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Rock Reader: Underneath The Riffs Vol 1

December 19, 2008

In the midst of our frantic posting of Meredith shenanigans as well as Top 10 lists, I wanted to give a quick shout-out about a book rather than the albums or bands which we normally review here.

I just started a task which is seemingly daunting and exciting at the same time – I’m writing a book. At the moment it’s a little hazy, but I was thinking of collating and releasing a yearly or six monthly journal of music essays from music writers from Australia. Either that idea or possibly something like a collection of interviews with Australian musos on the state on Australian music. Or maybe I might go ahead with both ideas… I’m a little unsure how to go about it all, but the cogs are turning.

This blog post isn’t really about that (I suppose I’ll write more about that eventually soon enough), but seeing that I have been getting a knack of the word – I have started to acquire a whole heap of music books from my time in Melbourne this November, and I thought I’d review the first of those books I bought – Rock Reader: Underneath the Riffs Vol 1.

This book has a pretty simple premise – a whole heap of Australian music industry stalwarts (ie. possible hacks – but not all of them) from Molly Meldrum to Dylan Lewis to Tim Rogers tell stories about debauchary and fun times in this industry we know as music. It’s a fascinating, yet weird read. More so for the fact that Editors Miranda young & Jeff Jenkins seemingly didn’t do too much fixing of some grammatical errors and bad usage of fonts at times. It could be argued that it gives more of a feel about how the rock story should be told, but it just made the book a little unsettling to read to me, along with it being a bit Melbourne-centric too. I suppose that’s where the best stories are found really, though (better than Sydney that’s for sure).

Nevertheless, the stories themselves provide an insight to a music industry that is both quirky, weird, sometimes very self involved and ego boosting. RRR DJ Fee Bamford Bracher gives us a light hearted moment of being hit with a lamington at a gig while music writer for The Sunday Herald Sun, Paul Stewart, tells us about humping frozen chooks on stage by the cartoon pen wielding Fred Negro. Probably the most amazing story of them all (despite probably being one of the shortest) is Fifa Riccobono’s (from Albert’s) anecdote about traveling 38 hours for one note being played by Rose Tattoo.

Francis Leach and Johnathon Alley serve up more fantastic pieces too (which could be taken as articles more than stories so to speak, but anyways…). Francis laments about the place Melbourne particularly has in the world’s music scene. While John writes about his obvious passion for The Black Eyed Susans and the passion Melbourne fans have for music it portrays a lovely warm view which makes the crowds more of a community rather than a crowd.

The book is pulled down by a few stories which lend itself to things like ego boosting from Michael Gudinski and him telling about HIS whole experience with Madonna and HIS didgeridoo and how HE had a huge party for here and ME ME ME!!! I got a bit tired from the few crazed fan Rolling Stone and Nirvana stories as well (a bit more diversity would be good next time, editors). This is otherwise a mostly fantastically written book for those who love a good read about those who make music as well as those in the industry who have a slight different perspective to things other than the normal music fan.

Miranda & Jeff are looking for people to provide more stories for Vol 2 of Underneath The Riffs, so send Miranda an email – – with your words. I’m feeling inspired to, so you should too!

Rock Reader: Underneath The Riffs Vol 1 can be bought in around nice cool Melbourne bookstores as well as through Wilkinson Publishing.

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