Friday, February 17, 2012

On Boxing (Apologies to Ms Oates)

The squeezette and I finally made our way to boxing training. I say finally because we have been intending to get down there for several months, but put it off on the grounds that we needed to get fit and lose some weight before we actually went to boxing training to get fit and lose some weight.
Our boxing gym of choice was an ancient community hall hidden under an overpass in the back streets of Oakleigh. How did we find it? As you drove up the overpass, if you were quick enough and glanced to your left you were met with an ancient sign full of detail: Boxing Gym. Naturally, this example of marketing expertise was enough to force us to turn left then turn left again, then almost give up - where was this damn hall? We parked the car and went walking. We found what seemed to be the hall, but our 21st century need for signage made us doubt ourselves. Fortunately, an old guy (76) who hung outside on the off chance that at any moment a potential new member was going to walk around the corner came to our rescue. Come in, take a look around. We did. It was indeed an old community hall with a couple of rings, ancient speed bags, heavy backs, a couple of bikes, weights up the far corner. Scanning this suburban homage to Rocky, we knew we had found the place. No lycra! The Burgess Meredith look alike kept selling. Not only was there all of the equipment as we could see, there was also the availability of separate male and female dressing rooms. This may have worked on the squeezette; it was vaguely disappointing to me. We left promising to return the next day and free our inner Rocky. Reality stepped in. It took six months, but we got there.
I love the mythology of boxing. The fact that Joyce Carol Oates can take time out from publishing her seven million books and teaching wanna be writers to write a small book titled, originally enough: On Boxing, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando giving it to Rod Steiger in the back of the car: You were supposed to be looking after me Charlie... It wasn't my time?... It was my time Charlie. Paul Newman, Somebody up there likes me... Rocky Balboa, Stacey Keach in Fat City. Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction... I could go on.
As an aside, I should mention that when writing about boxing it's only fair that I assist myself by listening to Miles Davis: The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. and now is a good time to express my regret that they have not yet created a volume setting of 20.
And then there's reality. One of my earliest childhood memories, crammed around a radio listening to the Rose Gatellari fight. Lionel Rose versus Rocky Gatellari. What a fight. Lionel Rose is (a) built - take a look at those arms and (b) like an attack dog. He just keeps coming in, safe in the knowledge that Gatellari cannot hurt him. That's not taking anything away from Gatellari. Gatelarri spends 13 rounds doing his best not to get bit, but some there he must have realised that sooner or later it's going to come. That's 39 plus minutes those guys go at each other. The Squeezette and I spent a couple of hours punching into pads and I have to tell you, when you hit that pad square you hear a very pleasant whacking sound that for want of a better phrase: turns me on.
Four weeks in two nights a week the old guy comes up to me and says, we didn't think we'd see you two back here, but you stuck. You got that right buddy, old halls are hard to find.
Kid, this ain't your night. You could create an entire civilization around those words.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Roll Call of Dead Legends

Kennedy, John... now we really are in trouble. Kennedy, Robert... way to end the whole concept of short cuts.
Brower, Bulldog.... Father of the year. Built like a tank, permanently fearsome. Google his name, you'll find his kids knew a different guy (Never mind i did it for you -
Iaukea, Curtis (King)... when I was a kid I heard tell of a legendary match where he and Mark Lewin wrestled into the street outside Festival Hall, fighting on top of cars, surrounded by hundreds of fans... then before you know it in the interests of national security and reliving the alliances of world war two, he was a good guy.
Kox, Karl Killer... possibly the greatest excuse for a turn in the history of professional wrestling based on a deathbed mother request: Karl, why can't you be a good boy.
Lennon, John... Walking down a Paris street, a newspaper headline: John Lennon assassine... You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Dundee, Angelo... did Angelo copy the character or were a hundred movie based old ancient craggy boxing trainers based on Angelo. Who knows? Who cares? You can't see Ali in the ring without seeing Angelo. Next time you see a boxing match and you can't see the boxer between rounds because the trainers asses are in the way, blame Angelo.
