Thankyou and Goodnight! or, Metempsychosis - >= 1982
The night the Systematics laid themselves to rest, we gave account of ourselves at the Trade Union Club with the help of the Dead Travel Fast, The Same, No-V-Bleet, and John Blades, who acted as master of ceremonies, A few weeks later, in a fit of exuberance greater than any hitherto known, M2 decided to consolidate its psychological hold on the east coast by not only revisiting Brisbane but by taking a deep breath from up there and plummeting into Melbourne soon afterwards, demanding everyone's attention, One of the venues we commandeered was the Crystal Palace in St Kilda, and it wasn't the Systematics that played there, of course, but
Ya Ya Choral, straight out of the chrysalis and still wet behind the wings, which is what Fiona and I had become, along with Michael Tee. Now, Michael had, and I hesitate to call it a fixation, better an acute sense of the ridiculous, which had settled on the stocky figure of Tracey Pew, then bass player with the Birthday Party, now no longer with us. Tracey had, and I hesitate to call it a fixation, better an acute sense of the semiotic potency of ten-gallon hats, string ties, droopy moustaches, cowboy boots, etc, in every conceivable shade of black. I can't, then, admit to the sentiment, but I can admit to writing on the wall of the band room at the Crystal Palace, in response to a kind of dare, 'Tracey Pew the paunchy cowboy', the "p" substituting for the "r" of 'raunchy' and implying, if only to Michael, murky yet playful significations involving "Long" John Holmes and celluloid porn. In any event, the work of a moment and a brief period of counselling enabled me to forget all about it until, and you can imagine my surprise, a few years later, as I browsed idly through vinyl in some store or other, and found on the back cover of the BP's
Junkyard a photograph posing Pew and phrase, or rather sentence fragment. A sense of humour! Immortality of a kind - the photo seems to be missing from the CD release...
The thing of it is, is that Pew's colleague, Nick Cave, used to crowd surf and bellow mixed-up messages from St, John's
Apocalypse and EC Comics' Tales of Zombie Baptist Preachers, with an Enthusiasm that did justice to the word's etymology, as well as to the distinctive spin it acquired in the 18th Century. I, on the last occasion of the Systs, felt I might manage a less ambitious crowd surf minus pentecostal energies, or even much angst, notwithstanding Fiona, at my request, and very likely with a quiet nod and a concurring smile from Michael Filewood, having written the word 'hell' on my bare white chest in a clear, primary-school sans-serif. So there I stand, I can do no other, my loyal Zwah Pixies before me, and as I plunge - they scatter, gloriously, moving as a coherent wavefront away from me, and even before I hit, splash preceding impact, I know - this is precisely what should be happening. Winded and scrambling back on stage, managing to complete a final verse and chorus, this remains one of my fondest memories of the Systematics, indeed one of my fondest memories of any performance ...
(Thanks, of course, to the whole sick crew, Michael F and the recording angel,
Fiona G in particular)