Crowded House are the reason we’re in Australia

If it weren’t for Crowded House we wouldn’t be living in Australia. Kinda. Sorta. Pretty much.

Marjorie and I came to the band late, not long before Together Alone came out, when I picked up Woodface somewhere on CD and we instantly realised that tracks such as It’s Only Natural and Fall At Your Feet were a kind of music we’d been yearning for but had never really managed to find except in our own heads. We lived in Vancouver, Canada at the time and when we moved there in 1988 from Northern Ireland we were simultaneously perturbed by the prevailing poodle bands on the charts and heartened by the fact that every time we turned on CFMI classic rock radio while driving we heard the likes of Steely Dan, Van Morrison and other artists who seemed forgotten back home, swept away by the punk that we ourselves had loved and followed.

We were both “pop music literate” and knew that Neil had been in Split Enz. We loved I Got You when it was a hit in the UK. I’d heard Better Be Home Soon in the car on this “classic rock radio” which seemed unique to the New World, and been struck by its Beatlesque qualities. And we both knew Don’t Dream It’s Over, of course, and had admired it vaguely from a distance. And I recalled seeing them once on the MTV VMA awards (see video) and being astounded that they seemed to be a real band, playing real instruments and singing a real song. With a Hammond organ! In the 80s! Ever since then I’d made a mental note to buy one of their albums, but it simply didn’t happen until I picked up Woodface at a bargain price in 1993.

Live in Canada

Sadly, drummer Paul Hester had quit the band just two weeks before we first saw them in Vancouver and Seattle, but they were still a revelation live, a band who played smart, concise pop songs in the spirit of the “jam bands” – they never played a song the same way twice and you never knew what was going to happen at any moment. Neil Finn was edgy in the sense that at any moment he felt the freedom to do whichever option popped into his head, whether it was to morph into a random cover, play an extended free-form guitar solo, swap instruments with the drummer, write a song on the spot based on the support band’s setlist, have the band jam along to a demo CD that an aspiring musician threw onto the stage…

19940506-Crowded House-Paramount Theater-Seattle-6-May-1994-backstage pass-DC CardwellCrowded House backstage pass!

We managed to score backstage passes for their Seattle show. The show was great but being backstage afterwards wasn’t the most exciting of experiences. However, I guess there was a certain thrill of anticipation and the pass itself is quite nice!

I was hacking gently into the hospital computer system at my work and discovered that the network was hooked into a mysterious entity, The Internet, involving such things as “gophers”, a search engine named “Veronica” and something called “email”. Much to my surprise I found that there was an active group of Crowded House fans exchanging information, and that I was even able to set up an email account on my home computer using Vancouver’s Freenet text-based email service. Marjorie and I joined this community, known asTongue In The Mail, and in fact we’re still in it (although it’s been partly superseded by the Frenz forum, which I also use).

Trip to New Zealand

At one point in 1995 Crowded House were about to tour New Zealand and there was a vague feeling in the ranks that they might split up soon and this could be their last outing. I vividly recall saying to Marjorie, “You should

Crowded House-Palmerston North-New Zealand-6-Feb-1995-B-ticket-DC CardwellMarjorie’s Ticket for the show in Palmerston North, New Zealand

go and see them!” while realising that this was completely unfeasible. However, she took me at my word and three days later she was in New Zealand! She’d made arrangements to meet up with various people we’d met online, and she traipsed around after the band. Some of the people she met were close to the band and managed to get her backstage where she met, not only the Crowded House members and Tim, but Mr. and Mrs. Finn senior. This was, needless to say, quite a bit of fun. She had coffee with Mike Chunn (Split Enz bass player) and Dave Dobbyn and generally was made very welcome on the other side of the world. Even back then we felt really old and grown-up, having two children and being well settled down, so it seemed almost ridiculous that Marjorie should be on such an adventure. We’d sometimes play our own gigs at Vancouver’s rock clubs, look around and think “we’re old enough to be these people’s parents and I’m sure they think we’re like old fogies from another era!” Of course, looking back, we were only in our early 30s and nearly 20 years later we’re still running after bands and and still playing to people who now could practically be our grandchildren!

