St Andrews market, Victoria, May 2012
St Andrews is a town in the hills on the edge of Melbourne. It’s not quite a suburb and it’s not quite out in the country. I visited its popular Saturday market as the stall holders were packing away their goats’ cheeses, their angora scarves, their wooden toys, their landscape paintings.
But the bloke with about 30 milk crates of second-hand records was in no hurry. There were hundreds of, if not a few thousands of, albums there. “Five dollars each,” the bloke said. “Or, at this time of day, three for ten.”
But with so many albums, where would I start? Pop, folk, rock, country? By accident or by design, by chance or by fate, The Little Heroes’ 1982 album Play By Numbers was jutting out on an angle from the back of one of the milk crates on the ground. I only knew one Little Heroes song, One Perfect Day, and I’d always liked it. (The song reached number 25 on the Australian charts back in 1982.)
I’ve always felt it was a gorgeous piece of pop, in which the singer tries to will a reunion with a former lover who is on the other side of the world.
The only version I had of the song was a restrained version by Bernadette Robinson, an internationally acclaimed Melbourne soprano who has also interpreted songs by Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright and Leonard Cohen. Her Perfect Day (on a very good 1993 compilation album called Moon Over Melbourne) is stripped back and slowed down: a pure voice, a piano and a bass, rather than the original pop band treatment, which included a touch of 1980s synthesiser.
Crouched there on the gravel of the St Andrews market, I turned the album cover over to read the song listings and there was One Perfect Day – final track, side one. The song had been floating in and out of my head for 30 years and now here it was in my hands, on old-fashioned vinyl.
I flicked through some more milk crates and plucked out Dedication by Gary US Bonds (for his soul version of Jackson Browne’s The Pretender) and a Linda Ronstadt greatest hits album (for the photos as much as the songs, admittedly).
Driving back into Melbourne, into the suburbs there was, of course, only one song playing in my head.