Today is the official release date of Deadly Woman Blues. It’s only now that I put it that way I realize it’s my first all-new book for five years, since The Wizard of Oz in 2013, which seems like an absolute age ago. The new Buried Country came out in 2015, but as much as its great amount of expansion entailed a great amount of work, it was still built on an existing foundation. And then the latest edition of Highway to Hell came out in 2016. But Deadly Woman Blues – it’s something I’ve been nurturing, on and off, since, well, Buried Country first came out nearly twenty years ago, and so for it to be coming out now, in a form that’s pretty much exactly the way I always envisaged it (credit for which and with great thanks for goes to NewSouth), it’s just such a pleasure, to hold the finished product in my hands, to see it in bookshops, as you can see here, today, at my local Gleeboox at Dulwich Hill:
Deadly Woman Blues is my tenth book, a graphic history of black women in Australian music, the sort of sister-sequel to Buried Country, and I’m even more than usually excited about it because it’s a graphic history, a book I’ve illustrated as well as written, and as such marks my return to the art where I actually started in the first place. I dropped out of art school in Brisbane in the mid-1970s to follow my nose and start writing about music, and it’s really via Deadly Woman Blues that I’ve gotten back to art, and so immensely satisfyingly so that my standard line now is, I hope to end my days painting, picking up where I left off over forty years ago…
For more information on the book itself you can check my page on it here, or - and to buy as well - go to NewSouth Books’ page here. That it’s a book about a fairly secret history that will hopefully reveal that history to a broad audience is something else I’m very excited to be doing.
The book has gotten out of the blocks with a first nice little notice in Books + Publishing, which is reproduced below.
It will be launched with a clutch of events in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne with thanks due, again, to the lovely folks at NewSouth. Those events are:
On February 21 in Sydney, I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with the lovely Natalie Ahmat at Gleeboox in Glebe, for bookings go here
On March 9 in Brisbane, I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with the lovely Alathea Beetson at the Avid Reader in the West End, for bookings go here
And on March 19 in Melbourne, though it’s not quite as yet confirmed, I’ll probably be at Readings in St.Kilda, but stay tuned for final details on that one
And for people in Sydney, tomorrow, February 2, you can tune into ABC Radio Sydney at 11am to hear me chatting on Focus with the lovely Cassie McCullagh; you can stream it live on-line here
Buried Country is about to be born again again, with the imminent release of a vinyl LP through a co-pro between Mississippi Records and Flippin’ Yeah Records, the former an amazing archival specialist coming out of Portland, Oregon, the latter the label run by Australia’s own Gympie Songster, Darren Hanlon. Darren has been a friend of Buried Country for a long time, and this album is really his baby, as he has coursed all over Australia in pursuit of producing it, making more friends and connections, as he is wont to do (pictured above with 'Salty', who he met in the Kimberley). The album will be released very soon, and it brings so much more to the table, featuring tracks never before re-/released and with lavish packaging including more rare photos, original artworks and extensive liner notes. The tracklisting is as follows (and the test-pressing sounds stunning):
SIDE ONE 1/ BLACK ALLAN BARKER Take Me Back 2/ GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU Gurindji Blues 3/ WARUMPI BAND Jailanguru Pakarnu 4/ KANKAWA NIAGARA Yanany Baliba 5/ KOORIERS Sick of Being Treated Like a Low-Down Mangy Dog
SIDE TWO 1/ JIMMY LITTLE Give the Coloured Lad a Chance 2/ BROWN BROTHERS Black and White Cat 3/ DOUGIE YOUNG Cut a Rug 4/ MAISIE KELLY My Home in the Valley 5/ COUNTRY OUTCASTS Streets of Old Fitzroy 6/ BOBBY McLEOD The Resurrection
If I was to say Darren Hanlon was a force of nature it would belie his modesty, which is one of his great qualities both artistically and personally, but having got to know Darren as I have over the last couple of years as we’ve worked together on the forthcoming Buried Country vinyl LP, I am just totally taken aback by his energy, commitment, talent, good humor, imagination, generosity of spirit and general good shittedness. What a guy! And so it is with great pleasure I can now announce that I will be giving the Yuletide Address at his 2018 Xmas show in Sydney at the St.Stephens church in Newtown on Saturday, December 16. For which you can buy tix here…
I came to know Darren via Buried Country sooner than his own music. But by now I’ve come to love his stuff too. The Gympie Songster showed up at the 2015 launch of the new edition of Buried Country in Sydney, after he’d been on the road in search of the ghost of Dougie Young, and then when I bumped into him again at an event at the Golden Age Cinema where Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records of Portland, Oregon, gave a talk and showed some films, well, what happened from there, to cut a long story short, was that we all got together to get together the vinyl LP edition of Buried Country to come out as a co-pro through Mississippi and Darren’s own Flippin’ Yeah label… and so basically after giving Darren a few leads, I just had to sit back and watch him scour all over the country in pursuit of doing the major right thing by this project. He is truly a modern-day troubadour, who just gets around in his shonky old van singing for his supper and enjoying whatever adventures come his way. He has gone way beyond the call of duty to ensure that the new Buried Country LP is not just another, further iteration of the BC brand-cum-juggernaut, but a virtual whole new entity in its own right. To be listening lately to the test-pressing (remember them?!) has just taken my breath away all over again. So, with the artwork currently in production – and that will be something special in itself too, which I’ll save for a surprise upon release – we can now only await the album dropping sometime early in the new year.
Meantime Darren is on the road, as ever, and launching his twelfth annual Christmas show tour. You can read his account of some of his recent adventures on this road here, and get details on the tour dates here, which features special guest the Space Lady direct from San Francisco, and buy tix for the Sydney show here.
