Dave and Mark and I had known each other since ’86, we’d hung out together, played in bands, shared houses, we had an innate understanding, by ’98 we’d played with a bunch of folks, sometimes in loungerooms, sometimes on stage, my personal life was blasted, I loved a woman, she was troubled, I rang Dave and Mark and we got together at the legendary Sound Level studios, the soda machine was full of beer, we dubbed ourselves ‘The Smokers’ and we played there every week or two for a couple years, wrote songs like Headster and Dolly and learned a bunch of cool covers, Mark was a great drummer, had that Charlie Watts knack of putting the right rhythm into anything, Dave had a superlight touch on the guitar, I slammed a bass gtr and yelled down the microphone and they followed me, cos that’s what a bass gtrist does, I knew the changes, we played a kickarse version of The Atlantics’ Come On and a howling take on I’m Not Like Everybody Else that caused the Beatles cover band to come in and ask “where’s Iggy”, we knew how to groove, we were friends, we understood each other, we talked and drank and smoked and played rock and roll, we talked about the shows we’d been offered, we auditioned a singer who rolled on the floor barking like a sick dog, we wrote and learned more songs, we got together at Sound Level one Sunday arvo, Mark tuned his drums, Dave tuned his Strat, my bass gtr never lost tune, Dave hit an A chord and Mark and I came in with a rolling rhythm, no repeating riff crap, every bar was different, it was like surfing, we took it up, we took it down, we took it further up, further down, rolling on the energy, every time a bit more crazy and loose and loud, louder, quieter, louder, and seven minutes in, exploded in a scream of drums and guitars and hot valves and cymbals and feedback and the beautiful electric storm faded and we looked at each other and knew that we had hit a glorious level, we never played a show, we never played again after that day, it remains for me a perfect note, for seven minutes The Smokers were in touch with the gods.
Stereo Story #507
A longer and more formal version of this piece was published at our partner site Almanac Music in March 2018. Compare and contrast if you wish.
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