy, and a lot of tours, including the show I saw in 2011. This album features Dan Kelly on guitar.)
  29. Before Too Long (Paul Kelly and Neil Finn, Goin’ Your Way, 2013 – This was a series of concerts that Paul Kelly and Neil Finn did in March 2013 where they performed tracks from their careers and re-interpreted each other’s work. One of the concerts was live-streamed and it was one of the most wonderful events I have ever seen. I love this version of Before Too Long, and Zoe Hauptmann’s bass is just magnificent on this track. There is a fabulous version of For The Ages as well.)
  30. Hasn’t It Rained (Paul Kelly, The Merri Soul Sessions, 2014 – an album recorded with artists including Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Kira Puru and Clairy Browne, with Paul Kelly rarely featuring on vocals. I loved this album, but apparently during the tour some people were disappointed because they were expecting a “Paul Kelly” show, and they got Merri Soul. It always pays to check, because a Paul Kelly show might not be a “Paul Kelly” show.)
  31. Sonnet 73 (Paul Kelly, Seven Sonnets and a Song, 2016 – again one that wasn’t for everyone. This was Mr Kelly’s tribute to William Shakespeare, and was released on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April 2016. It features Paul Kelly and a collection of musicians including Vika and Linda Bull, Lucky Oceans, Alice Keath, and his band (Peter Luscombe, Bill McDonald, Ash Naylor and Cameron Bruce) singing seven sonnets put to his own music and Vika Bull singing Sir Philip Sidney’s “My True Love Hath My Heart”. I found it curious and compelling.)
  32. Good Things (Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen, Death’s Dateless Night, 2016 – and here we are back where we started with Maurice Frawley’s song, although he wasn’t with the Dots for their first album.)
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PK’s 2016 releases

I could have kept going, but I had to draw the line somewhere, so it’s 32 tracks. One hour 46 minutes. It’s a bit long for a mix tape so I’ll have to cut it down so I can dub it on my double cassette deck. Ha.

I’d love to know what you think of my choices, and if you have your own alternative (to the) Paul Kelly greatest hits playlist, please share!

The final countdown

For the past four years I’ve spent my Tuesday evenings tucked away in the studio of the Derwent Valley’s community radio station, TYGA FM, bringing back fabulous music from the 1980s that never really went away.

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I haven’t written much about my life in community radio, because there didn’t seem to be much connection between an 80s-music loving tragic and the world I write about here. However, today marks the end of my journey with community radio and it feels like a good time to reflect on where it’s taken me.

I never intended to be on air. It was Slabs’ thing. He was involved with the station from very early on in its life, helping to set it up in 2009. His Sunday evening show is one of the few original shows from 2009 still on air, and he was President for almost four years.

The story of how I came to be involved goes like this:

Slabs and Kramstable filled in for one of the other presenters when he was away for a few weeks, back in 2012. Kramstable loved this, and set himself up as a radio presenter at home. Slabs asked him if he wanted to do his own show, which he absolutely did, and so a couple of weeks before his sixth birthday he launched his show, which was then called Sunday Recess.

I wasn’t going to be outdone by a six-year-old, and I had this germ of an idea for a show of my own, which I developed during my daily walks. (This is where I get most of my ideas.) It was going to be a 1980s music show with a twist. Each week I’d feature an artist who had been successful in the 80s, but rather than look at their 80s material, I’d look at where they’d come from and what they’d become post their 80s career. So I’d take material from their previous bands, later spin-off bands, solo work, work they’d produced, cover versions of their material – whatever they’d done.

The original idea was that I’d play six to eight songs for each week’s feature artist and talk a bit about their history, then for the rest of the show I’d play a mixed bag of 80s tracks from all over the place.

And so it came to pass, and after three or four weeks in the TYGA FM Sandbox, which was our on-air training slot, I did my first show of Octogenarius on 25 September 2012. The first artist I looked at was Paul Kelly, because I could think of no one better than my favourite artist to launch the show. I loved it.

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Notes from my first show

My on-air persona was called Dolly Ringwald, obviously in honour of 80s poster child Molly Ringwald. Dolly may or may not be connected to Dolly Parton, but I don’t think I’ve played a single song of hers on the show.

