Elvis Costello & The Imposters -
Australian Tour 2013

So Elvis Costello is back in 2013. He was last here late 2009 doing a solo turn - I remember having to make an early departure from the first night of the World's Funniest Island Festival on Cockatoo Island to get to the Enmore Theatre for what was an excellent show that reinterpreted a lot of the old songs and divided a lot of the audience.

I'll write more before the tickets go on sale on October 29, but for now, here's a photo. It's from backstage at the Capitol Theatre back in 1999. On that tour, it was just Elvis and his long-time keyboard player Steve Nieve.

EC_Backstage capitol


I was lucky. I'd run into Tom from Universal. Who used to be Tom from EMI when I was a shop assistant at Mall Music, back in the day: I was a massive record-collecting music nerd who'd scored a summer job at the record shop where I'd bought my first record ('Beatles Movie Medley', if you must know - a 1982 single put together to promote Reel Music, a compilation of songs from the various Beatles films) and most of my records subsequently. Tom was the sales rep from EMI. Record labels don't have sales reps anymore - shops who still stock music phone in orders (to some off-shore answering service, probably) and a box of stuff they never ordered mysteriously arrives. Back in the day, each major distributor - that would be the home to a multitude of labels - would send out sales representatives who would take orders for back catalogue items as well as showing off advanced copies of new releases.

Tom and I hit it off because he was a Liverpudlian who happened to be a Beatles fan to boot. And, as it turns out, Elvis Costello was also a Liverpudlian who happened to be a Beatles fan to boot.

So in 1999 at the Capitol I ran into Tom and made big fanboy eyes and asked if there was any chance of going backstage. There were a heap of people I knew from various music shops. Tom said, 'wait here, I'll see what I can do' and we were ushered backstage.

What do you say to Elvis Costello?

I could only come up with shop talk:

"Loving the reissues with all the bonus tracks, but when are we gonna get a decent live anthology?"

"Well," Elvis replied, "it's not like we haven't tried. But it's the Neil Young thing, you know, every time you think you've got the album finished, you realise you've overlooked something important that should be on it."

Or words to that effect.
One of the guys I recognised was Ric - who'd worked at cool collector store Rocking Horse in Brisbane and come to Sydney and worked at the mecca of music stores still standing, Red Eye and would go on to open Egg Records with his brother-in-law Baz, where I'd work from time-to-time. Ric came equipped with stuff to sign: a copy of Trust and a publicity photo. I had no idea I'd wind up backstage, hogging the photo. But I had a ticket!


Come back for a more involved exploration of the oeuvre of Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus. And - hopefully - a cool caricature from Nick O'Sullivan.

Check back soon. Meanwhile:


Fine Print:

with Sunnyboys, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Tex Perkins & the Dark Horses, Stephen Cummings

• Saturday January 26 - Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley VIC
• Sunday January 27 - Leconfield Wines, McLaren Vale SA
• Saturday February 2 - Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley NSW
• Sunday February 3 - Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton QLD
• Wednesday February 6 - Kings Park, Perth WA

For all transport, accommodation and event information go to www.adayonthegreen.com.au
Proudly presented by MAX and LG

with Joe Camilleri (duo)

• Friday January 25 - Palais Theatre Melbourne
• Wednesday January 30 - State Theatre Sydney

For information go to www.frontiertouring.com.au

from ticketmaster.com.au & 136 100

Hurtling towards the End of the World

(thanks to @mrtonymartin for tweeting the link to this clip)

A lot of people, it would seem, are talking what many more other people would consider absolute crap about the end of the world; scatology about eschatology, if you will. Elaborate mime enactments thereof are a special kind of hell on earth, but if you can s it through that, you can deal with my two  bits. First, here’s Elvis Costello performing ‘Waiting for the End of the World’:

So the world’s gonna end this evening. In a way I’m glad: I’m between decent-paying gigs, got taxes, bills, and – if the happy clappy fundies are anything to go by – hell to pay. But before I get my hopes up, I’ve got to confess (so to speak) that I’ve been here before: in high school, some time in the late-80s, the world was also supposed to end. I remember I had a 4-unit maths exam looming and essays due, and quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to study or read relevant texts or do anything other than whatever I did in late adolescence. I had new guitar chords to discover; Python episodes, newly released on VHS to watch; and those Frank Zappa records weren’t gonna listen to themselves! But I’m glad I crammed some differential calculus and imaginary numbers and actually cribbed some Prude and Party Sex notes.

