Friday, April 17, 2015

Song of the Week #345

As of tomorrow I will have travelled around the sun 44 times. Good grief, how did the number get so high? Lately I've been feeling my age (which is unusual). I put it down to far too much stress in the last year. Hopefully I can go back to feeling what passes for normal before too long!

Last week I wrote a little bit about Spotify. This week I think I've spent far too much time on it exploring artists that I enjoy whose albums aren't always that easy to find. Some of them will get played this week. I think the only thing that I haven't liked is that the comedy "radio" channel that they have is almost exclusively American comedians that I've a) never heard of and. b) aren't funny. Shouting and swearing a lot gets boring really, really quickly.

It's rare for any record stores around here to have much by American bluesman, Taj Mahal. This is a real shame because it's not your regular twelve bar stuff. I was first exposed to Taj singing LeadBelly's "Bourgeois Blues" on the Folkways tribute album. That's an album any music fan should have in their collection. It might be "old" music but it remains "good" music. Kurt Cobain was a LeadBelly fan.

Taj Mahal - Divin' Duck Blues -

Lead Belly - The Gallows Pole -

Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night -

Canberra music fans can either rejoice or stay away...we've got a gig coming up! Join the band at Vivaldi's on the evening of May 30th as we run through a range of songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Neil Young and Jason Isbell. It's a slightly more laid back setlist musically but there will still be plenty to get your feet tapping. This will be the four piece version of the band with George singing and playing keys, Brownie on bass and vocals, Hayden on the drums and singing as well and of course me making up the numbers on guitar and un-mic'd vocals! There are other different shows coming so watch this space and the Facebook page for details in the not too distant future. You won't hear this song but I'm going to play it because I think it's a great version...

The "survivor of cyclones" is heading back to Vanuatu in a couple of weeks. Zoë is off to a different village but she's still going to be on Pentecost. Atavtabanga is about 5hrs walk further North than she was. It's also significantly closer to the airstrip they use to get there. I'm hoping to be able to visit her there at the end of her placement. There's a lot of ducks to line up to make that happen but I'll do my best. I better keep working on my Bislama as I'd like to be able to speak to the people there at least some of the time in their language. Speaking of languages, how backwards do I feel? Most Australians speak English only. In Zoë's village many of the people speak English, Bislama, their local language and French!

I'm wary of many remastered albums as you may be aware. All they do is pump up the bass and kick drum and make everything louder. But sometimes hearing a different mix of a song or the demo versions makes the purchase worthwhile. Here's a couple that you might enjoy. Firstly Led Zep and the alternate Stairway to Heaven mix. You can decide for yourself if you can hear the difference. And after that is one of the demos from Pink Floyd's The Wall...interesting!

Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven (Sunset Sound Mix) -

Pink Floyd - Have A Cigar (alternate version) -

Tony Joe White has been around for a very long time. Legend is that he would play so hard that his amplifiers would give up! If you like swampy blues then he's the king. Even without the awesome guitar he certainly has the right kind of voice!

Tony Joe White - Holed Up -

I'll close off this week with a few of my all time favourite songs. 

DJ ZedBoots was watching a movie the other day and I noticed that one of the characters was wearing a Stryper t-shirt. I've always admired them for their melodic approach to metal and the fact that they sing what they like regardless of what people think.

Stryper - Co'mon Rock -

Beach Boys - I Can Hear Music - This is a cover version of a Ronnettes tune for those that didn't know.

Sammy Hagar - There's Only One Way To Rock -

That'll do for now. Rock on Brothers and Sisters! Hello Tingha!


"Time, time, time, see what's become of me...." not the version you'd here

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Song of the Week #344

Finally....AC/DC have announced Australian tour dates for the end of 2015. Personally, I can't wait. I haven't seen them live since the "Stiff Upper Lip" tour. If you think you'd like to come to the Sydney show then talk to me before tickets go on sale on April 20th. Angus and I will hopefully be heading there on a rock and roll pilgrimage!

