Tag: Paul Kelly


mick-thomasLegendary Australian songsmith Mick Thomas shares his top ten records with us this fortnight. He has famously become known for his storytelling through his songwriting and as you might expect, there’s a great story to be told about each of his favourite records here. Mick has written countless tunes over the years and produced some great records. Amongst these, I strongly recommend checking out Mick’s solo record The Last Of The Tourists, recorded in Portland, Oregon and produced by Darren Hanlon. It’s a ripper. Here’s Mick’s Top Ten!


THE (EX) CAT HEADS Our Frisco (1990)

mick-excat-ourfrisThere seems to be a lot written about this album and this band on the web. It appears they are/were in some way an important part of the San Franciscan local music scene in the early nineties. But the night we wandered into their gig there weren’t a lot of people there. It didn’t feel like an important show and we were surprised when we spoke to the band and they said it was their last performance.

The record is a weird classic to my mind – strangely-lo-fi and quite unsettled, it seems to jump between a fully-fledged concept album about San Francisco (bookended by two instrumental tracks, “Fog Rolls In”/ “Fog Rolls Out”) and a collection of demos (three vastly different versions of one song). It’s sprawling and ambitious, as pretentious as it is unassuming and when I hear it I am back in San Francisco at the end of a tour. Or in the van driving up the Pacific Highway three months later listening to a cassette dub of it.


LOWEST OF THE LOW Shakespeare My Butt (1991)

mick-lowest-shakesI have written about this record a hell of a lot over the years but it continues to be one we play at our house at certain times and it never seems to lose its appeal.  Although it came into our lives well after we’d become regulars in downtown Toronto it still speaks to me of our time there. It still tells the tales of that city. We were handed the CD by great friend and promoter Bruce Eaton one tour and it will always take me to times we spent hanging around his house in Kensington Market. It reminds me of the Grange Hotel and The Cameron House, The Siboney and The Horseshoe, and of the times that were not so good. So broke, so cold and far from home,1990 coming in from a long drive out east drunk and hungry and finding the town pretty well shut up on a Sunday night. And then the Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern was magically open but payday was five days away and then for the first time in my life realizing that they would take a credit card and wasn’t that the start of something else totally? The Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern is gone now but my credit card debt seems a constant and Shakespeare My Butt still sounds as good as it did back in 1992. Weddings, Parties, Anything only ever played two shows with the Lowest of the Low. It was nowhere near enough.


THE WARNER BROTHERS Talking in Your Sleep (1992)

mick-warnerb-talkingWe did a stack of shows with them through the years – both as the Warner Brothers, then as Overnight Jones and ultimately back to the Warner Brothers again. They made a great record after that one, Dan and Stuey, the two writers made great records under their own names as well but it’s still Talking in Your Sleep that means the most to me – and also to a lot of people who were around Melbourne at a particular time. They reformed recently as a thirtieth (!!!) anniversary of their inception and it was pretty much that album that got the majority representation.


SEAN McMAHON Welcome to Gippsland (2008)

mick-sean-welcomeI was walking past the Last Record Store in Smith Street when I noticed this one in the window and I guess being born in Gippsland it got my attention. I’d just become aware of the band Downhills Home at this stage and had no idea that Sean was from there or any other band to be honest. But here was this brilliant concept album with guest character parts sung by Matt Walker, Liz Stringer and Laura Jean and when they finally played it live it was billed as a Downhills Home show and so it was a confused foray in a promotional sense but the record itself is really self-assured and quite timeless. The playing is understated, the singing is evocative, the songs are interlocking and self-supporting, the whole thing totally lyrical.



mick-lucinda-westIt’s the record she wrote after her mother passed on and although it’s pretty painful I think it’s possibly the purest expression of her personal blues. Stylistically it moves around a fair bit but the whole thing seems underpinned with an anger and a resentment that is at times quite exhausting. I like most of her records actually.



JAKE THACKRAY The Very Best of Jake Thackray (1975)

mick-jakethackI first heard Jake Thackray songs in folk clubs back in the mid 70s and had no idea who the writer was. But the songs were acerbic and pointed – and they were funny. And when Darren Hanlon started playing an album of his to me a few years back it all made sense. They called him the working class Noel Coward but more than that he was a complex man from a complex tradition of European songwriting and it’s almost the few little serious snippets here and there that give the most away.


