Saturday, 25 July 2015

#60. Johnny Revolver, P.I.

Theme song written, performed and recorded by Matt Neal and Jade McLaren.
Additional music written, performed and recorded by Matt Neal.
Episodes recorded, produced and mixed by Harry Fahey and Matt Neal at Burndog Studios, Warrnambool, and Kellie’s Swamp, Warrnambool.
Written and recorded 2004-2005?
Originally broadcast on 3WAY FM.

And now for something completely different….

As much as I love writing and recording music, I think I love writing and recording comedy radio plays even more. Unfortunately, there’s even less call for the comedy radio plays I’ve worked on than the music I’ve helped make. Maybe that’s because the radio plays I’ve worked on just aren’t very funny. Or maybe they are. Who knows? Comedy, eh?

Me and an electric typewriter in The Love Shed, circa 2000. PIC: Brendan Hoffmann.

Johnny Revolver, P.I. is the second of three radio plays I’ve co-written over the years. The first – Intergalactic Organ Transplant Delivery Unit & Taxi Service – ran for about 50 episodes in 1999 and 2000 and was recorded live to air on the “hit” 3WAY FM show The Soul Mass Transit System.

Nathan Pye and myself working on an episode of Intergalactic,
which was typically written in the three or four hours
just prior to our show going to air. PIC: Brendan Hoffmann.

We were on air every Friday night from 10pm to midnight, and at 11pm (when the kiddies and old folks were asleep) we would let loose with Intergalactic, which began as a vaguely profane rip-off of Futurama and deteriorated into an incredibly profane, ultra-violent and disturbing mind-fuck of idiotic proportions. We – myself, Dion Barker, Nathan Pye and Brendan Hoffmann, plus special guests – were very drunk and young at the time. Thankfully, only a handful of episodes were ever recorded, although I still have copies of most of the scripts. They have not aged well. We were eventually (and quite rightly) kicked off air.

Hoffa reads through an Intergalactic script in the 3WAY studio. PIC: Matt Neal

When they finally forgave us and let us back on air, we took things more seriously. Dion Barker, Harry Fahey and myself hosted a show (which I think was called The Bomb) and during that stint we wrote, recorded and aired Johnny Revolver, P.I..

This new series took the lessons learnt from Intergalactic and two years of screenwriting classes, and combined those things with the skills we’d picked up recording music. We also adopted a slightly more mature (and less profane) approach to things. We recorded 14 episodes before running out of steam (I believe we had another couple of episodes written but they were never recorded).

Dion Barker, circa 2000-ish. PIC: Matt Neal.

Johnny Revolver, P.I. is an affectionately idiotic tribute to Warrnambool, framed through the clich├ęd “dumb detective” genre. What I love about it is how we portrayed Warrnambool as being far more multi-cultural than it is, inadvertently creating this kind of Bizarro Warrnambool in the process.

I’m not sure if it’s still funny, or if it was ever funny, but listening back to the 14 episodes I laughed quite a bit. Kudos goes to Dion for his performance as Johnny Revolver, which mostly holds the show together, and the guest bits from Jade McLaren, whose over-acting put the rest of us to shame. Harry’s production of the first season was also great (I think I took over those duties when Harry got jack of it after episode 10) as was his increasingly endearing performances as Johnny’s put-upon sidekick Squirmy Lewis.

Harry Fahey, who is nothing like Squirmy Lewis. PIC: Matt Neal.

Sadly it didn’t run it’s full course (there was a good sub-plot that was going to come to fruition in episode 20), but it did pave the way for Jade McLaren and I to do the many and varied incarnations of The Doctor & The Colonel. More on that in a future blog.

PIC: Glen Watson.

Johnny Revolver, P.I. is a weird mess of juvenile humour, silly voices, bad acting, stolen jokes, a handful of zingers, and a couple of surprisingly good running gags, but if you get through all 14 episodes I’ll buy you a beer. Admittedly it starts slowly, but trust me; it gets slightly better.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the comedy stylings of Johnny Revolver, P.I.

