“‘Flowers-in-a-can’ by any other name would still smell as sweet…”

A friend of mine has devised a couple of mottos – truisms, in fact – to live his life by:

Air conditioning is the difference between a good time and a great time.


You shouldn't have to pay for parking or sex.

The latter one especially is a sure-fire platform for election to local government, mark my words.

However, he recently came up with a new one, the veracity of which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is also irrefuteable:

You shouldn’t be able to tell when someone’s done a poo at work.

I’m not sure exactly how he derives these maxims – whether he posits such statements and then tests them empirically, or if he comes upon them merely by deep reflection. However, this latest one comes from, he says, personal experience:

“Our work toilet is just a dunny and one of those ridiculous tiny rectangular basins. The whole area, similar in size to a telephone box, is located right near Reception. Often, when couriers or clients come in, their first whiff is of faecal matter mixed with ‘flowers-in-a-can’.”

Turns out that the other philosophers my buddy works with aren’t as enlightened as he is.

“We are also having trouble finding (and keeping) a receptionist,” he says. “We’ve had about six since June - some are temps and some are full-timers. The full-timers we’ve had last on average three days.”

Here’s the clincher:

“We couldn’t work out why – the job/salary isn't that bad and the people here are friendly enough - oh hang on, she has to sit outside the toilet door.”

The irony is that my friend works for a waste disposal firm!

Postscript: I just had a thought: if you were a pathologist, say, and you worked maybe with the oncology unit of a hospital, and you had to analyse stool samples, then my buddy’s latest motto doesn’t hold true: if your job is to analyse stool samples, then you should be able to tell when someone’s done a poo at work; if you can’t tell, then you’re probably not going to be very good at your job!

Getting My Head Around The Necks

I first became aware of the Necks when I was working as a shop assistant in a ‘classical and jazz’ music shop. The assistant manager was actually foolhardy enough to try and put a Necks CD on in the shop and was thwarted, moments into it, by the shop owner. See, although, as a music consumer, you may think music shops exist to expose new music to music-lovers, they in fact exist to shift units of product. So you don’t actually play new, exciting, challenging, thought-provoking stuff. The only new stuff you play is either what is already popular, or what sounds as safe and accessible as something already popular. The Necks – like, say, Stravinsky – never stood a chance in our shop. Not that the Necks should be considered the jazz equivalent of Stravinsky or anything like that; what the Necks have in common with Stravinsky is an essential non-beingness: you’d never play Stravinsky in the store because it’s not Mozart. Little old ladies, middle aged businessmen who ought to know better and kids who just ought to know something would complain. And you’d never play the Necks because they aren’t the safe, pre-‘70s fusion’ Miles Davis.

So, obviously, I had no idea what I was in for when I was coerced – by my friend Miranda – to go and see the Necks at the Bondi Pavilion one Saturday night. I didn’t know that the set would consist of two hour-long utterly improvised (apparently) pieces separated by a fifteen-minute interval. I didn’t know people would be lying down on the floor in front of the stage. I didn’t know it was okay to start to nod off somewhere in the middle. But by the end of it, I knew I wanted to interview the band, who were about to spend a month doing gigs all around Australia, culminating with a show at the Sydney jazz club known as the Basement.

Tracking the Necks down to request an interview was easy enough – an e-mail address for the band, along with one for each individual member may be found on the band’s website. Getting a reply to the e-mail is a bit harder. No response for days, and just when you’re about to give up hope, two of them will reply within an hour of each other.

A Necks gig is a majestic, magical thing – but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For some, the ‘at least I’ve seen what an improvised jazz show is like’ mindset prevails – justifying it as not a wasted night out because not having the most pleasant of entertainment experiences still provides the opportunity for personal growth. This is probably a valid position – but it also validates a heap of activities that only the truly psychotic or perverse engage in, and I'm not so keen to experience some of those activities just so that I can say that I’ve been there and done that. There’s a valid philosophical argument that justifies the art you have to think a bit about or know a bit more about to enjoy, and although I can’t recite it for you, I know from personal experience that it holds true. Discordant cacophonies and utter disorder – if that’s how you hear it – can be constructed to be beautiful and ordered, even when it’s being made up on the spot, but occasionally you need some theoretical underpinning to appreciate the fact. Like Stravinsky, the Necks produce a rather gorgeous, awe-inspiring noise whose beauty is somehow greater because it isn’t easily recognised by the masses. Besides that, if you are able to lose yourself in a Necks performance, you do find yourself drifting off into what some people describe as “hypnagogia” – “that stage just before sleep when you have brief, surreal flashes of scenes”. After that Bondi Pavilion gig, I heard punters referring to “meditative states”. For me, I was finding myself relaxed and happy in a way that usually costs a lot and leads to munchies, paranoia, a heightened risk of schizophrenia and a two-day hangover. I felt great after the Necks gig.

