James Hands
Bungalow, Melbourne, 1982

Apart from the occasional red glow of a roll-your-own cigarette, I can’t see my hand in front of me, here in the dead-of-night darkness that blankets my bungalow bedroom. A bit of reefer madness has gone down, and my mate Rick is passed out somewhere on the purple shag-pile.

1982, first year out of school.  Arts degree at Melbourne Uni because I’ve got no idea what I want to do with my life. But the music drifting off that TDK SA90 tape going round in the old twin speaker Sony is answering every question I ever had.

Old school friend Rick is a Crazy Horse Neil Young fan, so usually Pocahontas would be cranking out at volume. But tonight is different. I’d just been introduced by a Uni friend to Madeleine – long blond hair, sweet 16, pure hippy chic wafting Ishka fragrance – and it’s total infatuation at first sight.

And she’s given me this tape as an educational introduction to her 60s world. On one side The Doors, the other Crosby, Stills and Nas: both their first, self-titled albums. Totally captivating stuff. I’d seen Apocalypse Now at the Valhalla in Richmond, so The End by The Doors is familiar in that intense, mind-altering kind of way.

But the song that grabs me by the heart and takes me back home to heaven, and ensures my fingers will keep tangling themselves in guitar strings for the next 20 years is David Crosby’s Guinnevere.

What is that tuning? So exotic, so strange but extraordinarily beautiful. Two guitar tracks, one acoustic, one electric, weaving through each other in an exquisite dance. And two voices, Crosby and Graham Nash, soaring, divine harmonies.

As these sounds cascade through the black stillness of my room, telling of love, freedom and his lady’s “golden hair”, I caress thoughts of the young woman who has just captured my heart, and the mysteries of the inner world that love, music and a few tokes have opened up. Eighteen years old, just free of school and family, and life has started to show some real promise.

© James Hands