I recently concluded an extensive Sarah Blasko tour. We played all around Australia and then Singapore and then Europe. 10 weeks on the road playing almost every night. I decided to find a fact about each town I played in. Here they are:
Night 1 of @sarahblasko tour. Albury. Did you know Albury averages the same number of sunny days as the Gold Coast, but without the humidity?
Night 2 – Castlemaine. According to the 2008 census Castlemaine has the highest number of left-handed people per capita in Australia.
Night 3 @sarahblasko tour. Melbourne. Did you know Melbourne was originally called ‘Batmania’? Seriously, how cool is that?
Night 4 @sarahblasko tour – Meeniyan, VIC. Meeniyan is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘moon behind the trees over the water’. Pretty words.
Night 5 @sarahblasko tour – Cairns. In 2003 topless sunbathing was permitted in the city lagoon area by the mayor. He was soon after re-elected.
Night 6 @sarahblasko tour – Townsville. In 1922 A large crowd of people gathered to watch the lumination of Townsville’s first electric street light. It didn’t work the first night so they all came back the next night to see it light up. I would loved to have been there on the first night. What a let down that must have been. ‘booooooo electricity sucks.. boooooooo!!’
Night 7 @sarahblasko tour – Mackay is nicknamed “The Sweet Heart of Australia” as it produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane. That chocolate you’re eating prob has a bit of Mackay in it.
Night 8 @sarahblasko tour – Rockhampton experiences over 300 days of sunshine each year and is the ‘Beef Capital of Australia’. This is made evident by the SIX statues of bulls around town. For 20 years vandals have been “cutting the balls off the Rockhampton bulls”. FACT.
Show 9 @sarahblasko tour – Bundaberg is the town the 1989 film The Delinquents starring Kylie Minogue was set.http://l.pr/a46r9z some rules were meant to be broken indeed!!!
Show 10 @sarahblasko tour – Nambour. In 1924 there was a big fire in the main street of Nambour. In 1929 there was a big fire in the main street of Nambour. In 1948 there was a big fire in the main street of Nambour. In 1986 there was a big fire in the main street of Nambour.
Show 11 SB tour – Brisbane. In 1900 the Board of Health offered a bounty on dead rats of £2 per dozen. Rat catching was big business!
Show 12 Sarah Blasko tour – the Gold Coast has 260km of navigable waterways (that’s NINE times more than Venice). I LOVE this fact! So funny for so many reasons.
Show 13 @sarahblasko tour – Byron Bay. In 1930, the first of many Byron Bay meat works opened. The smell from the meat and dairy works was so bad it was a deterrent to visitors. In the early 1900’s Byron was known as ‘the stink bay’.
Show 14 Sarah Blasko tour – Byron Bay (again). From 1888-1948 there was a huge 1350 foot jetty on the main beach in Byron. There were two ships wrecked near the jetty that are still easily accessible by snorkeling. The Wollongbar (sunk1921) and the Tassie II (sunk1944).
Show 15 SB tour – Tamworth is known as the “Country Music Capital of Australia” it’s also known as “National Equine Capital of Australia”. It’s also known as the “First City of Lights” as it was the first city in the southern hemisphere to utilise electric street lights. It’s also known as “Tamworth”.
Show 16 Sarah Blasko tour – Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement in 1821 where one-armed, one-legged, blind, deaf or disabled repeat offender convicts were sent. It lovely here, more like a resort. If I was a one-armed/deaf/blind convict I would def repeat offend!
Show 17 Sarah Blasko tour – Newcastle’s Fanny Nightclub was voted as ‘The Easiest Place to Pick Up in Australia’ in Ralph Magazine in 2005.
Ralph Magazine – The Best Info All The Time!
I wonder who won that prestigious award in 2006?
Show 18 @sarahblasko tour – Sydney. Convicts were not sent to Sydney for serious crimes such as murder, rape, impersonating an Egyptian, or wearing white sneakers with blue jeans. These crimes were given the death penalty in England.
Show 19 Sarah Blasko tour – Canberra. Other names suggested for the capital were: Olympus, Paradise, Captain Cook, Shakespeare, Kangaremu, Eucalypta, Myola and my favourite: Sydmeladperho. Get it? SYD MEL AD PER HO. Where’s Brissy??!!!
Show 20 Sarah Blasko – Canberra (again)… Did you know that… ummmm Canberra is really hard to do 2 facts for.. PORN AND FIREWORKS!!!!
Show 21 @sarahblasko tour – Adelaide. There is A LOT of ‘legal high’ shops here selling all sorts of stuff to attain a ‘legal high’. Did you know the sale of illegal cannabis constitutes 1% of Australia’s GDP and is twice the size of the Australian wine industry?
Show 22 @sarahblasko tour – Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world. I love this fact. Isolationtastic!!
Show 23 SB tour – Perth. The worlds longest power dinghy race the Blackwood Classic 250 Power dinghy Race, is held in Western Australia.
Show 24 @sarahblasko tour – Perth. In 1838 it was declared illegal to swim at public beaches during the day. This was enforced until 1902.
Show 25 @sarahblasko tour – Singapore. In 1970 Led Zeppelin were booked to play a show here. When they arrived they were stopped at immigration and told to get haircuts and ‘clean up’ or they would not be able to enter the country. They turned around and went home.
Show 26 @sarahblasko tour – Amsterdam has over 1 million bikes in the city but only 700,000 Amsterdammers live here. Amsterdamians?
Show 27 @sarahblasko tour – Hamburg is the 2nd biggest city in Germany with 1.8 million residents. Yet the city has no skyscrapers. Buildings can only be a maximum of 4 stories high. The only skyscrapers are huge cathedrals.
Show 28 @sarahblasko tour – Berlin. In Berlin it’s legal to be naked in public. Fact.
Show 29 @sarahblasko tour – Antwerp. Belgium produces approximately 220,000 tons of chocolate and 550,000 litres of beer each year. My two favourite things.
Show 30 Blasko tour – Southampton. On 10th April 1912 the Titanic set sail from this port in the UK.
Destination: New York.
Spoiler: it didn’t make it.
Show 31 @sarahblasko tour – London. In 1665 London lost 100,000 souls (20% of the pop.) to the plague. The next year in 1666 The Great Fire left 100,000 homeless, burning down 13,155 buildings (80% of the city!!). Bad couple of years.
Show 32 blasko tour – Glasgow is ranked as the 57th most livable city in the world. Says quite a lot really.
Show 33 blasko tour – Leeds. In Oct 1880 Louis le Prince recorded the very first moving images here with his invention: the movie camera.
Show 34 Sarah Blasko tour – Manchester. “The thing about Manchester is it all comes from here” Noel Gallagher, pointing to his heart.
“Manchester has so much to answer for.” Morrissey
”Manchester’s got everything except a beach.” lan Brown
Show 35 Blasko tour – Birmingham. George Cadbury began making chocolate in Birmingham in 1824. At that time chocolate was considered an aphrodisiac and therefore not suitable for a lady’s diet.
Show 36 Sarah Blasko tour – Cardiff. Spillers Records in Cardiff is the oldest record shop in the world, founded in 1894. http://is.gd/hEkTM
Show 37 Blasko tour – Brighton has become known as the least religious places in the UK, based upon analysis of the 2001 census. In the census 2.6% of Brighton’s pop. claim their religion is Jedi Knight. I LOVE that you can choose Jedi Knight!!
Show 38 Blasko tour – Bristol was the birthplace of the pirate Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach. Bristol and surrounding ports were big pirate hubs in the 18th century. Thousands of ships, legal and illegal, set sail from Bristol headed for the Caribbean to find riches and fame.
I like pirates.