Full credits

Season 1 – Episode 1
The Case Of The Silver Ball

Written by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/bingo player
Matt Neal as Doug
Jade McLaren as Balls McFlaherty
Matt Wearne as Grand Pubar

Season 1 – Episode 2
The Case Of The Missing Butcher

Written by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug
Matt Wearne as Italian butcher
Jade McLaren as hostel manager/Michelle the Friendly Butcher

Season 1 – Episode 3
The Case Of The Secret Hamburger Recipe Robbery

Written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug/Hamburglar
Jade McLaren as Henry Hermond/Sally
Matt Wearne as Ronald McDonald/Grandpappy Hermond

Season 1 – Episode 4
The Case Of The Murdered Co-Star

Written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren, Matt Neal, Matt Wearne, Dion Barker and Brendan Hoffmann.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug/The Stalker
Matt Wearne as The Assistant Director
Jade McLaren as Tom Selleck

Season 1 – Episode 5
The Case Of The Diabolical Dunny

Written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Matt Neal and Brendan Hoffmann.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Phyllis Glenpot
Matt Neal as Doug
Harry’s computer as CRAP 3000
Matt Wearne as CRAP prisoner

Season 1 – Episode 6
The Case Of The Race

Written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Barman
Matt Neal as Doug/Horse trainer/Stupid horse/Race Caller
Matt Wearne as Bookie/Sheik Djibouti

Season 1 – Episode 7
The Case Of The Pirated Music

Written by Harry Fahey, Matt Neal, Matt Wearne and Jade McLaren.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Mrs Silver the Parrot/Bearded Clementine
Matt Neal as Doug/Barry Pegbeard
Matt Wearne as Blackbeard Silver

Season 1 – Episode 8
The Case Of The Coffee Cup

Written by Matt Neal, Harry Fahey and Matt Wearne.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug
Matt Wearne as Big Brad Coffee
Jade McLaren as Coach Coles/Coach Fukinawa

Season 1 – Episode 9
The Case Of The Mahogany Ship Replica

Written by Matt Neal, Harry Fahey, Matt Wearne, Dion Baker and Jade McLaren.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Jimmy Colt, P.I.
Matt Neal as Doug/Lord Marseilles Chowder III/Snappy Thomson/Narrator
Matt Wearne as Lord Devonshire Chowder III
Corey Grapentin as David

Season 1 – Episode 10
The Case Of The Mahogany Ship Replica Part II

Written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Dion Barker, Matt Wearne and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Jimmy Colt, P.I.
Matt Neal as Doug/Narrator/Lord Marseilles Chowder III
Matt Wearne as Harvey the Butler/Lord Devonshire Chowder III

Season 2 – Episode 1
The Case Of The Missing Parking Meters

Possibly written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Dion Barker and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Phyllis Glenpot
Matt Neal as Doug
Jade McLaren as The Coin Collector

Season 2 – Episode 2
The Case Of The Mafia Valentine

Possibly written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Dion Barker and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug/Tony Pepperoni
Kellie Johns as Capricossa Pepperoni
Matt Wearne as Gangster #1
Jade McLaren as Vito

Season 2 – Episode 3
The Case Of The Whereabouts Of The Roundabouts

Possibly written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Dion Barker and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis
Matt Neal as Doug/K-Dog, King Of The Lappers/Ted/Master
Matt Wearne as Industrial Worker
Jade McLaren as The Foreman/Bill/Henchman

Season 2 – Episode 4
The Case Of The Death Puppies

Possibly written by Harry Fahey, Jade McLaren, Dion Barker and Matt Neal.

Dion Barker as Johnny Revolver, P.I.
Harry Fahey as Squirmy Lewis/Phyllis Glenpot/Gruffnut
Matt Neal as Doug/Mudbones
Matt Wearne as Massive Mal

Jade McLaren as Sickboy

Monday, 20 July 2015

#59. Jimmy Carter Flies Over Yonder – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: saxophone
Brendan Hoffmann: vocals, guitar
Matt Neal: vocals, guitar

Lyrics by Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written 2002?
Recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003.
Produced by 21st Century Ox.
Recorded and mixed by Harry Fahey. 
Additional engineering by Dave Wilson.
Additional recording and mixing by Matt Neal and Brendan Hoffmann at Foster Street, Warrnambool, and Hoffa’s House, Warrnambool.

Most people have a place in their past where they would regularly gather to drink and hang out, back when drinking and hanging out was still a novel thing to do. For me, that place was The Love Shed.

 It's looks so inviting. That's Dion and Regan Barker, 
enjoying The Love Shed ambience. PIC: Brendan Hoffmann.

Shortly before my 19th birthday, I moved into a house in Warrnambool with fellow 21st Century Ox guitarist Brendan Hoffmann and his girlfriend at the time. I slept on a mattress on the floor in the spare room and in between working at 6am most mornings at the Target warehouse, I hung out and got drunk in the haze of The Love Shed, which was the rather ironically sweet name we gave to the double garage.

Dion and Hoffa jamming on a summer's night in The Love Shed. PIC: Matt Neal.

In The Love Shed we would jam occasionally, write disturbingly profane radio plays for our radio show on 3WAY FM, play hackysack, create murals, and throw the kind of parties that would occasionally lead the cops to throw open the rollerdoors dramatically from time to time.

The murals, which we made every visitor contribute to. PICS: Matt Neal.

It was a grungy, smelly, cold garage, with nothing much in it except for a few couches and a CD player, but it was home. Every night of the week – every single fucking night – there would be people hanging out, drinking and smoking in The Love Shed, listening to Pink Floyd, Primus, Tool, or something of that ilk.

Regan, Hoffa and Lee Ronald, probably on a Monday night. PIC: Matt Neal. 

The reason I bring this up is because this song was written in The Love Shed, and for that reason this song is irrevocably linked to that place. I wrote quite a few songs while living there with Hoffa (including The Canadian Song, Hackysack and Cliched), but this was one of the songs we wrote together.

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

Why Jimmy Carter? I’m not entirely sure why the 39th president of the United States became the subject of this song, but I think it had something to do with Hunter S Thompson. During The Love Shed days, Hunter was an obsession of mine (and part of the reason I have the nickname The Doctor) as well as a few of the other Love Shed regulars. One of his books – The Great Shark Hunt – got passed around a bit at that time, and I believe the sections in it regarding Jimmy Carter got talked. At least, that’s the only plausible reason I can come up for us writing this absurd song that re-imagines Carter as some kind of superhero.

Aside from what we’d read in The Great Shark Hunt, Hoffa and I knew nothing about Jimmy Carter, but we cobbled together this bizarre faux campaign song. It’s one of the better tunes we wrote, I think – it’s a decidedly Ween-ish piece of delirously demented pop.

Why use a real photo of Jimmy Carter when you can use The Simpsons?

I like the way our vocals work together, but I particularly like the interlocking rhythms of our guitar lines. Hoffa also came up with the bass line, which adds another varied rhythm to the mix.

I didn’t realise there was a proper recording of this song until I was digging through old files in preparation for this blog, but I was glad to stumble upon this version which was tracked during the hazily remembered and probably best forgotten epoch known as Dion’s Week Of Debauchery. I could recall how the song went, but I didn’t recall the layered sax sections so tastefully placed by Ox’s resident sax-man Matt Hewson.

Hewy, rockin' the long hair and the sax with Ox.

“This was one of my favourites, although listening back, the sax lines aren't so good,” the ever-humble Hewy said.

“They seem to clutter up the tune a bit, although the lines at the end are ok. The ending sounds great, but in the chorus I kinda think the horns interfere a bit. Maybe it's just me. But it's a sweet tune - I'm obviously focused on the horns.”

Personally I think the horn arrangement helps make this song. Rediscovering this recording was one of the real treats in putting this blog together. In fact, I only recorded my vocal parts for it last year - more than a decade after all the other bits were recorded. Not sure why my parts were never done, but it was nice to finally finish it off.

As a further point of reference, this is what I looked like 
when I co-wrote the damned thing.

