I've measured out my life in rolls of gaffa tape. Like primitive notches ground into the wall of a Neanderthal cave these totems have been a calendar, carefully auditing the cycle of time's inexorable passage. The opening of each new roll is greeted like the arrival of the winter solstice to an early agrarian society. As sure as the seasons change, the gigs would be booked and the rolls exhausted. And then we would buy more. And soon there wouldn't be a venue left in the country where we hadn't left our mark, our patch of gaffa sticking to the stage like dog's piss to a lamppost. Birth; death; regeneration. There were bad gigs but they were mere droughts on the endless merry-go-round of life. As surely as the rains would again one day fall, there would be another show to drive to, more gear to set up and more leads to tape down securely to the stage ensuring that no one would trip and fall during the performance thus raising the possibility of an ugly internecine legal battle between disaffected band members.
Paradoxically the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that no life loop is complete - there is always entropy. Lines die out, cycles end. New bands have moved from the great forests and on to the savannah and then out of Africa. We are at a genealogical cul de sac; a branch of the tree of man destined to whither and fall.
Still, there's not much point dwelling on it. June 23 marked our 15th anniversary and we were determined to celebrate. Andy Warhol famously said that one day everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. We've spent 15 years in search of our quarter of an hour and are starting to wonder whether Andy's now hackneyed quote wasn't just another Campbell's soup can sent out to fool us into thinking he was a genius. 15 years makes 5475 days - not factoring in leap years - spent in a restless quest for fulfilment. A date this auspicious could not be allowed to pass unrecorded. We hunkered down and began crafting an exclusive A-list of distinguished guests without whose presence our gala function could not possibly hope to survive.
One by one the RSVPs rolled in; hand signed acceptances from the most eminent personages in the world of business, entertainment, sport and celebrity gardening. They were sending them back in asbestos-lined envelopes, so hot were the tickets. Smoke alarms activated in Australia Post mailrooms and the CFA warned ominously that bushfire season had arrived early this year.
Then, in a stunning volte-face we rescinded our offer of hospitality. One by one we culled marquee personalities like shooting roos on an army base with a 306. Sickened by the obsequious gratitude of these fawning sycophants, we took out advertisements in all the major daily newspapers summarily dis-inviting several generations of this country's finest achievers. I was revisited by my father's words on the morning of my 18th birthday. "Son", he'd said, snaking a patrician arm around my young shoulders. "When entertaining, anything more than could comfortably fit into a lunar module for both the outward and return journeys on an Apollo mission is a crowd". Though disappointed at missing his promised to birds and bees speech, I never forgot his words.
The mathematically astute will have noted instantly that there are 4 members in the Fauves and the lunar module risked overcrowding. We, however, neglected to do a head count until after everyone had arrived and by then it seemed churlish to send someone home.
In the weeks leading up to the event I agonised over an appropriate menu for dinner. Italian, Japanese, Malaysian, New Romantic - all seemed like drooping heads on the Hydra of Modern Australian cuisine. I risked leaving my guests looking like the cameramen eating the tepid leftovers of a Jamie Oliver television shoot. In the end I settled on an Austro-Hungarian Empire tapas theme, tinged with a Franco-Prussian take on the whole Cuban ceviche thing. Roughly translated, this meant everything I served would have an apple in its mouth.
With hindsight, I may have over-catered. The cookbook I used gave ingredients only in quantities designed to serve the court of Albert, count of Hapsburg. Tables groaned under bounteous gifts of wild boar and swan, goose fat, haunches of dungeon-dried vole and roadside greens sourced from major European thoroughfares of the 12th century.
Lips were smacked like bottoms at a gay leather night as my colleagues and I settled into our celebratory repast. We drank several draughts of top vintage mead in toast, clinking our goblets together in a crystalline symphony of celebration. Upon carving the meat we discovered it partially spoiled but I salted it down and sent everyone home with sizeable packets of jerky wrapped in a paper serviette. Nothing could sour the mood and, as the drink flowed, we grew ever more loquacious. One by one my guests took the floor to rhapsodise misty-eyed upon the magnitude of our achievement.