If this is the first you’ve heard of the Necks, you are not alone. Most of my friends aren’t familiar with them. When I told my friend Damien that I was going to see the Necks at the Basement, he wanted to know if “they’re the support for the Heads!”

Funny bastard.

I can’t even be bothered working out when this interview with bassist Lloyd Swanton was broadcast; it is included here not only because I’m addicted to my blog and it’s been a while since I updated it, but also because everyone should hear the Necks at some stage. They’re incredible musicians.

Demetrius Romeo: Now Lloyd, the term ‘jazz’ can mean many different things to many different people. How would you label the sort of music you make with the Necks?

LLOYD SWANTON: That’s a very difficult question because I feel like I can modestly say that what we’re doing is very different to what anyone else is doing anywhere. There have been terms like ‘improvised trance jazz’ and I'm reasonably comfortable with that.

Demetrius Romeo: ‘Minimalism’ is a word that appears occasionally as well. Are you less comfortable with that word?

LLOYD SWANTON: I think there are elements of ‘minimalism’ in what we do, but I think that sometimes, when things get particularly frenzied, we’d have to be described as ‘maximalist’, to say the least. It can get very, very physical and ‘orgiastic’ on stage.

Demetrius Romeo: Ninety-five percent of actors don’t actually make money from acting. How does it compare for jazz musicians?

LLOYD SWANTON: I think there are a few more opportunities in the music scene to make money out of music, even if it’s not doing your own beloved project. A lot of musicians I know make their living out of teaching, or out of freelance music, doing their own projects when they want to, or when they get the chance. I guess I'm really fortunate that I get to prioritise my beloved group the Necks, and everything else I do is just money for beer and pudding.

Demetrius Romeo: You actually play in a number of other bands as well. How do they interact, and what is your approach when you're playing with each one?

LLOYD SWANTON: The way I see it, you have a whole spectrum of work posibilities from your very personal projects at one extreme through to other people’s very personal projects that you're involved in, all the way to the other extreme which is just ‘take the money and run’, doing weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs and the like, where people call up and you say, ‘where’s it on at, how much do I get paid and when do you want me there?’ So it’s a constant juggling process because the scene just isn’t quite big enough for us to totally focus on our personal projects, so it’s a constant give-and-take.

Demetrius Romeo: What’s your role in the different bands that you play with?

LLOYD SWANTON: In the Necks I’m a co-leader; the three of us are equal leaders. In the Catholics, I’m the leader of a seven-piece ensemble. In every other band I’m in, I’m a side-man.

Demetrius Romeo: Does your approach differ markedly depending on which combo your playing in at the time?

LLOYD SWANTON: Stylistically, often the bands are often very, very different, so as a professional musician, I'm always trying to provide what is most appropriate within those stylistic bounds and yet still try to come up with something creative and stimulating.

Demetrius Romeo: Now you’ve described your work in the Necks as being improvised trance jazz. When you play live, is it a hundred percent utterly imrovised, or are there bits of what, if you’ll forgive me, I’d describe as ‘musician’s shtick’, that you can bring into play whenever a phrase or a circumstance warrants it.

LLOYD SWANTON: Well, after sixteen years of playing together, obviously we’re going to fall into a few familiar routines. It’s unspoken; we’ve certainly never said, ‘let’s do this every time!’ and obviously the band, even though it’s free improvisation, has its stylistic parametres. I think the fact that our pieces are so slow-moving and repetitive is a framework that we always work within. Having said that, all three of us have a pretty high standard of performance and I can speak for myself and say that I wouldn’t want to get up on stage and fall into some familiar routine and worry that Chris and Tony are going, ‘oh dear, Lloyd’s doing that again!’ We try to keep each other stimulated, we try to provide fresh ideas. The other good thing about the band is that it’s essentially a brain-storming session on stage, so there are occasions when you do feel quite uninspired, but there's a fair probability that at least one or both of the other musicians will have an idea, so we're rarely lost for words.

