It’s All About the Song & The Sound

In Music & Media – Loose Cannon Issue  457
by Phil Tripp

It was last year at the APRA/AGSC (Australian Guild of Screen Composers) Awards that my interest in the music business was rejuvenated when I heard Lisa Gerrard sing one of her film songs. It tore out my heart, brought tears to my eyes and reminded me why I was in the music business–the song and the sound–and I still get a spooky feeling remembering this.

I’d been ready to get out of the business with a retirement plan to exit when I turned 55 later this year, but hearing her and feeling that the industry was finally realising its potential with iTunes and digital downloads and the changes that were a part of it, made me extend my sentence by five years. And now I’m having the time of my life again.

So it was great anticipation that I went last night to the APRA Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel to mingle with a musical community, not the crass commercial craziness of the ARIA Awards. The lineup of artists that were to play–Sarah Blasko, Eskimo Joe, Dallas Crane and Delta being the big draws for me–were hotly anticipated though Delta had to bow out due to a cold. A shame since she really needed to present herself musically to the assembled hundreds of media and industry people since most of what’s been written about her over the past few months had nothing to do with her music and too much about her mother, manager and love life.

So being a bit bummed out at not having the chance to see her show her chops, I still looked forward to the audience and ambience that is the APRAs–more a family gathering than a pissfest like other Awards shows. And from the moment we hit the red carpet, it was like a high school reunion where we saw old friends, friendly acquaintances and people greeting us who we didn’t even know, but who knew us and were cool.

There was a lot of backslapping and chat which eased into a longish dinner before the proceedings started. I love the APRAs because of the rapier wit of Jonathan Biggins which is pretty highbrow and often flew over the heads of some of the more lowbrow audience. He’s not as pretentious as Rove, more natural and really hits the target time after time (See Christie’s column on this site for some of the hits) and rarely misses the chance to lampoon his victims–in this case Popstars, Idols and Dicko as well as a few bon mots on Michael Jackson.

Lisa and I were enjoying ourselves though, as we launched into the first musical segment, she commented to me about how rude too many in the audience were with a lack of respect and talking over the act–most notably the white haired toady to the Fro–management rep to Guy Sebastian–who seemed to be trying to placate the hairy one over having been made the butt of a few jokes including a Hillsongs jibe. Matter of fact, the whole table was a bit too rambunctious for this event, reminding of last year when the rap act at our table were mortified that they didn’t get an award even though they were invited to attend as one of the nominees. Puhleeeeze!!!!

But hey, here’s an Idol and his minder having a small tiffy moment and it wasn’t enough to detract from the performance. Not enough for me to make a comment or flash a finger. Still, it was annoying and showed a lack of good breeding if not manners. Oh well. Lisa also noticed a lack of appreciation for the nominee’s announcements, a bit too much talk in the audience and not much applause. I mean, she didn’t expect them to have religious reverence but a bit more spirit might have not gone astray. Then again, Lisa has recently gotten racked off with the general rudeness and self aggrandisement that our editors get from the self-important and nearly notable over their listing and their privileges. I don’t blame her. They give her a bit of shit thinking of her as one of the office girls without knowing she is my partner and holds as much power here as I do. But when they’re switched over to me, they’re all sweetness and light. Cause I guess they know that the old fella wouldn’t take their crap.

Back to the APRAs. Once we ignored the Caplice Mob in front of us there was one of those magical musical moments. Tim Freedman, our neighbour down the street and a good friend, took the stage with only piano and voice as a last minute replacement presenter and player, replacing Delta. What an inspired move. In just one line of the lyrics of his new song–’12 Hours’ which is the last track on The Whitlams next album which is only piano and voice–Timmy hit that sweet spot in my musical soul and made me yearn for more lyrics and ivories. As he described it to me later when I raved about it to him, it’s an ugly torch song about an unreconstructed male (which Tim admits may or may not be him). I’ve been a fan of about four of his songs and could leave the rest, but this song is what songwriting is all about. A lot of people were touched by it. No one talked. We all immersed ourselves in his music.

Sarah Blasko was equally killer in her approach to a Jet song using a jazz quartet with a one legged piano player. She showed an interpretation of that song, she swung and and the band nailed it. On a rockier side, I saw why both Eskimo Joe and Dallas Crane are such immense talents as performers and songwriters and it was great to see my long friend Fifa Riccobono of Alberts was in such high spirits with DC and why she has invested so much. They rock and they play a lot of dates with a great young manager. It’s the youngness of Australian music that makes it great.

But then the dark side emerged again with a heckling incident with Billy Thorpe as he was presenting an award to Chuggie as well as a high profile recovering alocoholic musician perhaps being a little too loud and not recovered enough. But the most hilarious scene was an overamped and emotionally soaked Roger Grierson who is on his way out of the industry after jumping off the FMR Chair to write a book and open up an extension of the watering hole Groucho of London into a Sydney model.

On one side he was whooping it up, not to the delight of those who were in his way and obviously not fully in control of mouth and movements. He was in the face of some friends who were dressed for the event and had attitude and composure in control and who were obviously pained by the confrontation of Rogie in full flow. It was more like something you’d expect to avoid at the ARIA Awards than be faced with avoiding at the APRAs.

It’s even more amusing considering a friend of mine noted that he had been approached to invest a substantial amount in the club by Grierson but the behaviour didn’t exactly exude confidence. I don’t know… aren’t all club promoters party animals? Isn’t that how it worked? Maybe he was just acting up for show. Because I think it’s going be a long time between drinks in this industry. On to the after drinks and the only regrettable incident was a well known new age pianolist taking over the grand keyboard at the bar and subjecting us all to this retro new age crap as Lisa called it. Tim and were ready to toss coats over the strings to give him a message but he suggested maybe putting a snifter on the piano with the words “Tipping is not a city in China” might be a better hint. We laughed, had a drink, and I took a moment to go over to a major adversary with whom I’d had a few stoushed and made peace with him. And I’m not talking Chuggie. No names here, but I wished him well in his new gig and extended the hand and the thanks for his company investing in our Directory, even though some might want to pull an ad to get back. It was kinda nice to do that. I was glad that’s the way I ended the night.

Which brings me to this final point. About once a year I pick someone I’ve had an argument with or else a bad experience and try to mend a fence rather than create a higher wall. Sometimes is hard to say Sorry, or hard to be humble, especially being the egotist I am. But the industry would be a better place if we listened as intently as we speak, share what we have learned and be a bit more considerate of others and swallow pride some times instead of spitting and lashing out.

I’m glad I went to the APRAs. It made me feel better as a person, appreciate music more and renew old friendships and probably make some new ones. I felt honoured to have been invited. It wasn’t quite as much fun as last year when I gaffered a dinosaur to Stephen Peach’s seat but maybe I’m just getting mellow in my old age. As a white haired friend said to me when observing one exec’s outburst, “Please Phil, if I ever get that way, will you remind me of tonight and tell me it’s time to step down?” I agreed provided he did the same thing for me.

Til next fortnight.