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An Extensive History of The Cannanes
Part 2 : 1991-92 : 1st U.S. tour and beyond



What follows are some of David's memories of our 1991 United States tour first published in Puncture magazine, issue No.22

Hey we wouldn't have eaten there if we knew then what we know now!



APRIL 29 Chicago

Cannanes shows? Don't make me laugh.
All I'm thinking of at the moment is the two shows I will be playing backing Mark Perry (of Alternative TV) this weekend. We rehearsed today, just the two of us - Stephen hasn't made it into town yet - in John Henderson's spooky basement. Mark's songs are excellent; it's a privilege to be playing these tunes (mostly from the Dragon Love LP) with him. Stephen and Fran arrive from New York tomorrow. Murphy Brown was good tonight. Test pressing of Caveat Emptor sounds passable.

MAY 2. Recorded with Mark Perry at Steve Albini's, four songs: two oldies redone fast and the Ry Cooder/ZZ Top medley "Jesus on the Mainline"/"Jesus Left Chicago" or something. I haven't heard the originals of either. Also one we make up on the spot, "God Bless, " pretty infectious. Steve Albini is a complete craftsman and the way he splices tape knocks me out. He has a thing about Kylie Minogue.

MAY 3. First show, at the Czar Bar: Cannanes, Barbara Manning, Mark Perry. Small but interested crowd. Barbara Manning was brilliant. So was Mark, probably, but I was too involved in trying to remember how each song went to think about it. However, I think it was probably a bit of a classic show. Listened to a tape of the Cannanes set later and it seemed pretty lack-lustre. So what else is new.

MAY 4. Lounge Ax: Cannanes, Tar, Scrawl. We played with Mark Perry at Reckless Records today. Bad sound, small crowd; people are jerks if they don't leap at the chance to see Mark Perry, just magnificent. Tonight we sucked. Tar (still playing as I write) are pretty amazingly brilliant and I look forward to Scrawl. People still seem to like us: it's weird considering stuff like "Here Is the Blade" is such complete fucking rubbish. Some guy came up to Fran and asked who we were and if we had records. I always assume people like us for other reasons than the music: like, we're nice, often witty, and hopelessly obscure. But this man was a novice wishing, of his own free will, initiation into Cannanism.

MAY 5. Mark and Leigh (his manager) went back to the UK. Got caught in the rain after a visit to Chicago Planetarium. Got my picture taken at the Married with Children fountain. I have an awful cold.

MAY 6. Sick. Looking forward to today's Leave It to Beaver.

MAY 7. Minimal crowd response at the Butcher Town Pub in the worst-smelling (we hope) part of Louisville. The owner is pally if not a little patronizing, and very insistent that everyone play the right amount of stuff at the right time... we play a moderate show and are enthusiastically received by a guy named Tim who says he's been drunk since the Derby (four days ago) and compares us absolutely to Syd Barrett. Scrawl play one of the greatest shows I've ever seen (which Sue later describes as uninspired). Afterwards the owner goes mad and accuses us of being unprofessional. We leave in disgrace.

May 8. Exit/In, Nashville. Small crowd, one of whom compares us to the Jean Paul Sartre Experience. I have a dreadful cold by now and feel utterly sick. Manic Freudian subconscious wishes to reflect on my material existence make me leave my passport and travellers' checks at the bar. The beauty of the Exit/In is that when they discover this they send the stuff on to Scrawl's agent, and I'm grateful to them forever--forever. Scrawl blow us offstage of course, though dare I say it Johnny Shines, who's playing at a yuppie bar three doors down the road, blows us all to hell probably.

MAY 9. I'm still sick and can't be bothered with our set, delivered with little aplomb to a crowd of twenty plus in the cavernous Bogart's in Cincinnati. Headliners Eleventh Dream Day were incredible; it's a pity the show was so unadvertised. We met our first big tour fan, a wonderful man called Aubrey (and his excellent friend Tejal). Aubrey has a band called Hunky Chunk who are brilliant (he gave us a tape). At the Waffle House, I discover the passport loss and start fretting. Stephen spurts mustard everywhere with a baffling American mustard bottle. It could have been me, but I'll tease him about it for weeks.

MAY 10. We stayed the night with Sue from Scrawl in Columbus. If I don't get round to mentioning it later I have to say that Scrawl are the greatest group we could hope to open for, and Carolyn's drums (which I'm playing for the tour) are just magnificent. Every night she puts me completely to shame for calling myself a drummer (which I only do if pushed anyway).

Enough about them, what about us? Its Pittsburgh tonight. We came to it through a tunnel, it popped out for us on the other side like a fairy tale, a bunch of glittering lights and churches on a hill. We played a show where someone shouted out "more volume!" or maybe "more valium!, " scoffed a few onion rings and disappeared. Dazed and confused.

