Boarding school, 1970.

I slept next to Dave for a year in 1970. We shared sleeping arrangements in one of the dormitories assigned to Year 11. Although he was from Sydney he wasn’t from my part of town. He was wealthy, connected, lived in a suburb where people had tennis courts, and he wore fashionable corduroy, high-waisted flares on free Sundays. But he also liked music and it turned out he had a sister who worked in the John and Merivale shop which had just opened on Pitt Street.

This groovy fashion mecca helped bring the wider world to Sydney and was famous for many things including mysterious access to LP imports which made it a pretty hip and happening place (and to note, I’ve just used ‘groovy’, ‘hip’ and ‘happening’ in the same sentence for the first and probably the last time).

Hearing music you couldn’t find on Sydney radio was the drawcard. Dave and his sister must have been close because she passed on some of these vinyl gems to him. In this our penultimate year of incarceration, five or six of us had a covert Samizdat-style music appreciation society going – along with the most useless record player in Sydney – but the sounds we came across were quite literally life-changing. In this small utility room we discovered Led Zeppelin 11Let it Bleed, The Stooges and much more.

One afternoon Dave brings along an LP by a band called Taste. It comes in an archetypal Sixties sleeve of an orange and black stencil close-up of a guitarist, in full flight, with hair everywhere. The first track on side one is called Blister on the Moon. Dave tilts the cover, the LP slips from its inner sleeve and is placed carefully on the small player. There are five of us, all in school uniforms of sorts, and all of high anticipation. Dave lifts the needle arm, the silence deepens, time stops momentarily, he judges the first groove pretty well… and then after a monumental E chord I hear:

                               Everyone is saying what to do and what to think,

                              And when to ask permission when you feel you want to blink.

                              First look left and then look right and now look straight ahead,

                              Make sure and take a warning of every word we’ve said.

How did this Ballyshannon-born Irish genius (as I find out later) know that I’d been institutionalised for almost five years with one more to come? I’m out of breath. On that late afternoon in the spring of 1970 Rory Gallagher gave me a “choose your own adventure” opportunity, a treasure map with an ever-changing path to follow – one that has given me an impetuousness for ideas, solidarity with friends, communion with a lover, sustenance in tough times, solace when alone, deep joy and pretty dodgy dance moves.

Stereo Story #654

Paul Dufficy grew up in Australia but has lived and worked for extensive periods in Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand. He writes about music, travel and other things that catch his interest. To support his writing he leads a Sydney walking tour with a focus on art and architecture. Paul is the creator of the new blog SoJournal. (Contributions welcome!)