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February 18, 2018

These days I’m a full-time worker (ah, yep — nice-sounding studio albums don’t pay for themselves!), and I have learned to love the mornings*. The air is crisp. The light can be starkly vivid, and I love the smell of coffee and hot breakfasts, especially at airports for some reason.


But there’s a ‘night time me’ that makes life hell for ‘morning me’. And he’s been around for a lot longer.


My childhood was peppered by many a night being awake ‘after bedtime’. You see, when the cousins of an only child (me) go to bed, and the adults stay up to play cards, eat peanuts and drink KB and Tia Maria, it becomes a fascinating world for a kid. You pick up on a few things — subtle and witty British humour, story-telling skills, and the realisation that your parents come from a world that you’ll never see because of the curse of time. That is great for the imagination.


And the nocturnal-ism continued over the decades. I love late nights — it’s peaceful, and if you are engaging in any creative endeavour, you get headspace to let the cosmos in with ideas. And out on the town, you meet people who would almost never mix in your parents’ circles: musicians of course, kebab van owners, and the guy who drops the bread or the next day’s newspapers outside the shop while us drunken fools are finishing our night.


But inevitably, time catches up on you — the next day, for pretty much all of us, there’s a checkout to be manned at Woolies, a computer to sit in front of from nine to five, a hole to be dug on the highway, and many other dreary rituals we carry out so we can exchange bits of paper for things you can eat. You’re bleary-eyed and suppressing the grumps in the name of being a good co-worker. And at the same time, you’re thinking of doing it all over again.


To sum up my love for the late night in one anecdotal illustration, my mind turns to a glorious event that happens in nearly every Australian rural or semi-rural centre every year: the ‘Show’. As a kid, I'd never miss it. Sure, it has a tradition-driven serious side during the day—lamington and cake judging, wood chopping competitions and many other skills that are essential to everyday self-sufficiency in the country.


But at night, the shadows fall on the silky ribbons and haberdashery and the locals come out to rub shoulders with carnies and generally drink themselves stupid.


VB tinnies squished into the gravel, the toasty light of the sideshow alley rip-off merchants’ caravans of mystery, Lynx-coated high school lads parading like peacocks, fireworks and more create a buzzy atmosphere.


At my local show, most excitingly, the yearly sprint car demonstration was the highlight. True to the nature of the OH&S-less 80s, two monster machines with wings would drift around what was built to be a greyhound track at 80-100km/hr, with the constant risk of flipping at any given change in barometric pressure, with nothing to protect the crowd but a white-painted hip-height timber fence.

Now I’m no petrol head—I fake knowledge of V8 touring cars once a year when ‘The Great Race’ disturbs the peace in Bathurst—but there was no denying the stomach-curdling roar of these things. Big exposed tyres and engines that sound like they’re always about to stall, and the pong of fuel was enthralling.


What to do with this anecdote? Use it to try to explain my love of the late night in a song, of course. Here’s ‘Kings of the Night’, from my debut album ‘South by East’ — musically inspired by Keb Mo, lyrically by, well, you'll get it…






Kickin’ the dirt on the weekend

My chest starts to shake with the roar

Big-wheeled engines, sliding unsteady

My head can’t take it anymore


Big-wheeled engines

I believed they could fly

Some of us, we just couldn’t see

That we’re all destined to be

Kings of the Night




My old man reached into his pocket

and said ‘two bucks fifty, that’s all’

Running on the smell of gasoline

On legs thin and lean

Like a demon with a crosscut saw


Ain’t no denying

Those early mornings never felt quite right

Some of us, we just couldn’t see

That we’re all destined to be

Kings of the Night




Well, it’s all in the past

And nothing seems to last

And the spilt milk, it ain’t worth the tears

My Daddy said, ‘son, life is too short,

for sitting around counting the years’




* Yeah, ‘love’ is a strong word; I merely ‘deal’ with early mornings. Mornings are actually gross, regarding sleep-deprivation.

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