Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rocking Sydney.

For what it's worth, (zero), I have 7 great passions that I live for, friends, movies, books, travel, knowledge, dance and music, and my love of music is eclectic: techno, hip hop, jazz, blues, world, classical and maybe most exhilarating of all, rock'n'roll. For the last few years there's been lots of moaning about the dearth of music venues in Sydney because they've all been given over to the dubious high of gambling on pokies. But I attended one of the last functioning rock pubs last Friday night and nobody was there, for all that there were 6 bands playing from all over Auz, they got no support, so what's all the bitching about?

My best mate's daughter is married to a hot guitarist and he asked me to come and see what I thought of the band and so on a rainy Friday night I journeyed up the long, lost highway of Parramatta Road to the Lewisham Hotel to check out his three piece band, Red Bee. With some confusion I marched into the backroom to discover a nubile girl dressed as a nun slowly stripping off her habit to reveal skimpy bondage gear all to the whistles of a small posse of horny gronks. I thought I'd stumbled into the wrong place but, no, sleaze rules, stripping and rock have always been sexy bedfellows, whatever it takes to draw a crowd, and still they didn't come.

We first had to endure a real daggy, pedestrian glam rock band, sounding like every other band in the world mulched down into one raucous rock cliche, not one word of the hot blonde mama's croaked songs being decipherable. My mate's band, Red Bee, was up next and I was expecting the same boring daggy rock but I got ecstatically surprised, they played what I'd call funky metal, actually had an original take on it. Dan, the frontman, had exciting show biz presence, sang his kooky songs well, I heard every word, his lead guitar-playing was euphoric and when he did duets with his brother on base, the electric music was transcendant, I got very high, a hot white light lit up my lizard brain, the drumming was headbanging, the trio were tighter than a nun's g-string, Dan danced about the stage like Jagger on acid, this was rock that I live for and I had despaired of ever getting turned on by it again, as these days I'm OVER IT.

But I'm glad to say, there's still hot talent out there practicing hard and zooming around the corner to smack me in my forebrain and make life a joy, for music is the background soundtrack to our lives, even the busker in the Central Tunnel earlier that night provided the ebullient beat for my stroll down Destiny Lane. While I bopped as a teenager in the '60s to many rock bands in Melbourne, it was in Sydney, where I've lived from '77 onwards, that I really drank in electric music as if it were the nectar of the gods. There were so many hot Sydney venues to satisfy one's addiction but they've nearly all gone now, just the Lewisham, the Anandale, the Hopetoun Pubs and the Metro Club on George St. remaining, and I want to take a few minutes to bow my head in fond memory of all the transcendant electric times I've had, where I rolled about on the floor in ecstatic delerium with my rock'n'roll mates and heard the best in rock artistry the world had to offer.

Young people today swagger about with their jeans sagging below their arses and their noses in the air like they invented outre clothes, electric music and krumping wild moves, but us wizened black-garbed oldies got there long ago and latterday youth can only follow in our turbulent wake. I have to admit I gave my soul to rock'n'roll, like a zombie for a religious cult, eschewing money-making, secure career and societal responsibilities, living in the white hot electric moment as if there was no tomorrow, headbanging my way to spinal damage, not even drugs got in the way of me immersing my self in the music, music was the drug! What a fool I was! For now that hard beat, like the pulse of a god, has faded and all I'm left with is a tinny ringing in my ears, (sob sob!)

(Many of my fellow travellors did get into smack/speed, supposedly to pay their dues or live fast and die young, whatever, but I never did hard drugs, not even once, as I had enough handicaps in being a bipolar pothead poof from the gutters of the Olympic Village in West Heidelberg, i.e. the wrong side of the tracks.)

The Hard-Ons
As a child I was impressed by that animated cartoon of an Aesop fable, "The Grasshopper and the Ants" where a jolly grasshopper lazes away the halcyon days of summer enjoying his music while the ants work industriously stashing food for a rainy day. And when the harsh cold of winter sets in he's out in the snow starving whilst the ants are cozy underground feasting it up, tho all ends happily with the ants inviting him in to share their banquet as long as he plays his music for them to help move the celebrations along. Back in the real world, the ants eat the grasshopper, and here I am at the end of days leaning into a cold wind, scratching my arse like I'm being eaten alive, still I have no regrets, I've got my memories of rock'n'roll so exilarating my soul remains nourished, my heart remains warm.

