Before Too Long by Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls

//Before Too Long by Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls

Before Too Long by Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls


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.

By |2016-12-17T08:17:34+00:00July 5th, 2015|Singer-songwriters|14 Comments


  1. Phil Dimitriadis October 25, 2014 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Love it Smokie!
    I’m trying to picture you emulating the whirling gyrations of Pete Burns in ‘You Spin Me Right Round’ . The 12 inch version went for 8 minutes. You must have been keen!
    Before Too Long has beautiful harmonies and the clip certainly helped me find more empathy for Cabbies. Great stuff.

  2. Rick Kane October 27, 2014 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Great story Smokie (are you named after the 70s pop band or the old Aussie country singer?). Mr Mister? That my friend is above and beyond the call of duty. And yes, Paul Kelly is an excellent demarcation line. With no disrespect to Christina, but you chose well!

  3. kath presdee October 27, 2014 at 11:51 am - Reply

    You are absolutely correct. The troubadour Paul Kelly is a deal-breaker in a relationship.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt October 27, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I suspect that she wouldn’t have been too keen on The Pogues either Smokie, good call on your behalf.

    I had similar misgivings in the early 80s, my act of choice, Devo, were given two thumbs down. She gave me a business shirt and tie for Xmas, I wanted an XTC album. We were doomed.

  5. Vin October 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Swish, Still got the business shirt and tie? I’ll be posting an XTC story by Zoe Krupka before too long, a story set in Canberra in 1982.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt October 28, 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Shirt and tie long gone Vin.

    Still got the XTC album (which I bought for myself in the end).

  7. Mickey Randall October 29, 2014 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Nice job Smokie. Good call on the song and girlfriend.

    Gossip is one of the great Australian albums. And a double at that! I imagine that was a brave call back in 1986.

    Thanks for that.

  8. Smokie October 29, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Thanks for all the positive comments.
    Phil, definitely not for me the whirling gyrations of Pete Burns!
    Rick, all Dawsons are given the monicker “Smokie” after the old country singer Smoky Dawson.
    Kath, funny thing is I saw Paul Kelly & the Dots support Dire Straits at Festival Hall circa 1980-81 and was decidedly unimpressed.
    Swish, alas not too many girlfriends would like the Pogues either I reckon.
    Mickey, having been happily married for 21 years now I reckon I made the right call.

    • Meg July 6, 2015 at 3:33 am - Reply

      Hey Smoky – love your writing and mention of The Pogues made me smile! One of our nieces made the long trek to spend a month with us at Christmas one year. Just turned a “young” 13, totally out of her depth with her surroundings – wolves howling outside the house at night (granted, a bit unnerving), freaked out when I took her skating on a frozen river (v Damian Omen!) and only a wind cheater-type coat for a -30C Montana winter (painful cold that literally takes your breath away). Even a bit unsure of us for the first few days. So we were driving somewhere and, per usual, she was being politely silent. I turned to her and asked her if she wanted to listen to some carols. She understandably got that, “Oh my god, they’re religious freaks” look in her eyes but then I put on The Pogues “Fairytale of New York”. She listened, started to smile and then laughed and we were all good from that moment on… A new fan was born!

  9. JD July 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Sorry I missed this ripper Smokie when it was first published last year.

    I would have ended it at Phil Collins myself, that’s unforgiveable.

    But at least you dodged the bullet eventually.

    Caught Paul Kelly on RockWiz last night and he’s still in top form.

  10. Andrew Fithall July 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed this Smokie. I saw Jack Gramski (Smokie’s musical accompanist for his live performance) live on Saturday night at Newport Folk Festival. He put on a good show, even if he did talk a bit too much between songs for my liking.

  11. Luke Reynolds November 2, 2015 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    Poor form Christina. What a near perfect song Before Too Long is. Catchy, great lyrics, utterly Australian. Nice story Smokie.

  12. Mulcaster November 4, 2015 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    It is one of the great break up songs of all time.
    As for Christina I hope she grew up.
    I guess that you miss her,
    I guess you forgive her
    I hope
    you’re glad that she stood in your way

  13. Cate March 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Oh Darren! I have laughed so much – having been there and knowing both parties! Guess who I am still friends with. It was amazing to see you do this at Geelong and I am so proud to say you are still my friend after 46 years! Keep it going mate.

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