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What inspired Cold Chisel’s hit Flame Trees?

22 Feb

I am lucky enough to be able to say that Icehouse was my very first concert and Jimmy Barnes was my second.

Now to some people, this would sound like the perfect introduction to live shows, and Aussie music at its best. But sadly, I can only report on one of them. And it’s not the Working Class Man. Here’s why …

In heartbroken-teenage circumstances best left undescribed, I had decided to make Jimmy’s concert my first real introduction to alcohol. And by the time we left for the gig, I had drunk the best part of half a bottle of vodka. Straight.

By the time we reached the venue, I had already begged (several times) to be left alone on a traffic island to sleep. So it’s no surprise the staff took one look at me and ferried me off to the sick bay. Where I remained until I made it out for the last two songs, although I could not hope to tell you what they were.

While the consequences at the time weren’t great, in the years since I’ve come to look back on the incident as a sort of homage to Barnesy, who was then a big fan of drinking himself. And I was reminded of it as I drove home from work tonight and the classic Cold Chisel tune Flame Trees came on the radio.

Though I can’t say it’s my favourite of the band’s songs – that honour goes to Khe Sanh and When The War Is Over – I have always loved its lyrics. So I decided to find out what inspired them.

And the answer, found in liner notes penned by music journalist Toby Cresswell, came from the band’s own website, which reveals the track was …

“Written about Grafton, where Don spent most of his formative years. The song was inspired by a girl whom Don had known in his youth and who “doesn’t live there anymore”. Grafton is actually known as the Jacaranda City but it had acquired flame trees as a result of a television program called The Flame Trees of Thaw, which starred Hayley Mills, an old flame of the lyricist’s dreams, and the flora stuck. It’s a song of lost love, of mortality and what’s left behind. Steve Prestwich’s melody and Don Walker’s words.” Their last hit before disbanding (although fortunately for us they eventually changed their mind).

I thought this was a great insight into the band. So I decided to look into the inspiration behind some of its other songs, And here’s what I found….

Rising Sun 
Jimmy’s vow of love for Jane, who was later to become his wife.

You Got Nothing I Want 
The response to a visit to America where their record label couldn’t have been less interested in the band or its East album.

But the most surprising of them all was Choir Girl. I had always assumed it was about a prissy schoolgirl discovering the joys of sex, but it’s actually about a girl facing an abortion. Powerful stuff and one of Don Walker’s few songs written from a female perspective.

But back to those Flame Trees

Who is the rude band in Old School and Starsky & Hutch?

12 Feb

Hollywood has produced some wonderful wedding singers.

Just look at Steve Buscemi’s heartfelt warbling of True in the Adam Sandler movie that celebrates the profession.

But for my money, the best among them is Dan Finnerty. And don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him before, because I just discovered him too. And felt obliged to (ahem) sing his praises.

To backtrack, today’s knowledge quest was born from a simple desire – to find out more about the band that cameos in Old School and Starsky & Hutch.

Anyone who has seen the films will understand my interest since they both feature milestone celebrations headlined by an incredibly coarse (but hilarious) band that peppers power ballads with enough bad language to make a grandmother or religious devotee blush.

Think Bonnie Tyler’s Total F****** Eclipse of the Heart and you’re on track.

Anyway, I knew the group couldn’t be just a movie ensemble as they are too practised and polished. And I was right. They are actually a comedy band called The Dan Band, led by the aforementioned Dan Finnerty, an actor and comedian.

Based in LA, their specialty is covers of female pop songs such as Toni Basil’s Mickey, with added obscenities and swearing. And their unique blend has proved very popular in Hollywood, featuring in other films such as The Hangover.

They even released a Christmas LP of originals called Ho: A Dan Band Xmas, which had tracks such as I Wanna Rock U Hard This Christmas, for which the video featured the Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson hitting on Santa in a retirement home. Check it out below.


And to finish, a random fact: Dan is married to actress Kathy Najimy.

What is a dirty martini?

9 Feb

My head was not in a good space as I turned the radio on.

I was grumpy beyond measure and all I wanted to do was get home and relax. Instead, I found myself detouring via a service station to replace the $40 worth of diesel I had put in only the day before. Yes. All gone in a matter of 24 hours.

Hoping to find an ’80s track to warble (badly) along too, I reached for the AM band just in time to hear Pink singing about a dirty martini making her girlfriend flirty. Suddenly I realised that while I’ve heard about this drink 1000 times before, I don’t actually know what it is.

I hit the internet to find out when I eventually made it home and it took me all of one second, courtesy of a cool looking website called Dirty Martini

In their words, the definition is basically … “gin or vodka with a small amount of dry vermouth and olive juice (also known as olive brine) mixed and garnished with olives. The resulting dirty martini is a little cloudy, due to the olive juice, hence the name dirty martini.”

