The Continental, Prahran, July 1996
I kissed my six year old daughter goodnight. I kissed my four year old son goodnight. I kissed my wife goodbye. “Home by midnight,” I said, and then drove over Westgate Bridge, across town and into narrow groovy Greville Street.
I did this five Tuesday nights in a row. My treat for the demands of being a home-dad. Rob Snarski of The Blackeyed Susans was doing five nights at The Continental, one of the best venues in Melbourne back then. Good sound, good sightlines, terrific bands. And audiences who were usually there for the music.
For five Tuesday nights I got to hear the great smooth Snarski voice as he sung Sheets of Rain and Dirty Water and This One Eats Souls, as he sung By Your Hand and I Need You and End of the Line, as he sung Glory Glory and American Sailors/Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think.
Snarski might have also sung Dylan’s I Threw It All Away, Elvis’ If I Can Dream, and Springsteen’s State Trooper.
I was there for all of those songs, there at a table near the stage with my all-night lemon squash. But mostly my weekly pilgrimage was for Ocean of You, a deep, dark tense song written by David McComb.
Sunlight is a rumour/That is lost in the stars/You can’t see the bottom/But you know it’s not far/This theory of love was never proven true/I’m out of my depth/In an ocean of you
I was there with plenty of other mid-week pilgrims, happy to be sitting on my own. And I was there for my sister Louise, who was overseas at the time. A dedicated, devoted, loyal, long-standing, passionate fan of The Blackeyed Susans, she would have been thinking of the Continental and the Snarski gigs while she was on the other side of the world.
I wrote Louise letters about those five Tuesday nights. Hand-written letters, with air-mail stamps on them. Letters with the name of songs and guest musicians. Letters that travelled the world: London, Scotland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Prague. Vancouver, Alaska, Seattle. And back to Melbourne.
Letters written at a desk or a kitchen table. Letters written in-between school and kindergarten drop-offs and pick-ups, in-between cooking and shopping and kids’ baths, in-between Playschool and Bananas In Pyjamas. Letters written, maybe, after midnight, after driving back from the Continental, trying to hold onto the music before it slipped away into sleep.
These days I don’t see The Blackeyed Susans as much as I’d like (and certainly not as much as Louise), but each morning I go down to the ocean, for a dip in the shallows. In the summer when I’m snorkelling I take my chances with the deeper water. I’m not a strong swimmer and if it wasn’t for the snorkel I’d be out of my depth in an ocean. Some hot days, with the sunlight fierce on my back and the rocks and stingrays down below I might think of the David McComb song, and of five Tuesday nights at the Continental.
Rob Snarski recalls one of the more curious times he performed Ocean of You:
In 1990 I had to perform the song on Good Morning Perth, an early morning TV show. It was quite cheesy and not dissimilar to those going around these days. I sang live, solo at 8am after an hour’s drive on wet roads to Tuart Hill.
My father watched on in our family lounge room in suburban Kelmscott surrounded by a sea of red shaggy carpet. I’d never sung on TV before and he’d not seen me perform in a while.
He was so impressed he rang the TV station a dozen times, disguising his voice each time, to praise my performance and the beauty of the song, and to suggest that they should have me back on again.