I’m assuming there won’t be some intense conflagration this evening. Which is a pity – since I’m due to do a spot of open mic stand-up at the Oriental Hotel at Cooks Hill, Newcastle, which is a formidable bear pit of a pub at the best of times. So I suspect I shall die tonight, anyway – on stage…[1]


But if the world does end, look at the bright side: we finally get to find out what happened to the dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden – making it The Velocirapture.

Were dinosaurs destroyed in the Great Flood after all? Was the serpent in fact a larger, entirely different reptile than the snake that is commonly depicted? If so, why didn’t he just eat Adam and Eve and have done with?


(Image lifted from this website)

But if the Great Rapture doesn’t take place, if whatever the current equivalent of the Hale-Bop comet doesn’t bring about the end of the world, or at least the mass suicide of fervid cultists, prepare for the Great Cognitive Dissonance. And synchronise your watches for the next one.

Meanwhile, enjoy this rapture death, from the Six Feet Under episode entitled In Case of Rapture:

Now I’m gonna leave the last word on the ratbag fringe faithful to Messrs Bennett, Cook, Miller and Moore, AKA Beyond The Fringe:


Oh, and look, the final word, as posted on Satarista Paul Provenza’s Facebook page (added middle of the following week):



1) Not really. I mean, it may happen, but I’m not crippled with fear, for two reasons: I’ve played the Oriental before, and I was the only comic who didn’t die that night. And I may still die tonight, but I’ve already died the most horrific, shattering stage death and lived to tell the tale. But that’s a tale to tell another time.

Further thoughts on Spam

One of the devices multinational corporations use to win and maintain increased market share is to introduce new lines of product. These new lines may not be as successful as the pre-existing flagship product; indeed, they may only break even, or operate at a loss. But they keep competitors off the shelves, ensuring that the company continues to rack up sales in that sort of product. The best examples of such product diversification can be seen with Coca-Cola.

Retailers who stock Coke must also stock Vanilla Coke and Cherry Coke and Diet Coke and Diet Coke with Vanilla and Diet Coke with Lime. Depending on the sort of retail premises, this may mean not stocking any product manufactured by rival cola company Pepsi. But in addition to Coke, the retailer may also have to take Fanta, also manufactured by Coca-Cola Amatil. Once upon a time, Fanta was an orange fizzy drink. Now it means an entire rainbow of different coloured fizzy drinks. Coca-Cola also offer Sprite, a lemonade that competes with other lemonades. Mount Franklin bottled water is also a Coca-Cola product. If all of these various soft drinks are stocked, the consumer seems to have a lot of choice, while only one company has all of the profits.

One of the most alternative of cola alternatives is no longer an alternative at all. The bitter Italian cola known as ‘Chinotto’ may offer a world of difference to Coca-Cola, but have a close look at the label of the next bottle you buy, if indeed you buy Chinotto. If it is manufactured by Bisleri, it will bear the trademark lion-in-a-circle, with a ribbon draped across it claiming it to be ‘tradizionale’. This not-so-dynamic ribbon device also graces the bottom of the label, circumnavigating the bottle with the words “Tradizionale Chinotto Tradizionale Chinotto…” repeated ad infinitem.

Traditionally, Chinotto was a bitter drink manufactured from the bitter chinotto orange, also known as the Seville orange, and sung about by Elvis Costello in the song ‘Tart’, from the album When I Was Cruel:

Hear silver trumpets will trill in Arabic streets of Seville
Oranges roll in the gutter
And you pick them up
And peel back the skin
To the red fruit within

But the flavour is…
And the flavour is…

Reading the fine print of the label on the bottle of Chinotto reveals no evidence of the chinotto orange. Instead, it says


So there you have it: maintain market leadership by introducing a multitude of variations.