AC/DC - Are You Ready? -

Discovering a "new" band that I actually want to listen to is a treat. Bishop Allen is such a band. They're not really new as they have releases dating back over 10 years but they are new to me. I've heard a couple of tracks from their 2014 LP "Lights Out" and I'll organise a physical copy of the album soon. If you like The Cars or Crowded House then this band might be something worth a listen

Bishop Allen - Why I Had To Go -

I find myself drawn more and more to what genre classifiers might call alt-country. That's pretty much country music without the yee-haw element. Looking back through our music collection the indicators of this progression have been there for a while. 15 years ago this next band was recommended to me. Blue Rodeo are Canadian and, "The Days In Between", the album I have, has remained a firm favourite. 

Blue Rodeo - Begging You To Let Me In -

King Creosote is the stage name of singer/songwriter Kenny Anderson. He's from Fife in Scotland which is where my Mum comes from too. I was attracted to his music as a result of his album cover which is an old beach postcard with the title, "From Scotland With Love". Anderson is another vocalist who isn't afraid to sing in his own accent and that's something I always like. People from Scotland don't have Nashville accents.

King Creosote - For One Night Only -

Did you read about Don McLean selling the original lyrics for American Pie? I'm sure he didn't really need the US$1.2m but good luck to him anyway. This is very much a song of my childhood. The vinyl LP which my parents had was played a lot and I'm sure we could all sing most of the lyrics for every song. Just quietly I've got that LP here and playing it is something that always makes me feel good. I always wondered if KISS had been influenced by the album cover...

Don McLean - Everybody Loves Me -

After last week's episode, DJ UncleSam asked me if I'd consider sharing the week's songs via a Spotify playlist. The reason was that the YouTube app on an iDevice doesn't play in the background so he couldn't read my nonsense and listen at the same time. That sounded like a fair request. Spotify is an interesting beast and you can have as much free music as you could ever want. If you're using a computer to listen then you can choose individual songs and playlists. If you're using the iDevice app however you get random "suggested" songs popping up and you can only listen to a playlist in a random order. But for $12 a month (and less if you know a current subscriber) there's a lot of mileage in it. The link for most of this week's tunes as a playlist is at the end. Not all bands allow their music on various streaming services for a variety of reasons. 

One band that I did use Spotify to catch up on were another Scottish fave of mine, Del Amitri. I was unaware that they had released a live album recently and it sounds really good. You'll need to use the Spotify link for a listen as I can't find any of the new release on YouTube. In case you're ideologically opposed to Spotify or can't be bothered clicking the link at the bottom then here's a cracker of a Del Amitri song...

Del Amitri - Be My Downfall -

Last night I saw a band play an interesting cover of Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the soles of her shoes". It's a good song and the version played was a lot of fun. The Graceland album always brings me back to this song and I hope you'll take the time to have a good listen to it. I started learning the lyrics recently (it's not hard). This version is from the "Invictus" movie soundtrack and I'm using it as it has the words for you but for a real treat look for the one from the Ipi Ntombi soundtrack.

Have a great week folks. Rock on.


"...maybe Vader someday later no he's just a small fry..." - Weird Al Yankovic, The Saga Begins, 1999.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Song of the Week #343 - bumper edition!

Since today is a public holiday there's plenty below to get your teeth into.

I've heard some tracks from the new Van Halen live album. I fully recognise that David Lee Roth was never the greatest singer in a live situation but this is beyond a joke. It's sad as the rest of the band are playing their hearts out. Take my advice and hunt down a copy of their concert DVD "Live Without A Net" instead.

Van Halen - Best of Both Worlds (live with Sammy Hagar) -

Last weekend H, Angus and I wandered up the road to the Hunter Valley with Fiona to attend "A Day on the Green" at Bimbadgen Winery. This is an event that was booked and paid for sometime last year. John and Julie made the trek from Tingha to join us. The four bands playing were Choirboys, The Angels, Cheap Trick and Billy Idol. Here's a very quick rundown...