PAUL KELLY Post (1985)

mick-paulk-postI guess Paul has written better albums but this one is so much of its time and so simple and direct it’s hard to go past. We listened to it a lot in the early Weddings and when I went to a gig at the Club in Collingwood around the time it came out I remember people singing the words to each other, everyone with a kind of knowing camaraderie. Yep, I wanted a bit of that to be sure.



London is the Place For Me (Vol 1) (2002)

mick-londonI never thought Calypso is where I’d find really inspiring original songsmiths but the various writers that make up this testament to the West Indian experience in England are far more what I was looking for than the ones I found in the Anglo/Irish folk music scene of the 60s and 70s. “Lord Kitchener in the Jungle” is a kooky masterpiece. “Lady Want Rent”, “At the Coronation” and surely the best sporting ballad ever written, “Victory Test Match”. Classics. Lord Beginner, Young Tiger – folk music at its best.



THE KINKS The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (mono version) (1968)

mick-kinks-villageI think this is my favourite Kinks album although Face to Face and Arthur which all came out around the same time are pretty close as well. But this has got Big Sky, Picture Book, Animal Farm – it’s got Last of the Steam Powered Trains and Village Green Preservation Society for Christ sake. And it’s got the best song about being drunk on stage ever written All of My Friends Were There. I guess everything I want The Kinks to be is on this record. Their lyrical, English version of rock n’ roll really finds it’s place here. But Arthur is still pretty good.


NEKO CASE The Tigers Have Spoken (2004)

mick-neko-tigersA cracking live album. Some spirited covers, great playing and incredible singing – and a stack of wonderful songs. It’s a beautifully weighted record and one that seems to have an interlocking lasting appeal for me. The title track is riveting. Simple yet so personal it’s almost embarrassing. Easily my favourite record by her.



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Jeff_JenkinsThere is no better supporter of Australian music out there than all-round champion bloke, Jeff Jenkins. This fortnight we have branched out into new territory by having a non-musician share his top ten. Nobody knows more about the history of Australian music past or present than this gentleman and for a rare treat he shares his top ten “Australian” albums of all time. Jeff is a journalist and writes about music for a living.  Every week he writes the column Howzat! for The Music publication and has written books including 50 Years Of Rock In Australia and Ego Is Not A Dirty Word: The Skyhooks Story. He also worked closely with Molly Meldrum for many years before recently releasing the long awaited biography, The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Ian Molly Meldrum.


Jeff: When Luke got in touch, I was at home. Of course I was. As Lester Bangs says in Almost Famous, “I’m always home. I’m uncool.”

Luke asked if I could do a list. Who doesn’t love a list? Music nerds are always making lists. We could do a list of our favourite music lists.

I love Australian music, which is not to say I don’t appreciate music from overseas. I could easily do a list of my Top Ten albums from the rest of the world. It would feature Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Weezer, Dixie Chicks, Dan Wilson, Warren Zevon, Prince, The Knack and Tom Petty. But my Top Ten list is all Australian. I love all of these albums. And ten is not enough – apologies to some of my favourite acts, particularly Horsehead, Australian Crawl, Lazy Susan, Colin Hay, The Go-Betweens, Midnight Oil, Skipping Girl Vinegar, Kings Of The Sun, The Angels, Dave Graney, Motor Ace, Missy Higgins, Darren Hayes, Nick Barker, Joe Camilleri, Wagons and Ross Wilson.


STEPHEN CUMMINGS Lovetown (1987)

jeff-stephenc-lovetoWhen The Age polled some critics to come up with the 50 greatest Australian albums of all time, I placed Lovetown at number one, calling it “the sound of Melbourne melancholia”. “You can’t have everything,” Stephen sang, “sometimes you can’t have anything at all.” Stephen wasn’t built for stardom, but when Lovetown was released, he was dubbed “the St Kilda Sinatra”, a fair description I reckon, though Stephen is a better songwriter.



BEN LEE Awake Is The New Sleep (2005)

jeff-benlee-awakeEvery month I have a sparring session with my good friend Neil Rogers on RRR in Melbourne. Neil kindly has me on his excellent show, The Australian Mood, and he even allows me to constantly bang on about the brilliance of Ben Lee. I think Ben is a pop genius; Neil is not so sure. Awake Is The New Sleep is Ben’s masterpiece, a work of remarkable honesty, optimism and beauty. Wide-eyed and dreaming. Awake Is The New Sleep makes me cry and smile. “Yeah, you broke my fucking heart,” Ben sings. “But I still want you.”