(Interestingly, ‘Bisleri’ began as an Italian company founded by Felice Bisleri in 1967. It also marketed fresh drinking water in India. Bisleri Mineral Water continues to exist in India but its website gives no indication of it being part of the international Coca-Cola Amatil empire. That the sale and distribution of the product has been halted due to health issues suggests that there is no relationship.)

So back to Spam, currently undergoing a $4.9 million campaign to rejuvinate it and give it more appeal. If the good people at Spam Pty Ltd really want to make their product central to the eating habits of the greater population, they really should take Coca-Cola’s example and start devising a wider range of menu items – taking up entire aisles in supermarkets.

Apparently, the name ‘Spam’ is derived from its content of ‘spiced pork and ham’. If they can put spiced pork and ham in a can and call it ‘Spam’, why stop there? Why not spiced beef called ‘Speef’?

Okay, lingering vestiges of negative press from the infamous mad cow disease epidemic may result in limited appeal, but what about a halal or kosher version of the product, using lamb?

Admittedly, there will be a slight problem since confusion will arise between the spiced pork and ham product, Spam, and the spiced lamb product, Spamb. However, in those cultures that make no bones about consuming goat, you have the halal/kosher Spoat, and in the more ‘genteel’ cultures, Sputton. (As we all known, the spiced lamb would always only be Sputton done up as Spamb anyway.)

But why stop there? Why not, for the truly posh, spiced game meats, liked Spenison? A fowl range would also be a winner. Spicken for the everyday consumer, with Spail, Spuck and Spurkey for the well-to-do and, on special occasions, the common-as-muck as well. The truly posh can of course indulge in Spescargot and Spaté.

There is no reason not to venture into the water also. Spish products could be marketed for consumption on rice as Spushi or Spashimi (I can never remember which is which), and for the truly lucrative Japanese market, Spale products, at least until whaling is well and truly outlawed. No, I mean really well and truly outlawed. No, I mean really, really, really cross-your heart, hope to die, we may even consider signing the Kyoto Protocol, outlawed. No, really.

In Africa, where the impending world food shortage has already begun to have an effect and poachers are killing wildlife and selling it as ‘bush meat’, a little bit of monkey, say, could be made to go a long way with the right combination of whatever it is they put in Spam. Make way for Sponkey, not to mention Spinoceros and Spelephant.

I’m particularly looking forward to investing in shares of the company’s Spaussie range of Spuisine: kangaroo and rabbit culls will finally provide a lucrative industry – aside from pet food (sorry, that’s an unfortunate mental image to conjure when discussing tinned cold meats) – when Spangaroo and Spabbit hits the market. Again, ‘boutique’ lines could be introduced to include Sprocadile and Sparramundi, not to mention Sprawn, Spobster, baby Spoctopus and Spaviar. If other protected species get out of hand, there’s always the likelihood of Spoala, Spombat and Spallaby. But we’d have a hard time distinguishing Splatypus from generic roadkill-in-a-can, Splatterpus.

With such a range of spiced meats available, there is no need to ever eat dodgy, fast-food alternatives whose meat products contain god-only-knows-what – like hot dogs and hamburgers – ever again. Although, what would be more likely (and could drive the value of shares through the roof) would be a hostile take-over, by Spam, of a pre-existing fast food chain. Consider: SpacDonalds could introduce a range of Spamburgers as well as Spicken McNuggets. Or maybe Spizza Hut would offer the ultimate Speat-lover’s Spizza with Spepperoni and Spalami along with the usual Spince sauce and Spam.

For the stay-at-home types and the health conscious, it will only be a matter of time before the offal of the vegetable kingdom – peelings, the woody bits where the edible bit was once connected to the plant, and any other bits that are traditionally fed to rabbits, put in the compost heap or thrown away – can be boiled down and mixed with gelatine to make some sort of tinned Spegetable equivalent.

“Spammity spam, lov-er-ly spam,” indeed!

Joy McKean on Slim Dusty's Columbia Lane

When Slim Dusty set about recording his last album, he did so knowing the end was near. Despite terminal illness, he managed to lay down seven very fine vocal and guitar tracks before passing away. Slim’s widow Joy McKean saw the seven tracks to completion and release as Columbia Lane, album number 107 at the end of Slim’s sixty-year career.

Although not an ardent lover of country music, I come to it via the musicians I’m into: Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett’s country turn as ‘The Coward Brothers’, for the single ‘The People’s Limousine’, and Costello’s countrified King of America album, which Burnett produced; Bob Dylan’s excursion into country and the Rolling Stones’ excursions into dirty blues versions of the same. Nowadays, there is a respect given to country music via its rock ’n’ roll end, nebulously labelled ‘alt.country’. (“We keep hearing the words ‘alt.country’,” the Waifs’ Donna Simpson told me when I interviewed her. She had no idea what to make of the epithet with which her band had been tarred. “What is ‘alt’, ‘dot’, ‘country’? ‘Alternative country’? ‘Not quite country’? ‘Not quite folk’? I don’t know. It’s just acoustic music – a bit of country, a bit of blues, just whatever we’re inspired by.”)

Alt.country seems to originate with cool, sixties musicians realising that their country music equivalents were more talented, but not considered nearly as cool, mostly because they were on average ten years older, and it was kiddies and the serious men in suits marketing to the kiddies who were doing all the considering. Thus, the younger musician handed over some respect and borrowed some licks, riffs and sensibilities. The Lovin’ Spoonful paid tribute to such country musicians with their countrified spoof ‘Nashville Cats’, while the Byrds, under the influence of Gram Parsons, dedicated a whole album to them, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Dylan was recording with some of them on his acid rock album Blond on Blonde. Recently, fat, uncool, 70s Elvis Presley was posthumously exonerated, and with him, the country rock of his later years.

Why am I rabbitting on here? Because, if the only way you can bring yourself to give Slim Dusty a bit of time and respect is under the cover of an apparently ‘cool’ label such as ‘alt.country’, then be aware that Columbia Lane closes with a fantastic Don Walker song called ‘Get Along’. Otherwise, why not have a listen to a man who, in sixty years, recorded one hundred and seven albums – there's a lot there so something’s bound to appeal.

Oh yeah, this went to air on Saturday 6 March 2004.

Music: ‘Nature’s Gentleman’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Joy, this album ‘Columbia Lane’ consists of some of the songs that Slim Dusty was working on before he passed away. How much work had to go into the seven songs contained herein to prepare them for release?

JOY MCKEAN: Not a lot vocally, but some of the instrumental parts had to be completed because Slim was concentrating on getting down the vocals and his guitar. They were the main things he had to concentrate on getting done.

Demetrius Romeo: How difficult is it working with Slim’s legacy after his passing?

JOY MCKEAN: It is difficult at times and yet, over the years, I’ve always worked with Slim on projects and albums and I am training myself to try and look at this as another one his projects that I have to go ahead and do my normal work on. I think that is the way I’m getting through it because, of course, it’s difficult when I think of him, and of him working on these songs.

Demetrius Romeo: Are there other projects that you would continue with after this? I understand that there was a live album planned at one stage.

JOY MCKEAN: There was a live album planned. There’s not a lot of material. He’s not going to ‘do a Jim Reeves’ with stacks and stacks of things coming out of the woodwork simply because Slim was a very prolific recording man. As you know, this was album 107. As soon as he'd get things ready, they were more-or-less released, you see. So there’s not a big backlog.

Music: ‘Long Distance Driving’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: The title Columbia Lane I understand refers to Slim’s home studio, which itself was named after the studio Slim used to record at when he was first signed to Regal Zonophone. Was there a lot of sentimentality and love for his career throughout?

