Thursday night I had the privilege of seeing Tony Durant’s Fuchsia at the Greenroom in Newtown. Tony was in the original Suburbs and will be playing with me later this year (August) in Perth and Melbourne so you might accuse me of bias. If there’s any bias it’s simply that we share the same musical backgrounds and lots of the same tastes in music. For example we both like and write narrative material rather than the kind of groove/lick/hookline with vocal gymnastics that dominates shows like The Voice. For me that kind of material epitomised by Beyonce is style without heart. Musical rococo. A puff piece. Anyway Tony and his group of excellent musicians played a number of great songs with standouts being Melancholy Rd and Girl from Kandahar and watching it I was again frustrated that so much musical talent goes unnoticed and unplayed on the air-waves. Of course I’ve had tracks of my own which I think with airplay would have become as well loved as my only real hit Suburban Boy. Waiting for the Cyclone and Key to the City come to mind. But they are a drop in the bucket. Howie Shawcross of Howard I Know, The Elks and numerous other bands wrote the killer Orwell Street. Dig it out if you can, top song. Back in the late 70s Perth band The Manikins had a wonderful pop song Premonition. It was a ripper, lay down misere top 10 with any airplay. To think these songs languish while some average pap from the likes of Guy Sebastian get copious airplay makes me want to put my head in a blender, or worse switch on the TV and watch re-runs of old Don Lane episodes. I still have 45s of Premonition and Orwell St and from time to time boost the stereo to enjoy.
Anyway, on the subject of premonition, the concept now not the song, at the Fuchsia gig I caught up with keyboardist Russell Parkhouse who played occasionally not only with the Suburbs but for a long time with Howie Shawcross. Russ and I got talking about premonitions and he gave me the most fantastic story that I am going to pass on in a moment. First though, I’ll give you one my own accounts of the inexplicable that I’ve experienced. I’ve had a couple of difficult to explain phenomena where I knew things I could not explain but this is a simple one and bears easy re-telling.
In the early 90s the Suburbs were doing a few gigs in Queensland. Greg Macainsh on bass, Johnny Leopard on guitar. We were staying at a motel somewhere, I’m guessing it may have been Toowoomba but I’m not certain. Anyway in the early hours I was dreaming this vivid dream of me driving along when a bird flies out of the sky SMACK into the windscreen. I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding and very disturbed because I had a sense that after that impact something bad must have happened. However here I was in the motel room, all quiet. We had to get an early start and so an hour later we were back in the cars on the road and I was driving. It was a cool, misty morning with substantial fog. I think it must have been the Darling Downs because we had to drive down some twisting, mountain descent through this fog. As per usual everybody else in my car had gone back to sleep. I’m a fairly cautious driver so I wasn’t travelling fast and I was still unnerved by the vivid dream. The conditions were tricky, and you had to concentrate on this narrow descent. Anyway, at some point I looked up and saw on the side of the road about twenty metres ahead on the driver side, two birds sitting. They weren’t on a fence, or tree but actually on the road itself. Because of the dream I immediately took my foot off the accelerator. One of the birds suddenly took flight and yes, went right for the windscreen SMACK! As I was prepared for it, and had already decelerated, we were fine. As for the bird, I don’t know what happened to it. Had I not had that dream I can’t say we would have crashed. But maybe I would have been surprised, lost concentration and control and pitched the car off the edge of that road.
Now to Russell’s story which is so much better than mine. To enjoy this story better you have to know that Russell is terrified of flying. I once flew from Perth to Alice Springs with Russell gripped onto my wrist the whole way like a handcuff.
We were doing a show called The Jake & Elwood Blues Brothers show. I was Elwood. My manager Marty (Jake in our show) asked me if I wanted to go to Whyalla. I said fuck that isn’t that where they had the air disaster? I said I’ll go if we don’t have to fly too much. The money was good so I said ok.
It wasn’t for another 3 months so for 3 months I winged to all my friends that I was worried about going there because of the Whyalla air disaster. There was a comedian with us as well I think it was Carl Barron. We had to fly from Sydney to Melbourne & change planes to Adelaide & get a small plane across the Spencer Gulf to Whyalla. 6 bloody flights in 2 days. There were about 10 people in the plane. An old miner in the back called out “Jesus Christ I wouldn’t let this young bloke drive my car let alone fly a plane.”
The pilot was about 21 & his co pilot younger. I know a bit about flying because my uncle used to have a couple of planes & used to take me up & let me take over the controls. I was worried about the co pilot pressing buttons that he shouldn’t & I said to Marty, “ Mate if these guys fuck up I’m taking over the plane”.
He said “Oh please don’t do that”. The comedian looked terrified. At one point of the flight I looked down & said, “That’s where the plane went down”. All my hair stood on end it was really freaky. We looked down & could see sharks.
The plane sounded sick & I found out later that Whyalla was where there was tainted fuel being made. When we landed everyone was relieved. I kissed the ground then thought, I wonder if we could drive back to Adelaide? Mmm, no.
There were 3 taxis, 1 for the comedian one for Jake one for me. I can’t remember the name of the club but it had giant motel rooms. We had one each. The biggest motel rooms I’ve ever seen. We were treated like kings. We went to dinner & Marty said “2 dozen oysters, thanks.” I said “I don’t eat oysters”.
He said “Make it 3 dozen.”
Marty ate everything he could & more huge dessert. The waitress said “What would you like to drink?”
He said “A jug of Jack Daniels & coke, thanks”.
She laughed thinking he was joking. He said “Make that 2 jugs.”
We were well fed & lubricated so thought we would go back to our rooms & have a sleep before the show. In my huge lonely room I suddenly started to feel really sick shaking hot n cold. I went to Marty’s room for help. He answered the door the same way. We went down to reception hoping to find a doctor. We found a nurse who couldn’t tell what was wrong but thought we should go to hospital.
We did the show half dead. The Mayor of the city handed me the key to the city which I put in my bag. He blasted me “You’re not supposed to take it with you, it’s symbolic.”
Well I didn’t know. I’d never been given the key to any city. He asked me how was my flight. I told him I was scared shitless because of the Whyalla air disaster. He said, “What disaster? We have never had one.”
I said, “You know, in the Spencer Gulf.”
He said the only plane that might have gone down anywhere was a crop-duster.
I got home safely & 2 weeks later, the Whyalla air disaster happened. The plane went down in the Spencer Gulf right about where I thought it had happened. It was the same plane I had flown on with the same pilot & his young mate at the controls. About six people killed.
Is that freaky or what?
I predicted it 3 months before it happened!