Tarago Diaries #2 – Dread

Mark and James are on a promotional visit to New Zealand…

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 2 October 2018.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/1664473616992304?tn=K-R

Article Text

Jo launches the C30 like a twitching missile, up the ramp onto the Monash, reclining in the seat, one hand on the wheel, mouth slightly open, otherwise inscrutable behind the Tiffany & Co’s. She gives the wheel a nudge, glances into the side mirror then swerves across three lanes of close order traffic. 169 kilowatts of two-door coupe, threading the eye of the needle all the way to Tulla. Google maps is scorched earth.

I grip the roof handle. Breath. It’ll be over in a flash. Airport in twenty. At the most. Can’t help glancing at the speedo though.

“You’re 20k’s over the limit” I murmur, teeth clenched. She throws her head back, triumphant.

“That’s how she rolls Darl! Ha!”

Why so fast I wonder. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, asking why. Might be an age thing, like there’s some kind of weird disconnection going down between me and all the other middle-aged people I know. They’re all in character but getting dangerously larger than life. These off the dial moments. Everyone’s going quietly insane. In the nicest possible way.

My mother once said I had the mind of a three year old. I was twenty-three by then, still asking ‘why’ long after the horse had bolted. There’s a brutal logic to it though. The ‘why’. Three year olds grasp the facts. There’s them, the demands of others, and a refusal to co-operate if the outcome isn’t immediately uplifting. Right now it’s the mind numbing speed of a Volvo C30 and the very unlovely clenched arse all the way to the airport.

We’re going to NZ. To plug a tour. Long throw PR. The gigs aren’t ‘til next year but you never know. Things might go horribly wrong. Just in case we front up months later and people have forgotten, who we were, back in the day so to speak. So I’m holding hands with James Reyne. For the extra grunt. How can it fail?

He’s sitting in the Virgin Lounge eating LO-FAT yogurt, wearing a cravate. Looks impeccable as always. James Reyne is from an era neither he nor I lived through. For some reason he makes me think of high tea, canons going off at sunset and the fall of Singapore. But it’s the discipline that gets me. James Reyne is relentless. How does he keep it up?

“Out of a deep sense of dread” he once said, then looked ‘round to see if anyone overheard. I totally get it though, despite my bog Irish slackness. ’Dread’ really works for me. Gets me up in the morning.

And what is it you ask? This dread? It’s the feeling that things will go horribly wrong no matter how well organized you are. Shit will happen. Fear basically. Fear of what though? Failure? Who knows? Could be that, or any number of other fuck ups looming just ’round the corner.

Even now.. as we speak, after all these years, gigs, hit songs, whatever, James Reyne can’t help looking at his watch then up at the departure board, tapping, a good hour before the gate opens..

Camus was right. ‘The Dread’ drives you on.

James and Jo are swapping notes on the behavior of their respective daughters and the western phenomenon of the girly 21st birthday, which both recently handled with consummate skill, as they recall. Cider? I ask you. Poison in the hands of innocents.

“We were there once. Oh but weren’t we just? Comatosed on the lawn. Ha Ha.”

We land in Auckland. Our wrangler, Hayden is very enthusiastic. There’s plenty of banter as we head for the hotel. It was a seamless flight, propelled across the Tasman by the howling jet stream, otherwise completely uninteresting. Doesn’t stop them sharing though. When in motion, talk. One thing you can say about James. He knows how to be polite when it doesn’t matter. And that’s a good thing.

For me.

It means I don’t have to talk. Much. I go better when I hang back, given my tendency to blurt inappropriate stuff to people I don’t know. Whatever I’m thinking about at the time pretty much. My attitude sucks.

There’s a morning show on NZ tellie called, ‘The AM show’. It rates its head off. Across the country. Simulcast with drive time radio so it’s like the mother of PR. We’re up at dawn, running across a rain drenched car park, through glass doors into a concrete bunker inserted into the side of Mount Eden, which happens to be a dormant volcano. Actually, in NZ, all mountains are dormant volcanoes. They can go off at anytime. Hold that thought. We’re in a lift. Going down. Minutes pass. We’re under it now, getting warmer. Warm, tight and heavy.

