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Howzat! Archive - December 19th 2012

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Gotye conquered the world. At home, it was all about The Voice, until that "reality" show finished and The X Factor came along. Cold Chisel returned with their first album in 14 years. Paul Kelly finally got to sing at the Grand Final, but you might not have known if you were watching Channel Seven. Commercial radio continued to be more about scandals than songs. So many great records were released. Too many great people died. Yep, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. Not that he isn't dealing with a serious medical condition - though you wouldn't know it listening to his latest album, Dirty, Dirty. Never has a record screamed "I'm still alive!" as emphatically or as triumphantly. This is glorious garage rock. He's alive and he's kicking. Jim Keays is Howzat!'s Artist Of The Year.

It was a festival of festivals. Everywhere you looked, a new festival was springing up. But the best gigs still happen in dark rooms on sticky carpets. And Howzat!'s Gig Of The Year again happened at the Northcote Social Club, this time on a Sunday afternoon. During 2012, Australian Guitar magazine listed the 50 greatest Australian guitarists. Inexplicably, they failed to feature Davey Lane. At the Northcote gig, Davey launched into a breathtaking solo that transported Howzat! to another place. "Is it just me, or is this something remarkable?" we thought, as Davey wailed away, making his guitar sing. It wasn't just me - the packed crowd broke into spontaneous applause when the solo concluded. Davey's solo, during Accustomed To The Dark, was unforgettable, as was the entire gig. At one point, Charles Jenkins remarked, "You're a great crowd - I can hear the air conditioning!" Charles Jenkins and The Zhivagos is Howzat!'s Gig Of The Year.

As someone remarked to Howzat! recently, it's never been easier to make a record, it's never be harder to sell one. Now, more than ever, little labels and passionate people are the lifeblood of the music industry. In 2012, Guy Blackman's Chapter Music turned 20. John Needham's Citadel turned 30. And Mushroom Records was 40. Howzat! wrote the liner notes for Aches and Shakes, a new compilation celebrating 10 years of Popboomerang Records. As Sydney Morning Herald critic Bernard Zuel said, Popboomerang is "a brand you can trust". In the liner notes, we recounted a conversation with a friend, who was impressed when she met label boss Scotty "Pop" Thurling at a gig. Later, she asked: "How many people does Scott have working for him?" "None," I replied. He's the ultimate one-man band, a music obsessive who puts his money where his mouth is. Long may Scotty Pop, and others like him, continue to believe. Popboomerang is Howzat!'s Label Of The Year.

"You crave the future," Dan Lethbridge sang on Oh Hawke, one of Howzat!'s favourite 2012 albums, "a future filled with things of the past, 'cause those things last." Nick Barker and the Reptiles were back in 2012, with a blistering new single. Weddings Parties Anything re-formed to be inducted into the EG Hall of Fame and then broke up again. Sunnyboys were back for Meredith. Cold Chisel did another tour. The Seekers launched another comeback, to celebrate their 50th birthday. Icehouse were back on the road. Pseudo Echo turned 30. And not one, but two new versions of The Angels emerged.

Not a lot of local music books were released in 2012. The highlight was John Bois' The Dingoes' Lament, documenting their ill-fated American assault in the '70s. Elegiac and enlightening, it's a great read. Shannon Noll told his story in So Far And Howzat! did a book with a mate, Luke Wallis, on the Australian record producer Mark Opitz. Sophisto-punk tells the story of Mark's life and the albums he's made with The Angels, Cold Chisel, INXS, Divinyls, Models, Richard Clapton, The Reels, Australian Crawl, Hoodoo Gurus, Jimmy Barnes and Roxus. Hey ARIA, why isn't Mark (and other Australian record producers) in the Hall of Fame?

It was a tragic year. The Australian music industry is mourning the passing of legends and friends. We said goodbye to Jimmy Little, Robin Gibb, Men At Work's Greg Ham, Zoot's Darryl Cotton, Sherbet's Clive Shakespeare, Valentines singer and Divinyls manager Vince Lovegrove, The Sports' Jimmy Niven, The Pelaco Brothers' Peter Lillie, The Purple Hearts' Mick Hadley, Peter Jones (Crowded House, Harem Scarem, Deadstar), Edith Bliss, and Australia's "father of jazz", Graeme Bell. The RRR community was rocked by the death of announcer Genny B, and cancer also claimed the life of rock writer Andrew McMillan and the courageous Kate Bentley, who was a friend to so many people in the music industry. And Howzat!'s good buddy Zoran Romic from Chocolate Starfish died of cancer just as the band planned to return to the road. He is much missed. Also in 2012, we said goodbye to the East Brunswick Club, Pony and the Phoenix Public House; Jet and Little Red called it quits, The Wiggles were re-jigged, and INXS claimed they'd played their final show. Thanks for reading Howzat! See you in 2013.

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