First published on 22 May 2012. Updated on 22 Jun 2012.
“I want to see the sun go down from St Kilda Esplanade / I'd give you all of Sydney Harbour (all that land, all that water) / For that one sweet promenade”
That brazen shift in allegiance in the last stanza of Paul Kelly’s ‘From St Kilda to King’s Cross’ deliversthe great Melbourne musical moment, but what are the great Melbourne songs? A smorgasbord of suburbs have been celebrated. Tunes about train routes and soggy stations abound. And naturally there are one or two about the weather.
Footy rates highly, so it’s only right that we return to Paul Kelly and ‘Leaps and Bounds’ as our first profile of great Melbourne songs.
“I'm high on the hill / Looking over the bridge / To the MCG / And way up on high / The clock on the silo / Says eleven degrees”
Every Melburnian knows precisely that spot and the route then taken through the “Fields all empty, only for the burning leaves”, to the fabled footy ground, built on sacred Aboriginal land, and forever the city’s spiritual, some might argue cultural (well, the Stones played there) hub.
Ironically the song, although written on that very spot high on the hill was recorded in Sydney in 1986, just after Kelly had put together a band that eventually became the Messengers. Like so much of his work (‘Making Gravy’, ‘When I First Met Your Ma’), memory is the potent force, and here the romance of a simple perfect moment from the past is further elevated by the (then) surprise of the he’s-gone-electric Byrdsesque guitars chiming sweetly throughout.
This was the beginning of Kelly’s stranglehold on Australian roots-rock. It’s a position he holds unchallenged.