rock country (2013)-cum-
Best music writing under the australian sun (2014)
When the book previously known as Rock Country, to which I contributed a piece, was
(re-)released by publisher Hardie Grant in a new paperback format under a new title, it meant that there were two versions simultaneously available. The first edition is the original and I think still the best, because it is the full production hardback beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated; but certainly the second edition is cheaper to buy. So the choice is yours.
It's not often that I'm asked out of the blue to write anything, let alone that an editor will approach me with a great idea. But that's precisely what happened when Christian Ryan first got in touch about getting me to do something for this anthology project. I was flattered to later read Christian saying in an interview: "I asked writers I love. I wanted to create a space for writers who are doing daring things in non-fiction, tipping boundaries – Peter Doyle, Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Neil Murray, Clinton Walker, Tony Wilson – yet, crazily, aren’t getting the writing gigs they should be getting." As it turned out, I couldn't do the original idea Christian had, and I can't really talk about why not for the same reason I couldn't write it, suffice to say that hopefully maybe one day I will be able to do it without betraying too many confidences and needlessly hurting too many people. But we kept tossing around the ideas, until we came up with one - a piece on Barry Gibb, apropos his early-2013 Australian tour - that in the end I think came out okay…
I was naturally delighted to be involved in such a high quality project. With two of my fellow Sydney-based contributors, Peter Doyle and Fiona McGregor, we concluded that Christian Ryan is a legend! I should reiterate Christian's gratitude to his partner Maria Tumarkin, who helped him on the production as well as contributed a great piece on discovering NIck Cave in her native Russia, and to Janet Austin, a very old mate who also worked on the production. Australian music doesn't need any more of all the same old stories over and over again as a lot of the media, writers and publishers seem determined to keep churning out and shoving down our throats - but rather some fresh angles like are in evidence here.
To hear an interview with Christian Ryan go here, and to read a Beat magazine item on the book, go here. To read a review in Sydney's Sun-Herald, go here
Fiona Capp wrote in a capsule review in the Fairfax press: "'All music carries memory in it. Is that perhaps what music, songs, concerts really are, a kind of rehearsed eternity?' Maureen O'Shaughnessy's soulful phrase 'rehearsed eternity' echoes through this marvellous book in which a diverse range of Australian writers and musicians revisit key rock-music moments and explore the way they continue to reverberate. Clinton Walker sets out to dispel the stigma of uncoolness surrounding the Bee Gees. Why, he asks, do the brooding dark lords get all the kudos? Why does happy have to be so unhip? Keir Nuttall's encounter with Chrissy Amphlett after years of fandom is both hilarious and poignant, a fitting salute to her distinctive brand of in-your-face toughness and vulnerability. Like the Bee Gees, the best pieces in this book are not trying to be cool, they're celebrating the passion that drives people to make music and the way it transforms ordinary lives."