Tarago Diaries #40 – Westgate

Mark reflects one how he came to write the song Westgate.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 16 October 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/3048624401910545


Article Text

You can write songs about anything really. There are no rules. It took me a long time to figure that out though.

Years in fact.

You start out in a kind of bubble, chasing applause. Then one day you wake up and something has broken through.

from the outside world..

whether you like it or not.. something somebody said or did that rocked you. Changed the way you saw things.

Or changed you forever.

Can’t say I wasn’t looking though. Two albums post H&C and I was seriously wondering what the point of it all was.

You can share your feelings only for so long before even your feelings grow tired. And let’s face it. Everybody has feelings. So what?

Because really, songs aren’t about you in the end. They’re about what binds you to other people.

Back in 2006, my friend Donna Jackson was looking for songs. She was writing a theatre gig about the history of working Melbourne. And the people who’d built it.

The idea intrigued me but that was it. Can’t say I was expecting much. To be honest I was bored out of my brain. But she knew I had form. Some rock bloke from the pubs who’d written a few.. But I was flattered she’d asked just the same.

We went down underneath the great span of the Westgate Bridge on Douglas Parade, Spotswood. The wind was blowing in off the Yarra. We stood there for a while, shivering and staring up at a bronze plaque. Thirty-five names. Men who’d died when the span above had cracked, twisted and plummeted into the swamp below.. and taken them all with it..

Boiler makers, iron workers, fitters, engineers.

September 15. 1970.

One thing was for sure. We weren’t down there to write nursery rhymes. She wanted me to feel something. Something big. Outside myself.

I can’t honestly say what got me over the line. There was no one thing. And see there’s the catch right there. When you’re looking for a song.. really, you’re looking for something to connect you with other human beings. Call it love, a common belief or a sign of faith.. or whatever it is you need to say to your loved ones sometimes, to remind them you care.. how they are..

Could’ve been the wind. Or the names. Or the sheer scale of the place. That huge fuck off bridge. It’s pretty intimidating. Memories flooded in. I was fourteen when it happened. Living in the north east. Year 10 at a suburban high school. A Melbourne boy.

Then it hit me while I was standing there.

Imagine being one of the blokes who kept working on that bridge. To get it finished.

After he’d lost a mate..

Imagine being him.

A place like that can really bring the truth home hard and fast. The feeling of what truly matters in life.

It changed my world I can tell you that much.

To write from a point of view other than your own. To get outside yourself. To imagine how the world might look to someone else.

I found my personal ground zero that day. My politics. Reading the thirty-five names up there on that bronze plaque..

Thirty five good men. Fathers, husbands and sons.

They reminded me of everything I believe in.

Thanks Donna