"CRYING IN THE CHAPEL"
1990 ARIA "Single of the Year"
From 1982-89 I ran a 16 track-recording studio at 9 Kings Lane Darlinghurst not surprisingly called 'KINGS LANE STUDIO'. The studio was built inside two old cold storage rooms once owned by Sergeant's Bakery. They were solid concrete bunkers dug into the hillside near the corner of Liverpool and Bourke Streets in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.
The first band ever to use the studio was a trio called Viola Dana, which consisted of Peter Blakely - vocal/guitar, Mal Green (ex-Split Enz) on drums, and Chris Bailey (ex-Angels) on bass. I ended up being their front of house sound guy for a few shows, the first one being at The Astra Hotel over looking Bondi Beach and the last one was somewhere with Billy Thorpe who I got to meet and have a chat to backstage. I seem to remember there was a lot of swearing and cussing involved. Viola Dana played the first song I heard Peter sing called "Who Let The Secret out". Here is a version recorded five years later on the TV show "Rock Arena".
"WHO LET MY SECRET OUT"
"Rock Arena" TV special from 1987 with Wendy Matthews on vocals, Mark Punch on guitar, Paul Abrahams on bass guitar, Peter Kekel on keyboards, Hughie Benjamin on drums.
Over the years, KINGS LANE STUDIO turned out to be a hot bed of creativity and experimentation but none were more creative or experimentation-prone than Peter Blakely.
Peter didn't so much "write" songs as attempt to summon them up. He was always searching for some kind of pure, inspired, timeless, moment of truth. Hundreds, maybe thousands of ideas were abandoned as unworthy before they were even given a chance. Often they were the best musical ideas I had ever heard. (or have heard since for that matter.)
He looked disdainfully at preconceived lyrics and song ideas as phoney. Unless something was born "fully formed" as it were, he didn't trust it. In fact the sound of a certain word being sung was far more important to him than what it meant literally. I knew what he meant.. (Years later I read some James Joyce and realized he did a similar sort of thing in his way.)
We once spent a whole night creating a lyric sheet by deciphering some of the inspired gobbledy gook he'd sung onto a record called "Vicious". The crazy thing is than when we had assembled all the lyrics (from finding the closest word to the sound he had made), blow me down if they didn't make sense! Perfect sense! In fact a damn fine set of lyrics. Poetry really!
One song I spent what seemed like an eternity on trying to record with him was, "Something I That I Can Do (Better Than Anyone)". Embarrassing though it is now, I remember turfing him out of the studio while I did the bass.
"SOMETHING I CAN DO (BETTER THAN ANYONE)"
"Rock Arena" TV special from 1987 with Wendy Matthews on vocals, Mark Punch on guitar, Paul Abrahams on bass guitar, Peter Kekel on keyboards, Hughie Benjamin on drums
Although around this time we were briefly in THE ROCKMELONS together, we had another band which was an entirely different proposition...
L-R Peter Blakely, Geoffrey Stapleton and Paul Abrahams
Peter Blakely's career really took off in the late eighties culminating in his ARIA "Single Of The Year" in 1989 with "Crying In The Chapel", but back in 1984 we had a little rockabilly band called RAT-TAT-TAT that really rocked.
Peter on vocals and guitar and Paul Abrahams (formerly of The Reels) played snare and hi-hat. I played the bass guitar, (and a small electronic foot pedal that triggered a bass drum sound).
There was a very hip rockabilly renaissance happening in town and we had a regular Friday night gig at the "King Arthurs Court" hotel on the corner of Brougham St. and Williams Street in Kings Cross, Sydney. We also had Sunday afternoons at the Kings Cross Hotel (opposite The Coca Cola sign).
We rocked hard at that point, with Peter out front, totally lost in his performance doing almost punk versions of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", "That's Alright Mama" and "Train" with that voice.. Often as not the little PA he'd be singing through would be completely distorted, guitar out of tune, mayhem, with Paul and I looking at each other knowing that this was something pretty damn special... in fact, the real thing.
We would visit the "St Vincent De Paul" clothes depot in Wooloomooloo and find old suits that were cool. It became part of the look. Peter would sometimes wear leather shoes with no socks and it looked so uncomfortable. Funny what you remember.
We recorded a song called "Imagination" with a clip that mysteriously disappeared into the ether and played our last show at a hotel on the corner of Broadway and City Rd, Sydney. It was a big night put on to commemerate Elvis Presley's birthday. A fitting finale.
Around 1986, Peter released a single called "Ain't That Peculiar" a cover of the old soul classic, which was produced by Ricky Fatar. I was the drummer in the film clip and mimed Ricky's drums. It was a riotous day of shooting in a church hall on Oxford St in Paddington, Sydney. I seem to remember a lady called Cathy Azzopardi, who had recently appeared in Playboy magazine, was one of the backup singers. I wish I had a video of it!
I did a lot of recording with Peter through out the 1980's, probably more than with any one else. I don't think I was ever paid for a single session, at least in monetary terms, but I've never had so many laughs. Peter was the funniest person I've ever met...but he could become cold and dismissive if it so took him.
As it turned out it was with Chris Betro, a young engineer that came to work at Kings Lane who Peter had enlisted to help "push the envelope", that he demoed five songs that included "Crying In The Chapel" which would later go all the way to number one.
The Blind Unicorn
I painted this picture of Peter (above) at my flat in Macleay St., Kings Cross Sydney in 1991. He would drop by on his promo trips back to Australia. I remember working on these two paintings (left) while Peter was around. He was very subversive but very inspiring.
The last performance I ever did with Peter was playing keyboards with his band "The Resurrection" (a name I'd come up with) supporting Eric Clapton at the The Sydney Entertainment centre. I remember Billy Joel was back stage at that show and I over heard him say to some one as we passed "Is that Peter Blakely?" I knew then that Peter was destined for America.
"BYE BYE BABY"
"Rock Arena" TV special from 1987 with Wendy Matthews on backing vocals, Mark Punch on guitar, Paul Abrahams on bass guitar, Peter Kekel on keyboards, Hughie Benjamin on drums
|This 1987 cover was one of Peter's own oil paintings and as such, quite rare. I'm fortunate enough to own the original.|