Monday, 13 May 2013

Spin The Black Circle #1: Ross Clelland

"Spin The Black Circle" is a new column where I ask well known people of note to select the soundtrack of their lives.

My inaugural guest is music writer Mr Ross Clelland. Ross has spent the better part of the last three decades writing for Juke magazine, Rolling Stone, Sydney street press Drum Media and He was also the editor of Smash Hits magazine for a time, as well as a music critic for the Sunday Telegraph in the 1980s. His long-running Singles review column in Drum Media has always been riveting reading: his reviews ranging from the glowing through to vitriolic, but, in the case of the latter, only when absolutely necessary of course! He's been a music fan for years and his passion for music is evident in his writing.

During my recent chat with Ross, I asked him to pick 10 songs that he'd would absolutely had to have on an iPod when stuck in outer space somewhere. These are his choices:

1. Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road

Ross: "[I] Must have been about 13 when i first heard this. So, it was exactly the right time to hear something which is still a just about perfect distillation of what a rock and roll song should be - escape, cars, the girl, an army of guitars. Just saw him 20-something years after first seeing him a few months ago, and it can still make grown men weep. Me being one of them."

2. You Am I, If We Can't Get It Together

Ross: "[I] Just did a group interview with them as they've got these Hifi Way/Hourly Daily recital shows coming up. Still just love them. All my critical faculties turn to shit when i see them. Just become fanboy. They make me happy, make me sad, make me dance like a mad thing. This song isn't one of the hits, but is Rogers just telling a complete Inner-West domestic story in three minutes something. Breaks your heart, coz you know these people."

3. Wilco, I'm The Man That Loves You

Ross: "I've just watched this band become (musical unit-wise) probably the best in the world over the course of this century. This song was on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, where they first became something more than a great band, but i'd probably take the version from Kick Television, as that's the lineup now - Nels Cline! I'm not a guitar hero geek, but that man is special."

4. The Saints, Ghost Ships

Ross: "I hate the whole Bailey v Kuepper non argument. You are allowed to love them both. This was Bailey at about 26-27 writing about getting older, and it actually resonates more the years that pass. Extraordinary thing. Certainly not punk, brass arrangement and classic song construction. Its weary, and alive all at once. its an anthem, it's a hymn."

5. Died Pretty, Everybody Moves

Ross: "On their night, I would have them against any band in the world. They could be phenomenal. And they could be shit. I called them the missing link between Radio Birdman and REM somewhere, and I'll stand by that. Again, its in the mix of the music - Brett Myers' spiraling guitar, John Hoey's keyboards, and Ron Peno's keening voice and words. Don't think they ever got it absolutely right on any record, but this was close."

6. The Triffids, Trick Of The Light.

Ross: "We had a game at the Drum one day working out what band you would be. I probably *wanted*to be Crowded House - all perfectly emotional and constructed, but am more likely The Triffids - with all those feelings, and sometimes over-reaching just a bit, but just being so sincere in the effort. They could be beautiful, like here. and 'You remind me very much, of someone that I used to know/we used to take turns at crying all night/but oh that was so long ago' absolutely speaks to me. Magnificent thing."

7. Hoodoo Gurus, 1000 Miles Away

Ross: "Faulkner is probably the most underrated singer and songwriter in the country. This a is a glory. And what a rock and roll band - Brad Shepherd's just a great player, and Mark Kingsmill still a world class drummer. And they can wind it down like on this, and be subtle and lovely as well being able to crank it up. You're just in the airport lounge with him on this, and wanting to be somewhere else."

8. The National, Afraid Of Everyone

Ross: "I got on the bandwagon late for them. But the atmospheres they build they've become one of my favourite things of the last couple of years. This one, with its wheezing opening and the quiet desperation, they somehow have bits of Springsteen, Joy Division, and other things in them. Live, they were like a religious experience while looking like office workers having too many scotches after business hours."

9. The Drones, Luck In Odd Numbers

Ross: "Absolutely Australian, sometimes oppressively so. Liddiard's voice is rusty corrugated iron. But the words, the stories. So dense, so much detail. He'd be a 19th century ballad poet if he didn't have such a grindingly good electric band with him. I particularly love this one, there's obscure kelly gang references, opium, and such word pictures like 'mineshafts lit like synagogues'. Anotehr one that just carries you somewhere else."

10. Crowded House, Fall At Your Feet

Ross: "[I could have picked] any one of a number of Crowded House tunes - Yeah, its a cheat, but Finn just writes the most extraordinary songs. I could have picked from Distant Sun, World Where You Live, Into Temptation, because they're all the wondrously put together things, both music and words. They're the songs they'll be playing in 50 years as showing the way pop songs should be made."

My thanks and gratitude go out to Ross for his contributions to this post. Check out his work in Drum Media magazine in Sydney and online at

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