We all get old.... Well most of us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

These people are coming and in the interests of the greater good they’ll take away my right to speak

I love Chuck - the TV show. I particularly love John Casey, the token right wing Reagan loving, gun loving, macho guy, for, amongst other things, this one line: "The only thing I hate more than hippie, neo-liberal fascists, anarchists are the hypocrite fat-cat suits they eventually grow up to become."
John Casey just described 99 per cent of the Australian Labor Party. Hacks. Sycophants. Nepotistic freeloaders. Careerists.
Politics is not a career.
In my opinion.
The thing I hate most about the Labor Party and please lest anyone think I love the Liberal Party - I will never vote for that cartel of liars as long as I live, is that implicit in everything they do is a paternalistic/maternalistic we know best attitude which breeds a really debilitating insincere smile. I also hate the way they have let political correctness have free rein. And when that free rein incurs its way into my back yard - language - then I say - non pasaran motherfuckers.
Why, you may be wondering should someone be so hostile on what appears to be a fine Sunday morning. It starts with a newspaper article late last week. Weightwatchers will no longer allow posters to their online forums to use the word 'fat'. Apparently some members find this offensive. Now, this decision does not affect me directly, although some nasty, insensitive right wing fascist associates of mine might suggest that in fact I am currently on the wrong side of the definitely not playing at your peak weight scale; my leftist associates would perhaps more generously suggest that I am currently alternatively enabled kilogramatically speaking.
But this is not about me.
Now, here's where reality steps in and slaps me in the face. Saturday afternoon, the squeezette, son 1, son 3 and myself venture down to a Northcote cafe for a coffee and a spot of family bonding. After surveying the table, son 1 is sent forth to order two skinny lattes, an airport of coffees (A three coffee sample pack. Note that if I had the time I could now take off on a diatribe regarding the introduction of coffee snobdom into a very simple item, but what the hell) and a banana smoothie. So far, so good. an acceptable number of minutes later, the waitress arrives with stage one of the airport coffee selection, with so little coffee in a so petite a cup that I was left to wonder if son 1 was supposed to actually drink it or just recognise that this minuet of a cup had once held coffee from some obscure Kenyan plantation that I was supposed to have heard of and automatically recognise as a sensitive and politically correct coffee growing region. Next comes, wait for this, our waitress returns with, and yes she does introduce them thus: "Two trim lattes."
I don't go straight into John Casey mode. I prefer to give her the option of revealing that this is her not unreasonable attempt at humour. If that's the case, she has failed to follow up with a smile or some other signifier. And I know two things: She is serious. She thinks it is acceptable to lassoo the language and abuse it in the interests of spineless everyone deserves to win political correctness. I will not accept this in my life.
"I'm sorry," I said, "we ordered skinny lattes." I stayed silent on the fact that I don't need any bleeding heart this year's model left wing, I care a million times more about the world than anyone else I know, waitress telling me what I can and cannot say; what words are and are not acceptable this month. that is not my way.
My leftist linguist was ever ready and patient with her explanation. "We, who we is is never explained, discussed it and we realised that some people find the word skinny offensive, so we've removed it. We serve trim lattes now."
Anyone who has enough time on their hands to have their life set off course by the word fat - deserves to be imprisoned and not allowed out unless the safety of the rest of the populace can be guaranteed from their overworked sensitivity genes.
"Well that's all well and good," I said "but if it's all the same to you, I'll stick with my skinny lattes."
It wasn't.
"We don't do skinny lattes. We do trim lattes."
I was surprised that our token representative of the extreme right, a woman who would happily kill off more of the world than is possibly good for us, took all this with a calm pursed lips expression.
"Can you believe that?"
"God damned velvet wearers," she said. "They all want to rule the world."
I'm a simple person. I like the Rolling Stones.
When I got home I had an extraordinary special offer waiting for me in my inbox. I can get a 45 minute ultrasonic fat cavitation session for $129 normal price $1375. can you believe my luck?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Trapped in a world that I never made

I had intended to attempt to break a record and blog three times in the one week; unfortunately, I was held prisoner in a large royal blue block for 23 hours that seemed like 23 years. I was for a moment in time Ivan Denisovich.
