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Showing posts from January, 2021

Top 100: 40-31.

40. Sail On - Commodores. Low-register harmony perfection in Lionel Richie’s natural-born country/blues style did nothing in 1979 Australia: if the market couldn’t get another Three Times a Lady there were plenty of Air Supply records to buy. 39. Walk Away - Matt Monro. Monro’s V12 baritone purrs through this slice of 1960s aural cinema verite like a 1964 Bentley off to the shops. 38. My Pledge of Love - Joe Jeffrey Group. Rolling guitar backed by joyful strings and keyboard knew exactly what it was to wake up remembering you'd fallen in love the night before; knocked John Lennon's ballad of himself off No. 1 in 1969. 37. Right Down the Line - Gerry Rafferty. Hypnotic keyboard line teases the 1970s power-pop track along like an instrumental Pied Piper. 36. Hung Up on a Dream - Zombies. Psychedelic journey into parallel universe of impossible chord changes and 1968-style echoed-out vocals from influential but lost Odessey and Oracle LP. 35. Eloise - Barry Ryan. Insane 1967 screa

Mr. Updike visits Brazil.

I read authors serially but not chronologically. I went from John Updike's Couples (1968 - and as perfect an evocation of the 1960s as a Byrds eight-track cartridge at full volume in a yellow 1960s Volkswagen Type 3 fastback on the Great Ocean Road at sunset); to Rabbit, Run (1965), to Marry Me (1976), to Bech: a Book (1970). Then I found a small, orange paperback in a second-hand bookshop in Pakenham: Of the Farm (1965). A minor story, a sad tone poem, and as good a piece of writing as you’ll find in the English language, in which the slow methodical tractor-mowing of a field becomes the metaphor for a tentative second marriage thrown into relief by the entry of a mother-in-law. Or vice versa. The most level-headed character in the story is the eleven-year-old stepson caught in the middle of the fracture. I finished Of the Farm and jumped thirty years into Updike's future with Brazil (1994). It’s a satire. Or is it? The characters never grow. I waited for the hook to drag me

Four beaches of summer: Fairy Cove.

Immediately south of Duck Point (see Between Mountains, 1/12/20) looms Wilson’s Promontory, a collection of once-molten lava heads that bubbled out of the earth 350 million years ago, becoming part of a mountain range joining the mainland to Tasmania before the rising sea made it its own island. River-borne sediment gradually formed an isthmus and joined it back onto Victoria, where it remains mainland Australia’s most southernmost tip, albeit a confused one. We had left the house of half-completed artworks late morning, driven south and pulled in at the Darby River carpark. From there, a path disappears into the trees and continues under cover up and over the ridge. We parked the car and disappeared into canopy. After twenty minutes of hard climbing, the path levelled. Suddenly the canopy peeled back like an Act Two curtain on a vast blue stage. A cavernous sky lidded a flat plane of laundry-blueing blue, impossibly deep, and innocently flecked with whatever white caps the breeze coul

My desert island discs top 100 continued: 50-41.

50. Black Ticket Day - Ed Kuepper. Ex-Saints guitarist’s wall of sound was a lost diamond glistening in an early ‘90s pit of mulleted musical stupidity. 49. Open Up Your Heart - G. Wayne Thomas. From the soundtrack of Morning of the Earth, a psychedelic oceanscape with a searing guitar swirling outro over orchestral ornamentation. Made the Beach Boys’ surfery rhymes sound ordinary. 48. I’ll Never Smile Again - Daddy Cool. After scandalising parents with the 1971 release of Sex, Dope, Rock’n’Roll: Teenage Heaven, Ross Wilson retaliated by issuing a track first recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1940, turning it into a slow doo-wop blues lament, showcasing his voice’s incredible range and completely confusing parents, and possibly their children. 47. It's All in the Game - Tommy Edwards. Number one in Australia in a mid-century musical purple patch against the Platters, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole and Buddy Holly. 46. The Israelites - Desmond Dekker and the Aces. Burst out of the radio in

Aromatic ham and barley soup.

I’ve used barley as a salad base with spring onions, celery, avocado, halved cherry tomatoes and French dressing; or as a replacement for rice in risotto-style dishes. However, barley is at its best in robust, flavoursome soups such as this. Prepare barley: soak a cup of pearl barley for 30 minutes then, in a soup pot, simmer in about two litres of water - or part stock - for an hour. Meanwhile, fry a chopped onion until golden and add to the pot along with that ham bone left over from Christmas, two peeled and cubed potatoes, one sliced carrot, some rosemary, marjoram, parsley, and plenty of pepper. Salt to taste - the ham will add saltiness. Simmer gently for an hour or so. Don’t hurry - let the aroma fill the house so that they are tearing down the kitchen door to get at it. Before they do, remove the bone, shred any meat on it and add it back to the pot. Serve with buttered crusty bread.