MAY 11. Cleveland - "the mistake on the lake." By now only three things keep me interested in life: (1) the songs I sing live, "Paper Bag" and "Some Things Happen." Not that I do it well, but the fact that I have to come out from behind the drum kit to vocalize stops me getting comatose back there playing "Cardboard" for the seven-hundredth time like a disco jukebox (when I sing, Susanne plays drums and she's brilliant, especially on "Paper Bag, " which gets some sort of a hardcore (?) drumbeat); (2) an abiding obsession with hillbillies; (3) we kept getting told that the shows, attendance, etc., will get better. In Cleveland they actually do - people are very friendly and only one person mentions Paul Hogan (to me, anyway). I love Cleveland. And Alan Ravenstine [Pere Ubu synth player] writes for the local freebie paper. Cool.

MAY 12. Baltimore - a fine literate city of intelligent arty people; and Linda Smith is our sound mixer, which is an honor. Before we play there are two excellent films and a bellydancer; all fine since we fare much better in an art context, I feel. Surprise visit form Calvin Johnson - I've never quite figured out how - but it's good to see him again. Need I say that Scrawl play a typically magnificent set (I don't seem to be able to say I like them without sounding sycophantic; how about you go and see them and you'll see what I mean).

May 13. Washington, DC: the DC Space, with Tsunami who are undeniably and unrequitedly a whole lot of fun, one of the nicest surprises bandwise I've had in years. Can't wait for them to make a record. People respond to us well, though Stephen keeps breaking strings (he says it's the heat but I think it's his heart). DC is a crazy place and - as on the whole tour - we don't see any damn bit of it, except the Lincoln Memorial, which Calvin showed me the night before. We also try finding the name Cannane on the Vietnam Vets list. Maybe there aren't any Cannanes outside Australia. Or none who copped it in Nam.

MAY 14. Absolutely Philadelphia. It gets like a bad sitcom: we go to stay in a beautiful house owned by Michelle who is suddenly ill. John and I contrive to break her washing machine (he will say I did it, but I like to share, especially when it comes to blame). But it's not all bad news - we actually manage to locate a post office and walk around a bit. Gene Loves Jezebel are playing in town; we run into them in the Sheraton car park. They pretend not to notice us. GLJ groupies are, I'm sorry to say, nowhere near as nice or wishy-washy as ours. Our show this eve is our worst in years. I like to think it's because the stage sound is... nonexistent. Funnily enough, everybody loves it - bunch of weirdos. We get our first encore of the tour and John says he cried during "Paper Bag." I could say something cynical.

MAY 15. New York, Knitting Factory. I'm real pleased to meet up with my old friend from London, native New Yorker Aileen. She has a cool apartment (with complete drum kit) over her mother's restaurant - probably the best I've been to (it's called The Plum Tree and Gary Shandling ate there - wow!). Our show is decent and, adding to the excitement, Epic Soundtracks is waiting around on the pavement outside. My drumming hero (along with R. Wyatt, L. Morrison, Jim White and about ten others, but why get technical?)!! What was Epic waiting for? Who knows, but John and Aileen and I assail him with annoying challenges like, "Why are you thanked on the back of the Mayo Thompson solo album?" and "Tell us an anecdote about Lora Logic!" That's what you get for playing in great bands and making the best records of the century. Kim and Thurston are out on the street too, apparently. I'm told they do this a lot. Inside, Scrawl play another amazing show to the adoring horde, and all's right with the world.

MAY 16. Albany, and a week after slaying em at Bogart's, here we are at Bogie's, knocking em dead again (actually we didn't play too well, but a handful of folk liked us I guess). Best thing about this joint is the pinball machine - Funhouse - with the ventriloquist's doll that goes to sleep and you try to get a ball in its mouth - I'm hopeless at these things but a complete sucker for them of course. Albany. What a town.

MAY 17. Boston, Mystery Train Records - very nice people who ask us to play in their shop and pay us in records. Fran got Jacksons and Smokey Robinson records. She and I fought over Hall & Oates' Greatest Hits (she won). Stephen got the Vivien Goldman 12" (brilliant!) and other weird stuff (he's engaged in a lifelong search for the two Grab Grab the Haddock EPs, so if anyone has them and doesn't want them, please let us know!). I score a Fairport compilation, Mark Smith's Manchester compilation, and some other junk.

We play the Rat, where we're billed as coming from NZ. So the huge wheel turns: where as once you might as well have come from New Caledonia as New Zealand, NZ has now displaced the whole of the Pacific in the minds of Americans as rock's new heartland.

MAY 18. Maxwell's, Hoboken, New Jersey, a fitting place to end the Scrawl tour. The food is beautiful, we get interviewed twice, we play OK, Scrawl are massive. Got a bit drunk, then John and I started driving home and fell asleep on the New Jersey Turnpike. Phew.