Crowded House, New Zealand 1995 - by Marjorie CardwellMarjorie’s photo of Crowded House in New Zealand

But that’s beside the point. Marjorie had a stopover in Melbourne on her way back to Canada. Neither of us had ever been to Australia before, but Marjorie simply fell in love with this city. Another internet friend took her round to see some of the Crowdie sites, such as Paul Hester’s café and Neil Finn’s old house where he wrote many of the Woodface songs.

When she returned to Vancouver, Marjorie simply said “We should move to Melbourne, it’s really nice!” Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you have two small kids and an elderly mother-in-law (Marjorie’s mother) who lives with you. But we got the permanent residence visa application forms and had a look at them. We’d already emigrated once so the forms weren’t daunting in the least. We figured out that I, as a medical scientist, would have a reasonable chance of being accepted, but that if you were over 35 you had extra “points” taken off which would effectively scupper your chances of getting a visa.

However, two weeks before I turned 35, I mentioned that if we didn’t do it now we’d never get a visa. So we sent of the forms just so that we could say we’d had a go. Very shortly afterwards we got a letter saying that we’d been accepted into Australia! No interview or anything! And with that piece of paper in hand, we decided we may as well go and see what it’s like to live in Australia.And anyway, Vancouver is “really nice” too, to say the least! It consistently vies with Melbourne for the title of “The World’s Most Livable City” and it’s undeniably beautiful and comfortable. And we loved the Canadian people and had many close friends. So we filled out the forms but didn’t bother sending them.

We moved in 1996, two boys and aging mother-in-law in tow (she’s still living with us 16 years later!) and have never regretted it, despite occasionally longing for real mountains, snow, the smell of cedar and the warm hospitality of Canadians… not that Australians aren’t hospitable, but they’re different.

Move to Australia

We stopped over in Auckland on our way to Australia, and were wined and dined very generously by ex-Split Enz members Paul Crowther and Mike Chunn. (We’d previously met Paul Crowther at a Mutton Birds show in Vancouver’s Railway Club when we popped in after our own gig over the road.)

ENZSO-Melbourne Park-Melbourne-4-Feb-1997-ticket-DC Cardwell

ENZSO Ticket (Split Enz with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) 1997, Melbourne

One of our ENZSO tickets

As soon as we arrived in Melbourne we heard that there was to be an ENZSO concert in the Rod Laver Arena. Exasperatingly, we couldn’t afford to go but I got a job after only two weeks and the first thing I did was buy tickets. Due to a slight misadventure we arrived slightly late and it was a very bizarre feeling to walk into a packed arena-sized venue and hear a full orchestra playing Six Months In A Leaky Boat with the audience lapping it up!

We’ve seen an amazing run of Finn-related events here in the hometown of Split Enz and Crowded House. The most memorable – sorry, unforgettable – were the warm-up shows for the Sydney Opera House Farewell To The World mega-show in which we got to see Crowded House with Paul Hester two nights in a row, up close, at the intimate Corner Hotel, thus more than making up for having missed out on seeing him with Crowded House before he quit them. It was very much a “who would have thunk?” experience for us.

We saw two more impromptu reunions of core members Finn, Seymour and Hester, one at “Hessie’s Shed” in the Espy Hotel, St Kilda and one at the TV recording of a Neil Finn solo show. And then, tragically, Paulo was gone, his life snuffed out by his own hand in this very city. But that awful incident doesn’t erase our memories of the sheer, joyful, uninhibited exuberance that he personified on stage.