PERRY KEYES Johnny Ray’s Downtown (2010)

jeff-perryk-johnnyNeil Rogers and I might not agree on Ben Lee, but we’re part of a unity ticket when it comes to Perry Keyes. I’ve been a cheerleader for Perry since Neil turned me on to his remarkable double album debut, Meter, in 2005. Perry is the Sydney Springsteen, the Paul Kelly that you’ve never heard of. His third album is a cinematic epic, the Redfern version of Born To Run. He documents the life and crimes of the inner city, where “falling backwards is easy” and “some stuff just won’t wash off”. But there’s beauty amid the bleakness. Perry Keyes is a remarkable Australian story. When it comes to Aussie songwriters, he’s as good as it gets.


SKYHOOKS Living In The 70’s (1974)

jeff-skyhoo-livingI did a book with Skyhooks (1994’s Ego Is Not A Dirty Word). They’re difficult buggers, but they taught me a lot. And their debut album still sounds great (props to producer Ross Wilson), with its wonderful nervous energy. Living In The 70’s was the first local blockbuster, the start of the modern music industry in Australia, the album that turned a glorified hobby into an industry, showing that you could have a music career in Australia, that “you could get paid for just bein’ a freak”. As one reviewer said when it was released: “If you can’t get interested and/or excited, you’re either deaf, asleep or dead.”

DIED PRETTY Doughboy Hollow (1991)

jeff-diedpr-doughbDied Pretty were every bit as good as R.E.M. They should have conquered the world. Ron S. Peno is one of the great frontmen. He gets lost in the music. He feels it. Died Pretty’s masterful Doughboy Hollow is, put simply, perfect. And it features one of the greatest nods to another Aussie act: “So here I am, alone with you/ The Sunnyboys, God bless them and God bless you.”





jeff-pkelly-gossipI was on a Year 12 camp when I heard “Darling It Hurts” for the first time. “Shit,” I thought, with my limited music vocabulary, “that’s a great song.” I’d seen Paul Kelly the previous year, playing songs from the remarkable Post album when he supported Australian Crawl and The Motels. I was struck by the fact that this guy could write some amazing songs. And Gossip was the album that showed the world.



THE FAUVES Lazy Highways (1998)

jeff-fauves-lazyDon’t get my best mate started on The Fauves. He can list his favourite Coxy songs, his favourite Doctor songs and his favourite Fauves B-sides. When it comes to the best Fauves album, the fans are split between Future Spa and Lazy Highways (I’d also throw 2008’s When Good Times Go Good into the mix). Coxy sings of “no chart action, no radio”, but Lazy Highways is an Aussie classic, filled with nostalgic pop-culture references. And “Wear The Label On The Outside” is a touching ode to friendship: “All right,” Coxy sings, “we’re laughing about it now while we’re flicking each other with towels and joking about our genital size in the shower/ But I’ve got nothing else but love for you.”

DEBORAH CONWAY String of Pearls (1991)

jeff-dconwa-stringDeborah Conway’s debut solo album is a singer-songwriter masterclass. It’s deeply personal and revealing, filled with wry observations. “All those teenage radio songs about romance that lasts forever,” Deborah reflects. “Well, I found out they got it wrong.” Head straight to the title track and then listen to the rest of the record.




ICECREAM HANDS Sweeter Than The Radio (1999)

jeff-icecre-sweeteIf I’m trying to pick up girls, I mention that I’m related to Charles Jenkins. It’s not true, and, sadly, it doesn’t work, which says more about me than Chuck, who is surely the most underrated Aussie songwriter. Jeff Tweedy? Chuck has got him covered. And Icecream Hands bass player, Douglas Lee Robertson, sings like an angel and also knows how to write a nifty tune. I still laugh when I hear “You Could Be Reported”, which reminds me of a relationship I had with a girl who had no interest in football when we started dating. “You know, I found you tuning into the football score,” Chuck sings. “I said, ‘Since when have you been interested in the football score?’ She said, ‘Shut your mouth, I want to hear some more.’


MELODY POOL Deep Dark Savage Heart (2016)

jeff-mpool-deepdaIt’s hard to compare a new album to records I’ve been playing for decades, but Melody Pool is special. This is what Joni Mitchell would sound like if she grew up in Kurri Kurri in NSW. Deep Dark Savage Heart – Melody’s second album – is a window to her soul. “I am pressured to show only light,” she sings in “City Lights”, “to be filled with all that’s good and bright. But I’m a slave to a darkened mind. And who are you to tell me I’ll be fine?



Jeff’s Howzat column can be found each week on the Living In The Land Of Oz website