I sprained my wrist, shaking my fist at the evangelist….
So runs the first line of the second verse of Peter Lillie’s Adventures in Pain in Paradise. I sang this song at The Caravan Music Club a few weeks back as part of the Peter Lillie After Dinner Moose tribute show. It’s a simple little song but like so much of his work it has some odd twists and some endearing and intriguing elements. It was fascinating on the night to hear so much of his repertoire put together in the one place as I’ve grown used to hearing these songs as one off covers – The Clip Clop Club (or Daddy Cool) doing The Birth of the Ute, The Models ripping through Holiday House, Paul Madigan doing The Road to Gundagai. But here they all were and it was a pleasure to hear them all together and to consider that as a body of work it was an inspired creative outpouring.
When I took the stage Jon Von Goes who was hosting the night put me on the spot by quoting an interview where I said that I thought Peter Lillie’s work had been a real influence on the Weddings. Mark Ferrie – the bass player for the evening – questioned this and I couldn’t really think of a particular example but looking at it now I’m sure I was right. There is a really distinct line between what Peter Lillie was doing way back in the 70’s to where the Weddings ended up in the 80’s and 90’s and even what I still do now. It’s a line that goes right through Skyhooks, through Daddy Cool and even someone like Dave Warner to where some of us still take our inspiration from. And if some of it doesn’t seem directly related to Peter Lillie it’s at the very least related to the scene he came from.
On the night there were a few things that kept getting mentioned – the main two being for me The Kingston Hotel and also the Pram Factory Theatre. What is really significant to me is that there didn’t seem to be as much of a line between theatre and music as there is now. Spoken word existed right along side musical performance and Peter Lillie went between the two at will apparently. The songs, poems and theatre of the man were thick with reference and irreverence and it was more often than not left to the listener to make the necessary connections.
In the car on the way home I talked with Simon Bailey from Ponyface who had ripped through a great rendition of Lillie’s Suburban Blond for the show. We discussed in longing terms the mystical ‘scene’ that we kept hearing about on the night. I came to Melbourne from Geelong in the early 80’s and had a fair bit of trouble finding out exactly where someone with my interests an aptitudes would be best suited. I had missed the Kingston and the Pram Factory by a quite a bit and it wasn’t for a few years that I worked out it was a matter of making my own niche – something that I think the people who had played with Peter Lillie had realised from the start. As Brian Nankervis was introducing his version of Birth of the Ute as the show’s finale he commented that the evening was indeed Melbourne ‘celebrating it’s own’ – and I think this is about right. But during the lyrical outpourings of the evening, as people became more and more daring and theatrical in tribute to Lillie himself, it was Mark Ferrie’s story – virtually spoken word performance piece – about a young Nick Cave falling foul of ex-Tigers wingman Francis Bourke at the Tiger Lounge that stuck with me. For anyone not from here he said this was ‘deep Melbourne’. I think in reference to the work of Peter Lillie himself that is the term I gladly take away from the evening. From Angie Hart’s gorgeous rendition of Standing in the Rain in Sunshine, Suzannah Espie’s inspired take on Brand New Appliance to what was the ultimate highlight for me – Gary Adams’ swampy adaptation of a simple little poem about a dawn walk through a St Kilda garden. Deep Melbourne – yeah, that says it all really.