Ticket for Corner Hotel warm-up show, 1996Ticket for Corner Hotel warm-up show, 1996

We got to see another Crowded House warm-up at the Corner Hotel, this time for their comeback tour. And it was surprisingly magnificent! Neither Marjorie nor I have warmed hugely to the two albums by the reunified band (save for about three great tracks on the first one which are up there with their greatest work), but the live shows have been almost as good as ever. And it’s typically admirable of Finn and Co. that they haven’t just done the get-together-and-play-the-old-hits-for-the-money-on-a-nostalgia-tour thing, but they’ve done it as a real band, written new material and simply carried on from where they left off. We may never get another Woodface, but on the other hand, perhaps we will!

~ DC Cardwell

NOTE: This is a quick, rough piece that I wrote as a comment on another blog, but it got too big so I posted it here instead. I may well come back to it , tidy it up and expand (or maybe contract) it later on. It’s also subject to revision by Marjorie if I’ve got some of the facts wrong!

Our ladder. It’s nice.

The Satellite TV guys came around this morning to replace our TV box. They took the opportunity to check our satellite dish while they were at it. Our ladder was on the ground right beneath it so they used it. While one guy climbed up the other guy said, “Nice ladder!” so I replied, “Yeah, I guess it’s OK. It takes you from A to B. As long as B is above A.” (Actually I didn’t say that bit about A & B.)

Anyway, he went on and on singing the praises of our ladder. I said I bought in Canada and he was most impressed by that. He said, “It’s wider than most ladders… it’s a good ladder… it’s a VERY nice ladder…”

I guess I never really appreciated it before. I went out later to take the photos for this riveting article, looked at the little blue plastic bits at the end of the ladder and thought, wow, it’s pretty amazing that they’ve survived being outdoors for 20 years and haven’t perished.

I twisted one of the plastic bits in an affectionate but manly manner and a piece broke off in my hand.

~ DC

Some less well-known MySpace artists that I like (by DC)

[imported from MySpace – note that some of these links may well be dead by now]

Again, this list could be a mile long. I’ve been really enthralled by a lot of beautiful music on MySpace over the last year or so. I’ll try to keep adding to (or amending) this list, but it’s like “top friends”, it’s impossible to truly represent my feelings! Tell you what, though – these artists are all well worth listening to so why don’t you click on a few and tell them I sent you!

  • Don McGlashan (Former leader of the wonderful Mutton Birds and certified National Treasure in New Zealand – unquestionably a genius, and one of the best singers you’ll ever hear)
  • The Desert Downtown and Marshmallow (One of the secret weapons of The Mutton Birds was their bass player/occasional songwriter and singer, Alan Gregg, and these are two of his projects, both achingly tuneful in nature)
  • Maxi Dunn (One of the few women on the Jellyfish Tribute album. She’s just so good. I don’t know what it is about her songs – I can’t analyse why I like them so much. On the surface they sound a little 80s-ish for my taste, but I just want to play them over and over again, so she’s doing something that moves me!)
  • Martin Okasili (He’s from my hometown of Portadown, Northern Ireland, but I never met him. I read a rave review of him in Mojo once and eventually found him here on myspace, and, would you believe it, it turns out he is brilliant!)
  • The Electrolites (Don’t miss them)
  • Darren Sheppard (Clever guy from England who still knows how to write and play songs like the British bands of the 60s – many try but few succeed)
  • The Taters (Actually, this band from Virginia do a pretty good job at capturing that 60s sound, too! And I’ve heard first hand that they’re one of the greatest live acts on the planet!)
  • Steve Singh (Like the Beatles, but not like The Beatles. You know what I mean, even the Beatles were “like the Beatles, but not like the Beatles”, in that they never did what anyone expected)
  • Linda Draper (I love this music deeply)
  • Tender Slider (Brilliant music from my good friend Achim Degen in Germany)
  • The Aloha Mountain Groove Band (The name says it all! Features Renn Tiki)
  • Mike Dees (Rootsy pop songs from Memphis)
  • Crab Bubbles (Infinitely enjoyable pure pop from Japan)
  • Peter Farnan (This guy from Melbourne is a treasure – spends a lot of time working in various projects but is working towards a solo album which I’m looking forward to)
  • Jane Bayley (Partner of Mr. Farnan and equally wonderful – check out her Blossom Dearie-esque “Lovely Wife”)
  • Darren Keith (Amazing range and depth of material)
  • Jenny Queen (Americana, but don’t let that put you off!)
  • Teri LaBrecque (Writes and records all her stuff at home by herself, just like myself, but she’s a better singer and plays a more interesting range of instruments!)
  • Honest John (Sydney band – just got their new EP and it’s as good as anything new I’ve heard this year!)
  • Marty Williams (Marty is kind of a perfect singer and a great supporter of local music round here on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, and he’s also in this band with his brother…)
  • Cousin Leonard (You’ll never see a happier crowd than those at their regular Sunday afternoon gigs at the Heritage in Balnarring!)
  • President Roots (Another excellent band from here on the Mornington Peninsula – their leader, Simon has a new song about Professor Longhair that I heard him play recently, and it’s an instant classic.)
  • David Rice (Folksy yet Beatle-tinged and eclectic Swedish artist.)
  • themillionstars (I’ve just discovered this duo, Rose and Malcolm Moore and I fell in love instantly. They make tough music.)
  • Father Bloopy (Quite a few people have likened me to Ray Davies and the Kinks, but this band’s singer deserves the comparison. Even better, the band have brilliantly strong songs and sound.)
  • Hugh Hamilton (Never mind his beautifully accomplished guitar playing and crafty songwriting, check out that wonderful Claptonesque voice of his!)
  • Ernie Dufour (This guy’s singing really affects me – you know how singers used to be back in the good old days of the 60s and 70s?)
  • Richard Cummins (Richard lives very near where I used to live in Canada, but we never met each other back then. He’s very accomplished and makes beautifully Beatlesque music in an effortless manner.)
  • Marjie Cardwell (Marjie is my wife and after a break of some years she has been doing some new recordings with me – on this page she has posted some covers that we have done live in our home studio, with Marjie and me on guitars, Samuel on bass and Chris Haylock on drums.)
  • The Good China (This band’s from here in Melbourne, where there’s a lot of good music made, but not much of it sounds like this. There are, like, nine people in it and they are a little like a slightly mellower New Pornographers. Nice visual style too!)
  • We All Want To (This band’s also from Australia – and, like the band above, they also sound like a more human New Pornographers. This is my kinda thing!)
  • Victor Stranges (Victor is a Melbourne artist with a huge talent for songwriting and a big, expressive voice. If you like classic Elvis Costello you’ll definitely like his songs and his sound. Check out his Myspace and say hi – he’s a nice guy too!)

Honest John is an Australian band I just got their new 5-track EP and it’s absolutely excellent. Not earth-shatteringly pushing forward the boundaries of music or anything like that, but there’s something about Glen Colley’s voice and his songs and the way the band delivers them that gave me the kind of feeling I used to have as a youngster when I discovered for myself people like Neil Young.

Another band is from here on the Mornington Peninsula – President Roots. I know their leader, Simon, and on Wednesday night he came along to the Balnarring Muso’s Night that Marty Williams runs. He did a few songs, sounding fantastic as usual, and he included a new one he’s just written which was just thrilling – a bit of a Nirvana feel to it, but it’s all about Professor Longhair, Fats Domino and, oh, just all kinds of mad stuff and it gave me a real kick!

Oh, and, to round the evening off he did “Dancing Queen”, segueing into about 6 other tunes, with me on bass and, though we say so ourselves, it was pretty darn funky and the dancefloor was hot! It was a little different from my rare version of Dancing Queen which brings out the song’s depressing, morose side.

~ DC

Interview with DC Cardwell from The Table Tribune, Indiana, 2007

Interview from 2007. Updates in red.

1. DC, have you always lived in Australia?

No, I moved to Australia in 1996 with my wife and two sons. Before that I lived in Vancouver, Canada for 8 years. I’m originally from Northern Ireland, as is my wife Marjorie. My eldest son, Joel was born there and my younger son Samuel was born in Canada.

