Darren “Smokie” Dawson
Sandringham, a Saturday morning, 1986

I thought I was in love. I was 19. She was 17. My second girlfriend. At that age, who stops and objectively looks to where things are heading? Seriously considers what the future holds?

Although we went out together for almost two years, Christina and I were incompatible in so many ways. Our backgrounds, our interests, our respective circles of friends. But of all the differences we shared, the divide we could never quite conquer was the difference in our tastes in music. It would be the rock our relationship perished on.

I am ashamed to say that, for her, the musical abominations I inflicted upon myself were many. I actually sat through a Mr Mister show, gritting my teeth whilst all around me school-girls screamed. I would have understood had Lennon and McCartney been on stage. Because she loved the song, with my own money I bought for her Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round – the 12-inch single version. What on earth was I thinking?

We saw numerous shows at the old Glasshouse: she hated U2 (I loved them), she loved Phil Collins (I was sick of him), and she obstinately refused to budge when Mark Knopfler urged the crowd to its feet during Walk Of Life (I danced in spite of her). I loved music, devoured it; she could take it or leave it.

One Saturday morning in mid-1986, whilst absent-mindedly enjoying the picturesque drive around the bay to Sandringham to visit her, a song came on the car radio which immediately had me humming. It uplifted me, and I found myself tapping my fingers to its beat on the over-sized steering-wheel of my old EH Holden. The disc-jockey did not back-announce the tune, so I had no idea to whom I had been listening.

Photo by Eric Algra

Photo by Eric Algra

As I was enthusiastically telling her about the amazing song I had just heard, – the catchy chorus, joyous harmonies – I turned on Donnie Sutherland’s Sounds television program. And there, like I had conjured it out of thin air, was the very song about which I had been enthusing. It sounded even better the second time. And what’s more, in the film-clip the singer played a droll taxi-driver coolly unimpressed by the passengers he picked up. This music was simple, fresh, vibrant, and Australian to boot. Before Too Long had grabbed hold of me, and I was not going to allow it loosen its grip.

“That song is rubbish” Christina said. “Absolute rubbish.”

And at that moment I knew it was over between us.

As I left her house that day, driving back toward Williamstown, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Sudden, but overwhelming, had been the realisation that I would not be able to share my life with anyone who thought Paul Kelly’s music was ‘rubbish’. One ‘love’ had just ended abruptly, but another had just begun.

© Darren “Smokie” Dawson

Photo © Eric Algra. Eric is a professional photographer who took many photos of musicians for Roadrunner.

My parents were children of the Beatles generation. I had little choice but to love music. Regular contributor to partner site The Footy Almanac. My Stereo Stories debut was Before Too Long by Paul Kelly.