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Baton down the hatches…

A means by which ASIO, in collaboration with ARIA, BPI, MI5, RIAA and the FBI get us all in the end, disguised as a meme.

1. The person (or persons) who passed the baton to you:

Rory, whose work I stumbled onto while trying to locate a suitable Andrew Denton bio for a piece I wrote about an episode of Denton’s ‘conversation’ show (it goes much deeper than the traditionally superficial ‘chat show’ format) entitled Enough Rope.

I was reading one of his posts thinking ‘what a good idea; must do my version of that’ only to discover, when I’d read all the way to the bottom, that I was being challenged to do just that.

2. Total volume of music files on your computer:

Let me start by saying that I don’t own an iPod, and as a rule, I don’t download song files. Coming from a rich tradition of music retail, and being a bit of a collector, I like having covers to pore over, artwork to fetish and sleevenotes to ingest. However, I seem to have 69.2 GB of stuff between my hard drive and my external hard drive. This will include all the interviews I’ve ever kept, and all of my music news segments that I’ve archived, as well as free downloads from fave band sites and the like. (Oh, all right, and stuff I’m ‘sampling’ in order to decide whether or not I want to actually buy it.) It’s actually not as impressive as it might sound. Certainly, if I ever did buy an iPod, very little of this stuff would find its way onto it.

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought:

This is so embarrassing. I do stuff on the radio, which includes a lot of interviewing musicians and comedians (and other arty-types) and I also present a weekly music news segment.

Okay so far.

In an ideal world, music labels would go, “you do a music news segment? Have a pile of free shit”. Some of them actually do this. However, most of them go, “you’re not a priority to us” and follow through with either shit-all or just shit. Mostly, I don’t mind. During good employment periods as a freelancer, I buy everything I want. It’s just during the lean period, when there seems to be much more ‘free’ than ‘lancing’, that I start getting a bit annoyed. When I worked in a ‘High Fidelity’-type secondhand and collectibles gorgeous young women called Annabelle from ‘promotions’ departments of magazines, television shows and music labels would off-load multiple copies of big, current release items for ready cash with which to buy social lubricants before the weekend, while I had to haggle for every little tax write-offable freebie from those same companies whose limited promotions budget ensure that I ‘was not a priority’. So I stopped haggling. If I’m not sent it, I grab it from the ABC Library.

Still with me?

The exception for the rule has to be charting singles. Since the music news segment I present ends with a quick top five singles and album chart run-down from the week’s ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Assocation) charts, if a new-release CD single has debuted in the top five, more often than not it won’t be in the library, so if I have enough shrapnel banging around in coin pockets I’ll whip out and buy a copy.

So. The last bunch of CDs I’ve bought have all been charting CD singles. They are:

  1. the Foo Fighters’ ‘Best Of You’ which debuted at number five this week (not too embarrassing);

  2. Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’, a kind of cheerleader chant that owes most of its existence to the opening bit of Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ and Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, which debuted at number one last week;

  3. ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart’ by The Black Eyed Peas, who debuted at number one with the single the week before Stefani, and who returned to number one this week after having spent a week at number two;

  4. the week before that I bought Will Smith’s single ‘Switch’ (debuting at number one that week — can you see the pattern that’s developing?); and

  5. the week before that I bought Snoop Dogg’s CD single ‘Signs’ (another big number one single).
Now. Had I been presented with the baton more than five weeks ago, I was briefly cashed up enough to go suitably crazy after the bills had been paid. In one foolishly self-indulgent day I bought:

  1. From Us To You, a bootleg collection of live BBC recordings by the Beatles that contains enough (by my reckoning) songs not officially available on the Live at the BBC collection to be added to my collection;

  2. Elsewhere by Frank Zappa and the Mothers, a bootleg roughly from the Roxy and Elsewhere period band line-up, augmented with a couple of additional original Mothers, brought in for what was the rockin’ teen combo’s tenth anniversary (and featuring the same tracklisting as this with extra stuff bunged on; and

  3. Live ’n’ Rare, an official compilation of live recordings by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, from various performances that took place in England during the 70s.

4. Song playing at the moment of writing:

‘Have You Got A Biro I Can Borrow?’ by Pete Atkin, from the album Beware of the Beautiful Stranger, coupled on CD with Driving Through Mythical America by excellent reissue company See for Miles. The lyrics are written by my favourite ex-pat Aussie, Clive James, who first teamed up with Pete Atkin during their Footlights days at Cambridge University. On the CD cover the song is erroneously listed as ‘Have You Got A Bird I Can Borrow?’ which I reckon would make for a more interesting lyric.

5. Five songs you have been listening to of late (or all time favourites, particularly personally meaningful songs):

Well, I'm gonna stick to five of a bigger bunch of ‘songs I've been listening to of late’ purely because I’m always finding new favourites.
  1. A song I guess might be called ‘Without You’ – it’s a duet between Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, from the first episode of variety show In Melbourne Tonight to be shot at the Nine Network’s then-new Studio Nine (a converted Heinz food factory). Bert is brought on as a surprise guest and the polite Melbourne audience go about as apeshit as a polite Melbourne audience could go in 1957. I used it to end my music news segment as a tribute to Kennedy, who passed away this week. That episode of In Melbourne Tonight is one of the ‘special features’ on a DVD called Graham Kennedy – King of Television.

  2. Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take You Out’ – which won the Ivor Novello award for ‘Best Contemporary Song’ during the week. Pete Doherty, formerly of The Libertines and now of Baby Shambles dismissed it as essentially being the same riff as Ringo Starr’s ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ and I can’t believe I didn’t spot that myself.

  3. The Major Orchestral Works of Eugene Goossens. A review copy of the three-CD anthology of the composer’s work, sent by one of the labels for whom my music news segment actually is a priority!

  4. ‘Leave My Kitten Alone’ – A great song that the Beatles covered with John Lennon on lead vocals that finally saw the light of day courtesy of the Anthology series of CDs. But Elvis Costello and the Attractions also covered it during the Blood and Chocolate sessions (and Elvis had another go for his later covers album, Kojak Variety). That version with the Attractions finally saw the light of day with the re-re-issue of Blood & Chocolate, where it opens disc two, which I have been listening to a lot of late.

  5. ‘There I Was’, an ABBA pastiche that my brother Joe composed the music for, from a religious musical called Grunt (or, if he had taken my advice, Grunt If You Love Jesus; I still think they should have sold t-shirts — particularly tight-fitting little girlie t-shirts — with that emblazoned on the front!).

6. Five people to whom you will ‘pass the musical baton’:

Gonna cheat a little bit again.
  1. My brother Joe, who will no doubt be deconstructing the musical signs of some other musician’s oeuvre in order to rebuild them around a new song of praise.

  2. Fritter, who is forever recommending yet another hitherto overlooked artist with enough background info to provide a suitable context.

  3. Nick O’Sullivan, to ensure he’s listening to a little more than just his baby daughter’s crying in the middle of the night.

  4. Emma Driver, who when not making fantastic music of her own, makes interesting discoveries of both musicians and comics, and enthusiastically shares her findings.

  5. Foe, who really ought to call, write or e-mail a little more frequently. Or at all, really.

  6. I know that’s my five, but I mention Suzanne as well, to whom I will not pass the baton; she will grab it and run with it unprompted.
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