I’m lucky enough to play in a rock’n'roll band with not only my best friends, but men I admire, that have great taste in art, and therefore feel like the history and future of our project is a collaboration, pure and complicated. The past 4 years working more in theatre and film has only exacerbated my wish to work with other folks. To write music to their visuals or dialogue, their vision. I figure it’s a cost effective way to learn.
I met Shel Rogerstein on a train journey in Southern France. He was well dressed, had a calm demeanour i admired, and once we got over our similar nomenclatures, our interests, divergent and then confluent, saw us contemplating early a desire to write together. Two middle aged men rifling through France talking of Tango, film, cheese, rock’n'roll, baseball,and family. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, home of my favourite venue in the world, the Beachland Ballroom, Shel had the knowledge and love of “classic” songwriting i had pretentiously alluded to in moments of high fancy. He prefers not to perform, for reasons never expressed save for a Talmudic shrug, and tolerates my reflexive enthusiasms with an eyebrow hike and a sigh. Saved more often than not for when my impatience with considered composition gives way to 3 chord rock’n'roll and a mispronunciation. We correspond, meet up in Cleveland a few times a year, have
rambling phone conversations, share tunes and ideas, discuss performing together, then move on. This record is the result of a year and a half’s… rambling.
Every damn note was presided over by Shane O’Mara. He and i have been touring and making records together for almost 10 years. My admiration of his deft note strangling and studio nous is matched only by my curiosity. To get Shel, Shane and myself on tour together is a dream, yet the catfights over mirror-time pre-show could scuttle even the best laid plans. Shane and i found time in between recording the soundtrack to the film Wish You Were Here (from which “If Yer Askin’…” and “Didn’t Plan…” are represented on the record, tho’ sadly not “Bend With Me” which i hope one day gets a second listen, as it’s a peerless performance) and other projects. From O’Mara’s other productions, we got to work with Lizanne Richards, who wrote and recorded vocal arrangements on “All Or Nothing”, and Sal Kimber, who drags me round “Walkin Past The Bars”.
I was asked recently in a Q and A session in Woolongong before a theatre presentation whether my project and genre-hopping meant that i would forever be adept at much but a master of none. It’s a fair question/accusation, but what can i do? For the past 24 years i’ve been wanting to write songs i’d wanna listen to, releasing them because i can’t help to, hoping they have substance, never sure who, if anyone, is listening.
Melanie Robinson, my partner in cabaret compositions and previous record The Luxury of Hysteria provides her sublime arrangements for a few, and Bruce Haymes dusted off a little used Calliope for “All Or Nothing” and “The FJ Holden”. Only a fellow lover of kitchen sink drama films of a bygone era could swathe those tunes with such sweet melancholy.
Quite where the percentages lie in lyrical/musical contributions on this album is unclear. My partners in The Temperance Union, Peter Lawler and Ben Hendry, push and pull any of the tunes with a beat like schoolyard bullies, and Shel claims he’s as baffled as to his contributions as I am to mine. Subjects are close to my bones, but as our lives within this loose ramble have become so confluent, quite who’s leaning on whose shoulder is unclear.
From Shel, and I, and the Union, this is “Rogers Sings Rogerstein”.