I speak of course of IKEA.
Saturday morning had started out quite leisurely, coffee, newspapers, followed by a house inspection which the squeezette had messed up by a mere hour and a half. No bother. Upon external inspection the squeezette decided that living thirty feet from a fast food store was not her idea of fun. So, with an hour plus to spare before the next house view, we decided to pay a visit to the relatively new and large IKEA store on the Princess Highway and purchase an electronic juicer from the electronics section. This seemed like a relatively simple task, but note that even this early in the journey I stressed to the squeezette that: "And this is all we are getting."
We drove into a large carpark which some, possibly more cruel and bitter, people would refer to as the size of Tasmania and, following the many directions, made our way to the IKEA entrance.
We didn't even bother to go up the stairs to the main showroom. We had seen what appeared to be an IKEA supermarket and so we chose to investigate. It was indeed a little bit of Sweden right in the middle of Mulgrave. I looked on with disbelief and more than a little disinterest at an array of foods that were swedish looking and instinctively deemed potentially bad for my already damaged heart. Then we saw the next sign that grabbed our attention. This one was in English: Bargain Centre.
The trap had been sprung.
Almost as a warning, we passed through a large number of cash registers and automatic check out machines. It wasn't long before the attraction of redundant christmas baubles, reduced price furniture and the offer of numerous navigational aids had split us up. It should be noted that we were safe in the knowledge that if worst came to worst we did have mobile phones.
I very quickly chose to sit down at a navigational station and pride myself on the conclusion that the majority of the human race are indeed stupid and ridiculous. A scan of the room revealed valleys of people debaing the positives of furniture and other crap that in no time at all they were not going to give a shit about. It's only attraction at this moment being the  abilty to be flat packed. I could not stay here a moment longer. I took a photo of a machine that kept asking where I wanted to go and left to find the squuezette and a way out.
The squeezette and I stumbled into each other, both with phones in hand, in office chair heaven. The squeezette had a glazed look in her eyes and a strange, for her, inability to talk. I was immediately required to carry what turned out to be @2.49 worth of Christmas decorations. I protested that we had previously agreed that the only thing we were getting in here was an electric juicer. this seemed to slap some sanity into the squeezette although she still refused to give up the christmas decorations, protesting that it was in fact only $2.49. I conceded, reluctantly.
I wanted out. the squeezette referred to one of several navigational aids she had managed to obtain during her solitary travels and, having regained at least some power of speech, she said: "This way to electrical."
The nature of IKEA is that we were never quite sure exactly which way 'this way' was. However, let it be said, we passed numerous lamps, baskets, cutlery, kitchen utensils, hanging pieces of cloth. Nothing looked like an electronic juicer, nor did it look like it was a section that would house an electronic juicer. But, as we were passing from another light land, or perhaps just the same light land seen from a different angle. It suddenly became apparent to me that we were doing something wrong. we were walking against the arrows. I pointed out to the squeeze that we were travelling in the opposite direction to that prescribed by the floor's navigational aids. She didn't seem to care. All she could do was notice that the arrows were in fact shaking on the floor and this was causing her to be concerned about having an epileptic fit.
"It doesn't matter" I said, we are going the wrong way."
Although the squeezette could ignore me, she could not ignore the fact that she was starting to draw attention from other shoppers, particularly other shoppers who were being confused by her refusal to get with the program and follow the navigational aids. If this wasn;t stopped in no time at all a precedent would be set. I was sure security cameras were watching our every move.
"Turn around," I said.
she gave me her 'fuck off' look and attempted to continue breaking the rules of IKEA. I had no other choice but to slap her lightly on the chin and attempt to physically turn her. Before she could physically retaliate, three other men and a woman joined me in forcibly turning her around. All of them and their partners chanting: You are going the wrong way. Reluctantly, the squeezette allowed herself to be turned, although still in some form of disbelief. A man who had been on the edge of the crowd and who turned out to be part of IKEA security privately congratulated me on what could have turned into a particularly ugly moment. Speaking even lower so the other shoppers could not hear, he offered me a complementary $9.95 desk lamp (reduced from $24.95). all I had to do was mention the code word 'response' at the checkout. If possible I was to say this with some attempt at a Swedish accent. I thanked him for the offer, but we already have enough lamps and I just didn't want to have to carry that along with the redundant christmas decorations all over who knows where.