JOY MCKEAN: Yes, you see, Columbia Lane was the lane everybody had to walk down to get to the recording studios and it meant a lot to Slim because when Slim began recording, Regal Zonophone was the only label at the only recording company in Australia. So to walk down Columbia Lane in the footsteps of people like Peter Dawson, Gladys Moncreif, all the radio big bods was a terrific thrill for Slim.
Are there other songs that just couldn’t be completed for release from this project?

Music: ‘Long Distance Driving’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Listening to the songs, they’re all trucking songs. What was the project they were originally designed for?

JOY MCKEAN: Actually they were designed for a trucking album but you’ll see that ‘Nature’s Gentleman’ is very different. It was written by his mate James Blundell, and he’d had that one for a while and he wanted to get it on record, he really did. He hadn’t been able to fit it into a project in the previous year, but he was determined he was going to get that on record even though it wasn’t a trucking song. So he did that, and then of course, the Don Walker one which is so very different, but that is slightly trucking. And then of course ‘Blue Hills in the Distance’ is about being on the Gann, that new train. Rather, I should say it was a trip on the old one it was written about actually.

Music: ‘Blue Hills In The Distance’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Despite being a prolific songwriter himself, I see Slim does sing a lot of other people’s songs. How would he go about chosing what songs he would record for his next album?

JOY MCKEAN: He always looked for something he could relate to, that he felt the people he knows so well could relate to, he looked for something that had a bit of grit to it, something ‘real’ to it. He had a gift being an ordinary Australian bloke. He had that gift of relating to what he could relate to, and because he was like so many other Australians, they could relate to it. That’s what he looked for all the time: really good, strong lyrics. And even if he only got lyrics, he could set them to music that would bring out the story and what the lyrics were trying to say.

Demetrius Romeo: Joy, for a lot of people, the name ‘Slim Dusty’ tends to conjure those more well known songs like ‘Pub With No Beer’ or ‘Duncan’, songs that we all know or know of. But having had such an extensive recording career, there’s such a depth of songs to draw from. Do you think that this is a time that more people will come to get to know Slim’s work, and what will they find if they do?

JOY MCKEAN: Well I think that a lot of people may decide to have a closer look. It’s like I’m hearing from overseas people saying, “I’ve only just found Slim Dusty in the last month or so”. If they do listen, they’ll find a very different horde of work than just ‘Pub With No Beer’ and ‘Duncan’. Slim was recording for a period of sixty years and he was drawing from real-life stories and experiences, so if you listen to a body of his work, Dom, you’ll hear all sorts of changes: changes in people’s outlook, in the Australian culture, the way we look at things and all the different things we’re interested in. If you listen to a selection of Slim’s work over that sixty years, you really will be amazed at the changes his music portrays.

Music: ‘Get Along’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Joy McKean, thank you very much.

JOY MCKEAN: Thanks so much, Dom, it’s been really nice speaking with you.

Music: ‘Get Along’ - Slim Dusty

A Really Horrible Dream

Taking the article ‘Hatchet Piece (101 Things I Hate)’ that appears in the book ‘Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters’ as read (which we should, because it was, by me, midway through an Arts degree when it was far more fun to read weird books on the lawn in front of the Main Quad at university than actually attend English, Psychology or Philosophy lectures), it turns out that I am not just one of the things John Waters hates, but in fact the one-hundred-and-first thing; the thing, he says, that he hates “more than anything in the world: a person who confides, ‘I had the weirdest dream last night…’” At the risk of angering the pontifex of perversity, I must tell you that this morning, shortly before I awoke, I had the most horrific dream I have had for some time.

When my dad died, I was plagued by dreams about him. Initially they were ultra-vivid visions: he’d be laying bright red bricks under a clear blue sky in the hot summer sun, and I’d be helping him. Upon waking up, I’d usually burst into tears – all those years of resenting having to play bricky’s labourer on weekends and school holidays when there was serious guitar playing, record shopping or flirting to be done, and now those days were the source of about the best memories my unconscious thought I had of the old man.

After the extra-sensory memory dreams came the stress dreams: often, the old man would have just discovered a terminal disease and we’d all panic and wonder how we’d cope if he didn’t pull through. I’d wake up relieved, knowing that it was just a dream, and then remember that he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, that he hadn’t pulled through, and that this sort of dream was part of the coping mechanism. I had a lot of these dreams in Italy especially, having gone over with my mum to settle the old man’s estate. In the early hours I’d dream that he was lying in a death-like state, and panic would ensue until I realised I could hear him snoring. Then church bells would ring and all would be well. I’d wake up, still hearing the church bells pealing from both our village cathedral and the one nestled on the side of the mountain facing our village, and realise that it was actually my mum snoring in the next room.

Although the emotions appear to be inverted, ‘interpersonal relationship’ dreams seem to be of a similar kind to the ‘coping with the death of a loved one’ dreams. They begin as erotic dreams prior to and during the actual interpersonal relationship, but afterwards they’re just ‘all’s well in the relationship’ dreams that invariably come after you’ve been dumped. You awaken from a peaceful reverie to realise that, actually, all’s not well in your world. You suddenly realise that your stomach cavity is once again filled with lead, as it was when you woke up during the early hours of the previous morning. You wonder how on earth you’ll get through another day and fall asleep again that evening. And so it goes...

My freakiest stress dream usually finds me sitting the English paper of the Higher School Certificate (commonly known as “the HSC”, Australia’s ‘leaving certificate’ examination) again. I particularly recall having this recurring nightmare when facing extra difficult periods of employment, specificially at my last full-time job, as a Publications Co-ordinator at a school(!) Why the English paper? Possibly because it is the first examination in the HSC and so at the time was the most stressful; after getting through the first, the rest would have appeared less formidable. And yet, my less-frequently dreamt and scarier nightmare, in a similar vein, is of a mathematics exam. I don’t know why.

Actually, my freakiest stress dream involves a scenario worse still than being thrown headlong into the examination scenario once again. It hasn’t happened often, but occasionally I dream that I am on the stage, performing, but under-prepared. Originally, these dreams involved memories of actual performances I’d been in, and amazingly, I’d remember whole chunks of dialogue and song from school musicals. (“So, if it ain’t Prince Tiny and the ‘little league’!” – my first line, as Freddie the Fidler, in Tin Pan Alley, the St Augustine's College musical from 1987. I was in Year 10. It featured girls from the local Catholic girl’s school, Stella Maris College, amongst whose ranks was a young Kym Wilson. She was fifteen, gorgeous and very popular amongst us horny and repressed Catholic school boys, so although I don’t quite dream about her, I may have the occasional little ‘think’ about her before dropping off to sleep at night!)

Nowadays, these dreams still occasionally take place in the school auditorium. However, when they do not, school teachers’ faces accompany those of past employers throughout the audience. I am on stage alone. There is nothing prepared. I start to improvise. And it always goes well. Hats off to my Id! Why can’t real life be that good?

So anyway, this morning I awoke from a dream that was worse than any of the above examples. In fact, I reckon it worse than all of the above put together. Here’s my dream:

I return to the venue of a party – obviously a friend’s house in the dream, but one I don’t recognise from my normal waking life – to retrieve a bunch of CD singles I left at the party the night before. But I can’t find them. And I wonder why I possibly thought I could leave them to retrieve later. Amongst the missing items is the ultra-limited Costello/Nieve box set that was released nearly a decade ago now, as well as a pile of Radiohead CD singles, including the even older and rarer ‘Drill’ EP. Although I eventually find the Costello/Nieve box set (autographed, to boot! My copy ain’t autographed in real life) I cannot locate any of the Radiohead stuff, and I am most miffed about losing the ‘Drill’ EP. I'm really despondent, disheartened, angry.

Eventually, I drift into wakefulness and start to tell myself I never took Radiohead CD singles to anyone’s party. And then I realise I’ve never even seen a copy of the ‘Drill’ EP in real life, let alone owned one.

Do you think I should consider an alternative form of employment to working in a secondhand/collectibles music shop?