Show 39 @sarahblasko tour – Caen. William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard, matters whose side your on) is buried here. His grave has twice been dug up by angry mobs. Once during the Wars of Religion & again during the French Revolution. Only one of his bones remain.
Show 40 Sarah Blasko tour – Strasbourg. In July 1518, an incident known as the Dancing Plague of 1518 struck residents of Strasbourg. Around 400 people danced constantly for weeks, most of them eventually dying from heart attack, stroke or exhaustion. Seriously, check this out! http://is.gd/i3oue
Show 41 Blasko tour – Lyon. In Lyon, it is possible to marry a deceased person with the authorisation of the President of the Republic.
Show 42 Sarah Blasko tour – Zürich was neutral in WW2 but was still bombed on several occasions by Allied forces who blamed navigation errors, equipment failure, weather conditions and pilot error. Switzerland was surrounded by Axis countries during most of WW2.
‘The world is at war while the Swiss watch…’ get it.
Show 43 Sarah Blasko tour – Paris. The Eiffel Tower, erected for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, was only meant to stand for 20 years. As its end neared, designer Gustave Eiffel suggested to the military that it would make a good long-range radio tower so they left it there. It’s lit by over 20,000 light globes and strobes brightly every 5 minutes.
Interview by Lindsey Cuthbertson. Aug 2009.
First off, what is your favourite novel?
it’s a bit like choosing the favourite child but I’d have to say Kerouac’s 1962 novel Big Sur is my favourite book.
What is the novel about?
well by 1960, after the 1957 release of his ‘road’ novel Kerouac was a huge star kinda like a rock star of his time. he really was heralded as the voice of a whole generation of people (’the outcast, the downtrodden, the beatnik…’) in some ways similar to Cobain after Nirvana exploded. he was, like Cobain, very reluctant to be that voice and it led, also like Cobain, to his demise. but i’ve jumped ahead of my self… the novel is set around 1960, Kerouac has been heralded as this living legend and as I said above he’s like this rock star writer and he’s not coping very well with it all. he’s drinking a lot and partying a lot and feels like he’s losing control. his buddy beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti owns a cabin in the quiet, serene woods of Bixby Canyon which is in Big Sur (a beautiful sprawling, rocky area of coast line north of LA, south of San Fran) so he decides to take off for a bit of r&r to the cabin.
while he does find some peace at the start in his stay at Big Sur he also is driven mad with loneliness, for a partner but also an incurable loneliness for drinking (at that time he’s drinking 3/4 of a bottle of whisky a day) and a loneliness for times he likes to describe as, and i’ve used a lot in my song writing to ‘burn up in the night’ which i perceive as the kind of feverish excitement you get when you’re drunk and high and running around in the night with friends feeling safe, mad and invincible. (hopefully you’ve all been there even if you don’t know you have!)
he’s in and out of the cabin for the whole book basically staying till he can’t stand his own company anymore (a couple of days at a time) then hoping up to San Fran to meet Neal Cassady for huge crazy nights and long sombre hangovers. There’s a brief, intense love affair with his best friends lover which only adds to his desperateness and madness. the whole book culminates in the most visceral, gut wrenching ending where Kerouac basically has a nervous breakdown in the cabin. He was never the same after his stay at Big Sur. he documents this breakdown in a very real, sad way. Kerouac loved Dostoyevski and you can tell with the end of this book. It’s like a scene out of crime and punishment, an intense look into the eyes of a person having a real breakdown. It’s sad because he waited almost 10 years for his ‘road’ book to be published (while waiting he wrote 10 more novels and had three novels rejected) all he wanted was to be seen as a serious writer like Thomas Wolfe or Hemmingway, his heroes, and when it finally did get published and was a smash hit he turned to drink to cope with his meteoritic rise.
