Celebrating the sound of a generation. A special trip to see the band that shaped our young lives.

January 14, 2014

I first heard them in Steve’s garage. He’d turned it into his pad. It was the coolest place I knew. Except for Smithy’s garage. That had been turned into his pad. He had a fridge.

At sixteen, we were easily impressed. We thought we were so hip. If only we knew.

While our clothes may have let us down, my mate’s choice in music was impeccable. We dined out on The Beach Boys, and Australian Crawl, and Steve Miller band. The Mentals and the Doors were on high rotation on his ripper record player. The neighbours knew all about it.

One afternoon, he introduced me to another band. One that would send me soaring to places I’d never been.

They were a bunch of good ol’ boys with a unique country rock sound, out of the US West Coast. The Eagles.

What I recall from way back then, was the amazing harmonies. And guitar work that dazzled.

We would buy their new albums, and give them priority airtime in the garage. Any female visitors snuck in were stuck with Don Henley and Glenn Frey as well as us. Fair to say, few of them shared our devotion. Or stayed past song one.

Hotel California. C’mon, sing it with me now. You all know the words. Take It Easy. Life in The Fast Lane. And The Long Run. Our favourite.

As we got older and went our separate ways, those melodies stayed with us. Lines that bonded us. And described our journey.

We would catch up whenever we could, and dust off those tunes over cool drinks. We knew most of the lyrics. And would belt them out.

Others shook their heads. Our boys are an acquired taste apparently. That’s ok. Each to his own.

A few years back, they dragged their millionaire butts to Brisbane. What a treat. I got to do a story on my idols.

Cameraman Lukey and I managed to snag seats. What a show. Luke is the coolest kid in the class. I thought he might have fallen asleep. Instead, he loved it. Knew every song.

They made a DVD from the Melbourne concert. I have played it one thousand times. Usually late at night. With glass in hand.

They’ve been going for more than forty years this mob. And now, I’m going to visit them. Off to LA to see them in concert. Possibly for the last time. They could be in rocking chairs.

If you’re an American, going to the Friday night show at The Forum, keep an eye out for the excited Aussie. I’ll be easy to pick. Off-key, and mangling a lyric or two. It didn’t matter in Steve’s pad. I’m sure they’ll let me off.

Important advice for anyone buying a horse at Magic Millions tonight.

January 11, 2014

The business of buying a horse is a serious one. It’s not a job for any idiot.

Unless, of course, the said idiot has spent the day having a ball at the Magic Millions. Then, anyone can have a crack.

I have ventured to the sales several times after the big race day. Like everyone else there, things have gone a little shabby. Ties end up a tad crooked. Girls are looking to throw their shoes.

It’s so tempting. All that magnificent horse flesh. Just waiting for a buyer. The one we’re drooling over, could be the million dollar winner next year.

Normally mature folk start talking syndicates. Sums are done, that will make no sense tomorrow. It all seems so easy.

I’ve told the story before of Singo buying one deep into a Saturday night, on the strength of the Queensland brew. Breeding meant nothing. It was just fun. Of course, the damage would be repaired come Sunday morning.

I could very well end up in that field of dreams tonight. Yet again. So here are the rules we will abide by.

First and foremost, don’t listen to any rules. If we went by the book, no-one would have owned Black Caviar or Makybe Diva.

Don’t even think about launching a bid, without a bucket of giggle juice on board. There are international gurus spending zillions while drinking sparkling water. How is that fun?

Pick a horse with a big arse. Nothing else matters. Spend way beyond your budget, if the filly reminds you of Beyonce.

Do nothing unless you’re surrounded by mates. There is every chance you’re about to make a huge mistake. They must be part of it.

At some stage, someone will say you’re all kinds of crazy. You will be told to walk away. Make sure you get them to sign a waiver, as you secretly buy that More Than Ready colt. It could be worth thousands in January next year.

If we’re swaying side by side when the last lot appears, I’ll consider joining forces. As long as you’re on the rum, with your best buds, drooling over a great big booty. And I’d appreciate if you could get the bill. I’m good for it, I promise.

Farewell Uncle Tom. The kindest man I knew. With the biggest heart.

January 7, 2014

I had no idea what to wear. The biggest event of my young life. I had to look the part.