Demetrius Romeo: When I was watching you live, because the music begins slowly and is a bit repetitive, I found it easy to drift off and get into that state where, when you're just starting to fall asleep, you have funny visions. Now, I never actually fell asleep, because nobody elbowed me in the gut to stop snoring, so you’re safe there, but when I came out of the gig I heard other punters saying that they were getting into a meditative state as well, and I did see a few people down the front reclining, lying down on the floor. Do you have people who fall asleep in your gigs? Does it matter to you? What is the reaction that you normally get from your average punter?

LLOYD SWANTON: We certainly have people falling asleep at our gigs; I’m one, particularly if I’m jet-lagged and we have a heavy schedule overseas and in Australia. We're not at all offended if someone falls asleep. We are trying to conjure that trance-like state just before you do nod off. I believe it’s known as the ‘alpha state’, where the normal barricades between the different parts of your brain start getting broken down, and so you make all sorts of connections wouldn’t be made if you were alert. That’s actually a very rewarding and rich state to be in, so if people can hover there, that’s fantastic. I know as a performer with the Necks that my mind goes off into all sorts of bizarre directions. It really does trigger something. I don’t know how it works, but that's one of the things - not the only thing, but certainly one of the things - we aim to conjure up when we're performing.

Demetrius Romeo: Lloyd, thank you very much.

LLOYD SWANTON: It’s my pleasure, thank you.

Off The Record…

“How do they fit so many songs on something so small?” the customer enquired. He was holding a copy of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, a twenty-track compilation, on compact disc. It was the late 80s , and although compact discs were still relatively new, the man was in his late twenties, so it was fair to assume that he knew what they were and, more or less, how they worked.

At that stage of the game, we music shop assistants were encouraged to politely enquire of the older customers, prior to taking their money, whether or not they in fact owned a CD player. It often saved a bit of bother later in the day when they’d return product they couldn’t possibly use. The best response I ever received was from a matronly old biddy in her lawn bowl whites. Her response to “have you got a CD player?” was to announce, “I have a washing machine!” Rather than listen to her list her whitegoods, I just let her go. She didn’t return disappointed, but the man in his late twenties did. “It’s not a record,” he explained, handing tThe Beach Boys Greatest Hits back to me. “No it isn’t,” I agreed. The proof, had anyone required it, was etched into the lacquered surface of the disc: an engraving that spiralled from the centre to the edge, left by the stylus that had skidded across its spinning surface.

Not that such a scratch should have interfered with the sound quality of the disc, if the initial news reports hailing the dawn of the digital music revolution were anything to go by. Early ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’-style stories – like the one about the surfing piglet and the rattle snake slithering across the desert with its head stuck in a beer can – appearing in the ‘human interest’ slot after the weather would show how you could smother a CD with tomato sauce, towel it off, bung it into the CD player and still enjoy perfect sound reproduction.

We soon learnt that CDs weren’t so indestructible, but they did prove more durable: by the mid-90s records were phased out in favour of the new format that took up less space, and, it was argued, offered better sound quality. It didn’t take long for the old format to be widely considered obsolete. I remember overhearing a little boy on the other side of a music shop counter trying to convince an incredulous playmate that his grandpa had “heaps of those big, old, black CDs that you have to stick needles into!”

By the mid-90s, a whole generation that had never bought or played a record was coming of age. Here was the first bunch of people in living memory whose vocabulary did not include terms such as ‘gatefold’, ‘flipside’ or ‘inner sleeve’; they were ignorant of the differences between seven- and twelve-inch singles; their hearts didn’t race at the at the merest whiff or trace of the heady and addictive smell of freshly pressed vinyl in a laminated cardboard cover. A whole generation who didn’t know the pleasure of collecting records. Meanwhile, their parents were busy updating their collections, replacing records with the equivalent CD titles.

Of course, vinyl enthusiasts disagreed that CDs offered better sound quality. If you took care of your records and had a decent sound system (ie a turntable, an amplifier and a set of speakers, each of which cost more than a CD player), your records sounded better than CDs because, they argued, the sound records produced was “warmer” – whatever that actually means. Besides, some instruments – particularly acoustic ones – had a tendency to sound “sterile” when recorded digitally.