Since Big Sur was published there’s been an add on of sorts which is a long poem kerouac wrote while staying in Big Sur. It’s a great poem about the ocean and the sounds it makes. it’s full of lines like: shhhwwooooooooooooooooosssshhhhhkkkkaaaaa kkkkaaaaaaassshhhhhhhhoooooouummmm bbrrruushhhhhhhhhhwwwkkaaaaaaaaaa wwhoooooshkaaaaaaaaa sshhhhiooooooowww… seriously.
What initially drew you to the novel, and why do you think that it has remained so endearing to you?
well after i read on the road when i was 17 i was hooked on kerouac, i hungrily read everything he wrote and by the time i was 18 I wanted to become a beat poet writer my self.. i have diaries full of bad poetry, the self reverential, ‘woe is me, woe is you’ and all that other great stuff you write as a kid groaning up.. Big Sur just stood out as his best novel to me. My second favourite novel of his would have to be Dr. Sax.. That’s a great read also. Dr. Sax is basically kerouac looking back, writing about his childhood but in the way we all remember our childhood, in hazy dream/sometimes nightmarish like vignettes.. I recommend it.
What do you like about the writing style of the author who wrote the novel, and did it lead you to read other novels by this author?
see above. i literally read everything kerouac wrote in a matter of a year or so. the only book i haven’t read of his is mexico city blues. it’s a book of poetry. kerouac is famous for his stream of conciseness writing and that really had a big impact on me when i first started reading him. i remember reading the forward of on the road and it said something along the lines of: …when you read this book don’t read it as you would a normal novel, run your eyes over the words and take in the meaning of the sentence but don’t stop to understand it just keep on reading and it will all become clear… (very zen i know..) i’m paraphrasing obviously but what they were saying made perfect sense to me, basically they were saying read this book as kerouac wrote it. it made the book so much more to me than a road novel about kerouac chasing around this anti-hero (Dean)… it turned that book and subsequently all of his books into one long, fast paced stream of conciseness read. I read all his books the same way, in a type of frenzied speed reading that to me lends weight to the words as a whole.
that’s why in the scroll version of on the road that was just released there’s no sentence breaks, there’s no punctuation or chapters, there’s no speech breaks or quotation marks.. it’s totally bare of any breaks of concise thought as if he were in a trance writing it and i believe that’s the way it should be read as well.
How has it changed your view of yourself, the world we live in, and how you as an individual fit into society?
whoa, heavy… well i’ll speak mostly on the legacy that kerouac left behind as a whole rather than the way this particular novel changed my view of my self. actually i’ll speak mostly on the sadness of the legacy that kerouac left behind. i’ve seen a lot of footage and read a lot about kerouac, i was quite obsessed with him for a long time, and as i said above I thought i wanted to be him in my more formative years. then i started to rethink things a little the more i delved into this guys life, especially his later life. When I first started reading kerouac I started writing a lot of bad beat poetry and hung out in cafe’s smoking cigarettes, i was down on ‘the man’ and revelled in kerouac’s way way of life, his way of thinking, his whole ideology (laid out nicely in the book he wrote directly after on the road: The Dhama Bums). Then one day (i was probably wearing a beret, smoking a rolled cigarette, sipping a cappuccino and thinking about drinking… for the record i’ve actually never owned a beret..) a friend said I should read this book called ‘off the road’ by Carolyn Cassady. that book kind of turned my whole world upside down. Carolyn was the long suffering wife of Neal Cassady who was the Dean character in kerouacs ‘road’ novel, and the Cody character in some of his other novels. off the road by Carolyn Cassady isn’t the most amazingly written book, as in it’s a bit all over the place stylistically, but the over all theme of the book struck me deeply.
it’s basically about the adventures of jack and neal written from the other side of the coin. the way a real person; a mum; a partner of a mad man; a friend/one off lover to a drunk saw the goings on that kerouac wrote about in on the road and a couple of his other books. reading her book i instantly saw how deranged and uncaring neal was and how lost and unhappy jack was. i hate to say it but they were losers. i was suddenly faced with the dilemma that my favourite author, my heroic writer who i looked up to was a depressed drunkard who had mother issues and died a sad slow death of alcoholism and that his muse (Neal Cassady) was an unfaithful underachieving madman who was always in trouble with the law and out of money with three kids he left at home so he could go chasing after tail around the country.
