Don’t the sun look good today?
But the rain is on its way.
Watch the butcher shine his knives
And this town is full of battered wives.
– The Go Betweens
This is the first time I have seen Lindy Morrison live. She had fan blown white hair on stage. I stood at the back of the packed Bearded Lady, a venue in Brisbane’s West End. Rob Snarski (The Black Eyed Susans, The Triffids) sang a couple of songs to warm up the crowd of about 80 of whom about half probably had a direct connection with Lindy Morrison. For example, there was Debbie Beattie, a filmmaker and lecturer at Griffith University Film School who did her PhD thesis on the Street Marches in Brisbane. There too was Andrew Bartlett, former leader of the Australian Democrats, community radio announcer and board member of 4ZZZ. Lindy had campaigned in Randwick in Sydney for the Democrats at local government level.
‘The-woman-with-no name‘ had been sacked from the Greens for being critical and outspoken. She would wear it as a badge of courage. Also there was Steve Stockwell, now a professor of journalism originally from Kenmore’s [Correction: Moggill’s] nouveau riche, whose namesake sacked me from 4ZZZ in his first week as manager after an absence of years at the ABC. I had been doing the Paradigm Shift on Fridays at Noon for about 10 years. There was I thinking the phone call sacking me was from Steve the elder. I felt I could have reasoned with Steve Stockwell (Mark I). Silly me. It was Steve, the younger, who could not argued from due process but who had the good sense to retain Paradigm Shift (still on fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon) with a better announcer, Andy Paine.
Plus it would free up the station, yet again, from the embarrassment of having a Marxist on air who covered International Women’s Day at one of its last rallies put on by radical feminists in Brisbane. Triple Zed had banned the Civil Liberties show and Megaherzz in the 1970s when they were trying to keep onside with the federal government sufficiently to get a high power licence. The venue sported a sign above the front bar, saying it was a proud member of the 4ZZZ household.
Lindy was a trained social worker who had a lot to do with the aboriginal community in the early 1970s. I asked Lindy about Sam Watson who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. She said Sam was a person of principle, as was his father. I suggested she read Sam’s angry novel ‘The Kadaitcha Sung’.
The Bearded Lady in the heart of West End opposite the Avid Reader is a small venue with a bar at the front and a back room for gigs. It can cope with about 80 people standing up. Even if it met fire standard regulations a determined arsonist could kill most of us with a well aimed Molotov cocktail as per the Whiskey au Go Go nightclub massacre in Brisbane in 1973. The Delltones and The Planets had played at the Whiskey when it was firebombed as part of an insurance job. The drummer, Colin Folster, from the Planets lost his life with 14 others. There was no signed fire escape at the rear of the Bearded Lady so we would’ve all had to leave through the flames via the front. But only the drummer was on fire last night (figuratively).
Andrew Bartlett had interviewed Lindy about her musical career at the station a couple of months previous. There were no politics discussed even though Lindy was arrested in 1978 during the street marches against the Bjelke-Petersen government. Her offence? Stealing a policeman’s watch. A classic fit-up by a Queensland police officer during one of their more politically repressive periods.
My friend played double bass and was a human metronome for one of Lindy’s first bands. Another band Lindy had was called Zero which, according to the Andrew Bartlett interview, was an all women feminist band. But, as the photo shows, the Go Betweens bass player John Wilsteed appears with the band at a Joint Effort at the UQ Student Union Refec in 1979. But I suppose on some occasions they were an all women band in an era when it meant more than now.
Before the first set, Lindy told us how she had committed to making two podcasts about her life in Brisbane at two share houses. She was paid $2,000 for what required a lot of work and research. Yet our inexperienced podcaster had to record with a mic under a doona (a real no no for sound recordists out there).
But when her publicist asked her if she could include Go Between songs in the podcast, Lindy refused for copyright reasons which I don’t fully understand. Disputes about royalties and copyright was a feature of relationships in the seminal Brisbane band. It led Lindy to become an expert on copyright law and how it applied to contemporary music. No doubt, she not only trains people to be drummers but dvocates for them on how to avoid the pitfalls of copyright. Lindy had not been paid at one of her first paying gigs (pictured) at 4ZZZ’s Joint Effort at the UQ Student Union’s refec. She had been ripped off by the Musicians Union which was a pretty low act by a family affair that did not uphold basic trade union principles of looking after their members. They took the bands pay under the pretext that it was union dues.
By the time Lindy arrived on stage with her hair flaying, Rob Snarsky had that part of crowd that did not know her personally pretty well up to speed with Lindy, the local legend.
Who was the headline act of this unlikely duo? Musically it should probably have been Rob backed competently by Lindy on drums. But the talented Rob was upstaged by Lindy. Was this pre-arranged? I don’t think so. Lindy had a way of making the songs sound better. Standing at the back of the room, I couldn’t see if Lindy had cymbals in her drum kit but she did use a range of brushes and drumsticks to create tension and drama in songs which she described as being ‘list songs‘.
There was Michelle Cannane which featured sound images about bands like The Go Betweens and The Triffids who had played at Trade Union hall in Sydney in the 1980s. Rob told us how his lyrics came about through people that he had met and who had commissioned him to write songs to loved ones, friends or people they missed.
They both could have written a great song about the audience who were totally appreciative of their performance. There was Geoff Shera, who had written ‘Death on the Dole‘ in the 70s and who now was writing a book about Eartha Kitt and his own father. Eartha Kitt was a famous singer who kept the company of many a civil rights activists in the 1950s and 60s and made a statement against the Vietnam war at a White House luncheon causing a temporary cessation of her career. But the feisty Kitt made a comeback ten years later, winning two Tony awards.
During the performance Rob and Lindy told the story of how they came to this gig. This was their fourth performance at various venues which they said may be their last. I think they were being ironic
They had to carry their instruments to this venue in a shopping trolley. And Lindy didn’t have her own bathroom at the accommodation provided. If you look at the economics of the gig. The performers were on stage from 7pm till 10pm with a 15 minute break. That is two and a half hours on stage. Say 80 people attended. They paid $32.42 each. So that’s nearly $3,000 at the door and say everyone, on average spent $20 at the bar on drinks and food. Let’s say let’s say another $1,500. That is $5,000 gross for the night. I wonder what they each got paid? $1,000 each? Accommodation and taxis. $500? That still leaves $2,500 for the Bearded Lady. I am not attacking the venue. There are costs that I clearly do not understand. What a grind the Arts are.
The funding of the Arts is the real problem, especially when you consider the downtime experienced by musicians hanging around for the next gig. In Cuba artists get a wage paid by the state.
To show the depth of talent out there we saw an amazing performance at Metro Arts on the previous night, String: An Odd Evening With Tyrone And Lesley where they played their ukulele and double bass with a slide backdrop of 1950s Brisbane, light music for dark times.
Rob Snarski said that they did their best performance of Michelle Cannane and put it down to the audience. Their funniest song was one they did as an encore: Coca Cola Coloured Eyes which came about as a birthday gift for a friend. They are listed to perform next at George Lane, St Kilda, in Melbourne.
Here are some of the songs Rob and Lindy played on the night.
14 March 2022
|Death on the Dole: Australian Poems, Short Stories and Songs|
|Editor||Geoffrey P. Shera|
|Publisher||Goolmin Goolmin House, 1979|