At last it was my turn. "The achieve of, the mastery of the thing…", I began grandiloquently. I was reworking an old Gerard Manley Hopkins poem I remembered studying at uni. It was contextually dubious but I thought a challenge to its relevance unlikely. "Wasn't he talking about a bird?", someone challenged, cutting short my rhetorical flourish. "Why yes", I smiled awkwardly. "How stupid of me". I quickly changed the topic and sought to cover my embarrassment with a searing critique of 40 years of Australian rock.
Despite the momentary distraction the evening afforded, our immediate future remained disconcertingly unresolved. With one album left on our recording contract, we were but humble vassals entreating the patronage of our feudal overlords, in limbo awaiting their decision on our future. The royalty statements clearly showed that our tithes had not constituted sufficient tribute and that homage must be paid forthwith.
Across the 15-year journey the gods have remained largely on our side. Before making the journey to Shock record's head office we deemed it prudent to ensure that the status quo was maintained. It was obvious that a virgin rock band would need to be sacrificed.
In a dressing room at a local Battle of the bands night we waited as the excited contestants finished their performance and made their way backstage. Immediately recognising us as office bearers of exalted rank, the breathless ingénues fell upon us, eager that any good fortune attached to our aura should radiate upon them. We listened patiently as they gushed before selecting a particularly vulnerable looking 3 piece and ushering them outside. Once in the frosty evening air we handed them several grams of high-grade heroin and explained its purpose. Speaking in turn, we laid out a comprehensive argument to the effect that their long-term prospects for success were pathetically small. Far better to skip the pointless diversion into music and jump straight to hardcore drug addiction, we continued. By the time we had finished our lesson the band was dispirited and broken and the skies overhead were already echoing with the sound of thunder. The gods were pleased.
In fact so pleased were the masters of the firmament that they lined the roads out to Northcote, giving us a ticker tape parade as inspiration for the meeting that would determine our future. Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter; everyone from the great monotheistic religions - they were all there, united as one great omniscient force for the betterment of our humble corporeal endeavours. Several of the female deities had dressed themselves in cheerleader outfits, leading a raucous chorus of encouragement. "Give me an F", they shouted, waving Pom poms and singing as though performing in some kind of divine eisteddfod. "Give me an A, Give me a U. Give me a V. Give me an E, Give me an S…FORVES!!"
Notwithstanding the fact that the gods didn't know how to pronounce our name, we had drawn great strength from our invocations. We took pause at the front door to the building and reviewed our plan. It involved a Troy-like siege, a stunning heist at whose denouement we planned to make off with a reinvigorated recording deal like Homer's Greeks with the famous Helen. To this end we each assumed a role. "Doctor, you'll be an Achilles", I whispered as we drew in close around one another. He seemed hurt. "Well I may as well stay in the car then, if that's how you feel about it". He made to leave. "Shit", I cursed, running after him. "I meant Achilles. You'll be Achilles. There shouldn't have been an an there". He seemed unconvinced. "Forget all that heel shit Doctor, Achilles was an exceptionally brave warrior". Doctor brightened somewhat and I turned to the others, this time choosing my words carefully. "Ted, you're Odysseus". I could tell straight away Ted understood the implications of his role and the trust I was placing in him. He said nothing but returned my questioning stare with eyes full of gratitude. "Doug…" "Don't tell me", he interrupted. "Agamemnon". "Why yes", I replied, surprised at his prescience. "How did you know". "I always get Agamemnon in these Homeric-raid-on-the-record company reworkings". I made to demure and was once again forestalled. "Don't worry, you can save your 'he was an exceptionally brave warrior' spiel. It's cool. I'll be Agamemnon".