Over time the format changed, and I started to fill the whole hour with material from the feature artist. This was great, because I could explore their career more fully, but it also started to take a lot of time to prepare. From a few jotted notes, I went to a typed script and a fully programmed playlist that was taking me four or five hours to prepare each week. This isn’t an amount of time that’s easy to find during a typical week, and it started to feel like a burden rather than something I was doing because I enjoyed it.

So rather than stop, I went from a structured show to a show where I played whatever took my fancy at the time. All from the 80s of course. I’d occasionally do a themed show: Hair metal, Pub rock, and a feature called “Dolly’s Diary” where I played tracks from artists who were born on that day. And a Eurovision show to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest each year. That was always fun.

A highlight was participating in the Women in Community Radio Program in 2014,  which involved managing a small project at the station and presenting a report to the national Community Broadcasting Association Conference. This was a fantastic opportunity, and I met some fabulous women in the sector who are out there doing great things! And the project I did has links to what I’ll be doing a bit later in my #steppingonthecracks project, so I feel like I’m not completely abandoning this part of my life.

But although it’s great to be on the radio, in the past 12 months or so I’ve been feeling that it’s not working for me.

I’m not putting the effort into the show that I think it deserves. I don’t feel passionate about turning up each week and throwing some songs on. I want it to be more than that, but right now there are other things that are more important to me than researching a new show each week. I’ve increasingly been feeling like if I can’t give the show the attention that I want to, then maybe it’s time to step away.

I’d been reluctant to say anything about this because it’s been something that we’ve all been involved in for so long that I felt like I’d be letting the team down if I quit. I know this isn’t the case, and my decisions are my own, but it’s how I’ve felt. Realistically I probably should have done this 12 months ago, but I have enjoyed having a double life and revisiting musical memories from my teenage years. But recently a couple of planets have aligned, and I’ve finally, belatedly, felt able to the plunge. Or jump out of the frypan. Or something.

So tonight is my final show. I have mixed emotions about this because I’m still enjoying doing the show – it’s just that the spark isn’t there.

There are some songs that lend themselves to my final playlist. The Final Countdown by Europe comes to mind, as this was the very last song that was played on Countdown. But if my timing’s right, my last song will be the very first one I played on my first show back in September 2012.

Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me and given me the opportunity to have this experience. It’s been fun.

If you feel that way inclined, you can listen to my final show on 98.9 Tyga FM in Tasmania at 8.00 pm tonight or livestream it.

And I think I’ll keep Dolly alive for now, at least in social media so @octogenarius lives, as does TYGA FM-Octogenarius.

And for the history of Octogenarius and play lists look no further than my AMRAP page. And that’s it.

I’ll miss all this, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and for the chance to take what I’ve learned forward into my next adventure.

Book 23/24: Changeling

You’re probably sick of hearing me say, “I didn’t know much about [author of the book of the moment] until I read the book”, so I’ll simply say Mike Oldfield’s story was nothing like I’d expected.

I remember when I was in Grade 7 one of the older kids at school talking about the experience of listening to Tubular Bells, and I’d built it up to be this amazing piece of music that would completely alter my mind. After that build up, I don’t remember when I first heard it, or even if I actually heard it before listening to Tubular Bells II, which was released in 1992. What I do remember is that around the time I was listening to Tubular Bells II, there was one of those end of the world rapture prophecies floating round. I hadn’t quite weaned myself off my grandmother’s religious views at this time, so I wasn’t too sure whether to believe this or not, but I clearly remember thinking if the world was going to end, that was the music I wanted to be listening to when it happened.

Also around this time I went to see the musical Hair (at the Theatre Royal), which I loved, and I had the cast recording on high rotation along with Tubular Bells II at that time. When I was reading the book I thought it was kind of cool that Mike Oldfield had been in the orchestra for the original production of Hair during its West End run in the early 1970s. Strange grooves.

And for with that rather long and rambling introduction, here’s my thoughts on the book.

It’s broken up into five groups of three chapters, and begins with an intense description of a rebirthing process Mr Oldfield went through in 1978 (the Exegis seminar), where he faces his demons and survives, an experience that he describes as resulting in “the huge blood-crazed demons that had been stalking [him] for the previous 20 years suddenly disappeared”.

Book 23 - Changeling

Most of the book is about his life from when he was born in 1953 to 1981; the final chapter covers the period from 1990 to 2006, and there are four short interludes written in 2006 and 2007 that cover his thoughts on Family, Spirituality, Fame and Rebirth. I liked the structure. It was hard not to feel the pain of the little boy who never fitted in, and whose family gradually fell apart as he grew up.

