Flinders Ranges, South Australia. 1977

As a primary-school teacher I’ve been on many school camps – South Gippsland, Swan Hill, The Dandenong Ranges, Woodend, Ballarat – all very tiring but each with a story to tell. I never went on a school camp during my own primary school years. The first school camp I attended was as a form 5 (year 11) student at Geelong High School – destination Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

My mates talked me into going. “You’ll get away from the classroom for five days, you’ll spend time with us, you’ll see new places, maybe get a girlfriend.” What could go wrong?

My memory of that camp, all those years ago, was that it did go pretty well. The Flinders Ranges were beautiful, Adelaide was an interesting place to visit for the first time and sleeping out under the stars was an amazing experience.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of stand-out downers.  The first night we got as far as Keith, which is just across the border. The evening meal was a culinary surprise – baked beans and pineapple. Sounds like one of those joke combinations – you know – banana and tealeaf or peanut butter and Vegemite. It was unbelievably terrible. I don’t think anyone enjoyed it.

The other “not so highlight” was that there was only one cassette tape on our coach. It was a Bob Dylan mixed tape. At the time I hadn’t developed any taste for Bob Dylan. There were only so many times you could listen to Hurricane, Just Like a Woman, Lay Lady Lay and lots of other songs before the tape ended, was turned over and you get it all again. This went on for about three days. Almost like fingernails down the blackboard. No, it didn’t lift my appreciation of Dylan at the time.

We got back on our coach after stopping for lunch one day and – God bless the conquering hero – someone had the bright idea of swapping cassette tapes with the other bus.

As the vehicle pulled away, much to my elation, the replacement musical entertainment was A New World Record by the Electric Light Orchestra. I loved that album. The clever use of stringed instruments, catchy Moog riffs, vocoder and rock beat were great. I recognised the music straight away. One of my buddies had some of their earlier and more obscure records that I had dutifully recorded onto my Sony C90s back at home.  Third track in was Rockaria.

She’s sweet on Wagner, I think she’d die for Beethoven, she loves the way Puccini lays down a tune, and Verdi’s always creeping from her room …

I thought I saw the mayor there, but I wasn’t really sure …

I can still remember the jubilation of hearing that familiar music, how it lifted my spirit and impacted on the mood of some people around me. Even these days, when I hear the song, I recall that emotion and moment.

Even that Jeff Lynne slide guitar over a basic 12 bar chord pattern and pretty corny lyrics could bring cheer and relief to a musically starved teenager staring across a flat, sparse and dusty outlook on a dirt road headed towards Leigh Creek.

Sorry Bob!

Stereo Story #674

Note from editor: One wonders what David Oke made of The Travelling Wilburys, which included ELO’s Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan.

David is a Melbourne musician, music teacher and primary school teacher. His debut Stereo Story was about playing Great Balls of Fire at Sun Studio in Memphis. He has assisted in the organisation, and leading of gospel music workshops and Sunday gospel celebrations at the Anglesea Music Festivals, and is a member of The Seddon Jammers. His son Dan is the creative force of the band Jarrow.