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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bmag Sept 17th 2013 - Novelty songs

I can’t resist a good novelty song. Even better is a bad novelty song. The ABC’s music programmer Bill Riner diagnosed me years ago when he said I caught the bug as a young fella growing up in England, where there is a tradition of novelty songs “topping the pops”.

It is true that I was still living in the UK when, in 1980, the St Winifred’s School Choir spent eleven weeks in the charts, including two weeks at #1, with Grandma, We Love You. Look it up on YouTube – the lyrics might be simple but boy does it tug at the heart-strings. “There’s no-one quite like Grandma/And I know you will agree/That she always is a friend to you/ And she’s a friend to me.” Fortunately, two months later, I moved to Australia and was saved. Or was I? Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20-plus years on Queensland radio, it’s that Aussies are suckers for a silly song too.

I was reminded of this recently when we did a story on 612 Breakfast about a new four-story building at the University of Queensland – a building with no toilets! Apparently this isn’t a problem, because the building next-door is well-equipped, but I wouldn’t like to be dealing with an upset stomach whilst working on the fourth floor of a loo-less office block! Anyway, I dragged out the 1997 song Don’t Go in the dunny after Dad by then-Kallangur primary school teacher Geoff Whitehead (and his students): “Don’t go in the dunny after Dad’s been in/No, don’t go in the toilet, don’t go in the loo/Don’t go in the dunny after Dad’s been in, if you know what’s good for you.”

The song made it into the top 40 in 2002 when it was covered by Jamie Dunn and Agro but I hadn’t played either version for well over a decade. One play on the radio and we were inundated with people asking whether you can still buy the song. For the record, yes, Geoff has copies of the CD and if you call him on 3264 5198, he’ll fix you up!

So what’s the latest novelty song to attract my ear? Well, it won’t be released until next year, but I have been listening to a new Chad Morganesque album by Brisbane’s own Franky Walnut. This really has the potential to go somewhere, I reckon. It includes the song As Australian As. “I’m as Australian as a sheep’s turd in the shape of Australia riding on the back of a sheep named Bruce who’s been shorn in the shape of Australia/I’m as Australian as a pie that’s been run over by a ute being driven by John Williamson while he narrates a documentary about Australia/I’m as Australian as a red-back spider and a funnel-web spider having a root inside a kangaroo scrotum purse/I’m as Australian as/I’m as Australian as.”

But then the song takes an ironic twist: “I’m as Australian as a surfie who gets really bloody hungry and then he goes and eats some sushi/I’m as Australian as sushi.” And eventually, “I’m as Australian as the moon (when viewed from Australia).” So who is this Franky Walnut? Well, he’s the creation of Keir Nuttall, Kate Miller-Heidke’s husband and collaborator, so this record has some serious musical clout. And yes, Kate sings backing vocals.

The first time I played As Australian As on 612 Breakfast, tweeter @JaneofAustralia tweeted @FrankyWalnut: “Catchy tune. Note sure re lyrics”. Franky replied: “Neither am I. Actually, I’m not sure about the tune either.” For now, the CD is only available at gigs.

Finally, thanks for all your emails and tweets about Teddy and Pun’kin, who we recently adopted from Red Hill cat rescuer Katina Balson. Katina was thrilled to be mentioned in the magazine. She wrote: “Thank you so much for the lovely write up in bmag. Fab message about the sweet scaredy cats. I get so teary when I hear how well-loved my/your babies are. They are lucky boys. Give them a big kiss for me. Love your work, Katina.” As I mentioned in my last column, Katina can be found at the Pussies Galore charity shop on Musgrave Road or you can peruse her “scaredy cats” online at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bmag Sept 3rd 2013 - Welcome Teddy and Pun'kin

It’s twenty years since I last owned a cat but when Teddy and Pun’kin asked if they could live with the Howsons, how could we say no?! It took me a long time to get over the death of my grey, half-Persian childhood companion Pompeii – named after the exhibition which came to Brisbane in 1981.

Pathetic, I know, but I still have Pompeii’s collar and used to smell it to feel like he was back with me. Okay, that sounds weird – but scents are a powerful trigger for memories. I once asked listeners what smells they had kept of their deceased loved ones. We were inundated with calls, with everything from pillows to jumpers being put aside, unwashed, so they could be brought out for a hug and a smell.

But back to Teddy and Pun’kin. Once I started making noises about having another cat, our word-of-mouth enquiries led us to Katina Balson. Katina runs the Pussies Galore op-shop on Musgrave Road, Red Hill, and her nearby house is full of strays, ferals, abandoned and abused cats all just looking for love. Many of them have terrible backgrounds and some have been with Katina for months, too shy to sell themselves to potential families. Katina calls them her “scaredy cats”.

When we arrived, they scattered to all corners of the house. You wouldn’t have known there were 22 kittens and cats hiding under the furniture and behind the curtains! Then, one by one, they emerged, wandering past and looking us up and down. Until the most remarkable thing happened. Two of them chose us. A well-fed (thanks to Katina) ginger feral with a beautiful white tummy hopped onto my lap and a much thinner tiger-striped kitten that had been abused in Darwin (apparently lots of rescued cats are flown down from the top end) lay down next to Nikki. And with that, we were cat owners once again. Teddy and Pun’kin had a new home.

I can’t recommend Katina highly enough. Living with the cats, she knows their personalities. Everything she told us about Teddy and Pun’kin has turned out to be spot on, from their food likes and dislikes, to the way they play, sleep and interact with each other. An abused animal might not be for everyone – as Katina explains, you can’t expect them to be all over you from the minute you get them home – but it has only taken a few weeks for Teddy and Pun’kin to come out of their shells and the five of us couldn’t be happier.

It’s election day on Saturday and while the main battle is between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, the competition can be just as fierce when it comes to which polling booth has the best sausages and lamingtons! To help you decide where in your electorate to vote, the Booth Reviews website is back. Click on now and you’ll get the idea. Once you have voted, go back to the site and leave your comments. As the day progresses, it will become more and more useful for those who have yet to vote. (Mischievous Spencer loves the fact that a sausage-review-based decision on where to vote will completely muck up Antony Green’s analysis on ABC TV on Saturday night when he talks about the way certain booths voted in 2010).

Meanwhile, 612’s Saturday Breakfast presenter Phil Smith has already crowned his Best Booth in Brisbane. Phil ran a competition over a couple of weeks and will broadcast from the winner, Seven Hills State School, on election day.

Finally, in response to my column on kids vs children, ABC radio family affairs reporter Susan Hetherington says: “Don’t you remember the Sesame Street song that says `goats have kids, like people have kids’? Case closed”. And from Brisbane author Nick Earls: “With `kid’ first used to mean `child’ in the 1590s, I think I’m ready for us to relax the `only for goats’ rule.”

Roman Masiarek goes further: “There is a much more important issue - the insidious way the Australian language is being sold out to the Americans. More and more, our biscuits are becoming cookies, our chips are becoming fries, our toilets are becoming bathrooms and our Zeds are becoming Zees”. But then Pauline Taylor asks: “For folks who persist in calling them kids, how would they like to be addressed as `goats’?”