He writes of Christmas 1960:

My dad had made me a beautiful model of the Ark Royal aircraft carrier [he was into planes]. It was complete with little tiny planes, each on individually painted. I remember that Christmas like it’s locked in my brain because of that model. The fact that my father made it and hand-painted it himself really impressed itself on me. When I was later to write music, maybe that was part of why I wanted to pay great attention to detail, to make sure it was something really special. To be worthwhile, I knew it had to be really big, epic and important, not something to be thrown away. Perhaps those feelings go back to that wonderful Christmas present.

As a child, Mr Oldfield came to music as a release from his problems at school and at home. He writes of how he would listen to records and spend hours trying to work out how to play a certain piece: “It was like a switch went on in my head: I’d finally found something that I really liked and I really wanted to do. . . . I must have looked completely obsessive, but for me it was a way of escape.”

At the age of 12 he started playing regular gigs at the Reading Folk Club. His older sister Sally was playing in the clubs as well, with her friend Marianne Faithfull, and he says of the time that he he wasn’t really socialising, as most of the people he was around were older. He was using his guitar as a means of communication and escape from school, his mother’s mental illness and family problems. He writes:

I understood music like other people didn’t. I felt it and saw it very deeply, with crystal clarity. When I listened to a piece of music I could see all its components, its parts and how they fitted together. I didn’t just sit back and think, ‘oh that’s nice.’ If someone said something like that to me I would be furious with them, ‘What do you mean, can’t you see what’s going on? It’s brilliant!’ Music to me was something different, a vast kaleidoscope of magic and wonder. To this day my mind boggles at how superficially some people listen to music.

In music, he had found a way of coping with life. He writes that it was a sanctuary where he felt safe, it was something that he found interesting – and it was something that made him socially acceptable.

Mr Oldfield recalls his first music class at school after his family had moved from Reading to Harold Wood, where he had to conform to the rules. While he created beautiful harmonies, it wasn’t what the teacher had wanted, and he found the whole experience boring. However, he credits this teacher for introducing him to one of his favourite pieces of music, Sibellius’ fifth symphony, and he says that the beginnings of Tubular Bells started from him wondering how he could do something like that piece.

It was at this time that he was introduced to LSD and hash, and he explains that things wouldn’t have happened the same way without drugs:

That first experience might have flipped a few switches in my brain that led to the utter paranoia I experienced later, which left me feeling incapable of doing much at all for years and years. Through all of that came my life as it is, Tubular Bells and everything else. I wouldn’t put it all down to my drugs experiences but they made me who I am and made the music the way it was.

His experiences with drugs were relatively short-lived though. Following a horror trip in 1970 when he saw reality as it really was, which was the beginning of a decade of panic attacks, he says he’s never touched LSD again.

By this time he was waiting for his 15th birthday so he could leave school. In the meantime he recorded some demo tapes with his sister Sally, under the supervision of Mick Jagger. They ended up recording an album together under the name Sallyangie, but eventually Mr Oldfield felt as though he was in his sister’s shadow and he wanted to do his own thing.

The book continues to tell the story of Mr Oldfield’s first band, Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, which he joined at the age of 16. He notes that he felt like he was the young boy in a band of much older guys, and he didn’t think they took him seriously -they tolerated him, but he wanted to be as good as them. It was with Kevin Ayers that he first started drinking, which he says helped his guitar solo in the show become one of the wild points – like Angus Young of AC/DC (who actually doesn’t drink!).

After this band disbanded, Mr Oldfield continued working with Kevin Ayers and eventually ended up at Shipton Manor, owned by Richard Branson, having been given the chance to work on the album that would become Tubular Bells.

This was recorded over two periods in 1972 and 1973, and the book describes the huge amount of work he put into this album that became a monstrous hit – and how he signed a contract with Virgin that in the end committed him to 17 years and 13 albums with the label. On becoming famous, Mr Oldfield writes:

Eventually I realised that I couldn’t have any true friends any more, because I couldn’t trust why they were being friendly. . . . It’s horrible but I couldn’t see any way of avoiding the feelings of mistrust. To succeed in the music business you have to be very savvy and worldly wise. If anyone can rip you off they will, without a second’s thought. . .  The paradox is if you become strong and tough enough to deal with it, you could lose the sensitivity needed to create whatever it is, the music, the art.

Mr Oldfield goes on to describe the difficulty he had following up such a successful album (Hergest Ridge, the difficult second album), his increasing dependence on alcohol, and the release of his more successful third album Ommadawn in 1975. As the 1970s progressed the world of music was shifting to punk and Virgin, which was essentially a one-artist label, was feeling like a laughing stock, debating whether to drop the “progressive” label and focus on punk. Mr Oldfield writes that he wasn’t marketable at that time, and was constantly attacked in the music press. Consequently he lost his spark and music became a chore to him. It was around this time he attended the Exegis seminar, after which he felt like he was floating on a cloud. He decided he needed a new way of living and working – he writes that it was like starting a completely different life.

He writes of becoming a father, losing his fear of flying then learning to fly, and even going on tour, which he had refused to do in the past.

The final two chapters of the book cover 1981 to 2006. He writes of the settlement agreement with Virgin and another breakdown he had at the end of the Discovery tour in 1984, the break up of his relationship and the albums he made in a more commercial vein with actual songs on them (this was the Moonlight Shadow period). He writes that that last album he made that was full of songs was Earth Moving in 1989. His next album Amarok, was another instrumental album. Richard Branson had wanted him to call it Tubular Bells II but he refused. He said he wanted to do Tubular Bells II, but that wasn’t it. As a result, he says, Virgin didn’t promote it, and it didn’t sell well. He says this is a shame because it’s probably one of the best things he’s ever done.

It’s a single 60-minute piece, which was probably difficult to isolate a piece for radio or release from, and has been described as Mr Oldfield’s protest album against Virgin, and apparently includes Morse Code spelling out “FUCK OFF RB” about 48 minutes in.

Mr Oldfield finally did get to make Tubular Bells II, released in 1992 on his new label Warner. He describes working on it as a joy and that it, and therapy, helped him get through the break-up of his family, his second relationship break-up involving children.

The book ends with Mr Oldfield’s musings on “now”:

I’ve had to learn what I am and it’s not a musician, it’s something else. To me, a musician gets out his instrument and just plays or entertains. That’s not me at all: What I can do is transfer the essence of a feeling or emotion, express it in music. … I’m an interpreter, a sonic mood translator if you like. I can take the beautiful feelings you get in life, and the horrible ones as well, and I can turn them into aural sounds, give form to them in music . . .

From now on my music is not going to be cool, it’s not going to be hip or sexy. It’s going be hand-played and mathematical; it’s going to be as complicated as I feel it needs to be. I’m not going to care if anyone likes it or buys, it, which is exactly the way I felt when I was 19. . .  If I can somehow persuade people how to play again properly, to stop concentrating on how good they look on TV and really start to do interesting things with music, then I’ll try to do that.

I found Mr Oldfield’s story fascinating and knowing the stories has made me want to track down more of his work. I’m currently listening to Ommadawn, which I love and have on high rotation. I think I’ll figure out the Morse Code in Amarok next!

Post script: As I was putting this post together, I learned that Mr Oldfield’s father, Raymond Oldfield, passed away last week. In the book Mr Oldfield says that he has tremendous respect for his father, and that he’s learned how important it is to accept your parents the way they are. He learned in the Exegis seminar that “we look at our parents like gods” and that “if you don’t grow up and see them in their proper place, as proper human beings, you can carry on your whole life looking at them through the wrong perspective”. I think I know what he means there, and it’s a good lesson to learn.

Week in Review: 19-25 January 2014

Monday was the last day of our holiday. We took a short walk through the forest at the back of the hotel before we left.

Rainforest walk near the hotel

Rainforest walk near the hotel

Rainforest walk near the hotel

Rainforest walk near the hotel

The rest of the day we spent driving home and feeling a bit frustrated that we were stuck in the car on the day with the best weather of the whole trip!

Not to worry, we’d had a great time, and we got views like this on the way to Mole Creek, where we stopped for coffee.

View on the way home

View on the way home

I had a lovely day with Juniordwarf on Tuesday. Did I mention he’s now into the movie Coraline, and he likes to act it out? I was Coraline and he was Mother. I don’t know any of the lines, so it went like this:

He (or a teddy) says a line.

He says: ‘you say [whatever the line is]’

I say [whatever the line is].

He tells me what action to do.

