I truly am sorry. You and me should have been friends by now. I have so many other friends who are like you, or who love you. I can hear that now, 25 years on.
Mostly likely, your debut single ‘My Pal’ appeared six months or a year too early for it to register with me (1). Maybe I was otherwise occupied when I heard it (shit like that really affects how you hear music). Maybe I never heard it till years and years later (although my man Simon Keeler, writing on Facebook, swears blind he knows the people who sent it to me at the time). All I know that is, if I had heard it, in the right place, at the right time, I’d have attempted to shift heaven and earth to make other people around me – influential people, people with money – aware of you. I would’ve wanted to help make ‘My Pal’ the most famous rock song on earth, it was so fucking good… and who knows? Right wind behind our backs… I might have been able to do it.
Probably not, because I can’t imagine that anyone around you in Melbourne in ’87 would’ve been crazy enough to spend all their money flying out a relatively obscure UK music press writer to check out their bands, same way a couple of crazy kids in Seattle did two years later – and fuck was the context vital to the content of that story – but who knows?
You know, GOD, it’s odd, because over the years that have passed I must have been aware of ‘My Pal’ (2) but for the life of me can’t recall it registering upon me until 24 hours ago when I checked it out following a tip-off from Brisbane’s 4ZZZ radio station. (3) And of course I immediately loved it! Brutally elegant. Devastating, devastated. Minimal, cuts straight through the heartstrings. A siren call to teenage alienation that calls down through the years. (4) A song as mighty as Mudhoney’s ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’, Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Freak Scene’, Husker Du’s ‘Eight Miles High’, ‘Babes In Toyland’s ‘House’ (several of which I believe GOD’s record label Au Go Go distributed in Australia around this time)… equal to, contemporaries of, and deserving to be mentioned continuously in the same breath.
Maybe if I hadn’t been such a dull-jawed slack-witted alcoholic retard I’d have realised it at the time (or shortly thereafter), and you’d be up there right now with some of my former Seattle sparring buddies: crucially, ‘My Pal’ is immediate and heavy and ROCK enough to have broken through near most barriers.
I should have been dancing to you, dear GOD, on the table tops of the 26th floor of Kings Reach Tower on the banks of the Thames, alongside Some Velvet Sidewalk, The U-Men and that first Nirvana single.
Now listen. I’m well aware, GOD, that near most everyone in Australia is convinced of your greatness already – ‘My Pal’ is not exactly a secret in the country that many would have invented grunge. But Jesus GOD (if you’ll forgive the expression), you think I’m not aware that I could have been instrumental in you becoming God of more than one country? (5)
Or perhaps I’d have written about you and you would have turned out to be another Buffalo Tom, another Tad, another U-Men (mighty fine bands, all). (6) The pity of it is that we’ll never know now, will we? And for that, GOD, I am truly sorry. Even if being a dull-jawed slack-witted alcoholic retard is what got me to where I am today.
The Pal You Never Had, Everett True
1. In 1987, on Au Go Go. The band were all 15 or 16 at the time. Tom Beaumont from Brisbane’s Rocking Horse Records still remembers with great fondness the sight of singer Joel Silbersher appearing on Countdown with braces on his teeth. This single did appear too early for me in terms of me helping it achieve international attention: I didn’t attain any real influence until I switched music papers from NME to Melody Maker at the end of ’88. But we’ll skip over that, cos that would make a nonsense of the rest of this, actually very heartfelt, apology.
2. Not least because it was released on Melbourne’s awesome Au Go Go label, and I wrote a massive article around the label in 2000, intended for publication in US magazine Punk Planet, but finally released via the Tangents website after a bit of a trans-Pacific falling out. You think someone would have said something!
3. See yesterday’s Song Of The Day. I used the phrase “One of the greatest Australian rock songs ever” to describe it, not to try and limit the field within which I was considering its greatness, but because there’s something immediately, recognisably Australian about it ‘My Pal’, same with the best work by The Drones or The Go-Betweens. Of course it’s one of the fucken greatest rock songs ever, too.
4. Or, as Andrew Stafford put it a while back:
Teenager Joel Silbersher had this song’s circular five-note riff in his head for years before one day, in the shower, the lyric came in a rush: “You’re my only friend/you don’t even like me!” Recorded when most of the band were 17 (the video captures Silbersher with braces still on his teeth), My Pal was GOD’s first single, and it was such a towering feat that, unfortunately, it overshadowed everything else they ever did. Tim Hemensley joined Bored! before going on to form the mighty Powder Monkeys; he died in 2003. Guitarist Sean Greenway, who went on to the Freeloaders and Yes Men, died in 2001. Both barely made it beyond their 20s. (The Great Australian Songbook II)
5. The UK had their own GOD at the time – from Brixton, and mighty fucken fine they were, too.
6. There’s a rumour that Thurston Moore signed Brisbane’s Violent Soho after he saw them play ‘My Pal’ live.