Monday, June 24, 2013

Pimps & Preachers – Paul Thorn at Northcote Social Club

paul thorn 1 (Large) 
Paul Thorn live at Northcote Social Club – 23 June 2013

I don’t get out to music as much these days, since severing my connection to Basement Discs, so I jumped at the opportunity to go and see American rock/blues artist Paul Thorn at Northcote Social Club on Sunday night.

In fact I haven’t been to Northcote Social Club for years, and was pleased to see that the band room is unchanged, except that limited seating was provided for this show at least.

Paul Thorn spend his formative years, growing up in Tupelo Mississippi, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, and for a short while was a professional boxer, televised in a bout with former world boxing champion Roberto Duran in 1988.

So he’s been around and lead an interesting life, but music has been part of his life since the age of three.

He is pretty well unknown in Australia, but has released six well regarded albums in all, his latest being What The Hell Is Going On, which is an album of covers. Previous to that album he released Pimps and Preachers, from which he played quite a few songs on Sunday night. This was his first tour of Australia, but I’m sure he’ll be back.

The opening act was by local singer songwriter Dan Waters who has been spruiking his debut record La Vita E Bella throughout the land since its release back in January.

dan waters 2
Dan Waters live at Northcote Social Club – 23 June 2013

Dan performed an enjoyable set, singing songs from the aforementioned album. He has a dry, dry wit and to my ears sounded a lot like James McMurtry in his delivery and vocals. The songs included Please Break Up With Me and Heat of December.

Paul Thorn took the stage in such a quiet, unobtrusive fashion it was some time before the sound mechanic was aware of his presence and turned off the intermission soundtrack.  But the audience was not caught by surprise and waited with keen anticipation his first song, which was Ain’t Living In Sin No More, a special request from a member of the audience. Next song was I’m A Lucky Man, followed by Burn Down The Trailer Park.

You can see from the song titles, that Paul Thorn has a great sense of humour; it’s dry and self mocking, refreshingly honest.

A great many of Paul Thorn’s songs are autobiographical, such as Pimps and Preachers which refers to his childhood mentors, his father the Pentecostal preacher and his uncle who was a pimp. It’s a terrific song with marvellous lyrics.

Other highlights were 800 Pound Jesus, Mission Temple Fireworks Stand and Where Was I, though truth to tell every one of his songs was a pleasure to hear.

I’m a sucker for good lyrics and Paul Thorn exemplifies good song writing for me – gritty with a twist.

He is also a very skilled artist; the cover art on his CDs are his own work.


It was a very enjoyable show – a splendid way to pass a chilly Melbourne winter evening in the cosy band room of the Northcote Social Club.

Set List (as far as I can work out)

  1. Ain’t Living In Sin No More
  2. I’m A Lucky Man
  3. Burn Down The Trailer Park
  4. Where Was I
  5. Hammer and Nail
  6. If I Can Get Over Her
  7. 800 Pound Jesus
  8. Pimps and Preachers
  9. That’s Life
  10. Joanie, the Jehovahs Witness Stripper
  11. You Might Be Wrong
  12. I Don’t Wanna Know
  13. I Have A Good Day
  14. I Hope I’m Doing This Right
  15. Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
  16. I Guess I’ll Just Stay Married


  1. I Don’t Like Half The Folks I Love

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ancient Bling: The Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan


Last week I went to the winter exhibition at Melbourne Museum, which this year features the hidden treasures of Afghanistan. Hidden, due to depredations of war, these artefacts were stashed for safety in the bank vaults of the Presidential Palace and rediscovered in 2003.

The exhibition was organised around  objects unearthed in four archaeological sites, Tepe Fullol, Ai Khanum, Begram and Tillya Tepe.

From Tepe Fullol there were a golden bowls and goblets.

From Ai Khanum the tops of two Corinthian columns and a wonderful ceremonial plate depicting Cybele being drawn by lions.


Begram was a major centre on the old Silk Road,  and diverse artefacts were discovered in a trader’s storage area that had lain undisturbed for centuries, covering Indian, Egyptian, Greek and Mesopotamian articles, like the painted glass beaker below.


The most gorgeous of the artefacts were those from Tillya Teke, the so called Bactrian Hoard, where Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi uncovered the ancient graves of six nomads together with over 21,000 gold artefacts.

Collapsible crown

Gold, turquoise, garnet & pyrite necklace or collar for a robe.

More treasure...

It was an interesting exhibition, not only for the exquisite objects, but also for learning something of the culture and history of that tragic, war torn area of the world.

Whilst I was at the Museum, I decided to go and revisit old favourite exhibit Pharlap. He looks grand in his glass case, not moth eaten at all.

This photo is pretty well an artefact itself having been acquired in the early 1960s.