Afforded the opportunity of hindsound (the aural equivalent of ‘hindsight’) it now can be said that, given a pressing in good condition and good equipment on which to play it, records can produce a comparable sound to compact discs. Furthermore, we are now allowed to admit that there were times when CD mastering left a lot to be desired – capturing and reproducing the limitations of the original recordings, such as tape hiss and signal loss, with the highest fidelity. It took a lot of technological jiggery-pokery to actually recreate that “warm” sound of a record. We know this, even if we still don’t quite know what “warm” means, because, in the case of some artists, their entire back catalogue has been or is being re-released for the third time with alleged better sound quality. By the time you’ve listened to your third copy of your favourite David Bowie, Elvis Costello or Rolling Stones album on CD, you really ought to know whether you’re actually getting your money’s worth this time. However, where vinyl enthusiasts have been vindicated most openly is in the case of original mono pressings of some classic albums. Listen to original mono pressings of Velvet Underground albums, or the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, or early Dylan, and if they don’t quite jump through the speakers and rip your bloody arms off the way Aunty Jack once promised to, they certainly box your ears – in the nicest possible way, of course.

While record collectors stuck by their favourite format, their lives were made difficult by the fact that new records had become an expensive indulgence stocked only by certain specialist stores, imported from overseas as the Australian dollar continued to lose ground on the foreign market. At least, for a time, they could find sought-after titles in second hand shops at a decent price. Meanwhile, a lot of other music lovers have subsequently started to come to their senses, realising that there is more to recorded music than just the music: there is also the packaging, and the sentimental value invested in it. While Japan has begun to reissue CDs in miniature replica album sleeves, complete with facsimile inner sleeves and posters, there are people who are keen to just own their favourite records again, with the cover art and sleevenotes they don’t have to go blind trying to enjoy, and – if pressed to admit it – that “warm” sound they still can't quite define. However, re-purchasing the records you once owned and loved is now an expensive exercise, and often a work-intensive one, taking place either on-line or in specialist collector stores. Demand has ensured that they are no longer as cheap as they were when you were replacing them with CDs. Despite this, discerning collectors turn down those compact discs because they still know full well:

“It’s not a record”.

Thinking about the habits of record buyers, and an unfortunate addiction to this here blogging business, led me to dust of this piece of writing that has been kicking around for a couple of years. It was composed during the lead-up to one of the Glebe Record Fairs (inaugurated and run by Egg Records) with the encouraging information of the owner that “we know people at newspapers and could maybe get you editorial”. As usual, it got me didley squat – but I’m quite happy with the writing that resulted, apart from the fact that after such a good start and an excellent (for me) series of gags, it ended weakly with no real conclusion. And in the end, even as a minor record collector, I don’t think that I agree with my ‘findings’ as such. I don’t particularly care much for mono first editions of anything, although mono editions of Beatles records interest me when the mixes or edits differ markedly to their stereo equivalents (the mono Sgt Pepper’s, for example, features a shorter version of ‘She’s Leaving Home’, in a higher key – well, it doesn’t really, it features the same one sped up a bit – as well as a number of other anomalies and variations; the mono ‘White Album’ has a shorter version of ‘Helter Skelter’ because it doesn’t fade back in after it fades out – unfortunately depriving monophiles of Ringo Starr’s shouted statement, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”).

In addition to collecting Beatles song variations, some albums must be owned on vinyl purely for the packaging. The original pressing of the compilation album Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection, for example, came in an elaborate cover that could be folded and inserted in such a way as to resemble a whole pile of records. The Japanese ‘LP replica’ CD reissue has yet to be released.

Apart from that, I’m usually interested in owning different editions for the variations in artwork or content – there’s an English pressing of Cream’s Wheels of Fire, for example, that saw fit to ‘improve’ upon Martin Sharp’s excellent psychedelic artwork by printing it in negative and reversing the front and back covers. Thus, collecting vinyl mostly seems to come down to the medium rather than the music, but to explore this properly would require a whole other piece of writing.

Inner City Survival Guide Pt 1: Dealing With Beggars

The cognitive dissonance engendered by my encounter with the note-carrying, orphaned mute – guilt at not giving her anything versus suspicion of yet another pan-handler in inner-city Sydney – reminded me of the beggar who abused me from the step of a shop on King Street, Newtown. There was a time when you could walk along King Street and be accosted by someone wanting money on every corner. Most of them were polite, albeit shifty if you offered to buy them a meal rather than give them cash – they clearly were not starving, merely gagging for their next dose – but the beggar who accosted me was a young, strapping lad who looked as though he worked out and was in need of his next batch of amphetamine or steroid. He really did specify coinage in his spiel, I really did only have one coin in my pocket, it really was a ten-cent piece and he really did abuse me, proving, much to my amusement, that beggars could indeed be choosers.

