Lives changed forever when recently, Terry moved into the flat next door to Doug. Suddenly *#$$^^@!%() street resembled an episode of The Secret Life Of Us as young, upwardly mobile creative types high fived on their way in and out of the building, exchanging startling ideas and ultra-hip party invitations in the process. The hitherto intransigent Ted, an unrepentant late sleeper and lazy arsed, disorganised rabble, was pulled into line. Now, instead of selfishly forcing us to make the annoying and time consuming detour via Middle Park, he was a mere couple of strides across a concrete landing away. Two firm raps on the door of no. 1 coupled with a stern, "Terry, get up you card carrying fuckwit" and the world's greatest half-living bass player is there, wiry body framed in the doorway as he wipes the sleep from his eyes and fumbles with a quiet desperation for a Benson and Hedges Special filter.
The band's timing has increased immeasurably. On their most recent survey, a team of independent productivity auditors reported that our punctuality had improved by 68% since Terri with an i moved house. Armed with this encouraging news, we made preparations to fly to Brisbane at the sickening time of 6.15am.
We had an old fashioned sleepover. The uncompromisingly early kick off would have had Doctor and I hauling our sulky arses into the XF Falcon at near enough to 3.30 am if we were to make the airport with sufficient time to load both ourselves and several hundredweight of gear into the Boeing breakfast sausage bound for QLD. We neatly sidestepped this unpalatable prospect by inviting ourselves wholesale to spend the night on the floor in Doug's commodious lounge room. Before long it was a slumber party, equal in debauchery to anything Cindy Brady had in her time. Giggling like teenagers, frolicking in pyjamas and pillow fighting, we eventually wore ourselves out and enjoyed 3 of the most solid hours of REM sleep this side of a general anaesthetic.
The astute amongst you will already be pondering the circumstances under which 4 deified rock stars in the prime of their lives and at the peak of their powers would be submitting to this kind of pre-dawn wake up call. The clues stood cold and disregarded on the forbidding Tullamarine tarmac as we pulled into the airport precinct. Several disused Ansett jets sat forlornly in the grey half-light of the early morning. Where once friendly and accommodating crews were straightening in-flight magazines and stowing hot trays of food in preparation for our imminent arrival, now stood lonely Easter Island statues, staring blankly at a future they could have no part of. A cold winter breeze rustled the chipped and scuffed Platinum Frequent Flyer tags that still hung to our bags like doomed rockclimbers clinging to a scree slope in a landslide. A collection of old Ansett Fragile stickers and Bend Your Knees - Heavy Weight tags littered our guitar cases like plastic cups on the floor after a great party. All useless now. Dead relics, museum pieces, trivia exhibits. The comparisons to our own circumstances were discomforting and we hastened quickly to the Virgin Blue Check in area.
Excess baggage is the bane of the travelling musician. Apart from the monstrous amount of Frequent Flyer points that we flushed down the toilet in the Ansett purge, the next biggest problem facing us was the potential for a drastic increase in our transport bills. Over time Ansett had forged for itself a place in the music industry as the carrier of choice, the airline most likely to pass a sympathetic eye over truckloads of heavy musical equipment and allow it onto the plane unencumbered by excess baggage charges. Now in the Grand Old Lady's place sits a young usurper; an ultra-competitive, cut price, budget, tight arsed bare bones operation airline, determined to bleed every cent they've surrendered on their stupidly discounted flights back out of their gullible clientele.
We had taken the precaution of securing a medium-sized bank loan in the days leading up to the flight in preparation for what we felt convinced would be excess baggage charges on a scale to rival the GDP of a small African country. Entering the terminal, we joined a small queue and began nervously eyeing the check-in staff, sizing up our quarry like lions on a herd of antelope, looking for the weak one. Experience has repeatedly borne out that middle aged men remain the most steadfastly difficult operatives to sway around to a rock band's way of thinking on the matter of excess baggage. What a piece of luck then that Virgin has pitched its entire operation at the young, budget-conscious end of the market! They've backed this up by employing staff that look barely out of kindergarten. These well-groomed kids were only too happy to quickly usher the 4 aged and catatonic has beens who were despoiling the youthful ambience of their Check-in area into relative obscurity at the back of the departure lounge.