The squeezette, although pissed off, turned to me, once the crowd had dispersed, and said: "We have to get out of here."
"I know," I said.
"Now," she said. "Immediately. I'm going crazy in here."
But then, when we looked up, we were in a land of rugs which neither of us had ever seen before and which did not appear to be on the map. It seemed appropriate to lay down and hope that security would find us and lead us to freedom.
We slept for several hours. When we awoke it was night time and we were alone. We found our way to the IKEAN equivalent to a canteen. The squeezette found and microwaved several dozen meatballs of which we ate many. This morning when the store opened, and after viewing video footage of our last night's stay, the guards released us to the care of the self paying checkout machines, we refused to acknowledge that we were friends of IKEA and paid the $2.49 from my credit card (even though it was the squeezette's purchase -  ASIO please note).

Friday, January 6, 2012

There's music and there's music

The squeezette is that rarest of creatures, at least in my world - a woman who maintains an active interest in music. Walk into your house and here's what you get:
Loungeroom: 10 racks of albums (shared), one dual turntable plugged into the sound system via a pre amp. General view of all visitors: Cool. Just in case that doesn't do it, there is some 100 plus gbs of music on two hard drives hooked up to the TV along with 20 plus music videos.
Rest of the house is covered by various ipods, nanos and ipods lying around. Go out to the garage and there is a 200 disk cd player shovelling sound out through a NAD amplifier and a couple of cerwin vega speakers that some guy who knows a friend of mine was throwing out.
So what's the problem? The squeezette hates jazz. She has Tupac by the gross, I have Miles Davis. She calls jazz a competition to see who can make the most cacophonic noise, I hate the violence that Tupac and his little buddies spit out. I could listen to Spanish Key a hundred times and still hear something different, the squeezette would threaten me with a knife within ten seconds. So it is that on the subject of jazz never the twain shall meet.
I was barbecuing before to the sounds of Keith Jarrett live at the Blue Note, which by the way if you haven’t heard it the 26 minute version of Autumn Leaves is a must before you die. The squeezette’s response: get that shit off. My hands were full so she took matters into her own hands and pressed next on the remote which is set to random: John Fogerty and the Blue Ridge Rangers - She thinks I still care. This was acceptable for a minute plus while she was in jazz recovery mode.
Which brings us to tonight's top 10 which as you can understand from the preceding comments is restricted to being listened to over the headphones. Exhumation - Nils Petter Molvaer
Modul 42 - Nil Bartsch's Ronin
Definition of a dog - Ebjorn SvenssonTrio
Draw Near - Tord Gustavson Trio
One Day I'll Fly Away - Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden
Rue Du Depart - Anouar Brahem
Summer Day - Metheny Hehldau
Ode to the Big Sea - Cinematic Orchestra
Stella by Starlight - Miles Davis
River - Herbie Hancock

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Search for Pratt

Here's a little number I prepared earlier - 2003 to be exact. I still believe that Resolution was a truly great album and it should have taken off - but it didn't. Maybe that's the part I identify with. 

In 1974, the then journalist Jon Landau wrote an article in The Real Paper reflecting on why he was a rock critic. Landau recalled seeing Sam and Dave at Madison Square Garden in 1967: "every gesture, every movement, the order of the songs. I would give anything to hear them sing "When Something's Wrong with My Baby" just the way they did it that night."
Landau goes on to confess that when he listened to music now, it was different – the dream is over he's a professional. 
"But," he continues, "… I never give up the search for sounds that can answer every impulse, consume all emotion, cleanse and purify - all things that we have no right to expect from even the greatest works of art but which we can occasionally derive from them." 
Then Landau writes what becomes one of the most recognised quotes of rock and roll journalism: 
"Tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind... I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen… he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time."
