Workshy by Dave Graney

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(Adelaide launch, 10 November 2017)

At Imprints on Hindley Street, The Varnished Culture attended the launch of Workshy: My Life as a Bludge, the modestly titled autobiography by the undisputed Funky King of the Lounge Lizards, Dave Graney. Mr Graney read excerpts with verve and wit and then thrilled the crowd with a couple of acoustic numbers, including “Night of the Wolverine.”

Graney’s songs insinuate themselves into the brain till they become giant, lurid earworms.  Think “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Where I Hide.” His prose is similar.  His account starts with his childhood in Mount Gambier at the bottom of South Australia. (One understands where he acquired his alleged indolence – his dad, Noel, worked in the Public Buildings Department.) Graney has an elusive writing style. From insouciant hip to cringing schmaltz, the effect is patchy (he helpfully lists his reading at various life stages) but often of great value.  The overall effect is of listening to a rambling conversation on a long train trip, and just when you begin to weary of your interlocutor (as when he praises a film like The Last Movie, ye Gods!), he does something brilliant like re-badge his music combo as the “Lurid Yellow Mist.”

Some random quotes should give you the picture:

We were taught by nuns, and one normal woman.”

We played in a paddock at the end of the street. It was said to have been a cemetery of early settlers. The German Cemetery. We played ‘war games’, of course. Our minds were full of stories of that war from twenty or twenty-five years earlier, via War Picture Library comics and endlessly repeated movies on TV. Running around with bamboo sticks on actual German graves was terrifically exciting, and immediately very normal to us.”

I find it hard to write about my parents. It’s as if the words would be betraying them. Because of the harshness of their own upbringing, in even larger families, I relate to their memory now as friends. But I am of them. I came from their bodies, from out of infinity into this short animal while.”

There was a canteen that was accessible in the daytime. You could eat there, but it was next to the creosote tanks, where they treated the wood for outdoor use…The chemicals smelt like liquorice, mixed with industrial detergent, poison and medicine.”

“…the scene was a whole bunch of paisley-shirted students playing horribly jangly pop that was just plain embarrassing. I mean, I’d liked the Flaming Groovies too, back in Adelaide in 1979. This was five years on, dude! Get your freak right!”

Holding a band together is a full-spectrum activity. People get managers to do just that; the planning and logistics are secondary. The band needs a lightning rod to conduct all their fears and suspicions and anxieties.”

[At the Perth Writers’ Festival, feeling out of place]: “Back at the hotel lobby, tempers were fraying. Robert and Anne Manne nodded at Tinecke. They were more concerned with winning entry to their room though. Stuart Littlemore walked past and Tinecke followed in his silken wake. I was forgotten. Peter FitzSimons sat about in a loud bandana. Phillip Adams limped from a cab. I thought to myself that it was no wonder Andrew Bolt cut through this mob like a hot knife through butter – we needed new smart-arses, fresh wits!

[In sum]: “I’ve listened back to some of the shit we scared up. It held tight! Even when I was out on my feet and my focus was all skew-whiff between the wrong window lenses, I still kept my stance and my combinations happening. I was happy with that.”

Photo of Daev by Gerrykells

Photo of Dave by Gerrykells

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