Arts High & Low, with a Glass or Two on the Side

Sydney Morning Herald
by Tim Freedman

DIARY by Tim Freedman of the Whitlams

Thursday 26, 2am: Finish mixing the Whitlams’ sixth studio album in Melbourne.  We’ve been in this room 14 hours a day for the past 2 weeks. Producer J. Walker has done a great job, but it always sounds good through the big speakers in the studio. Time will tell.

Wander along Swan St, Richmond, on Friday night. Pop in to listen to 5 musical groups in cafes, little bars and pubs all within 200 metres. The sooner NSW frees up entertainment licenses for small venues the sooner we’ll be able to say Sydney is as interesting a city as Melbourne.

Fly home Saturday.  Say hi to Murray, the inner west Wiggle, on my way through to economy.  Which reminds me to form the Wiglams pronto. Sydney Writers Festival at 7pm to see booker winner Alan Hollinghurst. His latest book is a wonderful, gentle satire. His harsh words about Thatcher’s reign and his professed love for the left-wing daughter in the book confirm for me that a certain News Ltd editorialist who wrote about it in a column should be sent books with the irony in a different typeface. Sometimes the book reads us, Imre.

On the way out of the theatre I am reminded of last year when I ran into DBC Pierre sneaking a cigarette outside. Told him I could take him to a bar where no would recognise him, an idea he found very attractive. Four hours later, at the Zanzibar in Newtown, after weathering wave after wave of fruity shift workers and lesbians, and ordering whimsical alcoholic concoctions of his imagining, we parted.  He is a very dirty man.

To Belvoir Street on Sunday for ‘Rays Tempest’, a moving play about failure and regret with enough laughs to engage for the whole journey. Company B is so often the goods.  Annie Finsterer is astounding as the alcoholic female lead. Drawing from her experience with me at the Judgement Bar in the early 90s perhaps.

Later I seek the Judgement Bar for old times sake. Chat to Tony Squires of our concern about him becoming the “funeral guy”. He hosted Bradman’s farewell on the ABC, and is preparing for the same role on seven for Graham Kennedy. I assure him that if Gough ever proved to be mortal (which is very unlikely), Tony needn’t worry because the Don and the King would descend from the elysian fields to preside over that one.

Pinky Beecroft joins us for an eternal nightcap and looks to be hatching up something with the Sandman for SBS’s Ashes commentary. Should be interesting. Won’t it be good to get a break from Richie and Tony for a little while. Back home to Newtown for a bottle. Beecroft ashes in my swimming goggles and is ejected.

These days if I drink after 2am I have to work from bed the next day. Age shall weary us and our friends condemn. APRA calls to say Delta has lost her voice. Can I present something and sing at the songwriters awards tonight? Drag self to soundcheck.

Jonathon Biggins hosts the ceremony again and renames himself Missy Biggins for the event. His cynical wit quite brilliant tonight. The biggest audience response comes from his advice to Guy Sebastian to block his ears while Jonathon acknowledges the Hillsong church for putting the “i” into Christ, and the “me” into mercy.

I sing a song from the Whitlams next album. Not the sort of song Delta would have sung. It starts: ‘spent 12 hours drinking, slept with someone, who looked like you’ and then gets darker. Get some nice feedback.

Announce breakthrough artist award and get the black tie crowd to imagine the ideal ceremony in which Delta and Missy actually attend, their chaste kiss at the podium transforming itself before us into an unquenchable chasm of desire with a long and deep tongue kiss. “But unfortunately all you have is me and this video message”.

Old fashioned sing-along around the piano in the foyer at 1am with the stayers like Brian Cadd and Glenn Shorrock. Murder Randy Newman song.

Bar closes at 2am. Up to Chit Chat’s to plunder his bar fridge. Tim Rogers is already there with that chip on his shoulder. He takes offence at a few things I say and calls me outside to sort it out. I haven’t hit anyone since year 8 but I am up for it. The dull percussion of beaten chests. Mercifully neither of us throws the first punch, and we sit down in the corridor of the 12th floor and talk about man stuff. Head back inside.

Catch up with Peter Sculthorpe Tuesday night. What a work ethic he has. He started his 16th string quartet last night.

Whisky and a chat about my stupid nostalgia for drink driving.  He tells me of driving with Kim Williams (head of Fox Studios now, but a former student of Peter’s) in the passenger seat. They’d get a run up down the highway from North Sydney to see if they could get the MG up to 180kmh on the Harbour Bridge and then stop as few centimetres as possible from the toll gate on the other side. It’s comforting to know that captains of industry and members of the American academy of arts and sciences acted like idiots once too.

Sydney Dance Company’s opening night of ‘grand’ on Wednesday was like watching Olympic gymnastics but with better music. A difficult show for the dancers, I’m told, because there are microphones in the piano that can pick up their usual onstage berations of each other – (faster, slower, bar 14 now) so they have to dance in silence.  Humour and beauty. Could watch Kate Ripley dance all day.

Been out too much this week and haven’t rehearsed for my solo show in London on Sunday at Ronnie Scotts. Now Thursday, noon.  Emailing this, getting on the piano then packing for the flight at 9pm.