We Are A Ghost Now, You & I
A psycho-historical document written and performed by
I wrote the majority of the work for what would become We Are A Ghost Now, You & I deep in the mire of one of the most difficult periods of my life. Much of what made it so muddy is the usual noise, unsatisfying corporate job, existential malaise, rampant alcohol abuse, routine dissatisfaction, and anything and everything that keeps the modern android dreaming of electric sheep. However two things influenced this period of creativity more than anything else, Janine Burke’s provocative tome Australian Gothic, which is a fascinating exorcism of the tempestuous love affair between artists Albert Tucker and Joy Hester, and the loss of my grandfather Jim Grenfell. The resulting lyric sheet is an exorcism of my own, a heady mélange of grief, hero worship and storytelling all with a desperate sense of searching for a place to weigh anchor. It is at times as hopeful as it is sorrowful and told with a tenderness that I hope connects the listener deeply to the sense of electricity that hope, hand in hand with sorrow, brings to the air.
This song is an ode to that unnerving yet scintillating moment of self-awareness upon crossing the threshold of a new lover’s living quarters. Invited or otherwise, the cocktail of cleanliness, newness and nerves completely eclipse any sense of familiarity the two of you may have formed. The particular instance about which this song is written happened to be a first as well as a last, which heightens the bittersweet nature of the memory and focuses it solely on the notion that I was a welcome bruise in her clean, white space.
Intimacy is a lighthouse. Giant sandstone bricks surround you and your partner, significant or otherwise, and shield you from the buffeting storm and threat that the outside world poses. In return you charge its beacon, keeping the light on in order to search out life in the dim lit din. You two are the keepers, safe from the wind and rain inside your pillar. All the while you are the boats careening towards the shore. You are keepers as much as you are kept.
Mise En Scene
Here, the mood is considerably more surreal and less romantic. Here the protagonist describes his experience over a period of time where he was so stricken by despair that he has no option but to sit quietly in the armchair favored by the one he has lost. The immensity and heft of his sadness washes over him for so long a time that dust settles on his surfaces and insects and birds come to see him as part of their minute landscape. As he sits, he watches the tulle window shades flap freely and imagines them as dancers. Light and carefree, they must be imaginary or part of some connivance. Nothing that beautiful would dare enter a dank, abandoned world such as this.
Pictures Of The Seventies
In which things become a little more personal. The night I wrote these lyrics our family had spent the day going through countless boxes of photos in our grandpa’s house looking for the choicest memories to include in the impending funeral service. I found a rich seam centered on our parents’ wedding and relished wandering around in one of the happiest memories in our collective history. Later that night I watched a documentary about John Lennon in his New York period wherein he asks of his contemporaries “The Sixties and Seventies are over. Did you make it out OK?” Here, Dear Long Lost John, is my answer.
Interior; Lt. Collins Street, After Midnight
Here our heroes hit a stumbling block. Taking place in the single room Tuk and Joy shared early on in their affair, our hero can’t help but notice a few lingering telltale signs of infidelity on his heroine’s breath and in her demeanor. As the adage goes, he who loves the least dictates the relationship. Tuk realizes which of the two he is.
Respite. Heidelberg meant sanctity and resplendence for all those who stayed and worked there. In my family it was a house at Rosebud and another at Cape Patterson where we would find wonder between school semesters and calendar-loads of toil. In these hazy, blissful periods one can’t help but be aware of the trouble elsewhere in the world but gazing up at the sky from your back in long grass is enough to make it all seem a million miles and a hundred years away.
A portrait of Albert Tucker, a dark and steady thinker whose dedication to his art, his politics and his singular place in history made him the patron saint of the process of writing this record. Simultaneously a portrait of my Grandpa, whose resoluteness, grace and pillar of salt sensibility set the benchmark for a whole generation. Stoic is about hero worship in line with admittance of fault, a prayer for lighthouse strength in the face of so many storms.
The story of a storm I weathered. In an office every day and allegations abound. I stood accused of the same infidelity that plagued Tuk and Joy and it poisoned my thinking. Looking out the window adjacent my desk I saw Pigeon suffering through his final moments, evil Crow having relieved him of his right to see. Sat squalid and helpless in the gutter, his gory and tragic ending sat me bolt upright. I did not want to end up like Pigeon, leaking out my life force in some futile, utilitarian, concrete structure being pecked at by angry, black parasites. There are some of the most beautiful colours imaginable in the sheen of the feathers on a pigeon’s proud chest.
At the end of that heady decade Joy made the bold, sudden and irreversible decision to leave her whole world behind. While it was filled with people she’d loved and grown up with for the majority of her adult life, she was sick physically and it had been making her sick emotionally for the longest time. She abandoned her little world, Tuk and the son she bore him and headed to Sydney to start a new life under Jacaranda trees. Her letters to Sunday Reed from this period illuminate her suffering and her alleviation from suffering all the way up to her final day. This song is a letter to a home that doesn’t exist anymore.
A paean, a long, deep breath out, a prayer that one day every story will be read with the reverence it deserves. You are all good people, no one is a burden and every last one of you is written in the most beautiful handwriting.
HAVE/HOLD ‘WE ARE A GHOST NOW, YOU & I’ TOUR DATES
Saturday 3rd November Brunswick Mechanics Institute Melbourne
Friday 4th January Crown & Anchor Hotel Adelaide
Saturday 5th January The Gasometer Melbourne
Thursday 10th January The Brisbane Hotel Hobart
Friday 11th January The Gunners Arms Launceston
Saturday 19th January Bloodhound Bar Brisbane
Thursday 24th January Rad Bar Wollongong
Friday 25th January The Hamilton Station Hotel Newcastle
Sunday 27th January The Phoenix Bar Canberra