This, the first, and to date, only Part of an Inner City Survival Guide that really ought to be written, first appeared in The Chaser and then in Revolver (a publication that evolved into The Brag). In order to make the story palatable, the teller had to become the butt of the joke. It reminds me a bit of (fat) comedian Dave O’Neil’s routine about inner city beggars, which I saw him do at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala in 2001. O’Neil becomes the butt by also becoming the beggar. When he asks for money, he assures people that it’s only for heroin, but they reply “bullshit, you fat bastard, you’re gonna buy food with it!”

Do not call me an arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard for this, but I refuse to pay good money to people who do not earn it. Actually, as I get a little misty-eyed and reluctant to pay good money even to people who do earn it, ‘arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard’ is exactly what you should call me. Naturally, my most loathed nemesis is that species of city dweller who insists on accosting me in public and asking me whether I “have a dollar” or can “spare some change”.

Being a comfortable, middle class Australian, I prefer as a rule to make donations to registered charities and worthy buskers. Those who purport to be members of the former must provide adequate documentation, and afterwards, a receipt. Those who would claim to be the latter must be genuinely entertaining. Therefore, the smelly down-and-outer who once sat on an overturned bucket outside the Hoyts cinema on George Street chanting “buskin’, buskin’, buskin’, buskin’, buskin’”, no doubt a PoMo boho hobo – ie “postmodern bohemian hobo” – deserved a bit of change. The guy who plays air guitar with a plank of wood also got some pocket shrapnel, but only the first time I saw him. He failed to entertain subsequently because he kept playing the same song each time. Although, there was one occasion when a small group of spaced out youths took formation around him and mimed the other instruments; this would have deserved some form of remuneration had I realised that they were playing a Milli Vanilli song.

As for those who refuse to put a little effort into obtaining money from me, I cannot but regard them with acute disdain. They are to the arrogant, heartless capitalist bastard what bathroom germs are to Ajax Super Strength Bathroom Cleanser. I loathe the way they accost everyone at the bus stop or storefront, the way they will pick out anyone who looks even slightly more well-heeled than themselves, in order to approach with outstretched palm and cover story about ‘lost trainfare’ or ‘a telephone call’ or ‘food’. Why don’t these people change their stories a bit – they could easily provide light relief for the well-heeled middle class with tales of their own poverty and misery. I have devised some nearly foolproof methods of evading such pan-handlers. Only ‘nearly’ foolproof, since some fools – the hungry ones in particular – refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.

If you are standing in line at the bus stop quietly reading The Financial Review and some young man, say, is working his way along the cue asking each commuter in turn if they can spare some change, be prepared by following this simple two-point plan.

Firstly, study the beggar’s own demeanour. Secondly, listen to the spiel he employs. Now you are ready. When your turn comes, adopt his waiting-for-the-next-fix swagger and jerky body motion and be in his face before he can be in yours. In that split second before he has the opportunity, ask him the question he would have asked you, in the exact same manner that he would have asked it. “Yeah, like, do you have any spare change?” you’ll enquire. Most of the time, he’ll be too confused to rise to the challenge and will move on to the next person. Occasionally, he may reply “Nup,” in which case you are free to say, “Yeah, like, neither do I, ay?!” and return to the publication guilt-free. The last time I attempted this routine I caught the beggar a beauty: he was so surprised that he ended up handing me the dollar that the woman in front of me had only just given him. Wasn’t I the lucky duck!

On other occasions you will be specifically targeted because of your briefcase, blazer, combed hair or shopping bag with ‘Prada’ emblazoned across it. At times like this it helps if you are scouting the pavement ahead, because the woman who is about to accost you saw you long before you will see her. It is important to be aware of her before she has managed to weave between the pedestrians that separate her from you. Where possible, change your course unexpectedly so that her momentum forces her to pass you; seeing someone behind you to pick on will be easier for her than chasing after you. However, often you will not be aware that she has you in her radar until she is right on top of you. If this is the case, then when she asks, “do you have a dollar” you must adopt your most clipped accent and employ the most flamboyantly rolled R’s that your mouth will allow to utter the following reply: “Of course I have. In fact, I have severrrral hundrrrred thousand!”

