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Howzat! Archive - September 28th 2011

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READ ABOUT IT
It's been another great year for local music books. There have also been many music-related books. Here are a few of 'em:

RPM
Noel Mengel is one of Howzat!'s favourite music journalists. The chief music writer for Brisbane's Courier-Mail, Noel has now released his debut novel, RPM ($24.95, University of Queensland Press) and won the Queensland Premier's Literary Award for Best Emerging Author. It's a gentle book (the main character is even called Neil Gentle); imagine an Aussie High Fidelity, set in small town Queensland in the '80s, with a bunch of misfits bonded by their love of music. It's a little hard to believe that the country kids were into The Pretty Things, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Persuaders and The Records when the charts were dominated by Chisel, Culture Club and Duran Duran. Then there's this sentence after Neil meets the 15-year-old girl of his dreams: "Time stood still as we talked about Orwell or de Beauvoir or Dostoyevsky, or whatever we happened to be reading, as you do in a country town café at half past three on a Friday afternoon." Later, "One afternoon we debated what was the greater: Robert Graves's fiction or his poetry? It was astonishing that someone else in the world actually read Graves's poetry, that they lived in the same town as me and we were talking about it." Astonishing, indeed. But RPM is a fine book, a love letter to music. "A great record or a great guitar will never let you down, Neil. Can't say I'd say the same for people."

HOUSE OF STICKS
If you're thinking about having kids, you might want to read Peggy Frew's debut novel, House of Sticks ($29.95, Scribe). A tale of domestic drudgery, it will put you off parenthood forever. Peggy is the bass player in Art of Fighting, and her book is about Bonnie, a guitarist, struggling to come to terms with having three kids. "I feel the same inside as I did when I was 20, or even 18, or even younger," Bonnie tells her partner, Pete. "It's like I'm the same person inside and all this stuff's just happened to me and sometimes I sort of … forget. And then someone yells 'Mum' and I think, Oh my god, that's me - I'm someone's mum." In real life, Peggy has three kids with her partner, Mick Turner from the Dirty Three, but stresses that the book is not autobiographical. House of Sticks - which won the 2010 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript - is more about motherhood than music. Of course, it's a tough gig, but Bonnie is so negative - whingeing and whining constantly - that it's hard to like her. But there's a lot to like about Peggy's writing. She has a knack for building tension and revealing genuine emotion. This is a remarkably assured debut.

THE LAST GREAT DAY
Howzat! interviewed Ben Mitchell in 1990 when he was in a Channel Seven cop show called Skirts. Instantly likeable, it was also obvious that Ben was a big music fan. We chatted about the music on the show and I recall being amused that Big Pig provided the soundtrack to a scene where a big cop chased a crook. Ben later starred in Neighbours, sharing a house with Natalie Imbruglia's character. He returned to Ramsay Street 15 years later to play Tottie Goldsmith's ex. Ben also spent time in London, where he recorded his debut album, 2006's The Stars Can See. It's been a remarkable career, but nothing compared to Ben's life, which he documents in his debut novel, The Last Great Day ($29.95, www.benjamingrantmitchell.com). When we chatted 21 years ago, I had no idea that Ben's early years were spent in a doomsday cult, The Worldwide Church of God, an organisation started by an American advertising man, who tipped that the world was going to end in 1975. Ben's dad was a minister in the church. The Last Great Day is a compelling tale of faith and family, the pick of the books that Howzat! reviews here. A young Ben (Jacob in the book) enrages his dad by declaring, "Elvis is God." Ben plans to expand on his love of Elvis in his next novel. The strength of The Last Great Day puts that book firmly on the eagerly-awaited list.


CHART WATCH
Just two homegrown hits in the national Top 40, but Gotye equals You're The Voice - spending seven weeks on top. The last Aussie male solo artist to spend longer at number one was Austen Tayshus (eight weeks with Australiana in 1983).

Somebody That I Used To Know GOTYE (number one)
Inescapable JESSICA MAUBOY (16)

Big debut for The Jezabels, but they can't knock off Adele.

Prisoner THE JEZABELS (number two, debut)
Making Mirrors GOTYE (three)
Vows KIMBRA (eight)
Blue Sky Blue PETE MURRAY (nine)
The Quickening FUNKOARS (11, debut)
White Heat: 30 Hits ICEHOUSE (13)
Yes I Am JACK VIDGEN (20)
Rrakala GURRUMUL (22)
Moonfire BOY & BEAR (27)
Ghosts Of The Past ESKIMO JOE (36)
Symmetry NEW EMPIRE (39, debut)
Get 'Em Girls JESSICA MAUBOY (40)


HOWZAT! PLAYLIST
Covered By Snow DEAD LETTER CHORUS
Dark Magic SAND PEBBLES
Only One TIM REID
Ghost THE KILLJOYS
Stars Burn DESERTERS

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