And so when Darren called and asked if I would deliver the short Christmas address at the Sydney show, I couldn’t have been more flattered. I mean, these are significant shoes I’m being asked to step into, having been previously filled by the likes of Bob Hawke and the late Bob Ellis. I am filled with ambivalence generally about Xmas as it is, but I am willing to take on the challenge and look forward to doing so and I hope to see plenty of revelers there.
If nothing else you certainly wouldn’t want to miss this likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the incredible Space Lady, check her out here:
It seems like an age ago that I wrote the piece that is included in Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats, but perhaps the book’s long gestation is best seen an indication of the sheer determination of its editors Andrew Nette and Iain B. McIntyre to get the thing out – which, I’m delighted to now be able to say, after all sorts of hiccups and travails, it finally is! Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats was launched in Melbourne at the end of November and hopefully may yet enjoy a launch in Sydney too. And what a fantastic anthology it is! To see a bit of hard data on the book from the publisher, and links on buying, go to PM Press here.
For me, I’m chuffed to be rubbing shoulders with writers like the two editors themselves plus, just to name some of my local confreres, Peter Doyle, James Cockington and Matt Gear. I remain grateful to the editors for the opportunity in the first place and that they never doubted my piece called “The Wild Beat,” about Australian pulps in which music is a major or even minor component.
The whole pulp revival, if I can call it that – which I shouldn’t really, because for me and many others pulps never went away, so it can hardly be called a revival; let’s just call it this on-going half-life – it’s something I think is sometimes just sort of fobbed off a bit, especially by the big-“L’ Literary elite. And that’s why I think this book is so great, because it takes pulp fiction seriously, or at least semi-seriously, which is to say not beyond the point where it gets all po-faced and structuralist and all that, which does nobody any favours. It just tackles the topic head-on. You’ve got to have a sense of humor and a sense of humor courses through this book as does the recognition that true art can come from anywhere and sometimes even accidently, or out of cynicism, and that even accidental art can have a lot to give. The other notable thing I love about this book is that it puts Australian content on a par with the American on a par with the English. So much of my work from the very beginning was done towards achieving this sort of equity (Inner City Sound was about putting Australian punk/new wave next to all the stuff you always heard about from the UK and UK to the exclusion of so much else), and so it’s great to see it finally, naturally happening now. Naturally the book is full of gorgeous colour reproductions of all the lurid cover art, which as aficionados know is just as legitimately a part of pulps’ pleasures as their texts, and sometimes moreso. And what’s wrong with that? I’ve seen a lot of worse literary books with even worse covers, and what’s right with that?! The pure object itself is a thing of beauty and now a lost relic of a bygone age. Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats is a guide to the pulps of their golden age – the post-war period up to about 1980 – and to my knowledge there is no other volume quite comparable in terms of its big-picture vision and its general suss. If I say so myself. To see some of the response to the book, go to the Literary Hub here and Hardboiled Wonderland here. And to see a bit more on the book’s two editors – and you could do a lot worse than digging deeper into Nette and McIntyre because they both have rapsheets as long as your arm, and full of fascinating shit – go to Andrew’s site Pulp Curry here, and Iain’s LedaTape page here.
As the 2017 Kampot Readers & Writers Festival rages on, I remain here at home at my desk more than a bit bummed that I'm not there enjoying all the fun and games. But I cannot afford the time, with Deadly Woman Blues in the endgame of its production and deep-in on the writing of a first draft of Shadow Dancing. I will nonetheless be – or am – taking a peripheral presence at Kampot in the form of an of an interview for the festival’s online gazette that you can see here; while at the same time another aspect of my on-going Khmer Konnection has come to fruition in the form of a set of liner notes I’ve contributed to the new, fifth Cambodian Space Project album, Spaced Out in Wonderland. I guess everything I want or need to say is said in the notes and so in order to maybe mildly entice you to actually seek out the album and maybe even buy it, I’ll not reveal too many spoilers. Suffice to say, the CSP to me represent a real and very exciting new possibility for music in our Austro-SEAsian region of the globe: a meeting of the traditions, of the people, out of which is arising new sounds, new songs, new moods. But more than that – you can dance to it! The Cambodian Space Project are really a go-go band above all else, and at any of their gigs that I can attend, I am there on the dancefloor, and always last to leave. If that sounds at all enticing – and even if it doesn’t – check out the deets on the album here, and seriously consider a holiday in Cambodia. But beware – in a good way, I promise – it will get its hooks into you!
See here too a preview video of the band’s version of the Lee Hazlewood classic “Summer Wine,” which is included on Spaced Out in Wonderland:
On Wednesday November 1, I will be giving ('celebrity' [?!]) talk at the Art Gallery of New South Wales to tie in with the major Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition they've got going on there (see more here). I’ll be using that cover of Patti Smith's Horses whose photo he shot as a starting point to go into punk/post-punk record cover design generally as a means of illustrating the way art and music intersected in the late 70s to ultimately force the cultural sea change that followed in the 80s. Starts at 6:30 and, best of all, it's free...
The New Yorker or at least its online iteration has just published a little piece about Jan Wenner finally selling out his remaining interest in Rolling Stone (here), and I was chuffed to note that the slideshow of notable Stone covers that accompanies the article includes one of my own, as you can see below. Naturally it was the only Australian cover in the small gallery, but what’s all the more remarkable is that it wasn’t an Australian cover on the American edition (like there were a few as I recall like Men At Work and INXS in the 80s) but rather a unique Australian cover tied-in to the first 1994 publication of my Bon Scott biography Highway to Hell that the Americans never saw – so I wonder how it’s cropped up here now. Put it down to nothing but the power of Bon, I’d reckon: