Brinsley Road, Camberwell 1973
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
It’s summer and I’m lying on the floor of the lounge at my school, headphones plugged into one of several sockets around the room that connect to the stereo system. Someone puts Transformer on the turntable, Lou Reed sings Perfect Day and it feels like it’s been written just for me.
1973 was in stark contrast to the year before when my life had gone seriously off the rails. Full of teenage angst, I hated home, hated school, hated my life. I was a rebel without a cause looking for a way out. Stealing a car with three mates and heading north to NSW felt like a great way to outrun all the shit in our lives.
Of course, that was never going to happen, and after a car chase with police that the Blues Brothers would have been proud of, we were caught, thrown into the local jail for a night and brought back to Melbourne to face the music. In my case that meant 18 months’ probation in two states and the boot from my local high school.
Desperate for any school that would have me; my mother enrolled me in a community school that didn’t seem too bothered by my murky past. At Brinsley Road I learnt some of the most important life lessons a 15-year-old needed. How to play House of the Rising Sun on guitar, how to write poetry, and how to roll a joint. I fell in love for the first time, watched art house films, talked politics and listened to music.
So … much … music.
Music that was the antithesis of the banal pop tunes I had been listening to on the radio. I discovered Pink Floyd and Patti Smith, King Crimson and Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Santana, Leonard Cohen and, of course, Lou Reed.
And then it wasn’t just one perfect day; in my memory it felt like so many perfect days. And Lou Reed had summed it up for me with that song.
Of course the reality was somewhat different from that idealised version I remember. I was still a teenager and some angst goes with the territory at that age, but I look back at that time with a deep sense of gratitude. At Brinsley Road I was given another chance. I found my tribe, one where I didn’t have to try and be something I wasn’t.
Jump 45 years and I’ve joined a choir in Fitzroy and unbelievably Perfect Day is on the set list. Lou Reed in four-part harmony. Not sure he would have approved but it works for me.
So, I get to sing a song that connects me to my 15-year old self and it feels like my past and my present have come full circle. When I hear the opening bars of Perfect Day, I’m back there in the sunlight in a place where I no longer have to be that rebel, that bad girl.
As Lou baby put it, I could be someone else, someone good.