Rye foreshore, summer of 1988/89
Seven years old. The endless summer had begun. The ritual of the foreshore caravan park holiday. I was starting to join the dots and think for myself. The outside world now making some sense.
More pointedly I was shaped by the older kids in the caravan park. The boys and girls between about 11 and 14 were heroes to a seven year old. Whatever they were into, I was soon into.
Now that I could understand what they were talking about, I’d entered the orbit of popular culture and had an entrée to what was as the epitome of cool, teenager-dom.
That summer involved a lot of tennis ball cricket and a mixture of awe and fear at Curtly Ambrose and the touring West Indies cricket team, but it also brought music.
But maybe the older kids were not that cool after all. This would explain why they were listening to music on their Walkmans with a good 18 month lag, and to INXS’s Kick especially. Kick had famously conquered the world over the last 12 months.
From the hits that I’d already heard on the radio to giggling at the utterance of ‘shit’ in Guns In The Sky it was still the next cool thing that I wanted to follow the teens doing. (When I quizzed Dad about swear words in the “Guns song”, he suggested that I was getting mixed up with Guns ’N’ Roses.)
So Dad did the right thing by me, he gifted me his Walkman for the summer so I could walk around and feel cool. He stuffed it with a mixtape – he was famous amongst his mates for whipping up mixtapes. This one was a selection of singles from a couple of different albums from a few years prior. I know Elton’s Too Low for Zero singles were on there, and I think Tim Finn’s Escapade singles could have been too, but importantly he picked a tape that, contained INXS songs.
Dad mustn’t have had Kick, but he did own 1984’s The Swing, a few albums back, so it was those singles that soundtracked my summer.
Every night I’d go to bed and listen to that tape with INXS as the highlight. Of course I was familiar with the songs already, the album had got a fair playing in our loungeroom over the years prior, but it took in a whole new meaning in this summer where the world was now making sense.
I enjoyed Original Sin, I Send A Message and Burn For You, but it was Dancing On The Jetty that really struck me: from its mock orchestral opening to its eminently danceable beats, to its proclamations of ‘hit cities’ and ‘right clothing’ and sing-along chorus.
I’ve subsequently heard the band explain it as some metaphor for relationship troubles; I like to think I was deeper than most seven year- olds, but not that deep.
As I lay in bed early each night the song was everything that was happening outside that I wasn’t allowed to do yet. It was about teenagers and the social hive of the beach at night. It was about dancing in the summer. It was about meeting at the pier. It was about what I could look forward to one day. It was about dancing on the jetty.
The childhood gave way to the alt-rock teenage years and INXS were a little lost on the way before I rediscovered them in my early 20s. Dancing on the Jetty still makes me want to chase that party on a hot summer’s night and dance without a care in the world.
Text © Brutas Mudcake lives in Melbourne nourished by the twin nutrients of sport and music.