This extended from my last chat with CB… we had Graham Parker last week and Paul Kelly was brought up. I ran out of time last week to write this one up. I really like great storytellers…and Paul Kelly is one of them. His music touches on many styles. Country, rock, folk, reggae, bluegrass, and touches of many more styles. He has been described as the poet laureate of Australian music. He writes about everyday life that many people can relate to. I’ve seen this stated about him… Paul Kelly’s songs dig deep into Australia: how it feels, looks, tastes, sounds.
Today I’m going to give you a small sample platter of this great artist.
Here is a very short bio of Paul Kelly.
Paul Kelly was born in 1955 is from Adelaide, Australia. Debuted in Hobart, Australia, 1974; moved to Melbourne and performed in pubs, 1976; formed band the Dots, released albums Talk, 1981, and Manila, 1982; moved to Sydney, 1984; released Post with Steve Connolly and Ian Rilen, 1985; formed as Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, released Gossip, 1986; regrouped as Paul Kelly and the Messengers, released Gossip in the U.S., followed by Under the Sun, 1987; published collected writings volume Lyrics, 1993; formed new lineup with Shane O’Mara, Bruce Haymes, Peter Luscombe, Stephen Hadley, and Spencer Jones. Kelly is still releasing albums. His last album was Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train released in 2021. Altogether he had 28 studio albums, 6 live albums, 8 compilation albums, and an incredible 64 singles.
He also comments on important social and historical events and their significance to Australian identity and life. Several of his songs highlight the plight of Australia’s Indigenous people including ‘Maralinga (Rainy Land)’, a song about atomic testing by the British in Australia’s outback and its effects on the Indigenous people of that area. He and Midnight Oil were some of the artists who contributed to the album Building Bridges – Australia Has A Black History. All sales proceeds were donated to the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations.
The first song I listened to by Paul Kelly was “To Her Door.” It reminded me of Steve Earle or Springsteen. Not because of his voice but because of the songwriting. The story…the way lyrics flow and ebb and fit together like a puzzle. All the while this is going on the music has great dynamics that rise up to meet the lyrics head-on and punctuates it. The song was released in 1987 and was on the album Under The Sun that peaked at #14 in Australia.
That album also produced the single Dumb Things. This song has a shuffle that jumps. It starts off with a cool harmonica blasting and invites you in. This character-driven song stuck with me for days. This one peaked at #36 in Australia and #17 on the Billboard Alternative Charts in 1987.
Now it’s time for a pure rock song by Kelly called Darling It Hurts. This song was off of the album Gossip released in 1986. The song peaked at #25 in Australia and #19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts.
This one is called Bradman and it’s off of Gossip as well. It has a sports connection. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about Cricket but the song is great. It’s about Sir Donald Bradman, arguably…. the greatest ever cricketer (and definitely the greatest ever Australian cricketer). This one peaked at #51 in Australia and was part of a double A-sided single along with the song Leaps and Bounds.
I’m going to close this on this song or I could go on for pages. This song is called Careless. It was released in 1989 on the album So Much Water So Close to Home. It’s an incredibly catchy song but a song that means something. Like a mixture in a bottle, like a frozen over lake, Like a long-time, painted smile I got so hard I had to crack, You were there, you held the line, you’re the one that brought me back
If you liked what you have heard…do some homework and look this artist up…you won’t be sorry. He will now remain on my playlist. I’ve given you a few samples but it’s so much more to explore.
Rock Critic David Fricke: “I have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing Paul Kelly in performance more times than I can count – although it’s still not enough. I’ve seen him in performance in the Northeast and Southwest Hemispheres, unplug and plugged in, solo, with his band and, on one memorable evening in New York, on stage exchanging songs, quips and composing tips with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Michelle Shocked and Allen Toussaint. If memory serves me right, Paul actually sang a few bars of Fats Domino’s‘Blueberry Hill’ one thanksgivings back in the mid 80s at my apartment in Manhattan as he pored over a road atlas- his forefinger on the city of New Orleans – and excitedly pointed out the route he was taking on a car trip through the southern United States”
Now here is one for the road…this song’s title appealed me right away… “How to Make Gravy.”
How To Make Gravy
Hello Dan, it’s Joe here
I hope you’re keeping well
It’s the 21st of December
And now they’re ringing the last bells
If I get good behaviour
I’ll be out of here by July
Won’t you kiss my kids on Christmas Day?
Please don’t let ’em cry for me
I guess the brothers are driving down from Queensland
And Stella’s flying in from the coast
They say it’s gonna be a hundred degrees, even more maybe
But that won’t stop the roast
Who’s gonna make the gravy now?
I bet it won’t taste the same
Just add flour, salt, a little red wine
And don’t forget a dollop of tomato sauce
For sweetness and that extra tang
And give my love to Angus, and to Frank and Dolly
Tell ’em all I’m sorry, I screwed up this time
And look after Rita, I’ll be thinking of her
Early Christmas morning when I’m standing in line
I hear Mary’s got a new boyfriend
I hope he can hold his own
Do you remember the last one? What was his name again?
Ahh, just a little too much cologne
And Roger, you know I’m even gonna miss Roger
‘Cause there’s sure as hell no one in here I want to fight
Oh, praise the Baby Jesus, have a Merry Christmas
I’m really gonna miss it, all the treasure and the trash
And later in the evening, I can just imagine
You’ll put on Junior Murvin and push the tables back
And you’ll dance with Rita, I know you really like her
Just don’t hold her too close
Oh, brother, please don’t stab me in the back
I didn’t mean to say that, it’s just my mind it plays up
Multiplies each matter, turns imagination into fact
You know I love her badly, she’s the one to save me
I’m gonna make some gravy, I’m gonna taste the fat
Ahh, tell her that I’m sorry, yeah, I love her badly
Tell ’em all I’m sorry, and kiss the sleepy children for me
You know one of these days, I’ll be making gravy
I’ll be making plenty, I’m gonna pay ’em all back
Yeah, do-do-do-do, do-do
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