The Refinery Terrace Lockup Debacle

Well, the recording was a debacle. One would have expected no less. The lockup garage door had been firmly closed, with Madge Hortense, Rotten Ronnie Junior, Trixie La Belle and a few desultory musicians inside, and the Altona Constabulary outside . The Vicar, his wife, the French onion seller and the others had, mercifully, gone home to watch daytime TV. You can even watch it at night these days..

So… Trixie, having started by noting that there were no words, or chord charts available, suggested that Was He Handsome Was I Drunk and Did Momma Give Me Hell should be sung in French, to put the others off the scent. Turns out Trixie was the daughter of a Narre Warren gasfitter, and the french accent was a fake – so that was an idea that was never going to fly.

They all opened another cask of chardonnay, and Madge cracked a catering pack of Winnie Blues to take, as she put it, the edge off.

Rotten Ronnie Junior, already three sheets to the wind, offered to sing alto, as well as play with his saxophone. His Alto was a result of the nasty blow in the Ballarat region, of which, the less said the better. Hortense, wistful as ever, misheard the bit about playing with his saxophone, offered to help. Madge, not to be outdone, sat lugubrious with another bottle of chardy and a confused merchant seaman until she could stand no more, though whether it was of the seaman or the chardonnay no-one can really say. She waded into the melee fists and all before collapsing in a heap across the mixing desk. At which point, the dials lit up and the ancient reels started to turn…

They all wondered, (me included) at this point, how the confused merchant seaman got in. Except the confused merchant seaman, who was wondering how he was going to get out.

The dog, sick of being stood upon, lit up a mournful howl. Trixie told the dog to shut up. Ronnie told Trixie to shut up. They were all so busy shouting at each other that no-one noticed the Akai slowly turning. So the whole shebang got caught on quarter inch tape. Which is what one uses when recording in a lockup at the arse end of refinery Terrace. The result? A recording that was variously described as unusual, unique, aurally challenging, and as creating a newfound respect for the original “Was I Drunk, Was He Handsome, and Did Momma give me Hell”.


Georgia White’s 1936 recording:


Madeleine Peyroux’s 1996 recording of the same song:


So the Garage is cleared, Rotten Ronnie is up for it, and Madge from Altona and the darkly mysterious Hortense have to deliver

The effort of setting up all that sound gear, not to mention shop lifting it in the first place, had resulted in both Madge and Hortense, exhausted, falling into a deep slumber, possibly assisted by the 2 and a half casks of Chateau Plonc that they knocked off during the set up process. We have all been there, done that, but the headache stays the same.
They were startled awake by Rotten Ronnie banging on the TiltADor. He had spotted, and recognised the Kingswood leaning against the kerb, and was desperate to get in and hide , as he was being pursued, for a variety of reasons, by the Vicar, his wife, her French onion seller paramour, the local constabulary, and an increasingly irate Trixie La Belle. There could have been others.
The reasons for their pursuit of the Cad were variously

  • Unconscionable consumption of the sacramental wine in the combination bus stop and Gospel Hall
  • Repeated Failure to make good on the Vicar’s wife’s bucket list
  • Repeated French onions, leading to a loss of sales downwind
  • A variety, no smorgasbord even, of indictable offences for which the Altona Constabulary may have to make a rare foray into the wilds of Railway Terrace. Collars may be fingered….

So, we have Madge from Altona, musical director and one time ballerina, Hortense who dressed for the occasion in black with a dash of red, (she dresses for every occasion in the same outfit, sometimes sporting a Mantilla for effect); Rotten Ronnie who hasn’t been the same since he suffered that unfortunate blow in the Ballarat region; and Mme Trixie about whom we know nothing,trying to get in.
The ensemble was ranged and ready to produce the definitive version of Was I Drunk, Was He Handsome And Did Momma Give Me Hell when Mme Trixie pointed out that they didn’t know the words, had no charts and would have to wing it from start to finish. Would it work? Would the Vicar, his wife, the French Onion seller and the boys in blue stop hammering on the door?
All may be revealed next week…

And what, you may ask, of Madge from Altona and the darkly mysterious Hortense?