Landau produces 'Born to Run', Springsteen's breakthrough album and the rest is history. 
So what has this got to do with me spending 24 months deep inside cyberspace trying to find out what happened to a guy named Andy Pratt? 
The story starts in 1976. After the breakthrough Born to Run album, Springsteen has careered into a legal hell. His former manager is not so happy with Landau and is suing. Springsteen can't record. This leaves the gates of fame open long enough for Andy Pratt's third album, the Arif Mardin produced Resolution, to collect a glowing lead review in Rolling Stone. 
Stephen Holden writes: "By reviving the dream of rock as an art and then reinventing it Pratt has forever changed the face of rock." 
As a career lift off this Rolling Stone review is definitely credibility enhancing and marketing gold. 
Pratt is ready to step up to the big league. 
Backed by a top notch band mix of long time supporters and hot session musicians, including jazz guitar great John Scofield, Pratt has all the musical tools he needs to replicate the soulful Mardin influenced sound on stage. 
Everything should be working. The band is hot, touring in support of the big money acts of the time like Foreigner and The Band. The record get more great reviews, but… for some reason it's not translating into sales.
Now Andy and Bruce's paths start moving in different directions. Bruce overcomes his legal battles, releases 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' and cements his legend status. Resolution and the subsequent Mardin produced Shiver in the Night sink. 
But not without trace. Because Resolution is an album that leaves the few who seem to have heard it touched by, in Jon Landau's words: sounds that purify. 
Years go by, Andy Pratt etches into my psyche as just another rock star who faded away into obscurity; except, his songs stay in my head and every now and then over the next twenty-five years, I occasionally wonder what ever happened to the guy who was going to change the face of rock?
Maybe it's because to a tone deaf three chord wonder Andy Pratt was the everyman rock star; the guy who 'could have been a contender'. Brando with a guitar - Andy Pratt gave it his best shot and still didn't make it. 

The internet is a great tool for agoraphobic writers – spark an interest, hunt it down – email sources – find more sources – write article - resolve issue without leaving the house. So it is that on one of my many cerebral jaunts to avoid actually writing the great Australian novel, I google the name Andy Pratt. 
I'm not expecting a lot. I just want to pass a few minutes discovering what happened to the next big thing; see how he lived his life after fame failed to shine on his parade. I'm anticipating some obscure references to a guy who can still play a decent concert in his home town – or maybe a dentist who lists his five minutes in the rock and roll sun on his AOL personal website. 
What I'm not expecting is Andy Pratt seems to have completely disappeared. 
Insofar as cyber space is concerned, Andy Pratt is Eddie and the Cruisers. He does not exist. Andy Pratt, rock star, effectively ends with Resolution. There's a follow up album, but no grand reviews – Resolution and Andy Pratt seem to have sunk soundlessly into the quicksand of popular culture. 
Everyone is on the internet in some form or another if you want to search hard enough. And I do. There are vague unsubstantiated references to Andy finding God and moving to the Netherlands, but that's as close to an online history as I can find. An alleged Dutch email address for Andy bounces. He does not appear to have settled down to life as a dentist, teacher or former rock star of any kind at all.
Stereotype 114b is in danger of being broken: Rock stars are not supposed to fade away.
I give up the search. Andy is gone, there are other ways to avoid the novel. But then a particularly bad case of writers block (i.e. apathy) causes me to once again type in Pratt musician. A new link leads to an article in the Boston Globe. After 15 years living in Belgium and the Netherlands, fifty-five year old Andy Pratt has returned to the United States and he wants to play music. 
I email the Boston Globe and ask for a contact. Sources are hard to share, I get no reply. I follow up a name mentioned in the article and email Andy's management. Again, they don’t return my emails. 
I don't need a lot of information, just some authoritative comments on how great Resolution was. Someone with music industry credibility to confirm what I and maybe half a dozen seemingly soppy Americans believe that Resolution was indeed one of the great albums and that Andy Pratt deserved his day in the sun. 
Brian Wise, editor of Rhythms Magazine and presenter of 3RRR's 'Off the Record' program is stumped. A font of all knowledge relating to Dylan, Neil Young, Springsteen and others of that era, he cannot recall ever having heard of Andy Pratt. He suggests I give Billy Pinnell a try. 
Billy Pinnell curses me for putting Andy Pratt's name in front of him. He has never heard of Andy, but worse, now he will be compelled to hunt him down and discover this musician who seems to have got away. 
With a heavy duty Pratt jones on his back, Pinnell agrees to help me in my search. Within days he comes back to me with a less than flattering review of Resolution – I refuse to let doubt enter my mind. I send a copy of the album to Billy so he can judge for himself. 
It hasn’t escaped me that perhaps Andy Pratt doesn't want to be found; maybe he was quite happy to walk away from the music business. People change careers every day. But Andy Pratt isn’t just people. Like it or not, Andy Pratt had the misfortune of creating a lost masterpiece. 
Jon Landau was right. Some of us are cursed with the capacity to be eternally touched by magical rock moments. Landau saw Springsteen; A friend watched Lou Reed croon Coney Island Baby at the Palais. Lou's all quiet reflective, singing softly, but he can't beat the ignorant – constant shouts for rock n roll animal – Lou says maybe some other night and walks off. In my case, I saw Chain in the golden era of dual vocalists Phil Manning and Glyn Mason with the steam train rhythm held down by the Big Goose Little Goose rhythm section. 
Magic happens – sometimes it happens only once. Resolution: Produced by Arif Mardin, lately Norah Jones producer, a top band, a collection of classic pop songs – a lead review in Rolling Stone… every element you need to hit the fame game running. And for some reason the game doesn’t welcome you in.
Still people try and get the message out. Larry White, reviewing the album on, says, "Unlike the majority of records 25 years old or more, this album remains as fresh and unique as the day we bought it.
"Arif Mardin did a remarkable job. He matched the heavyweights of New York session musicians with Pratt's voice and piano… soaring, orchestral arrangements of Pratt's richly textured melodies; witty, heartfelt, inspirational, touchingly profound lyrics; and his passionate and powerful singing." 
William Ruhlmann, Rolling Stone Music Guide: "Though it is identifiably a 1970s pop effort… The heart of the record remains Pratt's singing, its apparent delicacy belied by its passion."
I am no closer to finding out where Andy Pratt went? So I ask myself: where did he come from? 
Andy Pratt was never your typical poor boy paid his dues musician. On the contrary, his grandfather was chairman of the Board of the Rockefellers Standard Oil and the founder of the Pratt Foundation. His father was headmaster of the Buckingham, Browne & Nichols School. 
Being financially secure is not always a good thing in the record industry. Hunger can often equal desire and drive. Andy's financial comfort would come back to haunt him with record company concerns that he wasn't hungry enough. 
Pratt released his first album in 1971 – 'Records are like life'. He worked as a sideman playing piano for Odetta and Edgar Winter before returning to the studio to record his second album, this time on Columbia. 
Backed by some of Boston's best rock and jazz musicians, Andy's second album contained the hit single, 'Avenging Annie'. The song is subsequently covered by a number of artists including The Who's Roger Daltrey, gaining Pratt valuable recognition as a songwriter. 
And then ‘Resolution’. The man who is predicted to change the face of rock forever disappears without trace. Andy Pratt did leave the building.
But then, along comes the internet. Amazon Records introduces Reader Reviews. Resolution is consistently reaching five stars. Comments like: "If I had to put a recording in a time capsule to represent the ultimate in artistic quality for pop-rock, this might be it." 
"It will forever be a mystery to me why Andy Pratt was allowed to sink below the horizon and so much of his wonderful and evocative music allowed to disappear."
"Excellent songwriting, immaculate production, and committed performances combine to make this a peak among obscure rock classics." 
The chase has fresh legs. I email the reviewers and ask them what it is about this album and if they by any chance have any contact details for Andy. 
I go back to the promo put out by Andy's management. They won’t talk to me, but perhaps Andy's guitarist, Mark Doyle might. 
