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OZZIE RULES PART 1: SCORCHED EARTH
OZZIE RULES PART 1: SCORCHED EARTH
Out of the plane window, the earth looks roasted, red raw.
After a 24 hour flight, even if you've landed in paradise, all you care about is nicotine. I reach for my Bangkok duty-frees. On the front is an eviscerated human heart, rank and swollen by fag abuse. 'SMOKING LEADS TO A SLOW AND PAINFUL DEATH'.
In the sunstroked car park we meet Neil, our promoter for this tour, an easygoing type with a spiky haircut, and we're briefed by our new tour manager, Dave, who looks stoic and guarded and scared. Tour managing our group is the worst job in the music industry, next to being Cliff Richard's Colostomy Technician (Hey, that’s a good name for a band). We go through T.M.s quicker than a paedophile goes through wet-wipes. Most of them end up in hospital; in the case of one rather thin skinned female tour manager it was the puzzle factory. I try to imagine the conversation when our regular tour manager, Walshie, briefed him:
'First thing you've got to realize about the Alabama 3 is that they are cunts. They will do everything in their power to destroy you. Never, on any account display a genuine emotion or they will jump on it and rip your mind apart.'
Looking up from my fag past a line of Gum trees I see a bus emblazoned with a livid human scar. If these are portents, it's not encouraging.
The Medina hotel on Crown Street has chic black marble walls, big mirrors, separate bedrooms. It's a bit like the kind of place you might stay in if you were in a famous English Pop band, touring Australia. Imagine that. Dave Stokes hands out our Itineraries, little booklets with a map of Australia on the front. On the left side of the diagram, there's a tiny line indicating the route of the tour, beside a huge expanse of white, empty space. It looks a bit sad, like Art and Languages 'Map not to Indicate'. And worryingly, the name of the promoter for Byron's Bay is 'Sneaky Mcfee'.
Floating down Crown Street, staring into the antipodean sun, we're all a bit hysterical. We've spent 24 hours being bombarded with Hollywood blockbusters in a plastic tube in the sky. During the process we've moved from early spring to late autumn, then been released into Utopia. Palm fronds stroke the antipodean sky while tattooed beefcakes saunter the streets in ergonomic sandals. D.Wayne expounds upon the chthonic vibrations emanating from the soil, then adjusts his trousers: 'I dinnae want every cunt checking oot ma Mars Bars...
'We order a round of 'schooners' in a corner pub. I savour my pint of Coopers; this, I think, will be an easy tour for me. Although we've agreed to take a wage cut, half the gigs are acoustic, which I take no part in (I don't dig folk music).
Three gigs, three days off. It makes a change from the usual back to back tours where you're carted on stage before you've had time to eject the nasal blood clots from the night before. Long shadows spill down wide streets. I'm as far away from home as a man could be. It feels good. Whatever trouble I've got into in London, there's nothing I can do about it now. And if the shit really hits the fan, I can always miss the plane...
Going for a piss, there's an advert in the gents warning young men about the dangers of depression: 'I had no energy. I couldn't give a stuff.' There’s a picture of a blonde surfer dude looking at his shoes. Why on earth would young Australian Men get depressed? There's sunshine, wide-mouthed women and miles of perfect beach. And aren’t the endorphins from all that volleyball supposed to keep them all bouncy and smiley? It confirms my belief that over-indulgence in sport turns you into a nut job. Look at George Best. Ronnie O'Sullivan, Eric Cantona. Alex Higgins. Maradonna. Chris Eubanks. Paul Gascoigne. Mike Tyson. David Icke. Jake La Motta.
Smoking on the corner, we're accosted by an ebullient bloke called Ernie. Jolly, fat, and 50 with a sad look in his eyes. Ernie is an Alabama 3 fan. But He doesn't know it yet; he's been unwittingly drawn into our magnetic field. He tells, with a wink, of a pub round the corner, much better than this one, where they play the blues, and we can...relax.
We jump into cabs, and Ernie, who has spent time inside for an unspecified act, points out various clubs, including one inhospitable venue he was forced to destroy with a cricket bat. 'I'm not a violent man.' he adds, helpfully. Ernie tells me and Rock about how a friend of his accepted a bet to wheel a wheelbarrow from Sydney to Melbourne. He completed the journey, but the other guy welched on the bet. Ernie goes into a poetic description of exactly what kind of primitive surgical procedures should be applied to the debtor. Rock, who still owes me £100 from a foolhardy cigarette-catching wager a year ago, stares quizzically out of the window.*
The pub, while not quite being the cornucopia of bohemian delights Ernie had promised us, is pleasant. Its done out in a colonial Victorian style, and run by a nice woman called Trish. She proudly tells us that it's the only pub in Sydney where they won't allow 'Pokies'. A Pokie is a fruit machine on crack - bigger, more complicated, more addictive. They're taxed heavily by the government and as a consequence they've proliferated like promiscuous robots.
Rock Freebase is in an unusually good mood. Downing his third pint in as many minutes he tells me, giggling maniacally, how scientists have recently managed to teleport a sub-atomic particle under a river in Cambridge. He leans over conspiratorially, 'Did you know, Landy, that your entire body is made up of miniature time machines?' I'm not sure whether he’s trying to explain Quantum physics or having a bi-polar episode. I expect admissions tutors at many of our leading universities have a similar problem...
I get talking to Neil, our guide thru this Australasian inferno, and the subject drifts inevitably towards the subject of narcotics. The authorities here are unforgiving when it comes to the use of illicit pharmaceuticals and so we, as a group, are naturally concerned as to the quality and provenance of our customary method of recreation. Neil elucidates, retelling a recent bust involving 'Bikies' in which several parties were fatally injured. Over here Poker is known as ‘Pokie’, Sunglasses are called 'Sunnies', and Bikers are 'Bikies'. It makes them sound kind of cute, like 'Smarties' or 'Panties'....'Aw look mate...there's a little Bikie, taking Cokie and blowing off your Headie...and now they're taking you to the Undertakie…'
Fed and watered in the Medina Hotel, Larry, Steve and I hit the town. We head down Crown Street, onto Oxford Street, and into the 'Oxford Arts Factory'. This salubrious dive is populated by sleek and arty young women with dyed hair and short skirts: Yay! Despite our raddled state, a tall, particularly short-hemmed beauty clocks us for a band and makes a B-line. When she gets close enough to assess the state of our oral hygiene, she backs off a little. The characteristic Australian female mouth is vivacious, large in diameter and filled with gleaming, white, tombstone teeth, in contradistinction to our derelict British jaws. This allows them to feed off the various forms of otherwise dangerous wildlife indigenous to the local habitat. I saw Kylie Minogue from a distance of ten yards in 2002 at the V festival. Her teeth took up seven eights of her face.
Chary of punching above my weight, I notice her friend, a little shorter but heartbreakingly cute, is wearing a pair of Dazy Dukes. Dazy Dukes is the technical term for tight, cut-off denim shorts, popularized by the actress Catherine Bach in 1970's hillbilly-based action sitcom 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. I know this, because just before I left London a beautiful punk anarchist called Trixie played me a song called 'Do I Look like a Slut’ by electro-rap duo Avenue D. It goes:
My Daisy Dukes they fit just right
They hold my coochie really tight...
'Hey! I know what those are called! They're Daisy Dukes!'
'Yeah, I know'
'Yeah, I heard about them from this song!'
'Er...(sings) 'Do I look like a slut?', Uh-Huh!'
'Wanker.' She spits, and stalks off.
The Medina Hotel also has Broadband.
* This debt has since been honoured. Thanks, Rock.
© Orlando Harrison 2009