Sunday, November 07, 2010
#223: Television, Drug Of The Nation
Export Rock Club Sat was a show so short lived that I doubt many people saw it, less would remember and there’s no trace of it on-line at all. As a concept it was interesting and frankly, it gave my career as a music researcher a serious boost, not that I really went on with it, but the thought was clearly there. So what was it and what was my involvement? That’s a fairly easy to answer set of questions.
The next day I wandered into work at the ABC and was button-holed by a colleague who asked if I caught the show. “Yep,” I replied, “and I wish I hadn’t.”
“Because it was fucking awful. Horrid show. Blankety Blank is a know nothing moron, in fact didn't he steal the credit for a book that was totally written by his 'co-author'? The questions were insipid and the whole thing was one big train wreck,” and on I babbled, pointing out all the flaws that I saw in the show. I was then asked to come and meet a man, who promptly introduced me to his brother, both of whom made up the other two thirds of the production team who were running the show. Idiot me had promptly put my foot into things. The producers suggested that, if I was so bloody clever, I should put my money where my mouth was. Another show was about to be produced and would feature Neal Schon and John Waite, so would I care to do the research and be available to provide questions to Blankety Blank, whom, I was told, would lambaste me if it all went wrong but would steal all the credit if it went right. I agreed and went to work. I shouldn’t have bothered.
Jesus Christ! It was foul. Straight up Blankety Blank got Waite off-side by asking him about songs such as ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘All By Myself', and other great tunes, as sung by Eric Carmen. I had suggested asking Waite about any possible comparison to Carmen, but that’s not what came out. I quickly suggested to the producers that perhaps they needed to tell Blankety Blank that he was speaking to the guy from The Babys who had plenty of great songs, ‘Everytime I Think Of You’ and ‘Isn’t It Time’ to no avail; Blankety Blank was on a roll and began to talk about The Raspberries instead, intent on showing just how much he knew about music, and despite Waite virtually screaming down the line that he was never in The Raspberries, that was Eric Fucking Carmen!
One interesting fact that I’d turned up was as follows: Neal Schon, a noted guitarist from Journey, and a man so good that Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana were both vying for his services when he was about 16 and who had been playing guitar since the early 1970s had invested a lot of his money into a guitar factory which made his own designed guitars. The suggested question was, “So, Neal, I understand that you own your own guitar company which makes your own line of guitars. Would you like to tell us about that?” Easy question right? Wrong. In Blankety Blank’s hands the question became,
“So, Neal, I understand you own your own guitar?”
The show duly aired and managed to get far better ratings than the Cooper show, which wouldn’t have been that difficult, considering that at one point Cooper had been shown yawning and asking someone off-camera if he could leave. The producers had managed to make the show look and sound good, all of the crap was gone and there was 45 minutes of light, breezy entertainment. Even better, there was my name, finally, scrolling past on the credits of a television show. I was credited as being the ‘Researcher’, a credit that Blankety Blank had fought against as he believed that his ‘public’ (as if such a thing existed outside of his head) would refuse to accept that he didn’t do all his own research. I wish he had done it all, and then I’d not have had such a hangover. On the strength of the ratings I was given another artist: Jimmy Barnes.
Jimmy was in fine form despite his prick of a manager insisting that all non-essential staff had to remain outside of his house (the link-up was done from Jimmy’s pool room where Jimmy's brother, John Swan, was busily playing pool and getting drunk). Normally that’d not be a problem, but this was in winter, in Bowral. Where it snows at night and the temperatures drop below freezing. The only ones allowed in were the camera guys, the sound man and the tech guy doing the feed. The rest were told to shut up and wait. They froze their tits off, poor bastards.
In 1985 David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen then went in search of a replacement lead singer and, naturally, asked a lot of pals if they knew someone. Oddly enough Neal Schon, who we’d already spoken to a month previously (and who’d already been asked about Jimmy on that show, Schon saying he really loved Jimmy’s voice) spoke to Eddie and suggested, you guessed it, Jimmy Barnes. Schon had met Barnes when Barnes was recording his first solo album and working with Schon's bandmate, Jonathan Cain, who also gave a glowing reference. Van Halen heard the tapes, promptly made contact, flew to Sydney and spent a few days with Barnes in an attempt to persuade him to join Van Halen. Barnes declined the offer, with graces, and Van Halen flew back to the USA and subsequently hired Sammy Hagar. That was the information placed into the research files, along with the source material. Blankety Blank wandered over with one of the producers and said, “This just isn't true.”
“But it is true," I replied, "Jimmy Barnes was asked to join Van Halen in 1985.”
“I don’t believe it ever happened.”
“Because Jimmy has never told me about it.” By this stage I felt like saying, ‘You ever wondered why he never told you, you twat,” but I held my breath. “How do you know all of this?” he spat. I’d had enough of both Blankety Blank and a little too much grog.
“Because I can read, dickhead. The interview quote explaining the story is there, from an interview with Eddie Van Halen, with the source of the quote. Use your eyes man!”
“I don’t want to ask this and look foolish.” To me that’d be like Hitler saying, “I don’t want to invade Poland if it might make me look bad.” The producers insisted that he ask, so he finally lined up the camera and said,
“Jimmy, I have an unconfirmed rumour here that at one stage you were asked to join Van Halen on stage.” Now that sounds like he was asked to sing a song during a concert. I seethed and thought, ‘You fucking idiot.’ But then a miracle happened. Jimmy saved me.
“No, never been asked to join them on stage,” began Jimmy. Blankety Blank turned to me with a murderous look, but Jimmy kept talking, “but back in, oh, it must have been 1985, Eddie flew over here to ask me to join his band after Roth left. We jammed for a while and he spent a few days trying to convince me, but in the end, well, you know, Cold Chisel, I wanted a solo career and I really didn’t want to relocate to America full time, so I passed.” The look from Blankety Blank this time was sheer hell. He’d been made to look foolish, for that I would suffer. Jimmy went on a bit about Van Halen and the show kept on it’s pace. By the end of the night I was hammered and did a little off camera vomiting myself in the car park, just for fun. How odd, I managed to vomit on Blankety Blank's car too.
I’m not sure if such a thing is possible but this show didn’t rate. I know I watched it, as did my mother, who’d watch, listen to and read anything I did, credited or not, but, for some reason, the ratings came back as zero. Even the presence of Bob Spaghetti as the follow-up didn't help it. It was almost like people turned the TV off after the news and then turned them back on when Bob wandered out to make his offers that you couldn't refuse. The sponsor withdrew faster than a fat man tears into an all you can eat buffet and the show was officially dead. I did see the last ‘special’ repeated once, but there’s been no sign of the show since it was aired back in mid 1989. Pity, as I was credited on the show, my first television credit. I was happy and waited for the money to roll in. Again, I am an idiot.
But I did see my name on TV in a credit roll for the first time. To me, that was priceless. My mother had a party built around one of the shows where everyone had to be glued to the screen for the two second glimpse of my name. The screenshot was then freeze-framed, on video, the rest of the night. Yeesh! I’m not sure I’d do it all again and I’ve only done uncredited television work since, but it did look good on the resume and it was a lot of fun in its own way. Time tempers the memory.