Well, you probably wouldn’t ask, because not a few people don’t know who they might be, and most of the others didn’t read that bit of last week’s Newsletter. Suffice to say their headlong trajectory along the Hume came to a smoking halt at the lock up garage in Refinery Terrace. The long suffering Kingswood had had enough.

As an aside, that lock up had a colourful history, having been an annex to the Strangled
Ferret before that august establishment burnt to the ground years ago. It was where the Oscar Beetroot Band, Weimar cabaret artistes and sad emigres once held an afterparty without doing the gig first. Madge remembers it well, although Hortense overdid the sherbets on the night and can, as a consequence, remember nothing. Probably a good thing.

After a brief run as a Lebanese pizza shop, the lockup declined, and despite rumours it was to re-open as Altona West’s second knocking shop, it became instead the repository for the considerable detritus brought back from Madge’s disastrous night at the Bairnsdale Working Mens Club. Which is where the Kingswood came in handy, and not for the first time . . .

So, on to the recording of Was I handsome, Was He Drunk and Did Mam Give Me Hell. All the gear was carefully set up, three times, once without the cables, once with the wrong cables and then with the right lines in the wrong holes. The story of Hortense’s life but Madge didn’t care. “We are going to be Artistes!”

And next week, we may find out how it all went, although quite possibly there will be enlightening discussion of the Nineteenth Centuy Balkan conflicts instead; and of their passing effect on the Oscar Beetroot Band.

Or not

Hortense makes a record with Madge

“Well,” Madge remarked as she barrelled the Kingswood through an army checkpoint, “that went well.” Coppers and Squaddies diving for the ditch, and the evening sky soon lit up with flashing blue lights. Hortense, clinging forlornly to the broken door handle, didn’t think it had gone too well at all.

Of course, Madge had a tactical advantage, as, with all the squaddies facing in the other direction, she was trying to sneek back into Victoria after a lengthy sojourn in NewSouthBloddyWales prompted by reports of cruise liners full of matelots with nothing else to do. She is, anyway, getting a bit old for that sort of thing.

But I digress – the return was prompted by their plan of making a home recording of Lil Johnson’s 1936 smash hit “Was I Drunk, Was He Handsome and Did Momma Give me Hell” funded by newly announced Government funding. A gap had emerged in the market for this sort of thing, and they both thought they should grasp the opportunity whilst the entire Music Industry was wringing its hands and thinking about trousering some of the Government cash on offer. Taxpayers money! Madge was quite happy with this, as she hadn’t paid any income tax since about 1973, shortly after the Bairnsdale Working Mens’ Club debacle.

So… zooming along a deserted freeway in the middle of the night, trying to call up Rotten Ronnie, lately third sax in Trixie La Belle’s Academie de Dance, to see if they could get him to solo for free. Madge and Hortense proposed to share the vocals, and who gives a toss about the drummer…Madge figured they would be a shoo in for the Government money if they put in an application for the Strangled Ferret even though it burnt to the ground years ago.

So, once back in dear old West Altona, the Refinery Terrace garage serving as Recording Studio, away they went and…

Well, you will have to wait until next week to find out.


Links to Newport Jazz Festival and Jammers News:


This week’s contributions from Jammers with too much time on their hands…

  • What Have the Jammers Been up to
  • Cookin’ on Homemade Jam
  • Dogs, Debts and How to Make money Out of Music

Dogs, Debts and How to Make money Out of Music

Dogs and Debts A conversation with a couple of young musicians and their dog. Corporate gigs – dried up. Regular gigs – dried up. One off big gigs – cancelled. As part of a group of musos, they had sensibly set up a gymnasium business to provide them with a regular income where music has always been a precarious existence. The gym is currently closed, the business owes $100,000, the dog seemed the happiest of the group.

We concluded the following:

1 The sun is going to come up tomorrow

2 And the next day.

3 We all love being musicians, and that is more important than the money

4 The singer is getting into music production, experimenting with media, collaborative recording, electronic sounds. So is everyone else.