This kind of poly-rhythmic alt-pop, where everyone had their little job to do that locked together to make a greater whole, seemed to be the direction Ox was heading in at the time of Dion’s Week Of Debauchery. Sadly it was to be something of a last hurrah for the band, and we slowly drifted apart after that without ever properly breaking up, leaving behind an unfinished second album that would have contained gems like this one.


Look to the sky
A superhero to save you all
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder
A fabulous guy
A people person to stand up tall
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder

He loves god and he loves you
He loves god and he loves you
Yeah he's loving you, yeah you

Give him a try
I'm sure you'll adore his Southern drawl
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder
He'll never lie
Unlike those other bastards before
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder

Bonus live version

Recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003.
Recorded and mixed by Dave Wilson.

For the sake of completeness (and because Harry went to the trouble of finding these recordings), here we are running through the song live in Dion's loungeroom during the week of debauchery.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

#58. Jamaica – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, backing vocals

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written 2004.
Recorded January 2, 2005 at Kellie’s Swamp, Warrnambool.
Additional recording at Burndog Studio, Warrnambool, and Drum Drum, Warrnambool.
Produced by The Extreme Sprinklers.
Engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.
Released on the Jamaica EP.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” said Extreme Sprinklers singer Jade McLaren one fateful night in 2004, “to write a reggae song that was anti-drugs?”

We were sitting in his apartment above Mac’s Snacks, trying to write songs while overlooking another night of lappers and drunken brawls at the bottom end of Liebig Street. We’d recently started playing duo gigs (mostly at open mic nights) under the name of The Extreme Sprinklers, where we would smash out short sets of weird jokey songs that showcased Jade’s vocal flexibility, my rudimentary guitar-playing, our warped sense of humour, and our burgeoning songwriting skills.

“That’s a great idea,” I said readily, and started fiddling around with some chords to work with.

We'd also started moonlighting as crime-fighting superheroes.
PIC: Glen Watson. 

“I‘m not super-proud that it was my idea,” Jade said recently, possibly while drunk. “The song is fun and cool but it’s actually a pretty shit idea. It seems so obvious now.”

I disagree. Maybe there’s a whole subgenre of anti-drug reggae songs out there, but I’ve never heard of it. I still think it was a clever idea, whether Jade’s super-proud of it or not.

Musically, the starting point for me, believe it or not, was Jack Johnson, specifically the song Taylor. Previous to this fateful night, I’d been having semi-regular acoustic jams with future Extreme Sprinklers and 80 Aces bassist Matt Hewson on some covers. For some reason Hewy had been getting right into Jack Johnson and he showed me a couple of tunes off the album On & On.

Something that really struck me and had stuck with me was the strumming pattern on the song Taylor (from 0:20). It sounded reggae-ish but was pretty different to the usual generic upstroke reggae rhythm I was used to. I mentally filed the strumming pattern away in my brain and brought out a mangled re-interpretation (the best kind of interpretation!) of it when it came time to write Jamaica.

My weird version of that strumming pattern - mixed with what seemed initially to be a slightly off-kilter chord progression (C/G/Bb/G#/G) - was our starting point. From there the words flowed like wine, the melodies popped out right the first time, and the pre-chorus, chorus and middle eight appeared seemingly out of thin air. It remains to this day probably the easiest and quickest songwriting process Jade and I had ever shared.

“We just kind of lucked on to it,” Jade agreed. “The cool melodies… we lucked on to those. It was already pre-ordained, that kind of groove. We just found that spot. It wasn’t a brilliant idea or about having a great melody idea - we just rolled into it.”

Me, rolling with it.
Pic: Damian White.

We did make a mistake though. Jade’s initial suggestion was “an anti-drugs reggae song” when really what we were writing was “an anti-marijuana reggae song”. Hence in the first verse of this recorded version it mentions LSD – the only time in the song a drug other than pot is mentioned. Upon hearing the song, Jade’s brother Simon correctly pointed out we should have substituted “LSD” for “THC” in the lyrics. Of course! That was a real forehead-slapping moment. Jade sang “THC” every time we played it live after that.

