Shakepeare Didn’t Play Guitar

23 September 2001

With the death of Elvis
I could no longer believe.
Since listening to Flaming Star
on a winter Saturday, 1973
I had been a sucker for his elegies.
Suspicious Minds took me out of the paddocks
and into a bedroom with an older brother,
where my education in music began with Slade,
the Jackson Five, Skyhooks, our sisters
into the Osmonds, Sherbet, David Cassidy.
Pubescent and wanting more
than Playboy and gunslinger Westerns
I forked over calf money for 16
Teen Beat, Circus and Cream.
Shakespeare Didn't Play Guitar,
he didn't rate.
Like the acne on my face
I opened up to body shirts,
played under-17 football at thirteen.
My brother read Ram, Juke, NME
became obsessed withbands the radio station didn't play.
He stashed magazines under his bed
for future reference, testing me
on the original members of The Yardbirds, Black Sabbath,
until it became clear
the magazines were holding up his bed.
In the clean-out we found a dead rat,
a smell we hadn't noticed
staring up at posters of The Stones and Foghat.
Each night our room was a succession of guitar solos –
Jimmy Page, Ted Nugent, Lobby Lloyd always
within grabbing distance of the record player.
Despite Mum thumping on our door for tea
The Sex Pistols helped me to see.
a different side to milking 180 cows twice a day.
My brother cut his hair, dying it blonde
around the ears so as not to offend
our neighbour, the footy coach.
With a Boys Next Door quiff
he was still a relieving ruckman
in the forward pocket.
As a centre-half forward I was more ambitious
but I hadn't read anything
outside Stan Barstow's A Kind of Loving,
a mournful antidote
to Richard Allen's skinhead epics
which I read in conjunction with English music,
and formed an early distaste for Royalty.
Outside footy and Mass
we didn't go anywhere there was
to go. With some neighbours
we started our own blue-light disco,
decorating the local hall with footy streamers.
Word got around
but the dance floor was watched by my father.
I pashed on in the back corners
to Ami Stewart and Thelma Houston,
coloured lights strobing the Honour Rolls,
my brother ran his first car into a drain.

This entry was posted in 09: MUSIC and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
Brendan Ryan

About Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan grew up on a dairy farm at Panmure in Western Victoria. His poetry, reviews and essays have been published in literary journals and newspapers, including, Footy Town, Island, Westerly, Antipodes, The Age, The Weekend Australian, The Best Australian Poems and Contemporary Australian Poetry. Travelling Through the Family (Hunter Publishers) was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Awards. His most recent collection is Small Town Soundtrack (Hunter Publishers 2015). He lives in Geelong.

Further reading:

Related work: