Like a kick to the teeth it came to me
Hit me hard right between the eyes
I’d seen it before and it struck nerve
Seeing it again showed me new highs
A New High M.S. Stone 1992
I might have mentioned earlier that Power Touring company had the contract to do shows for a band called Cold Chisel. They were the band I first heard outside the pub on the night I left home and they were the band who somehow connected with me enough to take those steps around the back of the pub, and the rest as they say is history.
Well it is history but I also remember telling you that something about the band and especially the guitarist that night really resonated with me. It was dead true, because every band that I saw, every band we set up and every band we met after that first night, in my mind they were compared to Cold Chisel. That’s not to say the other bands weren’t good, some of them were excellent and went on to long careers, some longer than others, outside the Adelaide suburbs we grew up in, but there was something about Cold Chisel and especially that guitar that kept kicking me from behind. It wasn’t until we got the next gig with them, which was the start of the small tour mentioned early on, that I suddenly realised what that kick in arse really was.
If Ian Moss wasn’t the best guitarist in Australia at the time then I don’t know who was because the guy was phenomenal with what he could make that guitar do. Don’t get me wrong the rest of the band, when they weren’t trying to kill each other, or join fights in the first few rows of the crowd, were just as important and the band would not have worked without them but it was the guitar I became fixated on.
We did two weeks with Cold Chisel touring around Adelaide, into the country towns and down into Victoria and onto Melbourne where the pub music scene was absolutely thriving. They didn’t have the level of violence the Adelaide scene did but they definitely had the music, the alcohol, the drugs and the crowds. Where a sold out pub gig in Adelaide might have been three hundred people, in Melbourne it was more like five hundred people. The venues were the same size but that didn’t seem to matter, when the room was too full people just partied on outside.
For me that meant that most of my watching of sets was done from backstage where it was harder to enjoy the energy of the crowd and the energy of the music pumping together. But at the same time I think it gave me a greater appreciation for what Ian was doing on stage because I’d spend so much time focused on him and his moves.
I remember clearly the turning point for me was one gig we set up in a small town named Warnambool, a little rocking town west of Melbourne. We’d set the stage, set the PA system and the band even got to come out and do a rare soundcheck. We’d had a good run with everything and were ahead of time so after the band had done their sound check we all had time for a few drinks and a bit of relaxing before the crowds started pushing through the doors.
Sitting down with any band before a gig was rare for us, we were the hired help after all, and the bands often kept to themselves. We’d of course cross paths and occasionally have a few chats or we might occasionally sit down for a few drinks after the gig while patrons who milled around the room made it difficult to load out, but generally there was no lengthy talks. However with neither the band or us having anywhere to go that night in Warnambool we did exactly that.
I didn’t consciously sit down to take all of Ian’s attention that evening but somehow I did and because he didn’t send me away I spent nearly two hours talking to him about his guitar, his technique and his playing. Why he chose to let me spend so much time talking to him I never got to ask him but it was that chat that changed my life.
Now I realise I have mentioned life changing decisions before. Things like realising where I stood in the family tree, my brother’s accident and hearing Cold Chisel for the first time, but I can without a single doubt tell you that speaking to Ian changed my life is ways a sixteen year old kid could not even dream of.
I finished that night with a bug, a bug that had me seeking out other guitarist’s sounds. I went through tapes we had in the truck. I talked to Ian about guitarists he liked and I began to be able to selectively strip the other instruments out of a song and only hear the guitar. However I finished the brief two week tour with that bug infesting itself so deeply into my mind that simply hearing music was not enough.
The day after we got back to Steve’s house I went out and for the first time in months used a large slab of my pay cheque for something other than the devil’s lettuce or alcohol. Because both alcohol and weed were still costing me a fortune and my habits were increasing I could not afford to buy new so in a hock shop in the city I found myself my next drug of choice. A 1963 sunburst orange Fender Stratocaster!
It was a guitar made popular by people like Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix, but most of all it was the guitar my new idol Ian Moss used. I had to pay a little more than the $250 he paid for his guitar when he first started out and it was the single biggest item I had ever purchased but I was not at all joking when I said it became my new drug of choice.