On the Bungaree–Daylesford Road, Victoria. Late February 2023

Aging iPhone sits in the console (with the Sonny Morey themed phone cover hanging on by a thread), shuffling through the randomish subset of my collection as we gently wind through what appears to be Australia’s organic garlic-growing epicentre.

As we get closer to Stinking Rose Central, on comes a guaranteed smile-dialer. Recorded when its narrator was just north of forty, about a time when he was probably around fourteen. Surfing Magazines by The Go-Betweens sounds like it could have been a lost recording from the time of their debut “double-A side smash” Lee Remick/Karen.

After the plinky-plinky intro, Robert Forster commences with these seemingly twee and banal lyrics:

We used to get our kicks reading surfing magazines
Some good looking people
Wearing Lee Cooper jeans
They’re breaking on the headland, they’re breaking on the shore
And when you’re living in Hawaii they’re breaking at your door

Cue upturned sides of mouths. Surely Robert Forster wasn’t a surfer, you initially think. He’s having a lend of us. But he isn’t. Or is he?

I imagine the wan lanky teen poring over his stash of Tracks and some imported copies of Surf Scene, Morning of the Earth cassette playing in the background. Totally consumed by the lure of the break. Incongruous given his love of Hemingway, Genet, Brecht, Chandler and James Joyce (and Karen) a few years later.

We used to wet our fingers on surfing magazines
Going to throw school and follow those scenes
Going to get a Kombi and go from beach to beach
Be the kind of people the authorities can’t reach

Didn’t we all at some stage imagine our future selves thus? No slaving away over a hot desk/arc welder/steering wheel/typewriter like our parents did. Tramps like us, baby we are born to run/surf/avoid responsibility.

We used to get our kicks reading surfing magazines
Wake up in the morning and the waves are clean
Standing on the headland taking in the scene
Just like they do it … in surfing magazines

Forster is still reliving that summer feeling in his sixties. Audiences still join in the wistful wordless chorus.

And old folk smile in their cars and hum along while zipping past Australian farmhouses on forty degree days, wondering what happened to their fourteen year old selves.


Stereo Story #706

See also  See My Baby Jive by Stephen Andrew