Then we’re side stage, perched on a little bench, made up, guitars on. Twit rock stars waiting for our moment. The room is solid white. Shiny and hard but full of morning freshness. There are three hosts. Two blokes and a lady. Dressed in bright happy middle-aged colours. Very cheerful. God they look healthy. Laughing at some mindless outrage. Something a cop did, or a farmer, or a pollie. To a dog or cat or whatever. Got pulled out of drain by a front-end loader. It’s critical stuff. They’re going off.

We wait. Hunched up. Nervous. We have to sing later.

Duncan’s the boss. He’s the quick one with the razor wit. He does a forward announce pre AD break.. “Two icons of Aussie rock.” James gets it first. “We have James Reyne, formerly of Australian Crawl.” Straight away James starts twitching. It’s his knee. Jiggling under the guitar. A roving camera passes, the lens scanning us.

“Don’t they know?” hissing sideways at me now. “The band ended in 1986.” The outrage of it. He’s getting worked up. Good. Means I can sit back.

Ad break over. A waving hand. We’re ushered over to the table. We’re on. It’s Duncan again. “So how does it feel..” James leans forward, poised, “To have fronted such iconic bands and now,” he pauses for effect.. “This?” He’s beaming at us but it’s just a diversion. What he’s really asking is, ‘What’s your friggin’ excuse.. Aussie? Why are you guys here without the bands that made you famous? A wave of dread comes over me horribly, blood singing. I knew it! All this NZ cheer is nothing but a clever ruse.

James has to set the record straight though. He can’t help himself. It’s the only way. Of he goes, into the darkness.

“My band ended in 1986.” They stare at him. “So, I’m just pointing that out right? It’s a long time ago. People move on. If you get my drift.”

They don’t.

I make the small point, quietly, like church mouse.. “and a couple of them aren’t actually with us anymore, in the mortal sense,” thinking the irony might lighten the mood, but it only draws their attention over to me.


“So how do YOU keep in touch with YOUR former band mates? MARK SEYMOUR?”

I’m back in high school. Quivering. In the case of Hunters and Collectors, mortality is no excuse. They’re all still with us. I could lie of course. I’ve done that before.

I dither.

“Aah.” I stare. Everyone’s waiting. Is there a right answer? An ethically sound, sensitive answer that’ll make me look like the friggin’ angel that I’m not? Like some kind of rock n’ roll saint immune to self-interest? Nah. I’m rooted.

“Email,” I say.

Just that. Blank faced. It’s the awful truth. What? No hugs or bevvies with your mates? No reminiscing about the glory days? Nah. Just a hard-boiled professionalism that keeps the firm afloat.

I’ve fucked it.

But suddenly they’re all laughing their arses off. What? I’m funny now? Why? That question again. Who the fuck knows. Apparently dead pan works on drive time. Dead pan is funny. What can I say?

Jim hasn’t finished though. He’s still twitching, like a thoroughbred boxed in the stalls. For some reason he’s talking about eggs now. Why do bands break up you ask? Could be anything really. Like the way some band member ate their eggs one morning in Woolongong. THIRTY-TWO YEARS AGO just quietly. Caused terminal offence. How they held the fork or whatever. Simple as that really. The outrage. One of them took off in the Tarago. It was the beginning of the end.

It’s a good yarn but far too ironic for drive time. A moment’s silence. They stare. What’s wrong with him? James Reyne is a weird Aussie. You’ve got to admire his angst though. Railing against disrespect, real or imagined. Who cares which?

It’s the dread that counts. I’m with him all the way.

At least he still has feelings. Like he actually cares what they think. I wouldn’t have bothered.

Suddenly Duncan is winding up with a dig about letting James go and sing so he can calm down. Which is exactly what happens. We sing and everything is alright again. They’re jiving behind the desk. Doin’ the hand clap in time.

Thing is though, it’s all content to them, I think in passing, right in the guts of ‘April Sun in Cuba.’

None of it matters really and didn’t right from the bounce. Which makes the ‘why’ ring like a cracked bell.

Until it comes up again twenty-four hours later as the plane taxis into Tullamarine International. Gate 3. I switch the phone out of aero-mode. Check the news-feed.

A twelve-year-old refugee girl is starving herself to death on Nauru.