August 8, 2019 in Dag

In praise of scrappiness

Today, I’m going to take a little musical interlude.

I love music. After writing, I reckon it’s my second most favourite thing, and it’s always been an important part of my life.

In this post, I could talk about the beauty of music. I could talk about the wonders of a delightful melody. I could talk about the way it can sooth your soul, and make you feel that the whole world is right. But I’m not.

Today, I’m going to write in praise of the great scrappiness that music can achieve. And I’m going to lead off with a clip from one of my favourite bands. This is You Am I doing their first major hit – Berlin Chair.

Hard to believe it’s over 25 years since this came roaring out of the radio.

I love this song for a number of reasons, but mostly for its sense of sublime scrappiness. The band looks scrappy, even when done up for this US version clip (the original Australian clip is seriously odd – seek it out if you wish). Lead singer Tim Rogers’ vocals are scrappy. So is his guitar playing. The lyrics themselves, when they can be made out, seem to be a celebration of scrappiness. The whole thing comes together to create this joyful monument to scrappiness.

And if you had the good fortune to see the band’s legendary live shows (as I did a number of times) you would be overwhelmed by the sheer scrappy energy they exuded.

You Am I are a big deal in Australia. They’re the only local band to have three consecutive albums debut at number 1 on the music charts. And they produced many fine tunes (and whatever you might say about Tim Rogers and his scrappiness, he sure knows how to write a fine tune). They’ve toured with the biggest names (The Rolling Stones, The Who). And they’re still performing to big crowds today.

And yet, they never made it overseas. Maybe they didn’t have that polish needed for international success, particularly in the US. Maybe their rawness and scrappiness just wasn’t right for some markets. That didn’t bother us here in ‘oz – we loved them however they were.

I have to say I find that kind of inspiring. I like the idea of not polishing yourself too much, just to satisfy some faraway market. I like the idea of being true to yourself, scrappy or no.

I’m never going to make great music like You Am I. But I can try to capture the same scrappy beauty in the stories I write. And if that’s not refined enough for the market – too bad.


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