At this point my knowledge of Ancient Greek characters ran out and I hastily rummaged through a threadbare catalogue of Roman warriors before deciding that I would be that guy that Russell Crowe played in Gladiator. A shiver of discontent ran round our party but my hubris remained unremarked upon. Only the preening arrogance of a career frontman could play Russell Crowe among the cast of the Iliad.
Our elaborate preparations proved unnecessary. After a short greeting in the foyer we repaired to the boardroom whereupon a brief meeting ensued. The details of this contretemps must of course remain highly confidential. The Official Secrets Act prevents me from talking about proceedings in anything but the vaguest, most general of terms. Naturally I took minutes and these will appear in my much anticipated hagiography - "Preparations for Death: A life spent reconciling the inevitable" -after having served their mandatory 30 year embargo. Having already achieved everything I'm likely to in this life, I've been afforded the luxury of writing my memoirs long in advance of their proposed publication. All that remains is for me to pen a brief summation at the end of the next 30 years.
Despite the strict cloak of secrecy, I am at liberty to reveal that our generous benefactor, Shock records, extended our line of credit. In short, we were commissioned to record another album. Never in all my years of attending such meetings have I experienced one that came to the point so quickly, dealt with the matters at hand with such efficiency and resulted in so positive an outcome. As the sliding doors swept gracefully apart, beckoning us into the quickening evening, we shared an elation unlike anything we'd felt for years.
We had lived the weeks preceding the fateful meeting with a grim, stoic fatalism, determined that, regardless of its outcome, we would push on. To this end we worked solidly on rehearsing new songs. With my parents on leave in sunnier climes, we took over the west wing of Brideshead, their winter residence, turning the drawing rooms and salons of the stately manor into a cosy rehearsal space. Several RAAF squadrons commandeered the Cox family seat upon the outbreak of World War 2 and still occupied its dusty recesses, unaware that their raison d'etre had long since expired. The most pliant left with the promise of tickets to our upcoming tour of mainland Australia's military bases, while the more intractable were coaxed away with news that the Japanese were coming.
Several months of regular practice had left us calloused and hardened, pinched and toughened - the Fauves, indubitably, yet somehow changed. This otherness manifested itself in curious ways. We were each, for instance, now sporting tattoos that mixed maritime images - anchors, large breasted mermaids and stylised tridents - with poorly rendered love hearts dedicated to our mothers. Rehearsal raised many deeply Freudian issues and one by one we dealt with them in the search for a transcendental muse that would work well in compact disc format and sound good on the radio.
Unfortunately, momentum soon ground to a halt when the Musician's Union called a wildcat strike. The chick from The Block had put out an album that went top 10 without ever once wearing a hard hat on the set of the show. It soon emerged that a host of other breaches had taken place - success without paying her dues, working on despite there being more than 2 drops of rain on her recording contract - major infractions of award conditions. While a majority of the big bands are on enterprise bargaining agreements with their record companies, we were left with no option. It was tools down and off to the picket line. We were out.
It was a costly few weeks that set us back badly. By the time the strike was over our urgency had evaporated. We had our record deal and complacency had set in like gangrene into a broken leg.
Endeavouring to relaunch our campaign I visited Doctor's place for a demo session. It was Foundation weekend in the AFL and Doctor obliged by dressing his eldest son in a pristine, straight out of the plastic, vintage South Melbourne jumper. Though having already brainwashed his boy into a lifetime's support for Hawthorn, Doctor has a fine sense of tradition and leapt eagerly into the spirit. In long sleeved woollen jumper with old-style cuffs and magisterial collar, Harper was a youthful crusader, a six-year-old Knight of the Templar; the red blood of the martyr superimposed on the white of the chaste. Inspired, we went out the back for a kick, returning inside full of enthusiasm for the demos we would make a start on tomorrow.
But as John Lennon once said, Tomorrow never knows. Claiming to have been left out of the loop, Tomorrow pleaded a prior engagement and stood us up. With his diary already booked well beyond Christmas, he offered us an appointment in early March. We said thanks but no thanks and called Yesterday who shuffled a couple of things and generously welcomed us back.