5 The dog is always up for a pat and a scratch.

So – how to make money out of music?

In two easy steps. Simple really.

Step 1    Get out of music

Step 2    Go make some money.

What have the Jammers been up to?
Itching for the shutdown to end seems to be a bit of a theme. Can’t imagine why.

Seven Singers, a Drummer and the Editor.



Aimee Everett, chanteuse, has been warbling in her garage studio and running up collaborative tunes with some of her entire Music Department. Listening to Matt Corby I’m in Chains


Yuko Onishi,
tonsil artist from Kyoto, isn’t doing a lot with the lock down, other than continuiung her work as a freelance interpreter. She offers Japanese to english translations, as well as English to Japanese translations. Could be on to something there…and she should be learning some new tunes any day now. She has been listening to a range of jazz standards. Emails will be sent to see if we can solve the problem.


Kay Young has been running laps of her apartment, doesn’t like the lock down one little bit, and should emerge determinedly cheerful and strikingly fit.


Nurul Rahman has two kids and a husband with a broken foot to look after, and remains cheerfully exasperated. Apparently Xavier was showing Ikima how to jump. There is no truth to the rumour that Frenchmen eat snails because they are so unfit that is the only food they can catch.


Katerina Myskova, who is the only jammer I can find who is working full time, has this week off, and a list of new songs to learn. Spends her downtime listening to Jill Scott. How sophisticated.

Rosemarie has been listening to Halleluiah, the Ray Charles version, to cheer herself up. It might be working. Ray Charles had eight children by five different wives,. All the wives were good looking. Seems like a bit of a shame, really.


Annie Smith: still tooling about in the garden, digging up a fresh supply of paving bricks to hurl at the neighbours. Possibly. Listening to a bit of latin. From all of which we may deduce she is fighting fit and ready to go…


Michael Findlay, owner of the finest set of ride cymbals in East Balaclava (I made that bit up, it couuld have been West Balaclava) is contemplating his non existent photography business (aren’t we all?) and not playing much drums. Things will only improve when the neighbours become chronically deaf. Michael provides the Jam Sessions photographs that make every one look slightly more exotic than they really are, and quite a bit more monotonal.

The Ed: otherwise known as Rob McCue, is keen to let us know he is out and about playing tennis. Smug bastard. When pressed, he admiits to listening most recently to Lester Young: admirable choice.

The Jammers Bit: The Music Edition. Good Grief!

It has come to my attention that many of you are coping rather well with the stage 4 lockdown. This is to stop at once – we have Government regulations against that sort of thing.

We understand that Jammers have been surreptitiously listening to music *(see below) and making ISO recordings on the sly, and posting them unnecessarily to Facebook. This sort of behaviour could break the internet, or at least clog up the Facebook part of it. We must ask that you wipe that smug grin off your face, or maybe not as you are probably wearing a mask anyway. There are consequences for such irrational attitudes and it must stop at once.

Examples of the moral decline of civilisation as we know it might include the demise of Lipstick Manufacturies, the demise of the Flu season, the status of Free Victoria as the only state which hasn’t shut its borders to anyone, the discovery that home percolated coffee is just as good as a cold cup from a half shut Barista, and you do not need bread anymore as Marg is baking it for you..

And, for Godsake, will someone kindly go out and catch the flu – seems almost no-one has this year and it is playing hell with the statistics.

What a lucky life!

What have the Jammers been listening to?

Jeff Harris: last listened to A Night in Tunisia, and is so bored he has taken up piano.

John Curtis is locked up in South Bank, as he should be, and has been listening to a French CD he bought years ago – so obscure that he cannot remember its name, although I am sure if he could he would pronounce it with an appropriate French accent. Grave probably

John Curtis

Cardinal Calamatta has been listening to Argentine tango called Nostalgias, by a composer called Pablo something or other. He has had a break from saxophone, lost his embouchure, and is now getting it back – sweetest tone of any of the regular saxopholologists.


