Leatherbacks and Syrup
I never considered myself a troubadour, or a traveller or a restless soul. I always felt I was a solid, down-to-earth dude with his roots firm and deep in that part of the earth upon which I happened to live at those times when I had such thoughts.
I don't just write sentences that way... it's the way I speak, too.
Only thing that's removed with the written word are the often-times very long pauses in between thoughts. That sentence might have taken a week to write. That’s the majesty of the written word. You can figure it out over time.
That's why I often use so many dots. Some people hate little dots. "Over-punctuation" they call it. “Sloppy, juvenile.”
To me they are essential. At their most powerful they are like punctuative footprints walking across a literary gravesite.
You can hear the silence in them ...
Sssshhhhshshshsh ... hush ... quiet ...
They are made of sheepskin ...
I remember when I wrote certain songs because I remember which putrid, hole-in-the-wall apartment I was living in at the time.
My apartments were usually less than savoury because I didn't give two hoots about such things.
All I needed was six walls: one below, one above and four surrounding - a place to put my writing desk, good acoustics (and the less furniture you have the better the acoustics get) and a window ledge upon which to rest my ashtray and my cigarettes.
One such dive was in Gladstone Road in Highgate Hill, Brisbane. Gladstone Road is a busy thoroughfare and it has some steep segments and some grinding turns up alongside some raised ridges that drop down toward the Brisbane River.
When the dude showed me the flat it was a sunny winter's day and the sun was streaming in through the west-facing living room window and cutting deep golden-yellow beams across the two plush-orange sofa chairs that sat there like wide-hipped Godfathers just returned from a month in the tanning studio.
I saw the perfect spot for my writing desk against those windows and salivated at how wide the window ledges were... you could fit two dozen ashtrays on there and still have room for a half-dozen unwashed coffee cups.
That's where I wrote "The Party's Over".
I wrote the song after I took a night off from sorting mail at the state mail centre in favour of playing a half-hour set at the Shamrock Hotel in Fortitude Valley. It didn’t get any more downtown than Fortitude Valley.
The dude who invited me to play, Vinnie, was the singer in a punk and rock band who's name I can't remember. I do remember they were pretty good, but the bikers who hung out at the Shamrock on a Friday night were unmoved by their punk antics.
The bikers were unreservedly terrifying. I was duly terrified.
I was relieved that the punk band cleared the room during their first set. Turned out the bikers couldn’t stand punk. By the time I got up to play during their break the room was empty.
I had never been so happy to play to no one.
But when I started to play my acoustic guitar and sing, a couple of massive, leather-clad bald men with huge moustaches and beards and tattoos sauntered into the bar, sat on bar stools and swivelled their tattoos toward the stage to listen to me play. They seemed intrigued by the mellowness in my voice.
Try as I might I could not make it sound non-mellow. I tried to roughen it up but it just came out like sickly honey. I thought for sure they were gonna take me out back and drive over my syrupy head after my set. I couldn’t have imagined that they actually enjoyed it.
Then a few more came in. Then others. Pretty soon they were all back in the room, listening with a kind of childlike innocence at me singing my songs. I also sang a James Taylor cover, Fire and Rain, and still no violence was triggered.
I played the whole set like a deer caught in the glare of headlights... and only when I'd finished and gone home and written the song, and then gone to bed, and then woke up and practiced the song again and then later told some friends about it, and only then after Vinnie offered to be my manager and I refused his offer did I realise what a strange but beautiful moment I had been a part of.