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

A GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE WITH CHOPPER READ

Part 1  

'Good Morning Australia!' On TV a blonde MILF is talking about some Australian bloke who got drunk and bashed another Australian bloke, then ran him over with his car. On the other side a bunch of blokes in cut off t-shirts are bashing another bunch of Australian blokes chasing a misshapen football. I turn over and they're talking about some young Australian bloke who bashed the crap out of some girl, raped her, set her hair on fire, wrote a song about it and posted it on the internet.  I tentatively open the curtains of my hotel room. A beautiful autumn sunrise breaks thru delicate palm fronds while the curious caw of a Bowerbird drifts over the sapphire waters of a crystalline swimming pool...  

Over bacon and eggs, the Sydney Morning Herald is full of Australian blokes bashing each other in various formations. I picked up a leaflet in reception for the Sydney Justice and Police Museum Experience’ Here, for a fee, you can be cross-examined and sentenced to life in an antipodean labour camp by a Victorian judge. Funny that; this is exactly the 'experience' that most of us in the band were hoping to avoid as we landed on Australian soil. 

Pity Australia's policemen; their lot is not a happy one. They're supposed to police a nation whose entire history and culture is predicated on crime. Modern Australia's founding fathers were not pious puritans, determined to set up Christ's Kingdom on earth. They were the condemned Sinners, desperate to get out of Hell. The English have got Saint George: Dragon slayer. The Scottish have William 'Braveheart' Wallace. The Ozzies principal folk-hero is Ned Kelly; a Cop-killing cow burglar with a metal bucket on his head. As my old headmaster used to say, it doesn't set a very good example. 

The other big problem for Australia's police is Australia. Geographically speaking, she's like Paris Hilton. While the outer edges resemble paradise, the heart is a dry and poisonous wilderness.  

You can't patrol a void. On the first night of our first tour in America, I was disappointed when the bus left so soon after the show. It was my first time in Los Angeles; I was high and I wanted to go mental in Hollywood. Six hours later, I understood why we’d split so quickly.  It was 800 miles to the next gig. That's longer than the diameter of the entire nation of Great Britain. On a comedown, I stared out at an endless vista of rock, sand and spiky bushes and had an epiphany. I realized that America is big. And I realized that in that big, beautiful, brave country, murder is an entirely plausible option. I understood that if you decide for personal, ideological or recreational reasons that you quite fancy abducting someone, killing them and dispensing of their limp and ragged remains where no one would ever find them, it's quite possible... and everybody secretly knows it

The possibility of murder quietly informs all social exchange. 

That's why America is so much fun, and so terrible. The city limits are only a drive away, but beyond that, the District Attorney has no jurisdiction. Ask Charlie Manson. The best parties happen in the middle of nowhere; in the forest, in the desert. England is too small. There's nowhere to hide. It's no accident that most of our more prolific killers are Yorkshiremen; at least Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe had the Moors. Al Quieda have the Sahara. And Australia has The Bush.   

There is a specter haunting Australia. Throughout her short life, rootless berserkers have drunk, laughed and bashed their way thru Commonwealth history. Men like Fred Ward, A.K.A 'Captain Thunderbolt', who evaded capture for 6 years, during which time he married an aborigine, robbed 25 mail coaches, 80 horses and 16 hotels, in that order. Men like John Lynch, a diminutive bushranger who snuffed 9 people with an axe in the space of six months. Men like Chopper Read, an earless freelance assassin who cut off the toes of his victims with bolt cutters. What kind of a man, I wonder, would do such things? Happily, I've got the chance to find out, cos tomorrow, before our gig in Melbourne, I'm going to meet him. 

(Continued next week)    

© Orlando Harrison 2009