Once aboard the plane we were crammed tighter than pages in a book into seating arrangements that didn't appear to have been altered since Ripley's Amazing Dwarf Show last toured the country. Scanning the plane expectantly, all we saw were bare panels where once nestled video screens, overhead lockers empty of the small pillows once provided for the weary traveller and laminated menus carefully detailing the prices of hitherto complimentary airline staples like coffee and tea. The flight attendants put on the kind of fatalistic safety demonstration that had me looking around to see in what aisle the terrorists were sitting. The relaxed presentation did, however, convey a refreshing honesty rarely exhibited by the airline industry. The message was clear: We don't expect this flight to strike any trouble but hey, if it does, there's fuck all any of us are going to be able to do about it. I sank back into my chair - a journey of about 3 millimetres - and realised I was hungry. Naturally, there was no free catering although this didn't prove to be a problem as I was able to breakfast heartily, thanks to the woman in front of me whose hair spent half of the flight in my mouth. Looking outside I saw some engineers wave the smell of oily rag in front of the planes engines and shortly afterwards we were heading skyward.
What can I say about Queensland that hasn't already been said by any of a number of fawning musicians desperate to ingratiate themselves into the hearts of its inhabitants? We found the weather somewhat overcast but the hospitality shone hotter than a red giant star down to the last of its hydrogen reserves. Each of the hire equipment vendors that we visited had our orders ready for dispatch upon our arrival, while the hotel checked us in early with a minimum of fuss. Our 2 bedroom apartment came with only 3 beds - a double and 2 singles - so I took the rollaway with which reception obligingly furnished us and wedged it into a small opening between the wardrobe and the foot of Doctor's bed. There I lay down to nap like a loyal dog at his master's feet until our late afternoon soundcheck appointment.
After the show the other guys went upstairs to the Anyone's room while I (footage missing - see Olde Faithfulle in Shred#6).
Saturday morning found me locked in a grim battle with mortality as I hauled my skeletal frame up and down the Fortitude Valley civic pool in the hopeless quest for eternal life. The 3 missed calls that greeted the cessation of my aquatic activities were from Doug and Doctor, impatient as to news of my whereabouts and hungry for sustenance. I had the eggs, oven roasted tomato, polenta and spinach, Doug and Dot had the scrambled tofu while Terry had the warm stench of foetid body odour, ensconced like a fuzzy caterpillar in the cloying cocoon of his bed back at the hotel. Later that evening we played a show on the Gold Coast in front of fewer people than we'd left back in Brisbane at the hotel reception.
During the week we played a special show in front of 2000 beer-soaked Uni. students at QBH nightclub in Melbourne. The evening was sponsored by Carlton and United Breweries in a philanthropic attempt on the company's part to encourage more young people to take up binge drinking. Also on the bill were our colleagues Motorace - yet another band to well and truly leave us in their dust. Barely 2 years ago the young chart toppers supported us on one of our unforgettable cross country expeditions and our differing fortunes over the ensuing 24 months were brought into stark relief as we hurried to clear the stage of our equipment under the pressure of the headliner's imminent arrival.
An interesting sideshow developed downstairs when Motorace's Patrick confronted Terry about a comment attributed to the backpedaling bassist in an article in that week's street press. Hothead Ted, waffling irrelevantly about the current lack of truly destructive rock stars in the mould of Led Zeppelin, mentioned absently that he couldn't see someone like Patrick taking to his hotel room with a 2-stroke chainsaw. While it was obvious that no offence had been intended, it was enjoyable imagining T squirming to extricate himself from underneath the blowtorch of awkwardness as the subject of his closely documented reverie good naturedly took him to task. Afterwards, Terry and Doug came close to blows on the street outside the gig. Ted, never one to let a free beer go begging, emptied a keyboard case of its keyboard, accidentally smashing Doug in the face with it in the process, and sprinted backstage to fill it with the remnants of the rider still quietly cooling in the dressing room fridge. Meanwhile the rest of us loaded the band's entire equipment inventory through scores of inebriated students with nary a finger lifted by the Beer Hunter. Resolute in the face of a combined verbal assault from his bandmates, Terry was quick to defend his overarching selfishness as an act of unrewarded altruism. Three small bottles of mineral water, drowning amongst a sea of green VB cans, languished hopefully in the bottom of the case as exhibit A for the defence. None of us would go thirsty that week!