Four beaches of summer: Ocean Grove.

The peninsulas glared at each other across ten kilometres of water, two pincers of an angry crab. The ferry strolled from one to the other, passing its sister ship going the other way, and backed into the concrete receiving dock, directed by short engine bursts. Something heavy clanged and cars drove onto land two by two, like animals changing their minds about the ark. We were in the last pair. The car crashed across the grate, and I drove around the curves of Queenscliff, a tired seaside village with Historic Maritime Features, and old people. It was a mid-summer Saturday morning, and the sun was just breaking through that air-brewed mixture of low cloud, mist and seaspray that hangs over the water on mornings like this. Hours later. Too many cars jammed together in a small seaside town. Had I been determined to stop, it would have been impossible. But the parking space opened up like a clam anticipating a subterranean meal. We went to the overcrowded beach, and I fell asleep in my b

Osso buco with white wine, lemon and creamy polenta.

37 degrees celsius here today and this is supposed to be a winter dish, but people eat fish and chips on the beach at the height of summer, so why not. Lighten it up with white wine and plenty of tangy lemon. In a heavy pan, dredge four centre-cut veal shanks in seasoned flour, then brown them in oil and remove them to a large casserole dish. In the pan lightly fry a chopped onion, a diced carrot, a couple of diced celery stalks and one or two scored garlic cloves. Then pour the vegetables over the shanks. Add the zest and juice of a lemon, a cup of white wine, a can of diced or puréed tomato, and enough complementary stock to cover the contents of the casserole. Cover and bake in a moderate oven until meat falls of the bone. I served this as a late dinner on a brooding summer night on the front deck, with thunder murmuring in the distance over Bass Strait. On the side, creamy polenta dusted with a shower of chopped parsley; but it would go equally well on turmeric-infused risotto or m

The chicken and gravy roll.

It was like the old British music hall comedy act in which players run in and out of random doors frightening each other. After a long drive, we had walked into a cafe in a small town just south of the border, where paranoia is running fast, like the Murray. A customer entered another door and people in the queue visibly cringed, as if it was a stick-up. A voice behind the counter shrilled ‘That’s the wrong door! Go around the corner and sanitise and mask!’ This was once an old rural hub where stoic farmers’ wives would park in the main street and discuss crutching. Now the farmers have gone and the tree-change arrivistes have filled the town with street art and city touchiness. A family of five wouldn’t fit on the stand-here isolation dots while waiting for the grizzled dolts in the queue to receive, like some entitled communion, their insufferable soy and almond lattes and gluten-free muffins, so we left. The roadhouse set behind a gravel park was not quite out of town, and empty. Hu

Countdown: 60-51.

60. You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio) - Joni Mitchell. Two and a half minutes of ‘did I really hear that?’ by precociously talented vocal stylist. ‘I envied her easy conversational phrasing that turned everyday banter into a new kind of song lyric.’ - Jimmy Webb 59. Crazy on You - Heart. Jawdropping 4 minute 53 second guitar master class. 58. For Your Love - Yardbirds. Eric Clapton didn’t like the commercial bent of this song, so he walked out of the band with Jeff Beck replacing him. 57. High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) - Frankie Laine. There’s more drama going on in Laine’s version of the 1951 movie soundtrack than in the movie itself. 56. Operator - Jim Croce. Yet another tragic telephone call - see nos. 64 and 79. 55. Year of the Cat - Al Stewart. Storyteller Stewart accurately described his songs as aural cinema. Reviewed in this blog on 4/9/19 - see archive. 54. Tuesday Afternoon - Moody Blues. If Al Stewart's songs were aural cinema, the Moody Blues made cinematic sound, if that ma

Four beaches of summer: part two.

On the way to Wilson’s Promontory, I stopped at Inverloch, where I spent childhood summers - and some winter holidays - in a rambling Edwardian house on a few acres at the top of a big hill. It overlooked Anderson Inlet, and from the house you could see its waters twinkling and dancing way below in the sun. The bedrooms of the old house were cavernous and smelled like empty cedar wardrobes. The living room wore dusty holiday-house curtains and there was an ancient bookcase stocked with paperbacks, and unmatching sink-into chairs in which to read them on endless afternoons. The kitchen's fly-wire screen door banged onto a covered porch shading he north, east and west walls of the house. A windbreak of pine trees lined the front drive, and our short-cut to the beach was a steep track cut all the way down the hill. Or you could go out the front gate and follow several right angle turns, and cross the main street, a verandahed cluster of four or five shops, to the shore. The house is l