First published on 22 Mar 2012. Updated on 12 Apr 2012.
The cliché was that Weddings Parties Anything were Australia’s answer to the Pogues. All those rollicking tales of working-class strugglers, heroes, barflies. But the band were educated more by Woody Guthrie and Dylan, and shaped with a steely Aussie convict streak.
The songs on this second album were all penned by frontman Mick Thomas. Even without music the lyrics look good on the page: tales of hardened lives and determination under adversity. Stories that germinate in pubs and are told over celebratory booze. Take away Paul Kelly and there was never much competition for Weddings.
In ‘Brunswick’, the song about the suburb, ripened memories are safely stowed: “The air was rife with Tip Top Bread /The baker's morning load / And if I see things through a hallowed gaze / Well is it such a crime? / When I ain't been to Brunswick for a long long time”.
If you live in Melbourne you'll have met a mate or two 'Under the Clocks' at Flinders Street Station. The exuberance of companionship is palpable: “Is there anywhere you'd rather be / Than with me at the MCG / And if the Saints get done again / By Christ, I couldn't care”.
Ultimately, our hero has just one request. “Take me down to Young and Jacksons / We'll do a bit of serious drinking / Lean on bar, hands in the pockets / Drain those glasses down like rockets”.
The approach was semi-acoustic, propelled by the lively and crucial accordion of Mark 'Squeezebox Wally' Wallace, with join-in choruses so big they could bring the roof down. Weddings fans were a breed apart; unpretentious, connected to the grimy soul of the music and armed with coins to lob on stage when Thomas sang about not having quite enough on him to get a ticket in Tatts. It's a dangerous job…
Roaring Days won the band two ARIA awards; the second, to their bewilderment, for best indigenous release. Melbourne played a starring role in the life of WPA, a band who were, if not the country's best at that time, certainly its most buoyantly evocative band.
Mick Thomas airs his new solo album, Last of the Tourists, at the Regal Ballroom, Fri May 11, 8pm.