Music is littered with mythical stories of outrageous personalities, ridiculous behaviour and earnest musical conceits that seemed to make sense at the time, but in retrospect were totally batshit insane. From drug addiction to undiagnosed mental illness, from ridiculous genre clashes to exotic tales of passion and excess, we seem to thrive on the backstory as much as the music. This is why Mojo is still in print.
Whilst the adventures of Bowie, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Iggy Pop and their ilk are regurgitated and fawned over decade after decade ad nauseum, their debaucherous activities whispered with the awed reverence of religious ritual, one writer is determined to dig below the glamour and chronicle the little feller, the forgotten folk of the underground. That writer is not Olde Smiddy.
The writer is Pembroke Francis O’Hear, a melancholic bass playing cocaine casualty who chronicled Melbourne’s 80’s music scene with the kind of zealous focus that only a recovering addict can posses. I know what you’re thinking. We’re talking The Models, Hunters and Collectors, The Birthday Party and Ollie Olsen? Nup, Pemmy dug deeper, so deep it’s difficult to know if he was chronicling Melbourne’s musical underground or his own dark psychosis. Pemmy disappeared in 2010 yet his Almanac lived on, passing through various hands until Olde Smiddy, ever the opportunist, chose to publish it under his own name no less.
It’s a sprawling inspiring mess of music. Genres are elastic and concepts ridiculous. Many of the folks contained within barely made it out of their garage, possibly because they were barely able to mix with other humans. We’re talking less than household names like Hot Chisel, Off Chops, DJ Grouse, We Are Linda Blair, Interstellar Daave, and Abort Everyone. So who are these folks and what does their music sound like? Well thankfully Smiddy, sorry Pembroke, writes genre cues, like ‘glam bong,’ ‘heavy gay metal’, ‘Slime Funk’, ‘scat punk’ and ‘hand soloist,’ offering a concise indication of the joys contained in their music. He also offers a paragraph or so of backstory, of earnest hope shattered by incompetence and a special kind of madness. With statements from interviews, reports of shambolic live shows, and even the odd concerning lyrical excerpt. It’s a meticulous documentation of facts that should probably remain buried.
We’re talking punk rock singers who’d be hospitalised after every gig, bands who smoked industrial sealant prior to recording, songs about inserting testicles in anuses, white people in whiteface and bands who created weapons that they then used on each other during live performances. This is absurdity as high art. Hilarity and tragedy seamlessly intertwined. Whilst at times you might feel it stretches the bounds of credibility, you have to admit Mojo is much much worse. And anyway at least this bullshit is funny.
You can find it here.