Choirboys: had a lot of fun, mix wasn't too bad although at times the second guitar couldn't be heard at all, did a great AC/DC cover (Live Wire). If they'd blabbed less between songs I think we would have had time for at least three more! And whilst they played their biggest hit, naturally, I reckon that dropping it at least a tone so that Mark could actually sing it would be a good idea. All in all, good rock and roll with loads of smiles and fist pumping.

Choirboys - Empire -

The Angels: yep, Dave Gleeson isn't Doc Neeson, get over it folks. He sang well (easily the best vocalist all day) and his energy was almost boundless. Only two original Angels (the Brewster brothers) are in the band but they still rock. I'm not sure we needed a cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange" but it was still well done. The highlight for me was their encore song, "Marseilles" but you couldn't fault the whole set. They were the best band at the show by miles and miles.

The Angels - Waiting for the Sun -

Cheap Trick: there are two parts to this review. The part where I recognise that Cheap Trick are a great band who made good LPs, write cool songs and play their hearts out. Then there's the part where I tell you that they had an absolutely awful mix. They sounded harsh, distorted and noisy. It was hard to listen to. I'm sure that the band wondered why the crowd was almost muted in its response but when you are having your ears assaulted in the worst possible way that's bound to happen. This was a real shame.

Cheap Trick - California Man (live at Budokan) -

Billy Idol: yes indeed he has about three hit songs but managed to pull together an energetic, well produced and enjoyable set. Steve Stevens on guitar was great; a true rock star. We just wish that Billy had kept his shirt on.

Billy Idol - Can't Break Me Down -

Without wanting to appear to be a prude, there were some very feral people at this show. A few drinks brought out the worst in some patrons. It was just lovely hearing the woman behind us describing her sexual exploits enjoyed with her friend's husband at the same time that she was pouring her drink over everyone. Happily she fell asleep sometime during Billy Idol's set.

One of the high points of the day was getting the opportunity to meet Australian Metal guitar hero Stu "Hammer" Marshall (no relation). Stu is a guy who has been appearing in guitar magazines for years as well as playing in a number of highly regarded bands such as Dungeon and Pain Division. He's just returned from a tour of Japan and is endorsed by ESP Guitars and Blackstar Amplifiers.

Meeting Stu leads me to this next track from his band "Empires of Eden". I only took delivery of their latest album a week or so ago and it's been on high rotation. I'd say that if you're a fan of melodic metal then this is for you. Every track has a guest vocalist and there is quite a range but they're all first class. The majority of the album was recorded here in Australia by Stu with the vocals being done all over the globe. If you like bands like Manowar, Dio, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate or Helloween then this is definitely worth a listen.

Empires of Eden - Architect of Hope -

I've also been listening to an album by the group "Drive By Truckers". This is the band that Jason Isbell used to play in. As I have all of Jason's albums I decided to check out his earlier work. Not bad so far; probably more rock than the country he plays now. I like both. This next song is like the cousin of Springsteen's "The River".

Drive By Truckers - Outfit -

The National Folk Festival is on in Canberra this weekend. I went once in about 1993 and it was an interesting experience. There was a lot of the cliche that Billy Connolly refers to as, "three woolen sweaters singing the Skye Boat Song" and then there were Morris Dancers too. I've considered going back in recent years but it's an expensive outing. I must admit though that the chance of seeing Kutcha Edwards, Shane Howard, The Bon Scotts and Chris O'Connor might drag me along. I better check the programme!

