Living It Up by Rickie Lee Jones

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Living It Up by Rickie Lee Jones


Vin Maskell
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?”

He shrugged.

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.

Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.

By | 2017-04-06T10:20:15+00:00 April 6th, 2017|Jazz, Pop, Singer-songwriters|7 Comments


  1. Mickey Randall November 27, 2014 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Loved this Vin. We have so much to forgive our teenage selves. Also high on this list for me is Supertramp. I loved them during the 70’s and early 80’s. The Alan Parsons Project. Toto. Terrifying, really. There’s something in the pretension that appeals to adolescent boys, I guess. But I only listened to RLJ’s debut album recently, and it stands up well. “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963” is among my favourites still.

    Thanks, Mickey

    • Stereo Stories Admin November 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Toto? Lordy. Glad you liked the story, Mickey.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis November 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Great stuff . I’m not a huge fan of RLJ, but I love Supertramp and always will. Breakfast in America still one of my favourite albums. Mickey, Toto have copped a bad rap. Rosanna is a great song about lost love!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt November 27, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Mickey, we must have been separated at birth, six years apart.

    I grabbed the Dreamer/Bloody Well Right single around 1974, but went off them a bit later. Alan Parsons Project, me too, taught me all I know about E.A. Poe.

    Drew the line at Toto (but point taken about their ode to Ms Arquette, Phil)

    I had a Yes, ELP, King Crimson phase, but Chris Bailey and Rob Younger shook me out of that.

    But it is worthwhile to revisit all of that stuff when you don’t think you have something to prove, to others, or yourself.

    Thanks Vin

  4. Mickey Randall December 2, 2014 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Agreed Swish. Alan Parsons Project can probably be forgiven much as they did the tremendous service of introducing young folk such as me to Poe. And I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that Rick Wakeman nudged me towards reading Journey to the Centre of the Earth! Still among the best sci-fi novels I’ve read.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt December 3, 2014 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Mickey, The Cure pointed me at Camus, but I didn’t receive the same sort of literary encouragement when I saw William Shakespeare on Countdown.

    Surely Rick must have led you towards King Arthur also, or had The Holy Grail already beaten him to it?

  6. John Butler April 7, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Vin, That opening para sets such a scene.

    Those first 2 RLJ albums are so resonant of a certain time. She’s had a diverse career since, but nowhere near the same success. I wonder what this says about the ways the record biz has changed?

    And there’s nothing really wrong with Supertramp. As long as you move on….


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