Vin Maskell
Abbotsford, Melbourne, November 1984

It was a very small house. Just a few metres wide. A narrow  lane down one side. On the other side, more workers’ cottages, as they were once called.  An abandoned factory across the one-way street. Eight lanes of Hoddle St just around the corner.

Home for two singles souls. Housemates who had become friends. Housemates who knew each other’s ways. Mostly.

We had shared a much bigger house, on a much wider road, for three years. More room.  More people – co-tenants coming and going, staying and leaving. When the lease rolled around again we decided it was time to move on. Just the two of us. You could call it down-sizing.

The very small house had two bedrooms off a skinny corridor. Then a little lounge-room with a TV, a couch and my records. A sunny kitchen,  a basic bathroom, and a yard hardly wide enough to swing a cat, yet deep enough to bury a dog – as I discovered while preparing to plant tomatoes.

Amongst the records was Joan Armatrading’s 1976 self-titled debut album, bought second-hand. I took a shine to Side 1: the slide guitar on the opening track Down To Zero, the orchestration on Help Yourself, the drumming on Water With The Wine, the sweetness of Love And Affection, the vulnerability of Save Me.  Not a weak track. Some sides of albums are like that.

Love And Affection begins

I am not in love
But I’m open to persuasion
East or West
Where’s the best
For romancing

With a friend
I can smile
But with a lover
I could hold my head back
I could really laugh
Really laugh

In that dark small house for two single souls I found that I was in love. It had taken three years of house-sharing for the obvious to dawn on me. In the darkness and the smallness of that little dwelling I could sense my world changing, expanding. Possibly, hopefully, for ever.

I would have to – to borrow another Armatrading song title – show some emotion. But would Julie be open to persuasion? To change? Open to reciprocation? If not, I’d be down to zero, moving out, into a sad-sack one-bedroom flat.


I like to think we played Side 1 of the Armatrading album during those first months of love. While cooking,  while dining, while doing the dishes.  While emptying grocery bags.  Bringing in the washing.

Track 4, Love And Affection, was not necessarily ‘our’ song – I don’t think Julie and I have ever had such a song – but it’s my favourite of the album.  As well as its sweetness, there’s the saxophone, the orchestration, the call-and-response chorus…

Little darling I believe you could
Help me a lot
Just take my hand
And lead me where you will
No conversation
No wave goodnight
Just make love
With affection

Sing me another love song
But this time
With a little dedication
Sing it, sing it (Sing it, sing it!)
You know that’s what I like
Once more with feeling
Give me love
Give me love
Give me love


About 10 years ago we were driving down The Great Ocean Road with our three teenage children. I’d had enough of The Waifs and Powderfinger and The Cat Empire – all fine bands – and popped the Armatrading album into the Tarago’s CD player.

Those first five songs took us from Anglesea to Aireys Inlet, the land on the driver’s side, the glorious sea on the passenger’s.

The sixth song caught us unawares. Julie and I looked at each other, confused.

“What’s that song?”

“Don’t know.”

“Not very good is it?”

“Seems a bit clunky.”

I looked at the track listing on the CD cover. Join The Boys? People? Somebody Loves You? Like Fire? Tall In The Saddle?  All unfamiliar.


In that small house in Abbotsford we had never got around to turning the record over and playing Side 2. We must have had better things to do.

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

By |2017-11-19T19:54:50+00:00November 26th, 2017|Singer-songwriters|9 Comments


  1. Jennifer November 26, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Beautifully written and expressed. I also love this Joan Armatrading song.

  2. Veepas November 26, 2017 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Just brilliant!
    You are both still going strong after all these years
    Good choice of song – even better choice of partner

  3. Curly Bateman November 26, 2017 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Beautiful. And pitch perfect. Congrats to you and Julie!

  4. Louise November 26, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply


  5. Chris Phillips November 26, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

    That is a very beautiful story Vin. A perfect delicate tribute to the awesome family you’ve made. As I was reading it I was hoping it was about Julie! Did you just write this recently, perhaps after last night’s show? Maybe Smokie’s song & your preamble about it was on your mind?! Hehe.

    • Stereo Stories Admin November 26, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

      Thank you Chris. I wrote the story some months ago, after I’d written a story (yet to be posted on the site) about a brief teenage infatuation. Thanks for your singing on various songs last night, and your story. ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around’ was an inspired choice. Cheers.

  6. Bruce November 26, 2017 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Very sweet Vin.

  7. John Butler November 27, 2017 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Lovely, Vin.

    I haven’t listened to Joan for quite some time. But this has me thinking it’s time to give the old vinyl a spin.

  8. Stephen Andrew December 20, 2017 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Maybe my favourite Vin Maskell story (to date). Love the vivid imagery. I can see you both, years before we met, through your words.

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