Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Augie March’s Glenn Richards: John Cale – Paris 1919
A few years ago my band and I were in Boulder Colorado to meet with our local management and play a couple of shows, one of which was a live-to-radio in front of a full house at the Boulder Theatre alongside John Cale and his band at the time. Suffering from a mean cold and struggling to breathe in the warmed-up high altitude, I had opted for a suit with a beanie, as good a look for radio as any. Already defeated by the circumstances and unable to reverse any of the decisions that had led me to this pass, not least the beanie given the month-of-horrors bird nest underneath, I was ill prepared to greet Mr. Cale. Which was fortunate, as he’d already burst into our dressing room and assailed me with several demands disguised as suggestions in a gruff – aren’t they all gruff? – Welsh rumble. “So Glenn, you’ve got that nice voice, very lovely and all the words and that, so what you’d like to do is a bit of the ‘vamping’ while the lady announces me, bit of the improv, you know the vamping while she’s talking shit about me and I’ll play the music, just do the singing and the vamping…yeah?”
“Yeah…I’m a bit sick, I haven’t slept for–”
“And here’s a Modern Lovers song, can you learn this one and I want you to sing this verse and take a solo here, yeah?”
The rest is eternal fodder for my band, who I could see a few rows back laughing hysterically as I, consciousness teetering, a stream of virulent water running from all of my nostrils, a fever sweat making of my ill-considered outfit a sartorial pesthouse, did what I had only done previously when among friends and family and mocking that scatty jazz singer style. Literally singing “dee doo dee doo, wah deeoo ooh”, then mumbling some stream of stuff about viruses and dying in the back of a brown van in Dakota, dun coloured mushroom thunderhead with two vicious forking fangs of lightning piercing my small Australian soul and trapping it in those badlands. All they heard was “dee doo dee wah”. The announcing lady side-eyed me more than twice, and then gave me the full stare, disbelief, “what are you doing!?” Cale watched on from the shadows, grinning like a handsome orc who’d just out-clevered an ailing hobbit.
Paris 1919 by John Cale is, nonetheless, one of my all time favourite records. I listen to it in the airplane on my way home from the job, it’s a reminder to me, finding now that I struggle to listen to virtually any human voice engaged in the act of straining, strangling, elevating to absurdity, SINGING – (please stop singing, you too Glenn) – that a songwriter can make a work of art that will transcend the smallness of the present in which it was created and that despite most evidence to the contrary, it is worth it to insist on intelligence and long, deep feeling. The rest is soiled fairy floss and accounting.
“It’s the customary thing to say or do
To a disappointed proud man in his grief
And on Fridays she’d be there
And on Wednesday not at all
Just casually appearing from the clock across the hall
You’re a ghost la la la”
John Cale, ‘Paris 1919’
In truth, John and his band were genuinely sweet, friendly and encouraging people, and I prize this memory very highly, probably for the richness and redolence of it’s humiliation, as much for the opportunity to meet one of the great artists of the last century.
Some cafe in Melbourne, Feb 18
Augie March’s new album ‘Bootikins’ is due out this Friday, 23rd February. Pre-order it right here.
The band will also be performing the album live and in full at at Thornbury Theatre’s Velvet Room that night.