2 March 2014

What goes with acid-wash


I've said before that Shortis & Simpson are local gems and I stand by it. Capable musicians with wide knowledge of popular song and political wit in a cabaret package. S&S are a Canberra institution and how perfect are they for this town with its seat of government, as disappointing as it may sometimes be! We got to another of their Out of the Cabinet annual series. It's held at the National Archives of Australia, it looks at recently released Cabinet documents in music and in more prosaic historical form, with a summary from the NAA's resident historian. What a lark.

The year was 1986/87. Hawke and Keating were in power. Unleaded petrol cost 51cpl; a house in Duffy sold for $79K; DINKs, acid-wash jeans and scrunchies were just discovered; the first computer virus arrived and Email was still the name of a fridge. Halley's comet arrived with the grim reaper and Badgery's Creek was on the agenda (some things never change). An early mobile phone conversation between Peacock and Kennett was hacked and caused ructions in the Opposition. Keating was the Boy from Ipanema with the Banana republic and other brilliant putdowns. Jo blew the Coalition's election by going for PM and The Moonlight State led to the Fitzgerald Commission and the exposure of corruption up north. It was the International Year of Peace if we ignore Libya, Nicaragua, Arms to Iran and Starwars. Marcos fell and we were more interested in Imelda's shoes. Chernobyl led to Sting's haunting song, Russians ("We share the same biology / Regardless of ideology / What might save us, me, and you / Is if the Russians love their children too"). Hawkey promised no child would be living in poverty by 1990. And MFP, Fiji coups, Defence White paper (anothery),Collins Class subs, Land Rights legislation, Maralinga Royal Commission (there's a RC with a real purpose), Qld & Tassie forests, blonde jokes (how did that get in there?), Neighbours and Kylie, final Countdown, Lady Gaga b. 1986, Andie married Fergie and Malcolm Fraser was caught with his pants down (we ignore that he was doing worthy international work at the time). As for songs, think, Crowded House Don't dream it's over, Paul Simon Gracelands, Cyndi Lauper True colours, U2 Joshua Tree and Hunters & Collectors' enduring Australian anthem Throw your arms around me. John gathers all this after extensive time in the National Library combining with his love of popular music. On stage, he's piano and harmony and chatter. Moya is chatter and song with malleable voice ("Donald Malcolm Where's Your Troosers") and tongue-in-cheek wit. Dr Jim Stokes is their straight-man and occasional whipping boy. This was Jim's last Cabinet show after his recent retirement.

We were there that year as were the many grey hairs in the audience. No surprise there: it's great as a relived memory while perfectly good as history for others. Great mirth and pleasure and intelligence and even a bit of wisdom amongst the laughs from S&S, another discrete Canberra gem. Shortis & Simpson are John Shortis (piano, chatter, vocals and extensive research) and Moya Simpson (chatter, vocals). They were accompanied by Dr Jim Stokes (NAA historian, retired).

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