Repeat for the entire movie.

I went back to work on Wednesday for a break.

I also found a strawberry in my strawberry patch. (‘Patch’ might be an exaggeration.) I got to it before the birds did. One strawberry. I’m an amazing gardener.

Gardening success!

Gardening success!

On Friday we went to Two Metre Tall Farm Bar for dinner. It was fun – there was a big group of fruit pickers there, and we were entertained by some French musicians from the group Chalouche. Somehow Juniordwarf ended up in the middle of the people who were dancing. He had a fantastic time.

Farm Bar

Farm Bar

My daily step goal (in preparation for the Care Walk in her Shoes challenge) is 13,000 on the way to 20,000. I achieved this on only 3 days this week, but my total step count over the week was 96,731. That means on average, I did about 13,800 steps each day, so over the week I met the goal.

I didn’t do less than 10,000 on any day, which I’ve decided will be my absolute minimum for any one day. So I think I can call this week a success.

I put a pedometer on Juniordwarf one day to see how much activity he actually does. He bounces around a lot, so I imagined that even if he doesn’t do any actual exercise, he would still be getting in a lot of movement.

I was right.

By the time he’d gone to bed, he’d done 10,814 steps just by being himself. At the same time I’d done 11,458 steps, which included an hour walk in the morning.

Pedometer experiment

Pedometer experiment

This says to me that I probably need to increase my activity level during the day. Something to think about.

A right royal day out

A right royal day out
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


‘When’s the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace?’ asked Lil Sis on the day we arrived in London.

It turns out this happens every second day during autumn and winter, and this matched up nicely with our ‘rest day’ Friday. So we thought we’d go and have a look.

While we were on our Hop on Hop off bus tour on Tuesday, Steve the guide mentioned that while the Queen was away on her summer holiday, Buckingham Palace was open to the public. This only happens for about 2 months a year, so we’d come at the right time.

Despite not being particularly enthusiastic about the Royal Family, we thought it would be a good opportunity to see inside the palace, which isn’t somewhere most visitors to England would see.

So Friday would be Buckingham Palace day.

There was a huge crowd outside the palace when we got there. The viewing points were directly outside the gates, across the road outside Green Park, where we’d walked through, and behind the Victoria Memorial. The Victoria Memorial position was easiest to access and there was still plenty of front row space behind the rail – we were told the main thoroughfare between that rail and the gates had to be kept clear, as this is where the Guard would be marching. There were quite a few police officers on hand to direct people to the correct places, as well as warning punters about bag security and pickpockets.

The horseback policeman was very quick to warn people to only cross the road at the lights, not at other points of the road. ‘Don’t make me get my pen out,’ he said.

Most of the action takes place behind the gates, so the people who had got there early enough to secure a position directly behind the fence would have seen it all. From where we were, we were limited to seeing the Old and New Guard as they marched past.

We decided it would probably be a bad time to try and get into the palace immediately after the ceremony, and a glance at the line confirmed this. The attendant told us it would be a lot quieter in a couple of hours, so we wandered through Green Park before heading off to get lunch.

We returned just before the entrance closed at 4.15pm. The tour of the palace takes in the State Rooms and the Gardens. There was an audio commentary, which meant we could take our time as we made our way through. It was spectacular, filled with more gilding (if that’s the correct term) than I ever imagined to see on the trip. Not really my sort of thing. It didn’t move me in the way Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral did.

As well as being the home of the Royal Family, the palace is one of only a few working palaces anywhere, and 450 people work there. It’s huge, having been significantly extended from its previous form as Buckingham House. (The first building on the site was built in 1633.) It first became a royal residence when it was purchased by George III in 1762 for his wife Queen Charlotte. The building was extended in the 1820s and became the official royal palace under George IV.

Once we’d been through the State Rooms, we were out in the Gardens, which were lovely. A cafe and official gift shop are set up for the public season, and the gifts and souvenirs are obviously a lot classier than those in the unofficial palace souvenir shops across the road.

Once we were done with the Palace, it was time to make our way to the nearby Apollo Victoria Theatre to pick up our tickets to see Wicked. I’d been looking forward to this for months and it lived up to its reputation. I loved it, and want to see it again! It was a little strange hearing the performers’ English accents, as I was used to the Broadway cast recording, but it really is a fantastic show in any accent and definitely been a highlight of the trip.