Uncle Tom was taking me to the cricket. He was a Sydney Cricket Ground member. He knew I was a cricket nut. He decided that I needed to see an Ashes test.

Dad might have been more excited than I was. What a thrill, he said. Clearly, I was one lucky boy.

Mum told me to take a jumper. In January. I could have been selected for a space shuttle mission, and she would have insisted I take that bloody garment.

I didn’t own a tie. Just my good jeans, and my only buttoned shirt. Uncle Tom said that would do just fine.

I don’t remember the cricket. Just the surrounds. We ate lovely food. Uncle Tom knocked back a few beers. In fancy glasses I’d never seen. Everyone was in a jacket.

When I got home, Dad pumped me for details. Every little bit. He loved his cricket too. He was thrilled for me.

A few years later, I was back at the SCG. A league semi final. Newtown v Wests. A full house. Those rarified surrounds again.

This time, I soaked the action in. The most exciting afternoon I’d experienced.

It’s what Uncle Tom did. He made us all happy. I can’t remember him ever being cranky. Not one cross word.

With his beloved Aunty Heather, he made sure no-one went without. We were so lucky, those in his extended family. They did so much, and asked for nothing in return.

I had never been to a house with a pool. The first time we stayed at their place, I wouldn’t get out. A little blonde boy with prune-like skin. So different from our backyard.

Uncle Tom was a successful businessman, but he would never tell you that. The conversation about who should bat at number three in the baggy green was much more fun.

When we lost Dad, he looked after my family like a guardian angel. So much support for Mum. I know she was forever grateful. And it wasn’t the first time. It was just his way.

He died last week. He’d been crook, but had no intention of going anywhere. Fought it all the way. Was still working from his hospital bed, into the final hours.

I feel like I should have told him more how much we all loved him. How he made such a difference to all our young lives. He would laugh that off, I know. What he did, he did because it was the right thing to do.

He left us, a few days before the Aussies scored their historic Ashes victory at the SCG. There’s something right about that. He would have clapped, politely, with that great big smile.

Farewell Uncle Tom. Thanks for showing a country kid what could be. And letting all of us see that there is no greater love, than family.

The Punting Gods are not smiling. What have I done wrong?

January 4, 2014

I have not backed a winner all year. Four full days. And last night’s debacle. Don’t ask.

The bank manager is getting nervous. The kids are wondering what chance new shoes for school.

I know what’s happened. The last bet of the year is all important. And I blew it.

In years gone by, I would call stumps, if I’d backed a winner near year’s end. Not that I’m superstitious in any way.

It’s just nice to end the season with cash in the kick. A sign of things to come.

A few days ago, I got the tip of all tips. It would just be winning. At Toowoomba, of all places. A New Years’s Eve meeting, where we would fill our boots.

When I was told this special, I was drinking champers. And listening to a very loud band. The brain cells available at the time dictated that I delay the call to my favourite betting agency. Too loud, you see.

You know the rest. Stop gloating. I was too late. Ten minutes, that cost me a heap. But much more than cold hard cash.

It was my last betting venture of 2013. And it was a spectacular failure. We all know what that means.

Ever since, I can’t pick left from right. Up from down. Leader from stalker. Mudlark from dry track specialist.

So now I’m lumbering on, throwing good cash sideways. Getting beaten in photos. Watching unknown hoops beat the world’s best. Sigh.

We need to change the mojo. So punting Gods, here’s what I’m prepared to do.

If I get a decent tip, back it. And no grumbling if it gets bloused.

Back my favourite jockeys in Perth. At any odds. It’s a place like no other. They will win at fifties. And no-one will ask why.

Back Chris Waller in Sydney. But not at the Provincials. No exceptions. He has camels, like all the others. And that’s where they end up.

Go to Eagle Farm more. Because it’s fun. Doomben too. And my beloved Gold Coast. And get a crew together. So many laughs.

Do the Melbourne Cup form before the Monday. You will be hungover, or drunk. Print this and tell all your close friends.

There are other rules, but I need to get to Gloucester Park trots. You understand.

I hope you’ve started the New Year with a blast. If you have a tip, maybe send it my way? Not that I’m desperate. It’s only early. What time is Turner riding in Perth?