Paul Kelly wonders if “Every Fucking City” will go over in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 21, 2002

By Steve Newton

There are a couple of favourite things that come to mind when I recall my five-week holiday in Australia in ’86. One is what they called the “drive-in bottleshops”. You could just pull in off the street and have some guy hand you a 24-pack of Toohey’s Draft through your car window, like it was an A&W for alcoholics. The other is the thriving music scene in Melbourne. You could go out to a pub and see Midnight Oil passionately proclaiming the land rights of Aborigines, while just down the street the Angels (known as Angel City over here) would be laying down a brand of boogie blues raunchy enough to make Angus Young salivate.

Paul Kelly has been at the centre of that scene for many years, both as a solo performer and as a member of various bands, including the acclaimed Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls (who were billed as Paul Kelly and the Messengers in North America). Even though he commands the status of a Dylan or Springsteen down under, Kelly doesn’t live like a millionaire rocker. There’s no fancy, state-of-the-art recording studio at his house.

“I’ve got a little eight-track recorder in a small shed in the back yard,” he explains from his Melbourne home. “I sort of write songs anywhere around the house, but if I wanna put them to tape with just vocal and guitar, I’ll often just start the songs there. I can’t really record a whole band in there—the most I can fit is maybe one or two other guys, and it gets pretty funky on a hot day with three blokes in the shed—but I’ve done some of the more acoustic things in there.”

Kelly’s latest CD, …Nothing But a Dream, contains its share of solo, acoustic ballads, but also sees the singer-songwriter performing with the full band that will accompany him at Richard’s on Richards for an early show on Saturday (March 23). He is also joined on one track by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds guitarist Mick Harvey, who’s got a Melbourne shed of his own. They recorded the soothing “Would You Be My Friend” there, with Harvey handling guitar, organ, bass, and drums. “He’s got a bigger shed than me,” notes Kelly, “but he’s got the same eight-track tape machine, so we’ve got a similar basic setup.”

As well as the shed-spawned tracks, Kelly’s new disc sports four bonus tunes from the Australian EP Roll on Summer, including a comically coarse ditty titled “Every F***ing City”. Since there isn’t any warning sticker on the disc, I was caught a little off guard by the swearing when I played the CD at home—as was my four-year-old daughter. Kelly can relate. “We’ve been doing a few outdoor festivals lately,” he says, “sort of family shows, where children come along, so I tended not to play it. But you pick your time when you think it’s suitable. Do you think it’ll be okay at Richard’s on Richards?”

Sure, mate; go for it. But beware the puritanical wrath of No Fun City’s Downtown F-word Enforcement Branch.

 

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