1 June 2009

The Riptides

PolyGram, 1987

Sometimes I wish there was space for a subtitle to this column, but I never get around to actually organising it – so you'll just have to use your imagination to pretend this week's is called "In Praise Of Liner Notes". Toby Creswell is the writer behind the recent Great Australian Albums series on SBS, which covered, in wonderful detail, classic records by The Triffids, The Saints, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and, ahem... Silverchair. Anyway, Creswell was also the editor of Rolling Stone in the late 1980s and, after that, one of the founders of Juice magazine and the author of a biography of Jimmy Barnes. I've never met him, but I'm told he is a very nice man.

I first heard The Riptides on one of those compilations of local rock and roll history that I keep crapping on about – Tales From The Australian Underground, I think it was, or Do The Pop, both of which I am still listening to and enjoying – and last year stumbled upon a live double-LP of theirs called Resurface at a second-hand shop. On the inside sleeve is a wonderful review by Creswell, describing his experience of hearing them for the first time. It begins: "We were in a bar called the Australian Heritage in Kings Cross, Sydney. There I was drowning my sorrows on cadged drinks and the last thing I wanted to hear was a surf band from Brisbane..."

Then he describes how the band, seemingly all of a sudden, had kids dancing on chairs and on tables and how the stage was set up in front of a giant window looking down over Rushcutter's Bay and how it fogged up and turned white from all the sweat. It's meant as no disservice to the music to say this story is the best thing about Resurface. It captures something that microphones simply can't – the feeling of being there, of getting swept up in the moment, of being miserable in some dingy bar in Kings Cross in the winter of 1980 and having your night turn around in the best way imaginable. I have read it more times than I've actually listened to the record.

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