In light of the recent Black Caviar phenomenon, it was interesting to note the similar scenes at the racetrack, that greeted Pharlap in his day as occurred more recently with the great mare. People came from miles around to see him race as they did for Black Caviar

No doubt, some time in the future, Black Caviar will have her own display at Melbourne Museum.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Funny, Quirky, Endearing – The Milk Carton Kids at Thornbury Theatre

milk carton kids 011
The Milk Carton Kids live at Thornbury Theatre 6 June 2013

A month ago I had never heard of the Milk Carton Kids, and even when I received a newsletter from Love Police about their Australian Tour, I paid scant attention. Then I read a review of their latest CD, The Ash & Clay, on No Depression and my interest was piqued to the point that I checked them out. I liked what I heard  on their website, and taking advantage of the free download of their first two albums, listened some more, and subsequently became addicted to their music.

The Milk Carton Kids are Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, who through some freakish chance have an extraordinary musical symbiosis. They each had low key solo careers before they met, both being folk singer songwriters who had largely gone unnoticed. Since teaming up in 2011, their star has risen to such an extent that their shows in the USA are sold out as soon as they go on sale.

Musically, they are an interesting blend of Simon & Garfunkel/Everly Brothers and Gillian Welch. Their voices sound as if they were made for each other, blending so beautifully that they sound like one voice. They play ancient guitars; Joey’s is a 1951 Gibson J45, and Kenneth's is a 1954 Martin 0-15, and complement each other’s playing, Kenneth being the more ornate guitarist of the two, sounding very like David Rawlings, which is no bad thing. Despite the comparisons these guys manage to create a totally individual sound if you listen long enough.

So, after playing their CDs (including The Ash & Clay, which I purchased) obsessively for the last two weeks, I was well prepared and very much anticipating their appearance at the Thornbury Theatre.

I was not disappointed. In fact I was enraptured by the duo and very much charmed and amused by their performance. For The Milk Carton Kids, as well as being beguiling musically, are very funny as well. People were practically rolling in the aisles with laughter at Joey Ryan’s wonderful dead pan humour, to which he treated us between songs.

I never thought I would get to hear to a dissertation on the origins of the ampersand at a concert!

The opening act was special as well. Young singer songwriter Melody Pool performed a moving set of her own compositions, the highlight being Henry, a gut wrenching heartbreaker of a song. Melody, true to her name, has a very affecting voice, kind of like Joni Mitchell, but more powerful and emotionally expressive.  It was the first time I had seen or, indeed, heard her play and I was impressed.

melody pool 004 
Melody Pool live at Thornbury Theatre 6 June 2013

Check out this You Tube of her performing Henry and see/hear for yourself.

The Milk Carton Kids were scheduled to play at 9.30pm, but they caught everyone by surprise, ambling onto the stage a quarter hour early. They opened with the first track on The Ash & Clay, Hope Of A Lifetime, which, typical of all their songs, has a lovely melody that enhances the gloriousness of their harmonies.

Joey introduced the title track, which they played next, making sure we were all aware that the ampersand inserted between ‘Ash’ and ‘Clay’ was intentional and not a lazy way of writing.  And also no doubt, because he could introduce his musings on typography and grammar into his on-stage patter. He continued this theme with the next song Honey, Honey with its use of a comma between the two Honey’s.

He played a wonderful trick on the audience when introducing Kenneth’s song Charlie which is about a future daughter. I won’t spoil the joke here, as it probably has to be heard first time to be really appreciated.

milk carton kids 013

By this time the duo had the audience in total thrall. For a so called minimalist act, they were marvellously engaging, quirky and endearing.

There was a reasonable crowd in attendance, so I was glad I had booked  reserved seating which had us sitting towards the front.  I took my Panasonic micro four thirds camera with me, intending to try out a new lens I had recently purchased for it. As you can see it worked a treat.

There were other photographers creeping around the front of the stage, with enormous lenses. You know the type, they crouch directly beneath the artists and aim their cameras nostril wise. Joey Ryan dispatched them in a clever witty manner, informing them that the scene was not going to change anytime during the concert, as he and Kenneth would remain in the same positions all evening.

And so they did, the odd pair. Joey is the tall skinny guy on the left. He hardly moves, whereas Kenneth on the right, gyrates as he plays his guitar.

It was a fantastic concert, a real surprise and I’m sure all who were present would count themselves as die hard fans of The Milk Carton Kids from now on.  I admit that they are a thrilling new musical discovery for me.

If you get a chance, go and see them; you won’t be disappointed. Or if that’s impossible check them out on their website, where you can still download their first two albums for free, and watch videos of various songs. I recommend the Tiny Desk Concert.

Set List

  1. Hope of A Lifetime
  2. The Ash & Clay
  3. Honey, Honey
  4. Years Gone By
  5. Charlie
  6. Maybe It’s Time
  7. Girls Gather Around
  8. Snake Eyes
  9. Heaven
  10. Michigan
  11. Stealing Romance
  12. I Still Want A Little More


  1. New York
  2. Memphis

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

No More Joy – More Joyous Bows Out

more joyous 
More Joyous at Caulfield 2012

Sydney’s favourite racehorse, and superstar mare More Joyous has been retired and will be mated with Frankel, UK wonder horse, who like Black Caviar retired unbeaten.

I have followed More Joyous career since her first start way back in 2008 when she was a two year old.

Being a contemporary of Black Caviar, she was not accorded the fame and glory that was rightfully hers. She was a Stirling race mare who from 33 starts won 21 races, 10 of them at Group One level and at distances from 1100 metres to 2000 metres.

It is a pity that she goes out with a controversy; the infamous tiff between her owner John Singleton and trainer Gai Waterhouse, but none of that was her fault, being an innocent beast who always strived to the best of her ability.

The autumn racing carnival was a ripper and ended with retirements  of some of the stars. All Too Hard, Pierro, Black Caviar, Glass Harmonium, Ortensia, Danleigh all have been retired along with More Joyous, and tragically grand old trooper Rangirangdoo was euthanised after breaking down in his last race two weeks ago.

The spring racing season is only a couple of months away, so we’ll have to look for new stars to obsess over. A few spring to mind already – Super Cool, Fiveandahalfstar, Miracles of Life, It’s A Dundeel – and will return in the springtime to fight out the feature races.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Tripping Down Memory Lane

The stars must be in a particularly significant alignment, as this last week has sent me back to remembering times past and even receiving, quite out of the blue, a communication from a childhood friend, who I have not seen nor heard from in over fifty years. 

She sent me this photo of us all as children in Woods Point

Woods Point 1950s

Then there was the documentary on ABC TV,  Whitlam: The Power & The Passion which heady period I remember very well.  Gough Whitlam will always be my favourite Prime Minister  and I recall how it felt when he won the 1972 election. A friend remarked at the time “Even the stars look different…” And too, how angry and betrayed we all felt when he was toppled.  The documentary captured the period vividly, and I wept once more when Gough spoke his famous words
“Well, may we say, “God Save the Queen” because nothing will save the Governor General”.

If ever there was a time to flog off my old posters from the Dismissal era, it is now. But I can’t bring myself to part with them.

That was the 1970s, however, stumbling across an old issue of the Melbourne University newspaper Farrago, I was transported back to the 1960s, 1967 in particular.


What struck me as I browsed through the pages of this ancient artefact, was how typical of the times was the content of the issue, which featured Prosh Week 1967.

What amused me the most, was the ads.


Genevieve was a cafe in Faraday Street Carlton where in those days you could purchase a coffee for 10 cents and a spaghetti bolognaise for 50 cents, staple food for the poor students we were at the time.


Peter Poynton’s was a popular drinking hole, also in Carlton, where my friends and I spent many a happy hour.


The Love In was a colourfully painted establishment on the corner of Faraday and Drummond Streets Carlton. As a group of us lived just up the road from it we naturally entered its portals to groove on the light shows, listen to the music and watch movies. It all looks rather innocent by today’s standards, serving only coffee and snacks and nothing stronger. We hadn’t at that stage indulged in any mind expanding drugs, alcohol being the drug of preference then.

The scanned page below has a review of the Love In written in somewhat purple prose.

all you need

You wish…


One of Carlton’s cultural establishments – Mondo Music, where you could buy the latest records. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band was hot that year.

mondo music

Discurio  was still going strong up to last year when it was sold to the Title Group (whoever they are).


Live music

flower power

Computer Dating 1960s style!

computer dating

I wasn’t aware that you could become a computer programmer in the 1960s, though I do remember seeing CSIRAC or its successor, through a window in the Physics Department.

programmer ad 

Cheap hair cuts and smokes


And look at the cost to travel for 30 days in China in 1967!


I remember 1967 as one of the best year’s of my life. It was full of parties, craziness and wild living and I met life long friends whom I still see frequently. Others have passed away, others beyond my ken.

Here’s an excerpt from my diary, describing what we did for Prosh Week in August 1967.

Prosh Day yesterday was quite exciting, though we must have got carried away for we did some mad things. We did a wild hippy dance and love in demonstration in the Town Square, charged through the streets of Melbourne, yelling “love, love love”, ate flowers for TV camera men (and we didn’t even get onto the news!). It seemed quite successful in all. There were students everywhere down the street, swarming in and out of shops, rattling cans on street corners – it felt good to be a student. There was a sort of comradeship about them all. People whom one  would never approach normally, were old friends. It was like a mad kaleidoscope dream, but all was deflated, flat by the end of the day.

The stern old Anne of today frowns on such frivolous behaviour, but I was so much younger then and lived life to the hilt in the fabulous 1960s.