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Welcome to Living in the Land of Oz

Howzat! Archive - April 4th 2012

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Who knows when and where your big break will occur. For Melbourne singer-songwriter John Patrick it happened while he was tour managing American band The Flatlanders, featuring the legendary Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. By the time they got to Ballina, John and the band had bonded. They had a quiet drink in a hotel room, and John played a tune when they passed a guitar around. "Fantastic song," Butch Hancock said, "who wrote that?" "I did," John replied. "Wow," drummer Pat Manske said, "we should look at making a record." Not long after, John was flying to Austin to record with Pat and Flatlanders guitarist Robbie Gjersoe. And the song that John played that night, Short Stout Woman, became the opening track on John Patrick & The Keepers' debut EP, In Memory Of Pa (available now on iTunes), which they're launching at the Evelyn on Thursday.

"It was all a little bit surreal," John says. "Really humbling and a bit embarrassing, with all these amazing musicians putting their touch on my songs." As well as Pat and Robbie, the EP features bass player Glenn Fukunaga, who has played with Dylan and the Dixie Chicks. John's wild ride didn't end there. Robbie gave a CD to his good friends The Greencards, the Grammy-nominated, Nashville-based bluegrass band featuring two Aussies, Kym Warner and Carol Young. They were about to start recording their fifth album, The Brick Album, and they got in touch with Robbie: "Can we use these songs?" Suddenly, John had two songs - Naked On The River and Here Lies John - on a Top 10 album on the US Bluegrass chart. Are the royalties rolling in? "I wish," John laughs. "I did get a cheque in December for $11. Hopefully that's the tip of the iceberg. But seriously, I was just so happy to have a band like The Greencards cover a couple of my songs, and hopefully it will lead to other opportunities."

John's EP has also attracted the attention of David Bowie's manager, David Whitehead, who said: "He has a curious, fragile voice that you think is going to break at any time." It helps make In Memory Of Pa stand out in the crowded marketplace. As for the title, the EP is dedicated to John's grandfather, who died last December. "The CD is a tribute to him and his 91 years of life." Pa got to hear the EP, "but he was engulfed by Alzheimer's, so I'm not sure what it meant. But it's nice that grandma got to play it for him and say, 'This record is for you.'"

Howzat! would regularly have lunch with Zoran Romic and his best buddy and business partner, Darren Danielson. After Chocolate Starfish, Zoz and Darren focused on music management, forming the FUR Group. We'd talk footy (Zoz was a Hawthorn fan), music matters and reminisce a little about the old days. I valued their honesty and insight - these were managers who knew what it was like to be in a big band. Early last year, when I was thinking, "I haven't seen Zoz and Darren for a while", I got an email: "It's time for one of our lunches, we also need to tell you about the Starfish reunion." Darren sent me a link to Starfish performing Head at the 1994 Australian Music Awards, which was one of Zoran's favourite moments. "How could we not put the band back together," Darren said, "I want to see Zoz in the leather pants again!"

When Zoz appeared at our lunch, I pointed to his bald head and said, "Have you done that as a tribute to your old singer [Adam Thompson, who shaved his head during the Starfish days]?" "No," he replied, "I've had cancer." It was a horrible moment, but Zoz had a knack for being able to put people at ease. "Not to worry, mate," he smiled, "you weren't to know. Hopefully I'll be okay."

Zoran's private battle became public when he was unable to do the planned reunion shows. Instead, his mates organised a benefit - "One Night In October - A Concert For Zoz". It was a remarkable night. A full house, and Zoz got to do one more Starfish gig. Afterwards, he was exhausted, but you could tell he was happy. Sadly, Zoz died last Saturday. He is survived by his wife, Linda, and their two daughters. The pain would be lessened if I could find a bad word to say about Zoran, but I can't. As's Paul Cashmere said, "Zoran will be remembered by all who knew him as one of the nicest guys in the business." Starfish's biggest hit, Mountain - which Zoran co-wrote - includes the line, "I am for now, you are forever." That's how I feel about Zoz.

Timomatic scores his second hit.

Boys Like You 360 & GOSSLING (number 11)
Into The Flame EP MATT CORBY (13)
If Looks Could Kill TIMOMATIC (16, debut)
Set It Off TIMOMATIC (22)
Music Won't Break Your Heart STAN WALKER (35, debut)
100% No Modern Talking EP KNIFE PARTY (37)

Madonna knocks off Hilltop Hoods.

Drinking From The Sun HILLTOP HOODS (number three)
Falling & Flying 360 (11)
Vows KIMBRA (21)
Making Mirrors GOTYE (32)
Moonfire BOY & BEAR (37)
Gold Watch HOODOO GURUS (39)

Good Clean Fun JAMES REYNE

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