When you break it down like that, the books start losing their luster and magic and it’s only been recently that i’ve been able to go back and read big sur and the original scroll of on the road and enjoy them again. i get different things out of them these days, i no longer want to be kerouac, i feel i understand him more and can empathise with him on his adventures. But after reading off the road I find my self loathing the man that is Neal Cassady. He’s a crook, he’s a liar, a misogynist, a dreamer yes, but a selfish dreamer dreaming only of him self. And with this realisation I found my self feeling sorry for kerouac for following this guy around the country like a puppy follows it’s master, he was a great writer don’t get me wrong but at his core he was a lost soul with a great sadness in him, and left behind him. he has a great novel called visions of gerard where he speaks about his brother who died when he was young. in that book you see a sadness beginning in kerouac from an early age that seemed to just intensify as he got older and definitely after he became world famous.
i was crushed to learn the truth about kerouac after reading off the road. i urge fans of kerouac books to read it, you’ll see him, and Neal in a new light that will add, i think even further weight to his books.
Has this novel had an effect in any way upon your musicality/songwriting? If so, how?
I’ve written a couple of songs about Big Sur (i have found a place (from our first album), nothing ever changes (from billboard noises) In the Devoted song: Our Life Is Passing Us By (from billboard noises) i sing about kerouac’s time in San Fran during a particular bender in Big Sur.. I have mentioned or written about or quoted or sung about Kerouac in a lot of my songs in Devoted Few. Desolation Angels from Billboard Noises was all about obviously his great opus of the same name. Your Summer Dress, an old b-side of mine was written after reading Kerouac’s book on his high school love called: Maggie Cassady. My Devoted Few song: Tom Said is a ode to the sadness of Kerouac’s legacy. I think the line in that song really sums up how I feel about him when I sing: ‘the higher you get the smaller you become…’ there’s something so sad about the latter half of his life, to be so desperate and lost that his only way out was to drink him self to death. But without that sadness I’m sure we wouldn’t have the great books from him we have.
Lastly, how has it helped shape your opinions upon artistic creativity and vision?
re-reading this… diatribe of mine makes me seem like i’m very torn about kerouac but I’m really not. I love his works, I love his prose, I still go to his books first when i need inspiration to write and I admire and envy his drive and vigour to ‘burn up in the night’. it’s just he was something (a super human/enlightened being) to me for a long time then when I delved into his life I saw what his stories (that were just about all autobiographical) really were and who he really was and that was quite shocking to me.
It makes me think of all my childhood/young manhood heroes and what became of them. Cobain, Kerouac and more recently Michael Jackson they were these great artists, writers and free sprits and some where along the way they took some left turns and then a right and another left and lost their way and one day they wake up and they’re a million miles away from where they started or where they want to be and they don’t know how to find their way out. so they turn to drugs, or drink or change their face thinking that will help them find their way back home but it’s a slippery slope and all of them fall. I mean Kerouac was pro Vietnam war just before he died, he hated beats, and what became of the movement he just seemed so far away from where he began and that to me speaks loudly on the sadness kerouac’s legacy.
I realise that sometimes in this interview I’ve over simplified things to make my point so I’m more than happy to talk more about/back up any of my views if anyone would like to contact me do so through the devoted few website: http://www.thedevotedfew.com or hit me up at: http://www.twitter.com/benfletcher
I’ll leave you with my favourite passage from a Kerouac book, or atleast the one I always remember:
[God] …sayeth, Go thou across the ground; go moan for man; go moan, go groan, go groan alone go roll your bones, alone; go thou and be little beneath my sight; go thou, and be minute and as seed in the pod, but the pod the pit, world a Pod, universe a Pit; go thou, go though, die hence…