MAY 24. Gilman Street, Berkeley, with Beat Happening, Warlock Pinchers, and Moter-fuckin'-psycho. An all-ages show: roughly half nice middle-class 17-year-old punk-rockers. Playing Beat Happening's drum kit is fun and though there are sound problems the show is okay, a turnaround for me (I was about ready to quit the band a few hours before out of sheer boredom terror at having to play again). We play "Here Is the Blade, " one of the major millstones round the Cannanes' necks. Beat Happening are great to watch, though I wish they'd do some newies (yeah, I wait six years to see the band and that's all I can say!).

MAY 25. The last show, and probably the best! The drummer from the Ex didn't like us, but I thought she was simply incredible! These hardy Dutch people rolling round trying to kill each other onstage is the sort of thing you never ordinarily see in Australia (or do I go to the wrong places?) and I enjoy them enormously. Beat Happening are brilliant and Heather plays drums with us for two unrehearsed songs - wondrous. If only it hadn't been so hot in there!

MAY 27. Look: we got to Olympia. We recorded a fantastic single with Patrick Maley, who has to be a genius for what he got out of us (it'll probably be "Let's Pretend"/"Miss You a Lot"). The experience was painful though. I don't want to say anymore!




record sleeve

Not long after returning from the States the band asked Gavin Roy Butler to join our ranks. As David told Drum Media's Michael Smith "My main motivation for his being in the band is I want to make sure he gets on a record. He's been in bands for fifteen years and he's never made a record, so I think it's about time he was actually there, captured live, on tape, vinyl. He's a good singer too." Gavin (Gus to his friends) had during the late 70's early 80's played in the seminal Canberra punk band Guthugga Pipeline whose members also included Stephen and Greg Appel (of The Lighthouse Keepers). Gus and Stephen had also played a couple of shows with drummer Joanne Collings as Teapot. Teapot had a fairly plump set of originals which when Teapot called it a day the Cannanes planned to plunder and record an album to be called, Teapot, a very neat concept. In the end however only "King of Lilliput" and "Prototype" were used, both of which ended up on the next album. Gus's playing suited the band perfectly and he proved to be a prolific songwriter so we couldn't wait to get back into the studio in the new year.

On the 23rd of October 91 we were filmed playing a couple of sets in the living room then interviewed in the dining room at 65 Cope St by Michael Nichols. This interview + one song were to have been included on a Bi-Joopiter video compilation produced in England which as far as we know came out but we never did see a copy. However one of the songs may yet appear on the next Munch video compilation produced by Season Records in Australia.

At the end of 91 we played some excellent shows including Gus's first show with us at the Lansdowne Hotel in Chippendale (the last time Annabel got up to do a song) which was reviewed thus by Simon Killalea in Drum Media "Cannanes are glowing now, hovering alight. Stratospheric urban realism. They do it with their eyes closed, baby."



January 1992 saw the beginning of the bands lengthy association with the AJAX record label of Chicago with the band signing its first contract to have the Stumpvision EP released. So in March we started to record again the problem was that we didn't realize that we had chosen to record at a studio we couldn't really afford, and so the recording of the next album "Arty Barbecue" dragged on for roughly a year as we saved a little recorded a little etc... The situation was worsened by the way the engineers would insist on taking four hours here and there to show us the possibilities of crap rock mixes we didn't want to to do in the first place. This was quite a soul destroying experience which you wouldn't wish on anyone, and led to much angst which hopefully will prove to have not been in vain.

record sleeve

In the mean time a song we had recorded during the Caveat Emptor sessions was contributed at the request of Jenny Toomey of the Simple Machines label of Washington DC for their Beat Happening tribute album/CD Fortune Cookie Prize which featured mostly American bands such as Scrawl, Unrest, Superchunk and various members of Sonic Youth and other well known "indie" bands. We were on it via the intervention of John Henderson who was in cahoots with Simple Machines at that time. The story David heard was that SM people thought it was such a peachy idea to do a song about BH rather than by BH that they said automatically (i.e. even before the song was written/recorded) that they'd make it the lead track. Imagine how roused was David's ire upon being told by someone who shoulda known better a few years later that Unrest were the only group who'd done an original song in tribute to BH. Shit man! They ripped the idea off us. Or so the story goes. The song and the record as a whole was a winner and went on to raise over US$15,000.00 for the Sasha Bruce Youthworks (a DC homeless organization); possibly the Cannanes' proudest moment.

Also during this period we played bunch of "benefits" for community radio and arts organizations most of which were very badly organized and didn't benefit anyone, but some were fun at least. March sadly saw Crabstick (David's band on the side) call it a day.

There was much to be done, around this time many songs were written and we had begun to produce our own T Shirts in June of 92 the band produced its first newsletter an irregular event but always a good read.



OK; take a breather, there's more to come.

Are there any questions on becoming a Cannane? ie. proceed to Part Three
(Or maybe you'd like to go back and brush-up on Part One...)

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