Simon Marnie has had me guesting on his popular ABC Local Radio 702 weekend program on a couple of previous occasions, and with the new Australian edition of Highway to Hell out now, it was pretty easy for us to partner up again to go on a 'Sonic Journey' through Bon Scott's life:
With the new Buried Country 1.5 CD in the works for some good little while (as I had to say to the lovely folks in Warners‘ rights department, You’re not going to be able to get the clearances for this one just by e-maling Sony or Universal, you’re going to have to chase down blackfellas all over the country), Warners meantime put into a production a couple of other anthologies of great Australian Aboriginal acts, Warumpi Band and Archie Roach, and as it’s turned out, all three are being released simultaneously on October 30 and the other two with me also contributing some liner-notes as well. Thus far it's possible to announce sort of dual-dual-launch events in Melbourne - with two 'In Conversation' sessions with Archie Roach on Friday 13th of November, the first at AWME at 2:20pm, the second at Readings in St Kilda at 6:30pm (more here) - and I hope soon to be able to confirm some more such events...
Both Archie Roach and the Warumpi Band have a presence throughout Buried Country of course. But I was asked recently, by a music writer, How come there’s not more in the book about the Warumpis? especially when the new edition affords even more coverage of Archie. I was disappointed the book didn’t make its reasons for that quite clear enough itself, although I did have to wonder, maybe my inquisitor hasn’t actually read that bit yet. Which is, after all, at the end of the book – which is part of the answer too. I explained, Well, my theory is that the Warumpis come from a different tradition, a rock’n’roll/garage band tradition, and so while there is a fair bit of country about them, their basis is moreso, say, the Stones and AC/DC. Whereas Archie Roach, along with contemporaries Kev Carmody and Ruby Hunter, was a largely acoustic folk-country singer-songwriter – and so for Buried Country, looking for some sort of closure towards the end of its narrative timeframe, the breakthrough success of Archie, Kev and Ruby in the 90s provides a perfect natural resolution. I didn’t want to start on a whole new tangent at the very end of the book; the story of the settlement bands, a movement whose real spearhead in the 80s was the Warumpis, is another book in its own right, and I hope that that book (featuring a cast of characters from Soft Sands and No Fixed Address through Us Mob, the Warumpis, Bapu Mamoos, Coloured Stone, Ilkari Maru, Kuckles and Scrap Metal, Yothu Yindi, Amunda, Blackbala Mujic and others) eventually gets written. Although it won’t be by me, because I’ve got Deadly Woman Blues to do… It’s worth adding here too I think, Kev Carmody is right now also releasing a major retrospective, a 4CD anthology of previously unreleased material dating back to 1967 called Recollections… Reflections… (A Journey), and to me it’s almost as if you can’t have one of these albums without the other three – so, collect the whole set!
Since it was first published in Australia in 1994, Highway to Hellhas never been out of print in its home territory, and I’m stoked that it's now coming out - officially on October 27, through Pan Macmillan - in a new, fourth local edition, to add to the six other editions still currently available around the world. This new edition will be launched, thanks especially to the generosity of the fine folk at Young Henry's brewery, with events at Young Henry’s tasting bar itself in Newtown in Sydney on October 31, and at the Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane in Melbourne (where else?) on November 12; see flyers below. These events will also launch a drop Young Henry’s has specially brewed in honour of Bon, called Big Balls, and will also have on sale, in addition to copies of the new edition of the book (complete with embossed cover!), a limited-edition print of the magnificent new cover illustration by great Sydney artist Glenn Smith.
Highway to Hell, if I dare claim so myself, has to be the heavyweight title-holder of Australian rock books. By my estimate, it’s sold in excess of 100,000 copies by now, and the only other Australian rock book that’s likely shifted as many or more is Billy Thorpe’s Sex and Thugs and Rock’n’Roll. It’s the only Australian rock book, I think, translated into a foreign language, let alone five foreign languages, and no other has remained continuously in print as long as it it has – 21 years now – and that includes Thorpie’s highly colorised memoir, which went out of print a number of years back. When Highway to Hell was first published, there were a couple of cut-and-paste biographies of AC/DC around, but that was it. Since then, there has been a steady stream of books about the band, but for all of those that have come along aspiring to knock Highway to Hell off its perch, I think it’s enough to say that most of them pretty quickly fell by the wayside - while Highway to Hell has just just seemed to keep on keeping on. Remember too that the fully illustrated edition still remains available through Verse Chorus Press. If you live in Sydney or Melbourne, come along and join us in necking some Big Balls for Bon!
In Sydney on Wednesday October 14, the 'In the Loop' exhibition at Macquarie University Art Gallery, in which I am a participant, was opened. 'In the Loop' is a group show featuring MQ MMCCS (Music, Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Department) PhD candidates including as well as myself my friend the wonderful Vanessa Berry plus six others; go here to see a bit more. It is my first-ever art exhibition at the age of 58 (!) - showing works in progress from my Deadly Woman Blues project that you can see here - and I couldn't have been more excited to be involved.
ARTIST'S STATEMENT: Part of the Polyphonic Present is obviously the Polyphonic Past: Remembering, not forgetting, the songs, the singers, the stories. Sometimes these drop out of the loop. Sometimes they never even got into it. Deadly Woman Blues: Great Black Women of Australian Music, 34 Portraits, is a work in progress, part of a larger project expected or hoped to eventually include a book, film and soundtrack album. The drawings shown will form part of a basis for the book; I have produced a great many such drawings over the last couple of years, and am still doing so. It is old skool: black and white, linework, the magic of cross-hatching. I come from comics, pop art, bubblegum cards, cheesecake and rock’n’roll. And jazz, and blues and soul: Which is what most of these Deadly Ladies specialise/d in. They amount to a polyphony of voices. Maybe you’ve heard of a couple of them, maybe actually even heard some of them, but most I suspect not. Most are lost to history. Deadly Woman Blues is designed to bring them back, into the loop. Click on the below pdf to see the exhibition catalogue: