Modern Plumbing

Southern Steve: Modern Plumbing Mp3

Fight fight, did your parents fight?
Did you lie around and listen to ’em half the night?
Ding dang dell,
Now you live in hell
When you consider who’s in heaven then that’s just as well
Y’ can’t stand the music on the radio
Can’t stand the people on the TV show
Hy hey wash the pain away
Wash all the little irritations down the drain
Scrub until you’re squeaky clean
scrub and scrub until your irritation can’t be seen
There’s no need to fear
Modern Plumbing is here!


The Transmission of a Legend

Southern Steve: ‘Legend’ Mp3

Love Will Tear Us Apart might be Joy Division’s best known song, but Transmission probably should be. It’s a better representation of the band’s musical and lyrical power.

Transmission…Radio, Live Transmission…Dance to the Radio…Listen to the Silence…Touching From A Distance…The Language of Sound…

All of those lyrical fragments have been used as the names of bootlegs, books, Myspace sites, magazines, 80s music nights, cover bands, and all hark back to the power of this one song.

The 1979 single version is fine enough but the earlier, slower version on the RCA demo is even better in my view; the band almost stand back from the song and allow that slow, arrogant two-note bass line and the rumbling drums to do their work.

Joy Division – Transmission MP3 (RCA Demo Version).

There is an excellent drum break at the end of this track, with Steven Morris  left to slow down the tempo on his own after the rest of the band have stopped playing.  It’s a gift to the would-be sampler, containing that hallmark “Joy Division move” as my mate Fraser recently described it: a single tom hit just after the 3rd beat snare, giving the whole thing that lurching, robotic feel. It’s the sound of the classic Joy Division flawed machine.

In my own tune, Legend, I’ve backed up those drums with a midi track including some syn-tom sounds a bit like the ones on Closer, another two note bassline, and some guitar and bass chords with valve distortion and delay, to replicate the sound of the band live, on an album like Live at Eindhoven.

I like the sound, but even as I was doing this song, it occurred to me what a forlorn process it all was, and the lyrics that came to me ended up being about the emptiness of replicating a long-gone original…

It’s Just a Legend

An Empty Legend

A Cold and Empty Legend

You Heard a Dream

And Tried to Make it Real

Anyway, I’ll be back later with some more maunderings,

GSS, feeling alright but a little bogged down,  Aug 2009.

Wall of Violin

Last post before I go on a break  to the Farhterland,

Here are two tracks showcasing what my recent collaboration with Emma Luker sounds like; somewhere between the Velvet Underground, Steeleye Span and the Dirty Three, as I intended. I’m kinda happy with them, but be warned, they are basically FOLK music, especially the second track, so if that word makes you want to take heroin while you tattoo cocks on your face in an effort to assure your rock and roll credibility,  avoid these tracks, they will hurt you.

The first track, Baby Kissing, has the wall of violin effect created by Emma recording six different layered tracks, all distorted. On the final one of these the input went crackly, which lends a certain VU ambience, but will have to be re-done ultimately. Also for the chop before I mix the final version are my vocal efforts here. They are alright but I am somewhat nasal, as I have come down with a feverish cold after my recent annual visit to a piggery. I’m sure it’s nothing.

Enjoy, and there’s more of this to come. In the meantime wish me well as I travel throughout one of the world’s great cultural centres, drinking beer and eating sausages.

Baby Kissing

The Perfect Hill (McKenzie / trad).

Cold Light of Day

The beginning of ‘Disorder’ from Unknown Pleasures has a drum track I have always wanted to sample, and now that’s something I can cross of my to-do list before I head to the mountains again.

Mp3 – Great Southern Steve: Cold Light of Day

I like the bass and guitar and swirly keys enough to call this a keeper, although the lyrics – a maudlin epic about a vampire who feels regret about never seeing daylight – are kind of silly, and could easily be replaced if I have a better idea. I’m planning an EP of stuff like this so a better version / mix is very likely.

Warning: my vampire fetish is entirely whimsical, but seriously, if you are that obsessive kind of person who still lights a candle on Ian’s death-day, don’t listen to this, it will annoy you.

Antenna for your Love

Mp3 – SSB and the Stobie Pole Band – Antenna for your Love

Soursob Bob has told me he likes his recordings clean and simple, no frills, just raw country, folk and rock and roll.

Let’s see if I can’t dissuade him from that path of purity with this heavily reverbed, messy, overdubbed country punk version of one of his new songs, Antenna. It’s still just a test mix but this is, roughly, what I would have done with this tune.

  • SSB – Guitar, vox
  • Emma Luker -violin
  • ‘Southern’ Steve McKenzie, bass, midi drums, backing vox, midi SOS signals, production

By the way, a Stobie Pole is a South Australian specialty – a telegraph pole made of metal and cement.

The Wiki page claims they were necessary because of the arid treeless nature of South Australia but the truth it there were trees aplenty until they cut them all down to make way for sheep. Then they started asking themselves what they were going to do about the pole situation. Pure Aussie genius.

Look What They Done to My Song, Ma!

Looks like Emma Luker of The Fiddle Chicks has been getting her hands on my music and doing her own thing with it again!!!

The first such incident occurred a few years back when she got hold of an old demo tape that Bill Greenwoood and I made for his Honours cello audition in about 1990, featuring an instrumental tune of mine called simply The Third Waltz. When Emma was putting together a demo CD with her beau Soursob Bob, they made a recording of the tune with violin, guitar, bass and some percussion. Here it be. I can’t give you the original to compare. I think it was pretty basic. (The tune went on to become part of a full song called Never Come Close, a maudlin epic about love and loss that is best forgotten).

Mp3 – Emma Luker and Soursob Bob – The Third Waltz.

About six months later Emma e-mailed to ask if she could cover another tune, Goldfish at the Laundromat, this time from the Live at Home CD I made last year and have been banging on about on here. It’s a melancholy folk tune about love and loss etc, but it doesn’t annoy me at the moment.

Sure, I said. Why not?

At this point I had only met this person once, briefly, at the Wheaty last Christmas, completely by accident, and was kinda wondering who she was. Well, we’ve hooked up twice now, and had a trial recording session just yesterday, and I am pleased to report she is a fine musician who also seems to make a fair living out of being that, which I had previously thought to be a myth, like Craig MacLachlan’s music career. But this photograph proves her to be quite real.


Her version of the song is on her forthcoming debut solo CD. It’s all her, except apparently that the producer snuck in and did the snare drum while she wasn’t looking.

MP3 – Emma Luker – Goldfish at the Laundromat

I think I like it better than the original version, which was kind of patched together out of several different files with the home recording equivalent of sticky tape. You might not pick that but I hear it every time I listen to it…

Mp3 – Great Southern Steve – Goldfish at the Laundromat

Anyway there’s more where this all came from. I’ll be putting up a few mixes from the trial session, maybe including one of Bob’s tunes too, and hopefully we’ll do more folk together later in the year.


GSS vs George Thorogood

monopolyGeorge Thorogood? You mean the toad-like guy with the bad hair who made a fortune out of cheese?

Yes, I do. Now, I wonder how much of the sentence “some of his early stuff is actually quite good” I can get out before you hit the back button on your browser. You seem to be still reading, so…

George and his band the Poppets (later the Destroyers) went into the studio to record what would have been their debut album, Better than the Rest, in 1974. It’s an album of blues covers from the likes of John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, and while it certainly isn’t better than the rest, or even some of the rest, it’s alright.

I guess that’s why MCA decided not to release it until 1979 after he had two solid albums of cheese under his belt from the previous two years. “We don’t want to confuse people with this quality music, George,” said his R and A man, Les Befriends. “You want to win over the musical heartland of America, you gotta play real crap.” So, the album was shelved for five years.

Tucked away on side 2 are two tracks featuring George solo, playing slide guitar and singing. These are, I must say, really quite fine. I’ve posted them both here as well as my own version of Huckle Up Baby, which I make sound kind of folksy because I just can’t play blues very well. Miss Me When I’m Gone also features me on the bass. I don’t know whether it adds anything but it was fun to do.

Whose version of Huckle Up do you like more?

And more importantly, who do you think would win in a fight?

My money is on me. He’s quite old now…

(Satire impairment warning: “Les Befriends” does not exist, nor did he ever say either of those things. And lots of people probably really like George’s first two albums. I’m just not one of them.)