DC Cardwell in 2006

2. Have you ever been to the United States?

Yes, we used to pop over the border to Bellingham to buy cheap gas, milk and cheese. We made it as far as Seattle a couple of times.

3. What is the hardest thing about being in the music industry in Australia?

I hate to admit it, but I’m not really *in* the music business in Australia, or anywhere else, for that matter. Until now all I’ve done is write and record a few songs at home. I haven’t yet figured out the “business” side of “music business”. It took me long enough to figure out the music part. However, in September my name will appear on a “proper” CD for the first time. That’s when “Sensory Lullabies: The Ultimate Jellyfish Tribute Album” will be released. Track four on disc one is my version of “I Wanna Stay Home”. I’m excited!

4. How often do you write songs? Is it a routine, or do you write when inspiration strikes?

There’s hardly a day when I don’t have some song ideas going through my head, but most of them just disappear into the ether as I don’t have time to write them down or record them. I manage to hold on to some of the better ones and once in a while I get time to sit down and get a song going. I usually start with a phrase relating to some concept I’m interested in and the phrase will pretty much instantly suggest some kind of melody and feel, and I just take it from there. The biggest problem is narrowing the ideas down to something concise.

5. What was the one thing that inspired you to become a musician?

Hmmm, hard to narrow it down to one single thing, but perhaps it was when a distant relative, Steve from Australia, was doing the typical Aussie round the world jaunt and stayed with my family in Northern Ireland for a few weeks. He had a battered guitar and would sing the usual wandering hippie songs such as “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, “Blowing In The Wind” etc, along with what I now know to be classic Australian art songs, for example, “Pub With No Beer”. My two sisters were very impressed by this handsome beach bum and soon afterwards they both bought guitars and learned to play. I would sneak into the sitting room and secretly strum on them. I played so quietly, using the pad of my thumb,  that I could barely even hear it myself, but I gradually figured out how to play better than either of my sisters!

8. What song of yours do you like most. Why?

My favourite song of mine is “Nobody Taught Me”. I guess it’s because it’s in a style that I really like, and I’m perfectly happy with what the words are saying and I think they say it simply, directly and elegantly. I think both guitar solos are among my best, and I like the way I played almost pure blues guitar against a fairly non-bluesy chord progression.

9. How can we get one of your fine CDs of their very own?

Time for another “hmmm…”

Hmmm… good question… At present I don’t have much of an infrastructure to produce very many CDs. As I mentioned before, I make them all by hand. For anyone on Myspace, if they add a song of mine to their profile or send out a bulletin with my widget in it, or in any way help to promote my music, all they have to do is send me their email address and I’ll send them a link where they can download the whole album for free!

Anyone who’s interested could also order a copy of “Sensory Lullabies” – just follow the link on my Myspace page (www.myspace.com/dccardwell). As well as my version of “I Wanna Stay Home” there are two whole CDs of amazing covers of both Jellyfish albums in their entirety, along with a number of rare songs.

10. Would you be willing to autograph them for a limited time?

If anyone would like to copy my autograph that’s OK! Well, perhaps, if someone really, REALLY wants an copy of my CD actually autographed by me (why!) they can harass me at www.myspace.com/dccardwell or email me and I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps I could trade it for something or they could buy me something from my Amazon wish list. Be warned, though… eventually I’ll get organised enough to start charging for it!

2012 UPDATE: “Way With Words” was expanded into DC’s first official album “Some Hope” which is available from MadcarRecords.com and also on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc. For more details click on STORE on the menu above or go HERE. If you’d like your copy autographed, just order it from Madcar Records and add a note to that effect and I’ll happily do it! The Jellyfish album is still available on iTunes and a few CD copies may still be available from Burning Sky Records.

11. What rock star/band deserves a big smack in the mouth and why?

Hmmm, hard to narrow it down to one single rock star.

– DC Cardwell


Interview by Nancy Allen, The Table Tribune, Indiana