Mark Doyle will. "Andy Pratt," Mark says (via email), "is a great artist, a misunderstood genius.
"Resolution had everything going for it - great songs, great artist, great producer. It got a sea of great reviews, we had a great band, and we toured steadily in support of it... I have always been proud of the Resolution album, and have always considered it a lost classic."
Then Mark drops the bombshell that after 25 years Andy Pratt is back in his life and they are recording together. It takes me a day to take this in and reply, asking Mark if there's any way in the world he could help me find Andy's email address. 
Next day I have it. 
To keep up the interest level, I've been listening to Resolution again over and over and I can’t understand why some things go up and some don't. I ring Billy Pinnell and tell him I'm closer than ever, one email away from Andy Pratt. Billy has played the album and he thinks 'If you could see yourself through my eyes' could be a hit today. Well then how come it sank Billy?
Because, Mr Pinnell tells me, in a calm and dignified manner, sometimes there's no reason. Some things just don’t make it.
I can’t accept that life is that simple.
I email Andy Pratt. I ask if he has any thoughts on that period of his life - the Resolution album and Andy Pratt. I ask him what choices he made that may have affected the success of his career. 
Then I pause and ask him if it’s okay if I ask him some questions. 
Next day I get what I take to be a reluctant reply - allright. Send me your questions. 
I'm in direct contact with Andy Pratt – a man who could have been king. What is it that I want to know? 
I want to know what it was like to be so close to… to what? Did he know he was creating something special when he was recording Resolution? Was that the peak? 
I want to know how it felt to get such a major review in Rolling Stone? 
I want to know when he began to realise that the success he maybe thought would follow the favourable reviews was not happening.
Then I want to know what happened next? Where did he go? Why did he go? How could he walk away from teenage heaven?
I explain to Andy that everyone I have asked – from Mark Doyle to reviewers to people who left messages on Amazon – no one of these people can come up with an explanation as to why this album never made it. 
I click on the send button.
Two days later Andy emails me. He's on the road with his band, they're playing in New York next Tuesday – can I make it?  
That's a little difficult. I think I may have left out the part about being from Healesville, Victoria, Australia.
Then, Friday night 11.30, the process of moving one sleeping six year old from couch to bed is interrupted by a ringing mobile phone; a mobile phone with one almost dead battery. 
"Hi, It's Andy Pratt."
Andy Pratt's a guy just like me – no big deal – my mind goes completely blank. The phone is about to die, I have no idea where I left my three pages of questions and I am as speechless as if the voice had said: hey it's Keef. 
The six year old goes back on the couch along with a pleading prayer that he not wake up. I race up to the office, plug the phone into the charger. The computer's on. My fingers jabber across the keyboard trying to find the email with my questions. 
I can’t find it. 
I manage to ask him if he can recall the Resolution period, writing the songs, the sessions. The closest thing I have to a pen is a fat texta. 
Andy remembers being very inspired when writing the songs. Arif Mardin, he says, was a gentleman, great to work with. He was surprised by the positive reviews, even a little frightened. He tells me that the songs were written around 1975, his father had just died and he had gone into a pretty deep depression. 
Why wasn't Resolution a hit? Andy's answer cuts through all the aesthetics of art and hits the button: "There was no single. We toured the album for six months with great players, had big audiences, but there was no hit single – so no money." 
They recorded, Shiver in the Night, but then the well dried up, depression set in again. Andy had what he calls his 'Christian experience'. He spent 15 years in the Netherlands and Belgium. He didn't actually give up music at all. He continued to record Christian based albums and worked as a social worker. 
I ask him how he feels about the suggestion that because he came from a wealthy background he wasn't hungry enough. 
In retrospect, he says, there was some truth in the record company suggestions that he just wasn't hungry enough. But now, at 55, he wants to show he has that hunger, not for money or fame, but to make people happy.
"For a while, I stopped singing a lot of the older songs," he says. "A lot were written about women and relationships and when the relationship ended, it didn't seem right singing the song. 
"Now I realise that the songs are good for people and I love to play them.