The other (kinda) mistake in the lyrics is the line “red-eyed and off-head”. For some reason we’d shied away from the more profane original line “fuck-eyed and off-head”, which I’d scrawled in my notepad months prior to writing this song after hearing someone use it as a way of describing a friend who was messed up. I think we thought local radio might have played the song and erred on the non-cussing side of caution.

It might seem like a throw-away joke song, but I’m actually mildly proud of these lyrics, mostly because the joke of it actually masks a somewhat legit message – don’t stereotype people. Plus there are references to Cypress Hill and Pass The Dutchie in there.

Some time between writing the song and recording it, we became a band, with Hewy on bass and Harry Fahey on drums. Jamaica was the lone original song we played at our first two gigs, which were at a Seanchai open mic competition that guitar virtuoso John Hudson had organised. We won the competition and Huddo gave us lots of great advice in the early days of the band, in particular the advice of splitting the band into two distinct entities – a covers band (The Front) and an originals band (The Extreme Sprinklers).

We became a band.
PIC: Glen Watson.

It seems strange thinking back about it, but at the time (late 2004) there was a mini-buzz around The Extreme Sprinklers in Warrnambool, in particular around the song Jamaica. Maybe I’m imagining it, but people seemed to be latching onto that song, even from just one listen. It was a no-brainer that it should be our first recording.

Here's Jade again:

“I didn’t realise the song was listenable until (Red Eagle bassist) Brady Jones said to me, ‘Hey man, that song’s cool! Play that song – that’s my favourite!’ and I was like ‘What? Really? That stupid fucking song?’.”

This guy.

The recording of “that stupid fucking song” remains one of the recordings I am most proud of, and 90 per cent (or possibly more) of the credit goes to Harry Fahey. If I wasn’t already convinced that the man was a fucking production genius or some kind of audio wizard (or at the very least a level three sound mage or something), then the making of Jamaica sealed the deal.

With no studio, very little gear, and basically a cobbled-together recording approach, Harry exceeded all our expectations. Most of it was recorded on my computer (the same one Jade and I used to record Guatemalan Rock & Roll) with its piece-of-shit soundcard and an old ADAT tape machine plugged into it somehow (if I remember correctly). The drums were recorded to tape at Drum Drum (where Harry was a teacher), then digitised into ProTools, converted across to CoolEdit, and then we slowly added our bits and pieces – Hewy’s superlative bass line and sweet harmonies, Jade’s spot-on cod-reggae vocals, and my hack guitar-playing, with a few production spices on top for added flavour.

Here’s Harry:

Jamaica is my absolute favourite Extremes’ song ever. The buzz around it was awesome, but the best bit was recording something ourselves that actually sounded good! It is still the mix I am happiest with out of all the mixes of any songs I've done - it just sits real nice. I really dig Hewy's bass line in the bridge – it ties it all together very nicely and the little triplet hit in the middle is sweet as. And the Dolby test tones at the start of the track are the icing on the cake.”

I’m going to take credit for putting the Dolby test tones at the start of the song. They’re from my tape of Bryan Adams’ Waking Up The Neighbours album. I kid you not.

Bryan Adams aside, Harry really did a great job. As did Jade and Hewy. To be honest, it was the peak of The Extreme Sprinklers. It's just a shame it was our first song.


Don’t you pass that joint to me
I do not want any of your LSD THC
Don’t you know that fry your brain
It makes your membrane go insane

I only came here for a good time
So pass that dutchie to the right hand side, yeah

Just because I’m from Jamaica
It doesn’t mean I smoke the ganja
And just because I’m from Kingston Town
It doesn’t mean I like getting down
And just because I’m from Jamaica
It doesn’t mean I smoke the ganja
And just because I’m from Kingston Town
It doesn’t mean I like getting down

You’re all red-eyed fuck-eyed and off-head
You think there’s monsters breeding in your dreads
Well, being stoned ain’t no way to be
‘Cos I am high on life you see

And if this drug taking don’t cease
I’ll likely go and call the police, yeah