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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Counting the beat

Last week while the boys were away I launched a major assault on my &Duck website, adding a lot of my artist's books and a few of my design jobs (I haven't finished putting them all up yet, but I got a fair way in). In the process, I pulled down an archive box marked 'books' that had been sitting on top of a cupboard for the past five or so years, and discovered a treasure trove of things I had forgotten about. I'd assumed the box was old books I'd stashed, but in fact it was my storage box for student work and stuff I'd made in Bumblebee's infancy.

And down the bottom was... gasp! This:

Countdown cover
Bought in England in 1979, this innocent notepad became my weekly obsession. I unpacked it in 1980, in steamy Townsville, where Colonel Duck was posted. Each Sunday evening I would sit cross-legged in front of the tv, and turn on Countdown. In the last ten minutes, I would scribble down the top ten as they were announced. I did this from September 1980 through to June 1981, when I ran out of room. I didn't start a new pad, instead I think I got a boyfriend sometime around that period, and therefore got the start of a life.

But it makes me all misty-eyed to look through the pages... what follows is merely a selection:

Countdown 800907
One of the things I love about these lists is the mix of music. None of this separation between mainstream and indie music that you get these days. I'm sure the lead singer of MiSex (who, BTW, my mother nearly ran over once in Townsville when he was supporting Split Enz, to my teenage awe and embarrassment) was trying not to vomit as Gavin announced this choice run-down of hits.

Countdown 801123
Check out the humour in 'MONGO ROCK'. I couldn't tell you if that was deliberate -- probably not, knowing the wide-eyed kidlet I was -- but it's ironic, because if I were asked to nominate the worst Australian performers of the early 80s I would, without hesitation, say Ross Wilson and Pat Wilson. And I only pinpointed in my mind why this afternoon as I was driving Bumblebee back from Cooma ahead of wild weather: smugness. They acted like they knew what Australians SHOULD be listening to, and bestowed that music upon us as if we should be grateful. And I hated them for it. They're probably very nice people, but I loathed everything Mondo Rock released, except 'State of the Heart'. And Bop Girl is going to pop music hell hot on the trail of Oh Mickey. BLAH!

The Leo Sayer Hit is actually More Than I Can Say, but I fluffed it and obviously never went back to it. That's always been my way... onwards, onwards, time for picking up the mess later (*snort* says BB and my mother).

Countdown 810201
Classic young teen, I flirted with coloured pens for a while. Can you believe the Slim Dusty number 1? It stayed in the top ten for a long time, as did Joe Dolce's Shaddupa you face.

Countdown 810215
But peoples, beware of using coloured pens for your precious documents, for this is what happens to the back of the paper!

My mother nearly fainted this week, with Dr Hook on the show. The only other time she swooned like that was when Shakin' Stevens was hosting. I can't remember this Abba song: On & On & On. Let's have a listen, shall we?



Oh yes. Frida's had better hair days. Not one of their best hits, is it? They sound as synthesised as that Cher hit a while back.

Countdown 810329
I love the way I keep writing Molly Meldrum in as if there could be a chance he wouldn't be there the next week. No wonder my parents thought I'd be a librarian. And -- *swoon* -- Suzi! I'd started spending my pocket money on singles around this time, and my collection closely correlates with many of the songs in this book. Well, the only other way of hearing new songs in Townsville was some horrible American relay broadcast on the local radio station on Saturday nights, running through the top 100 hits for that week. I didn't discover the cool stuff from this period until I got to university and got to plunder everyone else's record collections.


I can't begin to tell you about the thrill I got when I rediscovered this little gem. I thought I'd lost it, years ago! I think I'll make a proper solander box for this. Sigh!

40 comments:

Amanda said...

Best. Post. Ever!


Do all young female teens have that exact same handwriting??

Amanda said...

I also note the assassination-fuelled appearances of John Lennon in the hit parade in early '81.

Michelle said...

You woldn't believe the glashback I just had reading your post. I grew up in Townsville (75 - 90) and Countdown was Sunday night viewing in the rumpus room. Dad wouldn't have "that crap" on the big telly, so we had to watch it in black and white downstairs. I don't think I even saw Countdown in colour!

Anyway, I also used to listen to Kasey Kasem on Sunday nights. I do recall Mr Mister was a big hit back then but I could be wrong.

So where did you go to school?

Lord Sedgwick said...

You are a rooly sad Countdown afficondo.

Like I never woz. :0)

Leo Sayer, eat your curly headed heart out.

As the lyrics say, "You can't change the mosaic, nobody change the mosaic ..."

(Sayers he after valiantly and not giving up trying to read the letters for word verificationioninionicalionain ... and that's easier to type than the higheroroglyphics provided by Bloody Blogger.)

Michelle said...

Forgive my bad typing in that last comment!

Mr QM just reminded me of Rick Dee's Weekly Top 40. Then I scared him when I sang the theme music.

Ampersand Duck said...

Heh. Yes, all girls have this handwriting at some point or rather. At least I didn't use hearts over my 'i's.

John Lennon's death made a HUGE impact on the pop charts in '81. Cynics made jokes about marketing ploys.

Michelle, I was there in 1980 and 1981 (moved to Orange after that) and I went to Kirwan High. And roller-skated a lot.

Lord S: I am not the queen of Countdown dagginess amongst my peers. I have a friend who used to be in the audience! Squeeaalll!

Ampersand Duck said...

Blah. 'or *other*'.

lucy tartan said...

Ducky don't lose that notebook, it's the only one you own....brilliant stuff, and you are so on the money about Pat & Ross Wilson, they made Wings look completely unnepotistic and Bop Girl is probably the worst Australian pop song ever recorded.

Dorian said...

Amazing find. Just unbelievable, so many memories. Can this please be the starting point for that Fufkin/Duck collaboration?

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh hooray, Laura, I am so glad someone else agrees with me...

Definitely, Dorian. Let's go crazy.

Zoe said...

"Ducky don't lose that notebook, it's the only one you own."

COMEDY GOLD! as Fyodor might say

Mummy/Crit said...

yeah!! I watched a lot of countdown in the 70s and 80s too. I've been in a peculiar kind of heaven when Rage screens entire episodes over summer. I've been enjoying introducing the beloved to Molly (and Aunty Jack nd Norman Gunston). He's always amused at Molly's level of inebriation. I never quite understood what what going on when Molly disappeared mid-show and JPY carried the banner for him... Thanks for the memories.

Sue McGettigan said...

Oh my goodness, thanks for the huge trip down memory lane :) I was in my last years of high school, watching Countdown obsessively, loving and hating the people on that show :) I used to grab Countdown magazine and put the posters on my wall, ha ha, dags rule. Can you believe Shuduppayouface was anywhere near a serious music countdown?? Gotta love those Countdown years. As a fellow obsessive I really admire your devoted notebook, most cool :)

Bernice said...

That Meldrum man has much to answer for. Including v-knee jeans. For the crew I hung with as a teenager, Countdown marked what you DIDN'T listen to. Anti-music. In all senses.

Ampersand Duck said...

... and it was discovering people like you at uni that blew my little world apart, Bernice. Although I think you yourself would have scared the shit out of me :)

Louise Swinn said...

Hi Ampersand Duck, I read your post with a big grin. When I was 10, 11, 12, in the UK, I was listening to Radio One and doing the exact same thing, copying down the countdown. Hitting record on anything I wanted a copy of...

Ampersand Duck said...

Wow Louise, that took me back. I wonder if I've still got any of my radio mix tapes in a box at Colonel Duck's farm? Jam-packed with bad music, all with the first and last few seconds brutally chopped off or spoken over by bad DJs...

Edward Yates said...

Hi there,

I've been tracing a so-called meme backwards through the interweb and stumbled across your blog. I think I've exhausted the meme though...

Things like your notepad are fabulous artifacts of lives! I've recently been packing to move house this coming weekend and the thing that has taken the most time is going through things like birthday cards, letters, objects given to me etc, etc, as I've been reminiscing as I've been sorting. Each artifact brings about a level of recall of memory that I thought I'd never have about a day, a person or an event...

Best wishes,
Ed

Anonymous said...

what a great find. you should scan the pages in a reprint the whole thing as an artist book.

It has that wonder mix of being personal yet something which many other people can project their own stories onto.

infoaddict said...

Hah! I KNEW I couldn't have been the only one doing that! AND, like Louise above, recording it. Remember that Countdown was repeated? I think the "real" one was on Saturday, and then repeated Sunday.

We three kids would write down ALL the videos shown on the Saturday, and then set up the "remote" (buttons on a looooong cable) for the video machine and be all prepared for recording the ones we wanted on the Sunday.

Yes, I _did_ become a librarian, thanks for asking :)

I've even got most of the tapes - I have GOT to get them digitised.

Every now and again, we all come across one of our lists. Oh my gawd, the handwriting ...

fifi said...

oh, that's precious!

Was it a purple smelly-pen, by any chance?? They always had that halo effect, plus the gift of smell.

I was in the studio audience at countdown once.
Immortalised on film staring with my big gob open at Sherbet or someone...

Didn't get stirred or anything at school that week....nah.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

a) I thought I'd never find anyone else who hated the Wilsons as much as I. Mongo Rock indeed. Come Said the Boy used to make me wretch (still does). self absorbed prat.

b) careful what you say about the Abba girls - their voices were/are FAB and I won't hear a word against them! On & On & On is one of my top picks from their total extreme satin-coated disco phase. so wotch it ;)

c) where did you go to skool in Orange? I had a penpal/boyfriend from Orange in the mid-80's, he went to the local and then James Sheehan. one of his friends was a really decent chick who went to Kinross Wollaroi, I wish I had known her better. a chick from my class got sent to boarding skool out there to 'straighten her out' because she was 'a bit wild'. she was more than a bit wild and subsequently had a grand old time running amuck 100's of kms from her family. what were they thinking?

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oh and PS - I still have several tapes from the radio ranging from c1979-85, bad editing and all. they still play really well, the tape quality is surprising. the exception is the Oils On Water concert which died a complete death from overplaying (the video too).

also several compilations I made from the scant pop vinyl I had (mostly chartbuster type LPs). you can usually tell what my favourite song was at the time of taping because I'd put it on multiple times, and to fill in the not-quite-full-song-length bit of tape at the end. top score goes to Whip It by Devo.

in the mid 80's I used to tape bits of TV programmes, theme songs etc and use them to make theme tapes for parties. eg, for a 60's party I taped the theme from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Dream of Jeannie etc, and scattered them through 60's songs. I loved that tape, was so sad when it died in the mid 90's because I couldn't get the theme songs back to make another copy. what a dag :)

Ampersand Duck said...

Speedie:

a) Yay! We need a facebook group!

b) Don't get me wrong, love the AB, and have on my list of draft posts something about the National Unifying Qualities of ABBA.

c) I did indeed go to KW, and it sounds like your wild friend might have been the room mate that distracted me so much I failed my HSC :) I graduated in 1984, but I was a full year younger than my peers, which also contributed to my failure. I ended up repeatin yr 12 at Randwick Girls.

Hil said...

I've got a similar notebook but from the 60's, recording weekly top ten hit lists from the local radio stations. Decorated with blobby psychedelic writing of band names and so on!

Helen said...

Definitely need a facebook group. I saw RW play live once in the mid 80s, turned to my companion and said "I can't remember a single one of those songs after they've played it."

Daddy Cool revived a couple of years ago in the Domain was a DIFFERENT STORY, though.

I also saw Reg Mombasa and Pete Doherty (Mentals) play last weekend in their current incarnation, Dog Trumpet. Reg's face is like the cratered mountains of the moon.

Jeremy said...

This is one of the most beautiful, endearing blog posts I've ever come across. How nice of you to let us in!! You should totally create an exhibition around your notebook - your photos actually do it justice, and I for one would love to see more!

Drewzel said...

You're such a girl after my own heart, I recall sitting there with my scrapbook in the mid-80's watching the Countdown Awards and writing down the winners in my dodgy handwriting.
I'm with you on Mondo Rock and "Bop Girl" is definitely one of the worst songs ever. I even recall thinking how embarrassing it was when my sis brought the 7" single home. "Come Said the Boy" still makes me want to spew chunks.
I have a nice little collection of LP's such as "1981...in the sun" "1982...over the top" etc, that I still cherish today. Oh and "Ripper 76".

Francis Xavier Holden said...

ducky - great stuff - I look forward to you scanning it all in so I can flip through it on the web. Ta.

I really do mis sthe days of eclectic music programms on TV and radio - such a wide range of pop music - now days we all crouch disdainfully in our own niches and never get impacted by that which we have decided in advance we don't like.

infoaddict - the reason we only see the same few old Countdown episodes on RAGE etc are that the ABC combined cost saving with ignorance of the value of Countdown as a weekly cultural journal of the times, by erasing and writing over the tapes.

So ring up ABC archives and ask if they have your episodes - they will digitise them for you if they don't have them and millions of Australians will thank you.

Better still get in touch with Molly hiself (hes approachable and affable) and get a photo op handing over the Missing Countdown Tapes.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

I really do mis sthe days of eclectic music programms on TV and radio - such a wide range of pop music - now days we all crouch disdainfully in our own niches and never get impacted by that which we have decided in advance we don't like.

I lament that everything on telly these days is stylised to within an inch of it's pre-rehearsed lives. even the ever-so-cool off-the-hip stuff... isn't. Countdown was so daggy and, would you call it naive? I dunno. gaffs and blunders. I love 'em. there's nothing like it on telly anymore.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

Duckie:

a) what shall we call it? need to workshop that one ;-)

b) thank goodness. I look forward to the treatise! my days of dancing the night away once a month down Oxford St will be (even more) justified and validated... ahem.

c) KW, really? heh. I am sure we know people whom we don't know we both know... did you enjoy your distraction? that would make it all worthwhile, right?

my wild friend (a good classmate for a while, we went horse riding a few times before she started going pottybonkers) would have been 2 years below you, but I suspect she had a wide radius of influence nonetheless...

Fyodor said...

This whole fecking thread is comedy gold. They don't make nostalgia like they used to.

Have to say you're excessively harsh on Mongo Rock. "Summer of '81" is good (as well as being a propos), as is "Cool World" AND *gasp* I rather like "Come Said the Boy". "State of the Heart" is their best song, but I think Rick Springfield's cover is better.

That said, I could never stand watching Ross Wilson perform, and I was reminded why when I saw the last Countdown Spooktacular a couple of months back. The chubby old geezer was leering at the audience while wearing a corset. Basta cosi.

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh Fyodor, I've missed you. And you've just made me retch... that leer always turns my stomach. Somehow Martin Plaza gets away with it (just), but RW doesn't.

You've hit the exact reason why I refused to go to any of those concerts. I love the music, but not revisited twenty -- nay, thirty -- years later. Balding has-beens in snappy grey suits trying to make us throw our undies at them does not appeal. I haven't bought any of the compilation CDs or tshirts... just live with the originals on vinyl and the glow of memory.

Drewzel -- I have all those albums, and more. Love them.

Speedy, when are we going to get drunk together?!

Ampersand Duck said...

BTW Speedy, I have managed to keep my head low regarding KW. I hated my time there, and have only been to one reunion, after which I swore I wouldn't go to another one until at least half the class had dropped off their perches. I'm not on any mailing lists, and am extremely happy in my ignorance of any fundraising efforts aimed at ex-students. I only keep in touch with one friend of the time and I (shamefully) haven't talked to her for at least 3 years.

Fyodor said...

You are too kind, Ducky.

I think the difference between Martin Plaza and RW is that the former understands the importance of self-deprecation and irony...and that the latter is a knob.

While I have your attention, please, I BEG of you, do yourself a flavour [if you haven't done so already] and get onto the "Flight of the Conchords" bandwagon.

Choyce clips:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4zV4pJ8MwM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPyuZ6ZTqmo

That goes for all you other wacky funsters out there. It's business time.

Ampersand Duck said...

OOOhhhhhhhhhh thank you!
They are awesome (although 'business time' is a bit close to home).

Fyodor said...

Team-Building Exercise '99?

WRAAOOWWW!

Lost in a reverie... said...

Fab post Duck! I agree that Bop Girl=worst ever single in the history of Aus pop music.

And you were a roller-skater too? My first romance (from afar) was at a roller skating rink. It wasn't the same when roller-blades came into fashion...

And the Conchords are excellent :)

infoaddict said...

To Francis X Holden:

"So ring up ABC archives and ask if they have your episodes - they will digitise them for you if they don't have them and millions of Australians will thank you."

Good lord, you mean the times I was so furious at my brother for taping whole Countdown episodes over our video playlists I'd have to take back?? I don't generally have entire episodes, except for a couple of Xmas specials. I do (or did) have The Final Countdown (I don't count the revivals after that for anything); unfortunately, a lapse in Someone Else's attention over the last two weeks (!!only!!) may have resulted in its loss. That's why I say I _really_ should digitise my tapes.

But on the whole, they're just playlists, not entire eps ...

I must admit, I never really had an opinion on Mondo Rock or Ross Wilson during the 80s. My younger sister was a teenybop to the max and I was busy trying to keep up with Wham! and Wa Wa Nee and A-Ha and Duran Duran (I shared a room with her. She was very kind and put up Tears for Fears posters for me inbetween her shrine to George Michael).

Gawd, I despised those poor sod constantly living in the 70s during my teen years. I should cut my very tongue out now ...

tigtog said...

Countdown maniac, speed roller-skater and Suzi fan belatedly reporting!

What a glorious post. The nostalgia, the eye-watering fashions, the HAIR!

Great days.