TEENAGE KICKS

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Hello. My name is Andy, and I am ‘in’ the music industry. When people say that, it generally means that they were not good enough to actually play music very well, so settled for telling other people how they think they should do it. Morrisey once said words to the effect that ‘The music industry is a horrible place, full of bitter ex-bass players’ and I have to confess that the Mancuinan master has pithily summarised the general lay of the land there.  His cutting overview of the career path taken by many of us on the shadowy fringes of the entertainment world is spot on. A rush and a push, and the land is ours.

What I do like very much, in addition to music, is football.

During my boyhood and the early part of my adolescence, the lure of football – ‘Aussie Rules’ as it was popularly known at the time – was so strong I thought about little else. I played it, watched it, read about it, and dreamed about it. Gradually, however, that obsession started to fade. A new interest started to jostle for space in my awkward teenage consciousness – music.

When it’s impact came, it came with a mighty force and completely swept me up. The desire to play football started to give way to the idea that playing guitar, writing songs, and being part of a gang – as opposed to a team – started to take over. Listening to records started to become as revelatory to me as watching Peter Daicos kick a goal from an impossible angle had been. Wrapping sore hands around a barre chord for hours at a time overtook practicing taking speccies in the backyard.  I started to move on from one love to another, and in the way that a single passion becomes all-consuming at that time of life, music became my central focus. Poor football was very quickly left neglected, standing at the bus stop in the rain as Music and I drove past, laughing at our own private jokes and smoking our sophisticated cigarettes. I barely even noticed my former loyal companion standing dripping wet and rejected in our wake.  It was poor form.

What both football and music offered, were, I think, remarkably similar. There is poetry in both of them, as well as a raw, uncontrollable rush that you can’t rationalise when you’re caught up within them, perhaps the most beautiful part of both pursuits. When your team runs out on to the field or your favourite band walk on stage, sometimes you feel as if you might explode with happiness – or excitement, or dread, or nerves, or any one of a multitude of feelings and emotions. At those times, you really are living in the moment. The mundane aspects of daily life dissolve. Is it pretentious to call them both a form of meditation? If it is, who cares? When we’re experiencing those feelings, it’s incredible, and more often that not it’s only in re-emerging into the real world and again noticing our immediate surroundings – the ground, the lounge room, the venue – that we realise that we have been transported thus.

There is a nostalgia that’s attached to both music and footy for me that is part joy, part sorrow. I guess that’s what nostalgia is. A black and white TV playing the 1977 tied grand final between Collingwood and North Melbourne; John Paul Young on Countdown; standing with my Dad, watching the first grade games in Canberra on cold Sunday afternoons; my older brothers’ guitars leaning up against their bedroom walls; men standing on the fence smoking Winfields, wearing lumber jackets and drinking tinnies; women up in the stands with tartan thermoses, drinking coffee, watching their sons and brothers, blankets over knees; designing album covers for my first band before we could actually play a note; cars parked around the boundary, flashing their lights as Cowboy Neale kicked another bag on some hapless stripling; trying to see the other end of the ground on a foggy morning, hands too frozen to hold a mark; it’s all tied in together.

When I stopped playing football in my late teens it was partly because at that age, at that time, you had to align yourself with one tribe or the other. You had to state your position. You couldn’t be a footballer and play music. You couldn’t be a musician and play football. You couldn’t even like it. You were against it. ‘Bloody sport’ the rockers, mods and skins would say. ‘Bloody weirdos’ the sportos would say.  In truth, they used even stronger language.

When I still had a foot in both camps I clearly remember being surprised, then horrified at running unexpectedly into a member of my footy team at the bus interchange after school.  For ten minutes or so, as we spoke, I searched for ever more ridiculous ways to cover my left ear with my hand to hide my ear-ring – a clear sign in those days that I must be a pansy. The fact that I fancied myself as a spot-faced, curly-mulleted version of Keith Richards wearing orthodontic braces, would not, I felt sure at the time, have washed with Mike the ruckman. At the least, I felt that the discovery of a pierced ear would lead to a bashing. At the very worst I knew it meant I would never again be trusted as a viable option on the forward line, even if I was standing in space calling for the ball with a sure fire goal the end result.

By my early ‘twenties, as the odd useful insight started to occasionally make it’s way into my head, I started to miss football, and I drifted casually at first, then much more seriously back to my love of the game. I was happy to discover that this time around, it’s re-introduction as an important part of my life didn’t mean other things had to be sacrificed. Music was still central to everything, but there was still plenty of room for football, books, movies, and relationships as well.

As I entered ‘proper’ adulthood, managing bands and having a record label miraculously turned into an actual career. I couldn’t believe my luck. I also started to notice how many conversations I had with friends and contemporaries in the music caper that would start with a chat about the footy before moving on to music, and then the  business at hand. Touring overseas with bands during September meant that the touring party’s main concerns revolved around where each show was on the day of finals, what the time difference was, and in pre- internet streaming days, where the game could be viewed. When one of the bands we managed played at the Grand Final (as a band I mean, not, you know, IN the grand final), for every other incredible experience I had been lucky enough to have over the years, standing in the race as the two teams ran out gave me a thrill that was straight out of the childhood dream file.

I noticed that when footballers and other sporting luminaries met their favourite musicians, the respect and admiration between both parties was incredibly genuine. To a musician, the feats that these athletes performed on the field in front of thousands of people each week seemed incredible and untouchable. Suprisingly, to these extremely talented athletes, the feeling was usually mutual. ‘It’s just what we do’ the musicians would say. ‘It’s just what we do’ the footballers would say. Turns out that what they both do, gives a lot of people a lot of pleasure, and charts their lives.

It strikes me that for a lot of people, music and footy are somehow tied together in their lives.  For some, the connection is tenuous, for others central. Some might dip in and out of both, others may see them as essential to their wellbeing and happiness – or misery in some cases. Whatever the case, they both mean something to a lot of people. This site is meant as a kind of experiment where ideas and stories about both can be aired, sometimes together, sometimes separately.  Perhaps to an outsider it seems a bit frivolous to consider both music and footy as some kind of high art and central to the way we understand our own culture. It seems strange to say that writing songs or kicking a ball can define us, but for some of us, they do.

Like pretty much everyone I know who shares a love of the indigenous game and the music caper, a lot of my childhood and teenage childhood memories are bound up in these two pursuits. To this day, as a grown man, I still don’t really know how either of them work. For all of the endless analysis afforded to both these days, I still can’t quite see the levers. I hope I never will.

AK

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