DIARY - 14 OCTOBER 2003
HITS A HAPPY NOTE
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.
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.
ROAD AND GULF OF SIAM
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."
FOOD FOR SONG
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."
AND NASH CHAMBERS
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.'
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.'
tune segues into 'After Love' - one of five co-writes with Frank
Jones of 'Whirling Furphies.'
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
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