Balaclava, November 2021.

I have never been one for Christmas songs. Or Christmas films.

I find Love Actually the most misogynistic film ever made about the yuletide season.

And my mother’s Christmas compilation record by the Peppermint Candy Kids (1971) made my toes curl. Whatever inspired her to bring it home from Bright’s Department store in the mid-1970s I’ll never know.

And then one November morning I heard a familiar tune on the radio.

I knew the lyrics.

Christmas up where I came from,

New Year’s Eve with my new friends.

Local Melbourne band the Large No.12s were regularly gigging at the much loved Dogs’ Bar, a St Kilda institution, until it closed in pandemic times.*

They were also the last band I saw at Misery Guts, a tiny bar in a terrace house on Grey Street.

But this was not their version.

It was meatier.

It was still guitar driven.

It was still plaintive and summery.

It was by another St Kilda institution. A guy I first saw play at Deakin in the early 1980s.

I tracked it down to a new double album of Christmas songs. By … Paul Kelly.

And then I found the video. And there spliced among the vintage footage and recent film shoot are the songwriters. Wes and Horse Harrington! In a phone booth, filmed on a familiar street in Elwood.

There’s PK himself running along the canal and up (and rolling down again) the hill that is Point Ormond. There’s Ripponlea station. There’s St Kilda beach in all its unadorned glory. The same beach where I’ve been dipping for nearly 30 years.

I wanna go back to the people I love.

I wanna go back to the people I love.

I’m not likely to buy the whole double album, but I am very happy that the royalties for that one song will be going to Horse and Wes.


Stereo Story #646

*The Dogs Bar has now reopened!

More Paul Kelly stories

Footage courtesy of Triple R, recorded for the 2013 Radiothon.

Louise Maskell has been surrounded by other people's words for some 30 years. Occasionally she strings together a few of her own. Otherwise it's all about the music and tall skinny dogs. She misses The Continental.