You must keep moving briskly while you say this, however, and in an unexpected direction if possible. Although the woman will still be wiping the spittle of your flatulent fricatives out of her eye, a colleague of hers who is working the same stretch may be able to grab you and beat you to a bloody pulp. On the other hand, if you maintain your pace the worst you will have to fear is being called a wanker in public. As you are a wanker with a home to go to, a dinner to eat and a bed to sleep in, this will not worry you in the slightest.

There are times when your beggar will be of the uppity variety. I once had one who asked, “Can you spare a coin, brother?” I replied, “yeah, whatever” and flipped him the sole coin from my hip pocket without breaking my stride. He must have looked down at it with some disdain, for he was soon yelling after me, “F*cken ten cents?! You can f*cken pick that up and keep it; I’m not gonna f*cken bother with ten f*cken cents.” Who was I to discuss fiscal policy with someone so insolvent? Who’d have thought beggars could be choosers?

“You asked for a spare coin and that was the only one in my pocket,” I ranted. “What would you like me to do, write you a cheque? Do you take Amex? Eftpos maybe? Can I put this on Fly Buys?”

It is important to take a tone with such beggars. Otherwise this attitude of turning down charity may threaten their very profession. If there ever comes a time when beggars can be choosers, ordinary people will stop feeling the necessary guilt that forces them to hand money over. And if ordinary people stop feeling guilt – and start acting out of a genuine sense of altruism – arrogant, heartless capitalist bastards like me will stop being able to feel superior in saying ‘no’.

In order to preserve our sense of superiority, we have to save uppity beggars from themselves.

First Impressions…

My friend Nos was on the phone doing his David Bowie impression. Having heard Mr Bowie speak for the duration of a press conference, come away with a recording of it, listened to it several times and then re-edited chunks of it for broadcast, I can say that Nos’s impression is pretty spot-on. In fact I did say it. Nos explained that he’d essentially ‘cracked’ the impression by imitating the way Phil Cornwell does David Bowie on Stella Street. It’s interesting, he noted, how it’s often easier to do an impression of someone when you’ve heard someone else’s impression of that person.

Opera director and occasional brain surgeon Dr Jonathan Miller, pointed out some time after helping launch the 60s satire boom with Beyond the Fringe that no one in Britain ever really did an Indian accent, but rather did their impression of Peter Sellers doing an Indian accent. This was probably mostly true, at least until the dawn of Goodness Gracious Me.

In a similar way, Nos says, he sometimes finds it helpful to see how someone else has caricatured a person, in order to work out how he’ll go about drawing a caricature. It would seem that the process is about working out what particular features communicate the essential nature of the face you’re trying to draw or the voice you’re trying to imitate. Sometimes it’s easier once you’ve seen what features someone else has latched onto – then doing it your way.

I often find myself doing the same thing as a writer, especially when I have to review a film or an album that I don’t particularly care about, and I haven’t yet worked out what exactly I think about it, or why. It helps to read what someone else has thought – what bits of the film or the music stood out for them. Usually I disagree with them, either on what they’ve latched onto, or what they’ve concluded from it, which is a good thing. When you agree, it’s much easier to paraphrase, rather than to construct your own set of arguments and conclusions.

Sadly, rather than constructing their own set of arguments and conclusions, or even paraphrasing, some people find it easier still just to change the byline at the top of the article, their only original input being their own name. What is most annoying, however, is that this level of plagiarism is nowadays an accepted mode of journalism. Particularly in a country like Australia, that has, per capita, more print media than any other nation, readers don’t appear so keen on reading anything original or in-depth; it just has to cover the bases. Journalists, therefore, don’t have to be particularly original or in-depth – they just need to submit something by deadline that covers the bases. Which is why you can browse through the arts pages of even the respected news dailies, and find that an underpaid staff writer has re-jigged the same press releases with only slightly more flair than the barely paid scribes at the free entertainment weeklies.

It’s probably worth noting that both Phil Cornwell and Nos ‘do’ Bowie by half singing everything in a heavily vibrato’d cockney tenor. That’s not how Bowie speaks, of course, but it’s quite often the way he sings. So if Bowie rings you and starts ‘singing’ his side of the conversation, rather than merely speaking it in a cockney accent, it’s probably Phil Cornwell or Nos on the phone and not the Dame himself.