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« BACK | HOME » ABOUT » THE SPIRIT SPEAKS » A GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE WITH CHOPPER READ PART 3

A GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE WITH CHOPPER READ PART 3

The Acoustic Band is a Trojan horse we use to infiltrate foreign territory. Now its time to open up the trap door and expel its contents. As we file through customs at Melbourne airport, Alabama 3 are collectively clenching their buttocks, for various reasons, some legal, some medical. But no one clenches harder than Nick Reynolds; he's got Chopper Reeds bonce in his hold all.

Saying, 'But officer, I'm a conceptual artist' doesn’t work at airports these days. Not since Samantha Taylor-Wood got busted with Fred West's lungs in her Prada handbag at Tokyo international last year. Although Nick could have pointed out to the customs officials that the sign doesn't say 'No sharp objects, No vessels containing over 500ml of liquid, No bronze effigies of the heads of notorious gangland murderers'.         
                                                                                  

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Its time to give Chopper his head.

Nick's planned a whole media event around the presentation. Larry will be there, along with the Melbourne Tribune; everyone gets a gasp on the Oxygen Mask of publicity. But Nick's nervous. The entire band has turned up. The ability to formulate a combination of unstable chemical agents doesn't guarantee an accurate prediction of the reaction. He doesn't want a repeat of the Clerkenwell  incident...

In return for helping to organize the Clerkenwell Literary Festival, Nick was given a slot in the program. He made a few phone calls and persuaded a bunch of famous Crims to come down and read from their memoirs (What's the collective noun for a group of violent criminals? a Cosh? a Posey?).  

The evening was a success, attended by Irving Welsh and the avant-garde of London literati. It culminated in a reading by 'Dodgy' Dave Courtney, notorious knuckledusterereur and head of security at Ronnie Kray's funeral. The great man finished with a poignant reverie about his time in Belmarsh, which was followed by a Q and A session.

One of Irvin's mates, a pissed up Geordie playwright, raises his hand and says:

'Yeah Dave, I was wondering how many times you got buggered in prison?'

Silence. Followed by the click of Dave Courtney's wife's camera.

Freddie 'Brown Bread' Foreman steps forward:

'There's a thin line, son, and you just fucking crossed it'

The unimportune dramaturge left for Paris two days later...

Yeah, we don't want any of that. Although if someone is going to get blow-torched, I want to be there to document it. It might be my only hope of getting this blog published.

Nick, and Steve Finnerty and I are the first to arrive at the Top Hat and Tails, a Victorian-style pub in Melbourne's Chinatown. Chopper's there, hunched over a Lime and Soda, along with the man from the Tribune. He seems sullen and self absorbed. Strangely, for a metal-toothed headbanger, he’s got the air of a bullied kid.

I’ve met a lot of naughty men in my time in my time with the band, and a few actual killers.  They weren’t cackling golems or rabid wolf men. Neither were they dead-eyed, windowless monads. Actually they seemed thin-skinned, vulnerable, and childlike. One man had such lost, pleading eyes that I thought he might burst into tears if I said I didn’t like him. I’m afraid I can’t tell you who it is, because I’m frightened of him.

As the rest of the band file in, pissing about, Chopper’s lip twitches. The harsh laughter of villainous men - what does it sound like through those non-ears now? He says he hasn’t shot any one since 1992, 'And even then I didn't do it.'

The mythic ears are indeed not there, replaced by two curlicued flesh-holes. They're much more not-there than in the film, just two little fins of gristle, upon which nodules hang the arms of his shades. The exposure of his external auditory canal might have enhanced his paranoia, increasing the range, but not the accuracy of his hearing. He's famously sensitive about them, which is unfortunate because it’s impossible to stop looking at them. And they get more fascinating when you know that they were not, as I thought, sliced off by an enemy, but by a friend. At his own request.  

Chopper’s other head emerges from a cardboard box. Nick tells him what a great subject he was; the ears are usually the most difficult part to cast. If Chopper feels this makes his act of self-mutilation worthwhile, he doesn’t say so. He just stands there, transfixed, muttering:

‘Jesus…ugly looking bastard ain’t I?.…Ugly looking bastard…Jesus.’

It’s a spooky moment, for no one more than Mark Brandon Reed. He gazes down at the head on the bar and the grim facsimile stares back up. If it could speak, it would say:

'What? What the Fuck are you looking at? You're looking at my ears aren’t you! Are you looking at my ears? Fuck off! I'm Chopper Read! Chopper fuckin Reed! I'm a fuckin ICON, mate! I'm gonna be around forever! Who the fuck are you? Fuckin Nobody! Fuckin dead man walking!'

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continued tomorrow...

© Orlando Harrison 2010