Sunday, 31 May 2015

Shots by Don Walker‏

Ironically my first book for this blog is not a work of fiction at all, let alone metafiction. However, the writing is as mesmerising and surreal as any great novel. This memoir is by Don Walker, keyboardist and lead songwriter of Cold Chisel, who is one of the greatest storytellers in popular music.

In August 2011 I received a tip off from a friend that Walker would be making an in-store appearance at Basement Discs in Melbourne. Being unemployed at the time, I took my Catfish CD and caught the train into the city one afternoon. He performed a short set comprised of solo material, songs from Tex, Don and Charlie, and one or two Chisel numbers thrown in. I was in awe of him, and excitedly I lined up afterwards to get my CD signed. It was one of my most treasured memories, and he is one of my greatest influences both as a writer and a musician.

The book is captivating with its sense of place, beginning with his childhood in North Queensland and taking the reader through life on the road around Australia and the world.

The characters of his early life seem occupied and even the ambitious don't seem to be able to break the cycle of small town life, with work, booze and family. Walker is able to break through with his studies and work for the department of defence. Though as he travels and winds up in Adelaide he doesn't seem quite settled with this. Rock n Roll is more suited to his wandering personality, and he continues to observe his surroundings as moves to bleak Melbourne and finally settles in Sydney when the band is signed.

There isn't much focus on Chisel's success, more on what happens to Walker in the incidental moments of life. Coming across many dodgy characters such as landlords and managers as he hangs around the his apartment at the Plaza Hotel and wanders through the seedy Kings Cross, he observes with a sadness and sensitivity how ordinary people play out their lives in the face of continuous monotony. He also has various encounters with desperate women which end rather awkwardly.

Though he empathises, Walker is able to let go and just rolls with where life takes him. After the band's break up, he continues to travel to Paris and Siberia. Thoughts of his daughter back home keep him grounded and from falling into a meandering, transient existence. It is quite sweet and gives this story heart. It's like no matter who he has met through the years, whatever won or lost, he shares the experiences of the human condition and a mutual respect with others because he knows what is important to him.

"Goodnight sweet dreams, the world is well, that's all Danielle that's all."

Fans of Walker and Chisel will definitely be interested in this memoir, and those familiar with the history will recognise events, places and the origins of some lyrics worked into the reflections.

Amazing insight into this creative individual is what resonates with me. The stream of consciousness flow is reminiscent of his liner notes in the 1994 album Teenage Love. Whenever I sat down and read Shots I found it took a few pages to get back into book and then I was hooked by the word pictures of abstract imagery in run on sentences.

You don't have to be a music fan to enjoy this book, and I recommend it to general readers and lovers of memoir.

Shots is now available in E Book format.

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