A great answer, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to know how to make one. And since the site is obviously a lover of shaken, stirred and more, I figured they wouldn’t mind me showcasing one of their many recipes. Here goes…

Cheesy Dirty Martini

3 ounces vodka
½ ounce dry vermouth
1 tbsp olive brine
3 blue cheese stuffed olives

In a shaker combine all ingredients except two of the olives. Take the third olive and squeeze the blue cheese into the shaker. Shake well for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with remaining two blue cheese stuffed olives and enjoy.

As James Bond would say. I’ll drink to that!

PS: I am aware this is my second alcohol related post in only a few days. And?

Where did the song title Electric Blue come from?

5 Feb

I grew up early enough to be a fan of Hall & Oates, but not early enough to see them in concert. So when I found out they were touring Australia, I had to go.

The chance to see Out of Touch performed live was just too much to resist. Plus, they were being supported by Icehouse, one of my all-time favourite homegrown bands. And the combination prompted me to look further into something that had always intrigued me.

I knew John Oates had teamed up with Iva Davies to co-write Electric Blue, which was one of Icehouse’s most popular songs. But what I didn’t know was how they came up with the title. And it turns out the setting was a little risque!

You can read full versions of the story here and here, but to paraphrase what happened, Oates was relaxing on a topless beach while Iva was out windsurfing when an unexpected muse crossed his path. “This gorgeous topless chick is walking towards me on the beach and I’m thinking, “Well, I can’t look at her tits, so I better look at her eyes. So she had these blue eyes, and I swear to God, it popped into my head, and that’s how I came up with the idea.”

Now watch the video . . .

  And to finish, a little Out of Touch too.

Who wrote the Mission: Impossible theme song?

14 Jan

Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the man makes an awesome action hero. And nowhere is this more evident than when he suits up as Ethan Hunt.

He’s done it so far in three Mission: Impossible films I loved and one more – Ghost Protocol – I hope to see this weekend.

And what I really rate about the films is their consistency – the chicks are always beautiful and badass, the plots are entertaining, the stunts are eye-popping, the villains are pieces of work and the goodies always win.

Then there’s that amazing theme song.

It’s been a key part of the Impossible Mission Force identify since I first watched the TV show starring Peter Graves, Thaao Penghlis (Tony DiMera from Days of Our Lives) and Jane Badler (the rat-eating Diana from V).

In its own way it’s just as iconic as the themes from Jaws or Star Wars. And while I knew John Williams didn’t write it, I wanted to know who did.

And the answer is Lalo Schifrin.

Born in Argentina, this composer, pianist and conductor grew up in a musical family, studied at the Paris Conservatory, worked across Europe and had his own big concert band before moving to the US at the request of Dizzy Gillespie.

It was here his career kicked into high gear, with more than 100 movies and TV shows now to his credit, as well as a cameo appearance in the original movie of Red Dragon.

Just a few of the films that feature his work – either as the theme, score or just on the soundtrack – include Rush Hour 3, After The Sunset, Bringing Down The House, The Beverley Hillbillies, Inglourious Basterds, Drag Me To Hell, Zodiac, Kate & Leopold, Charlie’s Angels, The Amityville Horror and The Eagle Has Landed.

He was picked by Bruce Lee to score Enter the Dragon and is a favourite of fellow jazz afficianado Clint Eastwood, who has worked with him on everything from Dirty Harry and Sudden Impact to Magnum Force.

But there’s one thing for which he will always be remembered. And here it is, remixed by Tiesto for Ghost Protocol


I still remember every single word you said. Or do I?

5 Jan

Ask me to list my top 10 most over-rated bands and I will refuse to answer the question in written form. It’s a safety thing you see; those Proclaimers fans don’t muck around!

But ask me to name my top 10 favourite bands, and it’s all too easy. The end result goes something like this.

1 – Foo Fighters
2 – Garbage
3 – Foo Fighters
4 – Silverchair
5 – Foo Fighters
6 – Nirvana
7 – Pearl Jam
8 – Foo Fighters
9 – Bon Jovi
10 – Icehouse

So yes, I love the Fooeys, particularly the song Monkey Wrench. I find it incredibly useful for psyching up the start of a working day, although I have learned it’s best to scream along with my car windows up.

My favourite part is the shouty bit ™ but I always get let down by not knowing the very last line. So today I set out to finally learn the whole thing. That way, when the band next hits Australia, I can blast along with Dave from start to finish, rather than pretending to cough through those precious few final words. So without further ado, here it is…

One last thing before I quit
I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head
I still remember every single word you said
And all the shit that somehow came along with it
Still there’s one thing that comforts me
Since I was always caged and now I’m free

Now go watch the official video – here