Where were you when I needed you
Why did you wait so long to appear
Where have you been all my life
Into my soul I felt you seer
My New Found Love M.S. 1987
Maybe I was overselling that last part. No actually I wasn’t. It might have been strange for some people to consider as a major catalyst in their life, it might have been the sort of thing that normal people just accepted into their life, but for me it was different.
Through the small crowds of people on the streets of Adelaide on that cool Thursday morning, past the few cars that were motoring along and over the top of the din that was a city that was far from asleep a sound came to me. It drowned out every other sound around me and I was instantly mesmerised. So much so that I’m sure I could have been hit a sledge hammer and I would not have noticed it.
What was it?
At first I wasn’t entirely sure, it sounded familiar, like something I had heard before only much louder, much faster and if it was possible much dirtier. I sat on that hard granite surface ignoring the slight chill that it gave me and I focused on the direction the sound was coming from. It was coming from a pub, but like I say its familiarity might have been there but my recognition was not.
No one bothered me as I sat there staring at the pub and listening to the loud noise that was coming from within its walls and the harder I concentrated the more recognisable the noise became.
The thundering drum beat, it might have been faster but I had definitely heard it before even if I was having trouble recognising it. That guitar, it was distinctive, almost as if the person playing it had played it for me before, but again it was so fast I could not place it. Then as if hell broke loose inside the pub I heard the screeching vocals that sent the crowd screaming, screaming so loud they could be heard over the music. Yet again those vocals were not what I was used to, they were louder, faster, and I could feel them tearing through me even thirty feet from the four walls in which the band was playing and the crowd was cheering.
It was at the end of the first verse, just before the singer broke out in the chorus, that I worked out what I was hearing. It was local Adelaide band Cold Chisel, I’d heard them quite a few times coming up through secondary school as those I went to school with insisted on playing them through portable cassette players with crappy speakers during their lunch break, before school and after school. At first they were not my scene, possibly due to the fact I knew my father would never let such music into his house. But they were a local band, from the town of Elizabeth, and that alone made them a band the kids around me wanted to listen too.
It actually took me very little to get into Cold Chisel when I tried, perhaps it was because I knew my father wouldn’t approve. I still couldn’t buy either the portable cassette deck or the cassette so that I could listen to the music myself but I did find myself working out ways to get closer to those at school who played the music day in and day out. Before I knew it I was able to sing the words to this forbidden music. Song after song I picked up the lyrics which seemed to be about everything for soldiers returning from Vietnam, to drinking, to women, to drugs, to prison, they were way over the top, way beyond other things I was hearing and I was picking the up almost as if they were written for me.
Like I say there was no way that my father would have let such music into the house, but he didn’t have to it was in my head and every day it was burrowing deeper and deeper into my mind. However it wasn’t until I heard it coming from the pub that the connection I had with the music became something more.
It was the speed, the volume and the thundering power that caught me as I sat there. It was so much rawer than the sound I had heard on the cassette tapes and right at that very moment I knew that the invisible boy with no name had found himself, found his calling, and found his life.
I didn’t just run over to the pub and demand to be let in based upon some wild theory that what I was hearing was my life’s calling. Of course not, that would have gotten me nowhere. You see even in 1980’s Adelaide where the police often turned a blind eye to the happenings of the after hours clubs and pubs because they feared the crowds more than they feared the trouble those crowds caused, a fifteen year old walking into a club carrying a suitcase would not have happened.
Instead what I did was push myself off the granite wall, pick up my suitcase and head straight for the rear of the pub from which the music was being played. I had no idea what part of their set they were at but at some point them or their crew would be leaving via those back doors and I planned to be there waiting for them when they did.
It might sound like an ambitious plan, to storm a band and their roadies and some how meet the new calling of my life but there was nothing in my mind telling me I was making the wrong choice. In fact the little voice inside my head that I thought had been guiding me along whatever path I was taking was suddenly silent, a silence I was easily convinced meant that I was following the right path.