I was one of the teenagers who rocked out at the Ourimbah Festival outside Sydney in '68 to Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Wendy Saddington and Chain etc etc, (I hitched all the way from Melbourne) and then again at Narrarah in '84(?), not far from Ourimbah, with the Pretenders, Talking Heads, Eurythmics, Def Leopard and INXS et al, possibly the best rock festival in Auz ever, and I epileptically flipped as if at a religious revivalist gathering and possibly never came down from my seventh heaven.

But it was the Sydney suburban pub venues that gave me my weekly hit and of all the happening venues my favourite was Sellina's at the Coogee Bay Hotel on the beach. What a rock'n'roll gladiator arena it was, the mosh pit fully thrashing, grappling, smashing, punching, stomping black-eyed, bloody-nosed joy to the Cramps, the Divinyls, Primus, Iggy Pop, Screaming Jay Hawkins, the Butthole Surfers, New Order, Ministry and sooo many more I forget them in my head-spinning brain sloshed memory loss. (Divinyls was my favourite band, I chased them all over Sydney, Chrissie Amphlet is a goddess!)

I hit the ceiling at the Tivoli, now the Metro, to Johnny Lydon and his Public Image on New Year's Eve, (1986?) pogoing on goldtop mushrooms, maybe the best delerium rock tremens I've ever experienced. And it was me who gave Tex Perkins his first goldtop mushroom at the Evil Star Pub on Elizabeth Street so long ago, ('89?), he'd disown me now but we've all got to have one small claim to fame, and we splattered ourselves on his grunge rock tripping off our faces. (I know, I know, I said I didn't get into drugs but there were rare pagan hotspots like the mid-winter's solstice where sacred fungi helped kick the elation to greater heights.)

I can go on and on about my rocky psychosis but will just mention clubs of old that frayed the edges of my soul, the Trade Union Club with Hunters and Collectors, the Graphic Arts Club with Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, The Grand Hotel with Suicide Squad and The Rejex, Bedhogs at the Vulcan in Pyrmont, Rose Tattoo at the Stagedoor Tavern near Central and Cold Chisel doing their first ever Sydney gig at French's Tavern on Oxford Street, (maybe the wildest, grungiest venue in all Sydney rock history, oh fuck, those were the days!) I also got titillated by the Mu Mesons at the Anandale Pub with Go Go dancers up on the bar and at the old Mandolin Cinema in the city with Box the Jesuit and soft porn up on the movie screen behind them.

There was the Boys Next Door (whatever Nick Cave's early band was called?) at Rags on Goulbourn Street when the disco redneck's next door tried to beat up us punks, and the Phoenix Club on Broadway when Nirvana played and Kurt got his stomach pumped, Secret Secret at the Rock Garden on William Street (the old Whiskey A Go Go), Beasts of Bourban at the Paddington RSL, The Slugfuckers at the Landsdowne Pub in Chippendale, and the Cure at the Bondi Tram way back in the early eighties when all of us were young and naive and hoping we could all be rock stars and not just rock-hard arses.

Those were the days when every street corner in Sydney had a rock band banging away on it, one's footsteps fell to a thumping beat while walking the tight-wire of a highly strung guitar, it's wail matching the existential cry, "I'm here, I'm alive, I'm living it to the max!" It was AC/DC with Bon Scott giving a free concert at the Haymarket on New Year's Eve '77 that actually got me sucked into Sydney in the first place, as if it were a quicksand pit, and I never left, such was the rock orgasm they flung me into, and I don't regret a moment of it, for all this city's whiplash cruelty.

I bet when the convicts first arrived here circa 1800 there was some cool soul who twanged away on a banjo or fiddle in a wattle and mud rum-bar down at the cove to lift the hearts of the dispossessed and weary, and his ghost can be heard yet by the campfire deep in my heart, Sydney you rocked me.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Serial Killers and Acolytes.

I love horror flicks, have done so since my parents took me to see "Psycho" at the Preston Drive-In Movies in 1962. Getting your hair stood on end is as good as a roller-coaster ride. I was pissed off when film critics across the spectrum gave the "Hostel" films zero stars, calling them torture porn, when they did for me what they were expected to, made me shit my pants in terror and then flee from the theatre relieved that the lead actor had escaped in the end.

I've been going to opening weekend big-screen horror movie releases all my life, am addicted to having my blood curdled, my adrenalin rushed, my guts dropped and my brain warped, screaming in unison with an enthusiastic audience, as if in group catharsis, it's one of the great pleasures of being a cinephile. One particular cinema was a key site of my childhood adventure fantasies and nightmare horror rides, the Forum in Flinders Street, Melbourne. I was lured into that Arabian Nights palace like a kid following the Pied Piper into Wonderland to be scarified by celluloid creepies such as "The Birds" and "Dinosaurus". It was at the Forum, post "Psycho", that I relished Willian Castle's shock shlock, "Homicidal", where he promised such terror as to need an ambulance at the end of the show to attend to the faint-hearted, with the female serial killer finally revealed as a man in drag, a bit of a mind-blower to my post-puberty sexual angst.

Forty-five years later, in 2008, I again attended the fantastical Forum Cinema for the Melbourne International Film Festival and I'm pleased to say I got my flesh crawled all over again, this time by, surprise, surprise, a new Australian horror flick called "Acolytes" directed by Jon Hewitt. Promoted as a "teen chiller", it's "an urban Gothic tale about three Queensland teenagers who blackmail a local serial killer into dispatching an ex-con they hate." There's not much these days that can scare us, except for war, famine and disease, the old horror stand-bys like aliens, disfigured monsters, vampires and werewolves being mostly unbelievable and worn-out cliches, but the modern plague of serial killers is something that still resonates with terror, and Jon Hewitt's movie hits the chill spot with the concept that the killer(s) can be anyone amongst us, our ordinary next door neighbour in bland, uneventful suburbia.

The refreshing thing about "Acolytes" is it's stark realism, the contrasts of light and dark giving it a tabloid photographic edge, making it more believable, a return to the realism of a classic like "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer", and eschewing the over-blown, fantastic visions of generic killer-flicks like "Nightmare on Elm Street", "The Cell" and "Saw", entertainingly hallucinatory tho they be but not believable. As if Larry Clark and Gus van Sant did a version of "Disturbia", the raw, fresh, untrained acting of the teenagers give "Acolytes" a naturalistic feel, I empathised with their vulnerability and went on their terrifying journey with them instead of distancing myself watching stars do their schtick. "Acolytes" gives a nod to the history of "serial killer chillers", the butterfly symbolism and dungeon of "Silence of the Lambs", the terror-run thru the forest of "Kiss the Girls" and the innocent tourists as victims of "Wolf Creek", "Hostel" and "Touristas", but arriving at a unique take on what is itself getting to be a much worked over genre, getting squeezed dry of ideas, ( to name a few of the latest,"Taking Lives", "Untraceable" and best of them all, "Funny Games".)

"Acolytes" is unique because it's very Australian in it's setting and larrikan characters. The movie opens with a glorious pan of a Queensland landscape, then juxtaposes it with a zoom into the uniformity of an urban housing estate, suggesting the theme of nature vs. nurture that lies behind much psychological hand-wringing on the subject of serial killers. The high-school teenagers, their hated ex-con foe and the killer himself are all laconic, irreverant, hard-arsed suburbanites you could meet in any Aussie pub or milk bar. And the plot has a few twists and surprises that lift it out of the hum-drum to give you the willies when thought out, the nice, normal family being vicious, cold killers just one of the nasty implications.

Joel Edgerton is soooo scary playing an Ivan Milat-like killer with moustache and aviator sun-glasses but even more ordinary and unprepossessing in his looks, cold, distant but almost handsome in his white collar and tie, a family man who holds down a job, supports a wife and kid and lives in a nice white, antiseptic house in suburbia, the type of killer that will never be caught, because he has no history of deviance, does'nt have the signifying mask or disfigured face like Jason or Freddy Kreuger and does'nt dress weird like the Joker. All those people gone missing while hitching on the north coast of N.S.W. were possibly picked up by this type of killer. And the idea that young, wayward impressionables can be groomed to carry on a tradition of killing strangers as if it's some kind of callous philosophical school of existentialism had me shivering in horror. The nightmare that suburbia can become, of boring, restless lives that seek out murder to spice up the banality as depicted in "Acolytes" scared the shit out of me.

I only hope that "Acolytes" can get the audience it's made for, teenage thrill-seekers, as quirky originals like this deserve support by the Australian movie-going public, too many good Aussie thrillers get ignored and thus fail at the box office because big, splashy junk-food Hollywood fare offers a slicker thrill. Shlock like "Scream 3" compared to "Acolytes" is a bit like a Big Mac as opposed to a lamb roast, which one is more satisfying? "Acolytes" in my mind is more scary because it depicts the reality of killers in our midst more naturalistically. And Jon Hewitt is to be congratulated for pulling off a tough artistic assignment, creating unique Aussie cinematic horror in the wake of "Wolf Creek".

