Abbotsford and Carlton, 1984
I was living in a dark, pokey terrace in Abbotsford. Four doors east the Clifton Hill train rumbled and clattered past. Four doors west were the eight lanes of Hoddle St. Directly across the road, a narrow one-way street, was an empty factory I’d explore on my too many empty days.
This single, underemployed life wasn’t quite cutting it. My dream of life as a writer was still very much a dream.
And on this day, probably a winter’s day, music wasn’t making much of a difference.
Flicking through my modest record collection – many bought second-hand, some acquired as review copies for my nascent ‘career’ as a music writer – I came across six albums by Supertramp.
Why? Why did I still have these records? I’d been a big fan in my teenage years but there, in that house, at that time, Supertramp were superfluous.
I put the records under my arm and caught the Johnston Street bus up to Lygon St, Carlton. ‘Walked past the cafes and restaurants to a second-hand book and record shop called Readings. ‘Handed the records to the man behind the counter.
He muttered “Twenty dollars for the lot.”
“Can I swap them for some records?”
I’d heard Rickie Lee Jones. Well, a song or two on the radio.
I’d read about her in those long Rolling Stone articles I wished I could write.
Browsing the albums at Readings I flicked from Kiki Dee to Emmylou Harris to Rickie Lee Jones.
Two albums. Self-titled debut, and, Pirates.
My eyes caught some lyrics on the back of Pirates
in the terminal where dreams
let so many tickets through
when strangers look in faces
and see somebody there they knew
you might meet me tomorrow
as all the lights are blooming green
and you’re feeling a little lonely
a little sad, a little mean…
(Living It Up, side 1,track 2)
I showed the two records to the man behind the counter. He shrugged.
The pokey terrace in Abbotsford didn’t seem so dark when I played the Rickie Lee Jones albums; the trains not so loud, the Hoddle St traffic not so near, the ghostly factory not so empty.
Listen to Rickie Lee Jones’ albums, old and new, and I reckon you hear serious dreaming in the lyrics, in the phrasings, in the vocals, in the arrangements.
I can’t ever imagine taking her records and CDs – her music and her lyrics and moods – to a second-hand record shop. Whereas some music gets you through your teen years and is then discarded, other music stays with you for good, for the long haul through this thing called life.
© Vin Maskell
Rickie Lee Jones is performing at Melbourne Recital Centre, on Friday 7 April 2017.