POCKOTL (Marg) has now pruned everything in her garden to approximately ground level, and is baking bread while it all grows again. She has been listening to some Jimi Hendrix. Rock chick…


Deborah “have you been listening to the Republican National Convention” Salkov has been learning Orange Coloured Sky and listening to Lady Gaga who she thinks is rather good.

Gina (Tower Hotel Manager) has been swanning around Queensland, but promises to come back and re-open the Tower. Bopping around to Beyonce at the moment.

Doug “haircut” Kuhn last listened to chanteuse Patricia Barber and seems to have got the lockdown two step down pat.

And finally, Captain Chaos hasn’t been listening to his phone as he hasn’t answered yet. I am reliably informed he is well and listening to Trains – the Blue Note Tokyo All Stars Jazz Orchestra. He has also been practicing and accidentally played a hot solo last week. We have told him to have a Bex and a lie down…

Captain Chaos

Festival and Jammers News:
Sad news from Port Fairy- the Jazz Festival has been cancelled for this year – not a great surprise as the much bigger Folk Festival was cancelled about three weeks ago. We will do a ring round and get an update on all the Festivals soon. It is going to be ugly…

Click on the links for the Festival website etc. Etc.


The Jammers Bit: When do we open a jam session?

Due to the complete absence of any positive news vis a vis the Jammers, this week’s Newsletter is looking at the story of Rob Petrie, Gelignite and the Cessna 206, Heritage architecture, and why you never have two clocks in an aeroplane. All of it true, of course, and almost exclusively irrelevant. Finishing, as you do, with hopes of a Jam Session.

Petrie was a lunatic, but a big, likeable bloke. Invariably dressed in a faded uniform with the obligatory Blundstones,. He had a heart of gold, a tatty Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife career, an enthusiasm for arresting mutton birders, and a penchant for big explosions. I first met him sitting in an overloaded Cessna 206, with my feet propped up on a box which the pilot had put forward to help balance the weight.

The Cessna 206 It was a 20 minute flight to Maria Island, and its grass airstrip with notorious winds off Bishop and Clerk making the landing interesting, as you had to buzz the strip first to chase off the kangaroos and Cape Barren geese, then turn around quickly and land before they wandered back. There is a.100 foot drop off the cliff at the end of the strip into the sea.

A Cessna 206 on the “runway” at Darlington air strip.

check out the landing conditions!

Gelignite: About 10 minutes into the flight, I turned round and asked Rob what was in the box under my feet. “Gelignite” he said. Lovely stable stuff and quite inert until it goes bang. There were no vehicles on the island, so Rob was going to use the gelignite to shift some rock.

About this much…

About an hour after we got to Maria Island, I was moving around the old convict settlement, photographing and surveying the original buildings, as heritage architects do… I had to stop for a while as Rob wanted to blow out some rocks to put in a drainage pipe. Quite safe, he said, and promptly blew a rock through the roof of the Coffee Palace at a range of about 75 yards.

Heritage Architecture: He also managed to blow a crack in the end wall of the Men’s prison, thereby revealing the original doorway to the Mess Hall which was mentioned in the Diego Bernacchi records, but had never been found. Unusual survey technique, made my day..

Petrie’s drainage pipe later worked a treat as well, so it was a pretty productive effort all round.

The clock: On the return trip in the Cessna, we flew off the end of the cliff, and climbed steadily. The dasboard had two of everything except the clock. Nick the pilot explained that a clock was an handy navigational tool, and you either had one and hoped it worked, or you had three. If you only had two and one was, say ten minutes out, you wouldn’t know which was which, where you were and when you would fly into the mountain. There were only two things that Nick didn’t like when flying – cumulo nimbus and cumulo granite. Best to avoid the latter.

The Jam Session: I don’t know where Petrie is now – or Nick for that matter – it was a long time ago, but the clock concept is relevant to Victoria today. We had a first wave of pandemic which seemed to go fairly easily, that is one clock. But then a second wave which, hopefully, will subside but that is only two clocks. – but you can tell better how the pandemic will behave when you get the third wave, because it becomes more and more predictable. Only then could you even contemplate opening a jam session safely.