Maybe the movie's distributors should emulate William Castle's outrageous publicity campaigns to get teenage bums on seats by declaring nobody is allowed to enter or leave the cinema for the last revealing, terrifying seven minutes, there will be guards on the doors looking like Ivan Milat and, at risk of heart attack, the audience will be forced to watch unprotected the denouement of "Acolytes" in all it's terrifying, gory glory.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Free Sex in a Red-lit Fog.

As I was wheeling my beat-up bike thru the Kings' Cross red light feeling blue, a handsome young man, seeming lost and restless, crossed my path and smiled at me and I smiled at him in return and, encouraged, he approached and with wild eyes said, "Do you want to have some hot sex?" "Sure, with who?" I replied, somewhat taken aback. "With me of course. Do you want it?" "Yeah, but what do you want, money?" "Nothing, I just want to have a good time. Do you live near here? Let's go, I'm really hot for sex!"

"I don't live far but I can't believe you want to give an old gronk like me sex for free?"
"Why not? I can tell by your eyes I can trust you, I really want to get it on right now!"
"OK, I suppose so, I'm desperate, tho it seems crazy asking a stranger straight out for sex."
"Come with me to my hotel, I have to get my bag, I'll check out and come to your place."
I halted in my tracks: oh ohhhh! I said I'd wait for him and considered running away, there was something fishy in his mad eagerness, Kings Cross is the land of sub-humanity. But he insisted I accompany him and I did for I was horny and he was very good looking.

He dashed into a seedy hotel and came out with a tatty shoulder-bag and said, "Let's go."
"We'll walk awhile, I want to talk to you to figure you out. There's something wrong."
"I've run out of money, that's all, and can't pay my hotel bill and need somewhere to stay."
His story gets worse by the second and all the zombie desperadoes of the Cross stare at us as we limp by as if to say, "Another mug hooked by the gamble death does play with fools."

"I don't think I'm so keen, I'm desperate for a human's touch but I don't want to be ripped off."
"No, really, all I want is to have free sex with you, believe me. Are you into chems?"
"Chems? What do you mean? Chemicals? What kind of chemicals are you talking about?"
"Crystal meth. I've just had some. If I start acting crazy at your place, dont'worry, I'll come down soon and will just need more drugs to keep me going for your pleasure."

I knew it was too good to be true, so out of touch with reality he overlooked my grungy bike!
"Umm, ahhh, I'm sorry but I'm not into drugs at all, and ICE is the worst, it makes me sick!"
"But I've nowhere to stay. I had a fight with my family in Punchbowl and they threw me out."
"Why, because of the drugs?" (I'm sure.)
 "No, my sexuality, I'm Mid-Eastern, they hate gays!"
I love Mid-Eastern guys so I'm still sucked in. "If you're cool, you could stay with me I guess."
"Great! I just need more ICE. If you lend me $100 I'll pay you back on Monday, I promise!"

"I don't have $100 and I wouldn't give it to an addict for drugs if I did, it's horrible!"
"I just rang a gay fuck-buddy and asked him for money but he knocked me back, we have really rough sex, I love it, he whips me and punches me about, I can't get enough! I'll give it to you rough as you want, you can bash the shit out of me if it turns you on, all you've got to do is give me drugs to power me up!"
Now he's scratching at his hairy chest, rolling his eyes and complaining of the long hard walk.
"You're really turning me off! I couldn't think of anything worse, I'm out of here, goodbye! You're too fucked up for me, sorry, I might be desperate but not that stupid!" What a life!

I moved off quickly and he yelled pleadingly, "Don't leave me! You've got to help me, please!"
He screamed and screamed, we were on Oxford Street and all the straight gays oggled us. I left him outside Headquarters where all the fast-food, dirty 'sex on premises' happens and I wonder if he didn't find succor inside those gloomy red-lit cubicles for the hungry blind and unzipped maniacs, his humanity frozen into submission by that nasty drug called ICE.

I went back to the Cross to my broke-down bike where I'd locked it and felt a sad relief, for all my gutter-level white trash deadbeat Skidrow broken-arsed dreams, I'd survived, thank no god, without drugs. I'd handicaps enough, I was even a Bohemian success story, so said an encouraging friend, but I had to bitterly laugh, it was all so fucking pathetic!

P.S. A few weeks later I saw his photo in the papers, face twisted in harried dismay, he was a witness at a Coroner's Inquest into the murder of an American woman found dead in her flat, her body under a pile of junk with cords wrapped around her neck. He'd admitted to having rough sex with her but was innocent of her death, they had no proof so they let him go, free to harass any suckers, such as desperate poofs, around the city. On the grapevine I heard one fool got sucked in by his sweet face and taken him home only to have his apartment trashed in a sado-masochistic flip-out. Thank no god I'm too old for it!

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Where There's Life?

From the comfort of my warm bed last night I watched a doco on TV called "Stranded"
about a plane crash in the snow of the high Andes where the survivors ate the corpses
of their friends such was their will to live, and two trudged across impossible obstacles
to find rescue for them all and I felt inspired to crawl out of my own not so deep dark pit
for the seventh time in my existence to carry on for where there's life there's....

Long ago when I was young and starving on the Isle of Crete I laid down to die
on soft green grass but after some hours I didn't waste away and got back up resigned
and toiled on up the infinite highway to find succour picking oranges for sympatico Greeks.
And on my return to my beloved India in '97 I caught cholera at the Kumbhla Mela
and lay sweating out my soul for 3 days and I considered letting it take me into Oblivion
for I was tired of all the kicks to the arse, rips of my arts and stabs to the heart
but then I groaned "No! There's life yet to love" and I crawled off to a doctor's office
who saved me with anti-biotics and told me I was lucky to survive, a sentiment moot
to my existential torment for it's been a hard and lonely travail to arrive at such ignorant bliss.

And some years later I laid down in a hotel room high in the Himalayas after a scooter accident
in which I'd torn my shoulder muscle, the pain sending me into stupid narssicistic disarray
and I considered suicide while listening to the music of a nascent Ganges River crashing
by my window, waiting all night for the moment to hang myself from the ceiling fan
but clinging fanatically to consciousness, not yet, not yet, till the honey of dawn light shone
and fed my spirit to once again tackle the ordeals this chaos world had to throw at me.

Does the Big Exit ever beckon over the shoulder for all of us when hurt and weary?
(The next thing I read was Bukowski's "Factotum", he considers a gun without the guts
to end the tedium and horror of it all, I'm just as gutless, that's my existential problem.)
Now in Sydney, lost in TV, wondering what next, a survivor of the Andes assured me of all
he'd learned, to wait, just patiently wait and a door would open eventually for freedom,
joy, peace and achievement, from my soft Australian bed much is yet possible to jump to.

So I rowed in a borrowed dinghy to Cockatoo Island for the trite arty crap of the Biennale
where Art looks to be a conceptual con-act, nepotistic net-working the proof of cleverness,
yet I surfed my fears of the deep harbour, speedboat-swells and water hovering at the brim
of a leaky boat while the raves of a loonie mate urged us on, like a quaint artistic performance.

Then I trained it to Melbourne where I ate counter lunches at a funky pub with a log fire
and enjoyed the caring attention of my all-forgiving friends from teenage discos of the '60s.
And I enjoyed Pacific Islander and African fertility drumming, dancing me into ecstasy
at a festival of dark-skinned immigrants, krumping, hip-hopping, booty-shaking me high.
I went on tours thru old movie palaces like the Forum, the Capitol and the Cinerama Plaza
where I lived out childhood dreams that life for me would be an ongoing adventure movie
like "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" and indeed, with guts, it really happened for me.

On return to Sydney I attended a wake for an old friend who'd died at 55 from a heroin o/d,
found dead on a bed of dirty needles she'd not had much of a life the last few years
and tho she'd ripped me off I forgave her now that she was gone, she'd paid with her life
for her follies and so we let go 55 red balloons into the Redfern night to help her spirit fly
away, away into the Void, for me, to be alive, to breathe, to feel the cool breeze, is Nirvana.

There's always something awesome around the corner waiting if one is patiently in love,
even Northcott ghetto is my time-out refuge, the screaming of the druggies outside my door
like sounds from nature akin to seagulls squawking over scraps, I simply live in a wild garden.
And the Freak's Club of the Piccolo Bar is reassuring, I'm not alone, tho Vitto's gone
he will return I pray, the spirits of Roslyn Street cry like the wind for remembrance,
and I remember the wonder and horror of it all and am recharged, for where there's life....

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.