Love Letter To A Record: Eskimo Joe’s Kav Temperley On Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’

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.

Kav Temperley — Harvest by Neil Young

It’s been so wonderful coming back together this year, wrapped up again in your soothing embrace. Reminds me of old times, and although it all started such a long time ago, each moment that we come back together reveals a new part of yourself to me.

From the opening bar of ‘Out On The Weekend’ to the closing thump and pluck guitar chords of ‘Alabama’, I’m completely immersed in you, even though ‘Heart Of Gold’ is the hit, it is songs like ‘Needle And The Damage Done’ and ‘Old Man’ that really affect me.

I remember the first time you opened yourself up to me… I was only 17 and I had a copy of you on CD. I would sit and listen late at night, out of my mind, comforted by your quiet confidence. I would lie back and listen to the whole album all the way through, staring at the white and blue stars I had spray painted on my old stereo.

I remember one night when I came home all sentimental and wobbly, I was living in a share house with some friends, I had been out drinking in Freo, hanging out in the alfresco part of Gino’s until they turned off the lights. Someone had given me a Valium and I had never taken one before, so being young and dumb I just swallowed up the pill without much of a thought… at some point I must have looked over at my friend he was clearly already under the influence. He swayed for a while with this dreamy smile telling me that if you take a few and stay awake it’s really fun and then he proceeded to fall asleep on the table right in front of me.

A red flag went off in my mind at that point and I decided I had better get home immediately. I don’t really remember the walk home but the next thing I knew I was falling into one of the big lime green velvet arm chairs we had in our lounge room.

My flatmate Sacha came in wearing a dressing gown and asked me what time it was and why I had left the back door open, “I did what?” I said as my head started to swim. I felt the valium mix with the booze in my blood and I felt like I was drifting away on a river downstream, I just wanted someone to cuddle me and wait with me until the feeling passed.

I asked Sacha if she would come over and sit on my lap and I stood up to take my belt off because it was uncomfortable.

I’m not sure what she was thinking at the time, whether she thought I was trying to sleep with her or something but she must have seen the expression on my face, half way between melancholy and elation, maybe she took pity on me but she came over and sat on my lap.

I pressed play on Harvest and together we sank into the music.

‘Out On The Weekend’ kicked in and it was like listening to it for the first time, the song was the same but the music opened up like never before, I heard for the first time how I could get the sound of my new Maton acoustic (which I had just gotten for my 16th birthday) to marry with the sound of a simple bass and kick drum, beating like a heartbeat, I heard how I could use my voice in a subtle and gentle way to get this feeling of melancholy out of my chest, and I heard how the music could be simplistic yet powerful enough to transport you out of this moment and place in time.

At the end of the album, Sacha just got up and went to bed and I wandered off to sleep in my mess.

The next morning, I started to write some brand new songs and I felt like for the first time I was writing the kind of songs the I would want to listen to myself. Songs that were a little more gentle and tapped in to a deeper melancholy in my heart…

Together with my childhood friend Stu, I started playing playing these songs in some of the local cafes in Fremantle, mashing up your beautiful sounds with another album myself and Stu were listening too, Doolittle by Pixies.

Joel got involved and some more sounds and albums came into the mix, which ultimately meant you started to fade in to the background. Some years I would visit you more often than not, but you never seemed to find your way back into the music that I was now making with my band Eskimo Joe.

I even had a romance with your sibling albums After The Gold Rush and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – I thought it was going to be the same, but it never quite connected in that same way that you and I did.

Then one day it all got too much for me, despite loving my band I couldn’t recognise the music I was making anymore, that soothing balm for the ears that you had once showed me felt like it had disappeared, so I suggested to my bandmates that we take some time out to sink our teeth in to some other musical projects.

I wandered around for a while, lost in the world trying out different ideas, once again searching for that feeling of just wanting to sit there holding someone while the music washed over me.

Then one day, I received a record player for my birthday and as soon as I put the needle deep in to your grooves there you were again wrapping me up in that familiar embrace.

But this time around, I felt I could hear so much more, it wasn’t just the hits I wanted to sing along to, because you were back in your rightful place on vinyl. I wasn’t skipping any tracks, even the jack niche moments of ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ and ‘There’s A World’ finally came to life for me.

I still have my Maton that I first wrote my songs for you on, and I’ve used it on every Eskimo Joe record since, but now I also have my 1969 Hofner Beatles bass, and together with some dry and mellow drum sounds I have managed to craft an album that is devoted to you.

It’s called All Your Devotion and I hope that one day in the future some mixed up kid will come home put this album on and feel safe in its embrace just like you did with me.

Yours sincerely,


Kav Temperley’s new solo album ‘All Your Devotion’ is out on Friday, 28th September. Following its release he’ll be hitting the road on a massive Australian tour and you can check out all the details here.

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