Just a thought…


Festival and Jammers News:




The Jammers Bit: And another thing

Greets. The emails we are sending out have resulted in lots of correspondence with a whole lot of jammers. – a common theme being, “can’t wait to get back to the jam sessions” – for a whole lot of reasons, not all of them entirely musical.

This week’s codswallop includes a couple of links – copy and paste, people! Huich’s session at Bar Ousso is good, and Ivan’s diatribe on bass players (the Bass Rabbit Hole) is addictive once you get started.

Madge has, reportedly, been up to her usual shenanigans, although she is finding the curfew somewhat hard for a tired old tart who tries not to get up before 8pm anyway, and has spent the best years of her life on a park bench at 5am in the morning. Madge has always been a bit of snob, and considers the merchant seamen of her acquaintance somewhat beneath her. Well, they were on the park bench.


  • Ivan Sultanoff on bass players
  • Ebony Rose on relaxation
  • Huich’s Bar Ousso jaunt


Let’s start with a Rolling Stone link to a history of Strange Fruit Well worth a read – find out at the end who the “last racist” might be. Have we ever covered this at a jam?

‘Nuff said. Stay home, stay healthy and stop roaming the streets at night, For those of you still practising your reading -something to amuse…Read on!

Festival and Jammers News:





The Jammers Bit: Have the Lunatics Taken Over the Asylum Yet?


After last week’s slackathon, which required me to write about six lines, more articles from the jammers – in addition to which, meself and the Captain have racked up around 40 responses to the emails we sent last week. If you haven’t checked your spam folder for a while, it could be in there.

So we have articles from:

Debbie Woodroffe: Deb’s Rant

Luis Chacon: Confessions of a Chartaholic

Jack Morris: A Career

Pete Micevski: What Day Is It?

‘Nuff said. Now that we have all stopped roaming the streets at night, something to amuse… read on! Better still, pick up a phone and talk to a fellow jammer – nobody is finding the second wave easy…

Festival and Jammers News:


The ‘orrible Truth – the future of live music


One might say that Madge from Altona is as miffed as anyone else in Refinery Terrace. It would seem that the corner store has run out of Winnie Blues due to some unregulated panic buying, and this year’s Chateau Plonc is barely worth the cardboard box it comes in. But what, you may ask, of the grand metropolis up the road, that once heaving hub of social activity, now ring fenced, locked down and surrounded by squaddies armed to the teeth. There is not a bar, venue, stadium, theatre or dancehall open – and it may not be about to get better any time soon. That is the ‘orrible truth, and here is why:

If you take music venue managers at their word, (and who wouldn’t?) they were either losing money or barely making any profit in the past even if their venue was full. Cut down the allowable punters and ticket prices would have to go up a staggering 400% just to maintain the status quo.

Taking my superseded copy of the Building Code Of Australia as a guide (see note 1), the design capacities could be reduced by between 70% (concert halls) and 87% (stadiums). Bars are even worse. In summary – the greater the original crowd capacity, and the smaller the venue, the bigger the loss of bums on seats. There probably isn’t a venue in Melbourne that could turn a profit. If a venue is losing money, the more music it puts on, the quicker it will go broke, and no musician will earn a living from live performance – not that many ever did anyway (see Note 2.)

Musicians are better off than venue owners. They can all earn $400USD + per month by running up a million plays on Spotify (see Note 3) or… play for the fun of it -or as Venue managers used to say “for exposure”. So Musos dependant on gigs for their income (remember, there aren’t many) must rely on the philanthropy of venue owners, as the others will have gone broke anyway. Industry executives (see note 4) are predicting a downturn from the 2019 industry value of $555 million. How many bars that have closed will reopen?

Unless you enjoy playing so much you will do it for free, it doesn’t look good. Cheer up! – any day now, pigs will fly, the moon will turn blue, and someone will come up with a vaccine. Maybe get a cure for saxophone playing and Little Sunflower while they are at it.


