March 2009

Arts & Letters

‘Shots’ by Don Walker

By Tim Rogers

Two years back I spent time with Don Walker in the manner to which we’re both accustomed: meet in a lobby, jump in a van, drive to a show, play, drive back, avoid morning duties with shaky resolve. I was intimidated, not merely by his prowess as a songwriter but by his steady gaze. Come 4 am we were talking of Iran and Farsi, tales of exploration as intoxicating as almost everything in Shots, a memoir of sorts.

The ‘shots’ from a childhood in northern New South Wales are presented with a detachment recalling Hal Porter’s tales of youth. There’s no lament for a world hurtling by, because it’s just a raised thumb on an unmarked road away. At the dinner table Don’s father tells of “a world where all walls crumble before a balanced, enquiring mind”, and it’s surely not simply a revisionist memory that equates “Newtonian cantilever physics” with barn-dance sexual politics. It’s the balanced, enquiring mind of a man ballpein-hammering at a piano in a soulful rock band from the Adelaide suburbs, his head cocking up every 36 bars to check all are present and accounted for.

As he enters university, with its lecture-dodging charlatans and the submarine presence of music constantly threatening to break the surface, our protagonist appears a man out of time, as if the experimentation of the era is mere folly. The joy in this book lies here, in the same way that a solemn description of a truck-stop coffee and soulless toasted sandwich burnt my lips without howls of hyperbole turning them into a cat’s bum. Juxtapositions abound: aerodynamics and rock ‘n’ roll, sex and loneliness, drugs and unforgiving sobriety. The coolness in recollecting the formation of a great band is no pose – the hipster is 16 bars ahead, knowing that all is transitory. As his life turns menacing and tragic, it’s this acceptance that keeps him observant in the eye of the storm.

Rock music is populated with many of the duller characters to have graced the globe, but a handful of restless romantics know that at its heart is a truss of darkness and furious light into which anger, love and desire can be flung. Don Walker does it as well as anyone, and in the absence of a tune his stories have greater weight, an ache that has me packing a bag, wanting to chance my arm at something a way up ahead.

Tim Rogers
Tim Rogers is a Melbourne-based musician. He is a solo artist as well as the frontman of Australian rock band You Am I. He made his stage debut at the Malthouse Theatre in Woyzeck in 2009.

Cover: March 2009

March 2009

From the front page

Image of chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and former Fortescue Metals chief executive Neville Power

Building back better?

The government’s pandemic response is taking a familiar shape

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

An unavoidable recession

The pandemic got us in, the treasurer must get us out

Child's illustration

The screens that ate school

What do we really know about the growing presence of Google, Apple, Microsoft and more in the education system?


In This Issue

Hidden treasure

Forty-three years at the ABC

‘Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs: What Your Kids Really Want and Need to Know About Alcohol and Drugs’ by Paul Dillon

Neo-Liberal meltdown

The response to the Prime Minister’s essay

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Sinking sandbanks


More in Arts & Letters

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

Still from ‘The Assistant’

Her too: ‘The Assistant’

Melbourne-born, New York–based filmmaker Kitty Green’s powerfully underplayed portrait of Hollywood’s abusive culture

Photograph of Dua Lipa

Snap-back: Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’

The British singer’s serendipitous album delivers shining pop with a reigning attitude of fortitude

Still from ‘The Platform’

Consolations in isolation: ‘The Platform’ and ‘Free in Deed’

What is the future of cinema without cinemas?


More in Noted

Cover of ‘The Trials of Portnoy’

‘The Trials of Portnoy’ by Patrick Mullins

The finely detailed story of the legal fight in Australia against the censorship of Philip Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’

Cover of ‘The End of October’

‘The End of October’ by Lawrence Wright

A ‘New Yorker’ journalist’s eerily prescient novel about public-health officials fighting a runaway pandemic

Cover of ‘Fathoms’

‘Fathoms: The World in the Whale’ by Rebecca Giggs

The Australian writer’s lyrical consideration of our relationship with whales is a new and ambitious kind of nature writing

Cover of ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982’

‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982’ by Cho Nam-Joo (trans. Jamie Chang)

The coldly brilliant, bestselling South Korean novel describing the ambient harassment and discrimination experienced by women globally


Read on

Image of Australians queuing at Centrelink in Brisbane.

Moral bankruptcy

Robodebt stemmed from the false ideological division between the deserving and undeserving poor, but the government still clings to moralistic language

Image of Gough Whitlam in October 1975

It’s about time

The High Court’s landmark ruling on the ‘Palace Papers’ is a win for Australian social democracy

Image of Robyn Davidson

Something mythic

For Robyn Davidson, her acclaimed memoir ‘Tracks’ was an act of freedom whose reception hemmed her in

COVID-19 versus human rights

The virus is the latest excuse for governments to slash and burn the individual rights of prisoners


×
×