Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Eternal Nightcap

I come across The Whitlams' Eternal Nightcap and it reminds me of being in the car on one of our road trips to the Central Coast where the four of us would sing the whole way. Our favourite song was 'You Sound Like Louis Burdett' and we'd sing it at the top of our voices. My mum would even let us sing the line "All our friends are fuck ups,' and Luca would sing it the loudest because it was the only time we were allowed to swear.

This line, from a young adult novel called Saving Francesca, was something I noted every time I read the book. 
Do you have 'comfort reads'? Books that you dip back into when nothing else seems quite right. Books that hail you like an old, well-loved friend from the shelves on a lazy night? Saving Francesca is one of those for me. I came across it years ago while I was pricing books at the used bookstore where I used to work. A perk of working at a store with no computerized inventory is that there was no record... Reader, I liberated this book (and a few others over the years, I'll admit). And I read it many times, and I still go back to it a couple times a year. I don't know exactly why, except that the author, Melina Marchetta, manages to capture the essence of teenagers: moody, unfinished, loyal, loving, fierce, yearning, angry, funny... 
Here's my book-jacket blurb: 
Francesca, whose larger-than-life mum is suddenly stricken with debilitating depression, suddenly has to figure out the tough stuff by herself: she's in Year (grade) Eleven at a new school, and the crowd she used to run with isn't around to tell her how she should act anymore. After five years of being largely subdued and colourless- just to fit in better- Francesca may just rediscover her real personality and save herself, with the help of some new friends, her large Italian family, and a certain Will Trombal... 

The characters are well-drawn (Marchetta is a teacher) and wonderfully three-dimensional: Francesca often clashes with her uncompromising mother, but also loves her more than anyone else; her two closest male friends are two frequently oafish and crude teenaged boys, but they also show moments of true kindness as Francesca negotiates her difficult year. And although it's a story that could take place anywhere in the world, it also has little touches that set it firmly in Sydney, Australia, which makes it slightly exotic. 

So anyway, I really like this book. And I'd always wondered about The Whitlams, but then I'd finish the book and totally forget to look them up on the internet to see if they were real.

Well... last July, Jay and I took a little road trip on Vancouver Island, and we stopped in at Ladysmith to look at my favourite antique store, and we also checked out a store that was most definitely second-hand as opposed to antique, and they had a tray of used CDs so we pawed through them, and lo and behold- 
There it was. So I paid my 50 cents or whatever it was, went back to the car, and put the CD in the slot...
The lush strings of "No Aphrodisiac" came on, and 3 tracks later, there was "You Sound Like Louis Burdett", with its slightly deranged honky-tonk piano, and bizarre lyrics:
I'm chewing ice and grinning/I'm spewing up and spinning/It's biliousness as usual in my corner of the kitchen/Hey you, lose that friend before we go anywhere/
And of course, the refrain:
All my friends are fuck-ups/but they're fun to have around/Banana chairs out on the concrete/Telling stories to the stars...

There was '90s piano rock, there were more guitar-based tunes, there were songs that owed a lot to The Beatles, there was a song that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place in an Irish bar; there was even a Bob Dylan cover! And I was hooked. 
We played The Whitlams quite a few times over that weekend road trip. Then I took it home and forgot about it, and just pulled it out two nights ago as I was sorting through receipts and papers to get stuff ready to do my taxes. And got pulled in again, the lush arrangements and loopy lyrics providing a cool counterpoint to a boring chore. 

And that's the story of how a novel lead me, after many years, to an album I love. I'm glad I never remembered to look up The Whitlams while I was reading Saving Francesca. It made finding Eternal Nightcap in that grotty second-hand store all the more exciting. 
Here's the song that Francesca and her brother Luca liked to sing at the tops of their voices. Enjoy. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring A-waitening

Spring is springing but it can't even be 5 degrees outside. I went for a run yesterday and the early spring wind made me gasp with its cruelty. Cruel too: chocolatey eggs and sugary candies everywhere and I *CAN"T* eat them because I'm wearing a bigger bra size than ever and I must, I must, I MUST decrease this bust. And tummy. And bum. I try to walk a moderate line but it's too hard, so it's back to low-carb this and lots of water and no desserts and less booze and yeah, running. All the fun stuff. Actually I like to run, but it's hard when you're carrying a few extra pounds. Maybe more than a few.

I think on all those wasted days in Chemainus where I sat around between shows and didn't work out. Yeah, that was smart.

It's the last day of my "break" between a show that's ended and the start of school-and other projects. My brain is filled up with ancient Greek plays and preschool rhymes. It's an interesting contrast. Preschoolers rending their garments and groaning oi-moi, oi-moi, while Electra and Medea grasp brightly-painted hand drums and sing Somebody's Knockin' at my Door.
My hours and days are going to be so, so full, and I've left a lot of my prep until the last minute.

I think on all those wasted days in Chemainus where I sat around between shows and didn't work. Yeah, that was smart.

My email dings and it's Equity, announcing another audition. The part I auditioned for, they mention, has been cast. That means... well, it means that I'll be teaching music this fall, not performing in a musical. But it also means I can start looking for cheap tickets to Toronto, so I can run a 5k race with my friend Theresa. That's awesome! I think of my sweetie, doggedly sending in applications and expressions of interest to public art projects and corporate art projects and galleries and who-knows what else, casting his net far and wide. He simply carries on if he gets a rejection or doesn't hear back. And you know, it works. He's starting to get stuff. So that's what I'll do, just carry on and not let rejection stop me from trying.

I spend my last day of relative freedom flitting from one project to the next: printing out a plan for teaching my preschoolers tomorrow; recording a smattering of ancient-Greek-inspired lament; sketching out the idea for a new song. Feels like a day of waiting: the mail won't come, the emails don't arrive, love is at work, phone don't ring.

Sometimes the hardest part of Spring is waiting for all that promise to burst into bloom.