Andy tells me he's really enjoying playing now. The New York gigs have gone down well and he'd be interested in coming to Australia, if I knew anyone who could put that together. I keep it to myself that I may well be the only person in Australia who has ever actually heard of Andy Pratt. 
I get off the phone from Andy Pratt, a quiet spoken fifty-five year old man who wants another chance to make people happy. I'm aware that while I'm stuck on how great Resolution is, Andy Pratt has a 'now' that he wants to talk about and a career on the resurrection train. 
I'm thinking that many artists resent the constant reference to their past and the lack of interest in their 'now'. But equally, just as Landau saw the future in Springsteen, a few of us saw the glory of a genuine human soul in Andy Pratt.
The lack of a single can't take that away.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rememberance of Killers past

To the best of my recollection I only ever saw Killer Kowalski pinned twice. And frankly that's at least one time too many.
The first time Kowalski got pinned (For now it's Kowalski, there may come a moment in this recollection when the name Walter is more appropriate, but we will come to that) was the very first episode of World Championship Wrestling on channel 9. There had been other wrestling on channel 7, but channel 9 is where I get hooked. Kowalski is in the ring and Jack Little announces that whoever he is supposed to be fighting has had some kind of hold up and is not there. Kowalski, growls, does whatever, and is about to leave the ring. Then this young guy who has already wrestled, Dale Lewis, comes out and says he'll wrestle Kowalski. So he does and on the very first program ever, Killer Kowalski gets beaten. Who'd have thought.
Kowalksi was the greatest villain, I know I should say heel, but back in the day they were villains. He'd get the claw on and that was it. Pepper Gomez comes out and spends weeks having guys jump on his stomach from on top of ladders to show he's got a cast iron stomach, you can run Pepper, but eventually the Killer caught up with you. I don't think after all that build up you even made it to main event status before he broke you down. I didn't see it, but I heard about it.
Whenever he came out here Kowalski always won the title and always held it for as long as he wanted. He beat Denucci, Mark Lewin, Spiros Arion, Tex McKenzie. Speaking of whom it always bothers me to put Tex in with those boys, he just didn't have it. The old ladies liked him because he was excessively tall and permanently smiling with his 'I got him now Jack' yell before the bulldog headlock, but he couldn't wrestle. I loved it one Sunday when Tex was on his way out and Mitsu Arakawa Who was maybe five foot nothing beat him with a karate chop to the throat.  Seeing that six foot whatever of loud mouthed optimistic joy hit the deck and stay down really made my Sunday.
But back to the matters at hand.
Kowalski turned good at least twice. I believe on the second occasion he came out here and gave an interview, with the friendly line: Please, call me Walter. So, Walter turns good and everyone's happy, except for Bulldog Bob Brown, who wants his evil heel Killer back. And then, right there on TV, Walter is teaming with Mark Lewin against Brown and someone else and in the way of all things bright and beautiful, Lewin accidentally hits his own partner instead of the bad guys. And then, and here I may be being proved a liar and seeing Kowalski pinned three times, because possibly he gets pinned here, but what happens next eradicates that pin. He gets up and he's not happy. He attacks Lewin, beats the crap out of him and praise the lord the Killer is back.
Needless to say every good guy who rates interview time is throwing up his hands and asking; why? How could we not have seen that this would happen. No one is more shocked than junior good guy come Italian replacement for Domenic Denucci, Mario Milano. Mario holds up his hands and also asks why, but also adds, that the Killer had even had dinner at his house and gave no indication that anything crazy like this would occur.
Strange, that is should be Mario throwing up his hands, who knew then that in only a short time later he would be the one who would prove that Kowalsk was indeed mortal. Which leads me to…
The real second time I see Kowalksi get pinned is on a Saturday show from Brisbane, two out of three falls against Mario Milano. Milano must have been getting some kind of massive push because he won; not only does Walter get pinned, but he's an after thought, all the focus is on the winner, Mario Milano. Which caused me to question my entire reason for existence.
I never got to see Kowalksi wrestle live, but if I had I would have liked to have seen him on the first tour of Australia when he feuded with Domenic Denucci.
That is the life I lead.