In conclusion:

So…A bit heavy on the serious stuff this week, and it is not looking too bright just yet. It will get better. Lots of jammers hunkered down with their ukulele, bagpipes, bolivian nose flutes or whatever. Chops should be sensational. Meanwhile, all the singers are learning the verses to go before the choruses – another first.


Festival and Jammers News:



Note 1: The figures given are calculated from Table D1.13 of The Building Code of Australia, a 665 page manual so obscure that it was used to burn down several apartment buildings in Melbourne.

Note 2: According to their submissions to government, every musician in Australia has lost hundreds of gigs because of Covid19. Luckily, only around 33% of professional musicians earn their living solely from music.

Note 3: What does streaming pay? Depends who you ask! The second link is a fun little exercise.

Note 4: Industry executives: they can be identified by their propensity to call musicians “artists” or “talent” or “profit centres”, or “units”. The figures are taken from the ARIA annual report.


Aria Report 2019

The report might be worth a read (link below) but the Bar Chart says it all.,annual%20increase%20from%202018%20figures.

A brief and splendidly inaccurate history of the Blues in Australia:

Reprinted from 12th January 2011

Blues music started in the Untied States of America when Blind Big Willy from way down somewhere else fell into a dumpster and came out clutching a ukulele with three broken strings and a bottle of Drano, which does something to the voice but I am not sure what.

Blind Big Willy could only count to three, so that settled the question of which chords to play. Almost every blues song begins with “woke up this morning”, followed by a litany of daily catastrophes that is so inevitable one wonders if waking up is in fact a bad career move. The Blues should have quit whilst it was still ahead…but instead it developed into a dubious art form, requiring its exponents to (a) shoot a man in Memphis, (b) hitch a ride on the Midnight Special and (c) get done left by their woman on a regular basis, before (d) dying of consumption, a broken heart, and a lifetime of luck, all of it bad….

At this stage it was brought to Australia by a travelling snakeoil salesman, where, in Melbourne at least, it was enthusiastically adopted by Madge from Altona, Robbo the postman from Preston and several people mostly called Eric who saw it as a preferable alternative to paid employment. Disguising their middle class origins with such names as Fat Mama from Altona, Freddie the Frontloader and the blind drunk boys of Upper East Doncaster, they would take it in turns to bemoan their fate and cadge drinks from an unsuspecting public due to the inadequacy of their non specific performing arts grants, received on a weekly basis in exchange for forged documentation suggesting they were actually applying for work in the field of brain surgery or some such.

Eventually I will definitely attend something. Maybe, a jam session. Maybe you should too...

The Jammers Bit

This week Facebook, the Jam Sessions, Rose’s bit and John Hannah is looking at the Castlemaine Jazz Jam – even though it is in the same purdah as the rest of us. And very little else going on at present, which could, of course, be a good thing.

Melbourne Jazz Jammer’s facebook page.

The links are at the bottom of each post. The Facebook site enjoys lots of visitors and POCKOTL regularly signs up new members to… nobody quite knows what. That is half the fun of the site, which features clips from jam sessions, plugs for gigs, contributions from jam session regulars – and at the moment rather a lot of good stuff from Gary Burton’s Berklee Jazz Improv course, which is free, but not exclusively for drummers. Quite a few jammers have done it in the past – check it out.

A quick look through the list of Facebook subscribers would suggest that most of the musicians here are of a better calibre than most of the jammers, only they get to play less; or at least they would if the jam sessions were back on again.. Go figure.

The Jam sessions

When are they back on? At present, I don’t know, the Captain don’t know, the Chief Medical Officer of Victoria don’t know, and you probably wouldn’t bother asking Donald Trump, although he would probably know..

Sooner than some of us fear – you have been warned. Stay safe.

Ed: This post was written in the middle ages CT (Covid Time) and the Melbourne world has shrunk somewhat even in the past few days since it was written and today we had 268 new cases! Stay safe and wear a mask if you can’t social distance.