Kutcha Edwards - Friends -

One of the joys of the internet is that I can write in this blog. People can choose to read it or not to. I'm not generally interested in how many actually read but the fact that the blog address was listed in some newspapers and online news sites made me take a quick look at the statistics. Usually I get about 50 people reading the blog in a week. Add to that all of you that are subjected to it via email. Well, over 350 people read my initial post about Zoë in the cyclone and then almost 200 read both of the subsequent posts about helping the people there and Zoë's aid mission. That's a lot of people, well it is for me anyway. If you missed any of that journey then it's all online at 

As an aside, we're now living with a tri-lingual daughter. Zoë, who is back briefly from Vanuatu, now speaks Bislama as well as English and French. She was interviewed in this language on Radio Australia and we're hoping that some of her village might've heard it. Bislama is a version of Pidgin English. It's relatively easy to understand and we've been trading text messages, emails and short conversations in it. Seeing it written down is pretty cool but I find that if you say the words out loud it makes sense. The most amusing phrase we've come across so far is, "sit sit wota". That means diarrhoea! We've also enjoyed the updates from Vanuatu's mobile phone carrier asking if people have "wan olfala mobael in lo droa, bag o shelf we yu no moa sta usum?" That means do you have an old mobile in the drawer, bag or shelf that you use no more. It's an education folks.

Alison, Zoë, Angus and I also have an idea about a way we can continue to help the people in the village Zoë was in on a long term basis. We'll do some investigation to make sure we get it right so watch this space.

Finally, the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli is coming up in a couple of weeks. It's a good time to reflect on the bravery of Australian and New Zealand men and women who went to war thinking it was just a big adventure. It's also a perfect opportunity to remember that war is about people and there are never any real winners.

John Williamson - Diggers of the ANZAC -

Have a great weekend everyone,


"That's money talking...gets louder every day  " - The Black Sorrows, Money Talking - 2013

Monday, March 30, 2015

Making a difference

Zoë flew into Canberra today. At the moment it's just not viable for her to stay in Vanuatu. She hopes to be back there in a month one way or another to teach or help in some other way. It's wonderful to see her, hug her and hear of her amazing experiences. My heart aches for her local family left behind and for the people of Vanuatu struggling just to survive.

After a few delays and hitches (that's putting it lightly), Zoë flew into deliver aid to the people she cares about so much. It was 3.5hrs of flying and she was on the ground for 10 minutes. That was long enough to unload the aid, hug just about everyone and then fly back to Port Vila. To the generous people who donated the money for the helicopter I can assure you that these supplies have made a real difference. The balance of the money will go to a charity working actively to get aid and support into Pentecost.

Here's a few photos for you all. Zoë has a lot more to say but I'm going to leave that to her.

Photo 1 - Zoë in the helicopter at Port Vila.

Photo 2 - leaving Level School. Check out those smiles! That's Zoë's Dad in the yellow shirt. The woman with the baby and the orange cloth is her Mum.

Photo 3 - goodbye for now...hope to see you all soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Song of the Week #342

Last time I wrote this blog I thought that normal programming would resume. Boy, was I so, so wrong.

Most of you would by now realise that the cyclone hit Zoë's village so hard that basically nothing was left standing. She's not able to go back as a result of the food and water crisis.

As a result we decided to see if we could help the village out by flying some water and rice to them, via helicopter, with Zoë doing the delivery. The situation there is pretty dire. This has turned out to be the most stressful thing we've ever attempted. We got help from an Australian company on the ground in Vanuatu. They could supply the aid if we got the helicopter. So we did. And then the aid couldn't be released back to them. So we went to plan b. Today was the day. But the helicopters were being repaired, on a medivac or commandeered by some very senior people. What followed was a day of extreme stress, phone calls, emails, begging and pleading. For a few hours it looked like all hope was lost. But...the outcome is that the helicopter is ready for tomorrow afternoon, the aid is ready and Zoë is probably camped at the heliport waiting to go.

The thing that I want to tell you about is generosity though. The helicopter isn't cheap. Alison and I certainly couldn't afford to pay for it. So we put the call out through social media, radio and newspaper. We thought that if we could get about half the amount needed that we could cover the rest somehow. What happened next was nothing short of astounding. In two days we had collected more than enough to pay for the helicopter. The rest of the money will go to a charity on the ground in Vanuatu. They should be well pleased. The amount of the donation doesn't matter. Some are huge and blew us away. Some came from people we know are struggling and we were humbled to receive those.

Huge thanks to the ABC, 2CC, and the Canberra Times for their ongoing support. Emma Grey has been awesome at galvanising support via a number of avenues as well as talking on the radio about the project.

Today, at the lowest point I looked into a very, very dark space. It was tempting for the briefest of moments to curl up in a corner and give up but that would just be soft. My daughter is alive and well, my house is standing, I have food and water, friends and a family to love. Even the cat acknowledged my existence for the briefest of moments.

When I'm down this song always gives me strength. Always. The lyrics are included.

Rollins Band - Shine -

Please come back next week. I'll have a review of an amazing album from the band Empires of Eden as well as a whole swag of musical mayhem.



"And I think to myself...what a wonderful word" - Louis Armstrong, 1967

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Help the people of Pentecost, Vanuatu

Hi everyone,

UPDATE: we have a helicopter, we have supplies to send, we just need some more money to make this happen. Please see details below on how to help.

Here's the latest on what we're trying to do to help in Pentecost. Details about how you can help are at the end. Please share this around. The power of social media has been amazing so far.

Zoë Marshall, 18, who made headlines as one of the Australian volunteers who was unaccounted for after the cyclone, spoke out about wanting to go back and help the school where she was working as a teacher.

"They need new water tanks. They are so focused on survival right now," she said. "At the moment, their immediate needs are water and food. Their power can wait, their school books can wait, they just need food."

Sadly, due to the food crisis, Zoë can't go back to her village.

But she still wants to help.

We're partnering with a charity already on the ground in Vanuatu to charter a helicopter full of aid and send it, with Zoë back to Pentecost.

If you can help with the cost of the helicopter charter please get in touch via Donations can also be sent via PayPal via

Any money left over will be donated to the Tanbok Project. They are a charity who have been working in Pentecost. They are well placed to use the money well.

Rob, Alison and Zoë

Friday, March 20, 2015

Song of the Week #341 - that girl Zoë is safe!

Where do I start? Wow. What a week.

If you are interested I wrote a gig review for our band earlier in the week; it's here.

And then there was Zoë. Here's what I wrote before she was heard from.

It seems hollow to me to cheer too much about Zoë while so many others remain in crisis. She's already let us know that she wants to return to her village and local family as soon as she can. This is exactly what we thought she'd do.

Now that we know Zoë is safe and well I urge you to consider the country and people of Vanuatu. This was no regular cyclone; it's the biggest one ever. Look at some pictures of Port Vila or of the island of Tanna. In many areas there is total devastation. Tanna has 20,000 people without fresh water. If you're in a position to support any of the aid agencies or charities who are working there then please do.

Can I just say thank you to everyone who has shown support and solidarity? That's family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. I know we've flooded your Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as being on the radio, TV and in the newspapers. I think that it is worth it to keep people thinking about Vanuatu and other countries badly impacted such as Tuvalu. We'll talk to anyone who wants to listen. I didn't realise that Zoë's gap placement was going to be quite so life changing for us as well as for her!

In terms of media, a huge shout out to Liz Burke from who read my anguished Tweet and responded. The media coverage just flowed as a result of her work. Plenty of others have since helped and we're very particularly thankful to The Project, ABC TV and Radio, Canberra Times, 2CC, WIN News, Bethany Keats, BBC World Service and The Daily Mail. Apologies if I've missed anyone, it's been a very long week.

At the moment we don't know the details about the organisation and logistics of getting Zoë picked up. Thanks go to DFAT, the Australian Defence Force, Lattitude and all others involved. If I could hug you I would.

My colleagues too, they've been saints.

And now, it's time to close my email, every tab on my browser and get some rest. At least for a few hours.

As I rode my bike to work this morning (the short way after talking to ABC Radio and 2CC) I had a few very emotional minutes. I guess if you're going to cry then on a bike, behind dark glasses, on a bike path on a beautiful Canberra morning isn't a bad time. 

Hunters & Collectors - True Tears of Joy -

Normal programming, if there is such a thing, will resume next week. On the way home I'll be thinking about Zoë's Vanuatu family. I hope they have food, water and shelter tonight.