Expatriate Kiwi singer-songwriter Brent Parlane is qualified to write of cold shoulders on that not so mythical Lost Highway.

Parlane, son of an Air Force pilot, lived in London and Bangkok as a youngster before the family settled in New Zealand.

It was there he first tasted fame at 21 with solo hit, 'I'm Looking Forward To Tonight.'
His career, spanning five decades, includes opening for 'The Eagles,' Eric Clapton, B.B King, Roxy Music, 'The Sweet' and Osibisa.

Brent Parlane

Brent moved here in 1976 and then worked the Sydney circuit for about four years before heading south across the Murray Dixon line in 1980.

He flirted with fleeting fame with Melbourne band 'Tourists' which scored a deal but was forced to change its name to '33 South' because of a Scottish act of the same name.
"We thought 33 South was Melbourne's latitude," Brent revealed after the name change.
"But after we went on tour we discovered it was that of Newcastle."

And he attained outlaw status in February, 1982, when arrested in Ulverstone for using "offensive language."

All destined to elevate his profile but not exactly keeping the dingoes from the door.
Support roles on a Randy Newman tour in 1990-1 exposed his music to a new audience and led to him working more national dates.

But, ironically a decade ago, aged 40, he won the Tamworth Gold Guitar for best new talent.

And it was the strength of the songs that fuelled Parlane's lunge at longevity.


Brent wrote a racism parody, 'Springvale Road,' after an encounter with Thai pirates on the island of Ko Samui in The Gulf Of Siam.

The song is an eulogy to Vietnamese boat people who sailed the gauntlet of 20th century pirates to find freedom here.

"We were sitting on the beach a few years ago on a little island called Ko Samui on the Gulf Of Siam in Thailand," Brent told me in an interview published in the Herald Sun on January 23, 1993.

"We were with some western girls who were topless. This fishing boat anchored out on the bay and these young Thai guys were hooning around. They dived over the side of the boat and swam ashore about half a mile.

These guys were walking up the beach toward us. There was a menacing air about them. The port where most of these boats came from was Son Kla, famous for the black-hearted pirate population. These guys go out on the Gulf of Siam and on a good day might run across some Vietnamese refugees and rob and kill them. It flashed through my mind that these guys were probably pirates. They were about 19 and were incredibly fit looking guys. I just imagined the have they could wreak. The danger passed but it was the source of the song."


The sting in the tail of the tale came when Parlane returned to his then home in Oakleigh and often bought Asian food in neighbouring suburb Springvale.

"I got home and saw Bruce Ruxton on TV saying these people were worthless refugees and not welcome here," Brent recalled.

"It made my blood boil. Of all the different ethnic minorities who migrated to Australia the Vietnamese are probably the ones who suffered most. Even if they escape the pirates' gauntlet they might have another battle on their arrival. They fought alongside us but are still not welcome at RSL clubs.

"The South Vietnamese fought the same war for more than 20 years and then they suffer all this prejudice here. My idea would be an RSL where the old soldiers of all races can meet and talk about the old times."


Brent has had his songs covered by acts diverse as Greg Champion, Beccy Cole, Crosby Sisters and Jim Haynes and won wide airplay for his 1995 ABC album Tex Loves Daisy.
After walking the ABC plank in 1997, he enlisted Nash Chambers to produce 'Good Man Down' (originals) and 'The Closest' - timely re-recordings.

Unlike Chambers' other client Troy Cassar-Daley, Brent didn't celebrate his resurrection with another swag of Gold Guitars.

Instead he hired mates - '33 South' bassist Andrew Forrer, with whom he first worked 30 years ago and pedal steel guitarist Ed Bates who was in 'Sports' when Brent migrated, for his eighth album 'The Happy Note.'


The title of the 13 song album was spawned by a remark by octogenarian fiddler Jack Johnson when Brent was recording another refugee tune 'I Turned Away.'

But it could also apply to the artist, father of two, and survivor of a broken marriage in 1995.

Now, on the flip side of 50, he is a true troubadour with regular gigs promoting 'The Happy Note.'

The passing of time, where the journey is as important as destination, underpins 'Come Down From The Mountain.'

This tune segues into 'After Love' - one of five co-writes with Frank Jones of 'Whirling Furphies.'

Harmonising by fellow survivor and Eltham egret Leslie Avril, ensures the haunting heartbreak of 'After Love' becomes a hook heavy, radio friendly requiem akin to 'The Woodys.' It's a companion song to 'Light A Fire' and 'A Dream We Have' where Forrer and Jo Campbell sing harmony.

You can reach Brent at P.O. Box 359 Heidelberg West - Victoria 3081


Lesley Avril

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