My Record for Loud

I just listened to The Church singing “Unguarded Moment”. It reminded me of seeing them live at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney when I was a teen. They were supporting Dire Straits. (No idea why I was there, you have to be a baby boomer to see Dire Straits.) But Unguarded Moment was the best song of the set.

For Dire Straits I was right up the front wedged by a speaker. My memory of every single concert is similar – It was loud. Did everyone have their amps up to 11 in the 80s or was my hearing more sensitive?

I saw the Jimmy Barnes band in Dee Why (non-Australians – yes, the suburb is called Dee Why and is occasionally shortened to DY). Jimmy Barnes is an old school Oz Rocker, I had his Cold Chisel records and his Working Class Man song is my vote for the music to the Australian National Anthem.

So there I am at the Dee Why Hotel. I get in free. There’s extra fun when you don’t pay and you are under age and you know someone in the band. Bruce Howe is the bass player and he is a good friend of my Father. There’s a ton of material from my childhood that might crop up from time to time but everything with Bruce in it is good.

I’m standing in the audience near the front. The pub wasn’t big, you couldn’t get far away from the stage. Nonetheless I push my way close to the front to get a better view. A theme song comes on. Bands choose a theme song to play before they go on stage to get the audience in the mood. Often this is a bizarre piece of music and definitely something designed to show off the weird taste of the band. They wouldn’t play Abba as a warm up. You know it is a theme song because it is a low quality recording from a tape player played over the PA by the sound guy who is deaf from being a sound guy for months. You hear a low-fi weird song and you know the band is coming.

The theme song is playing. We all know the band is coming. The cheers get louder – Jimmy Barnes is popular. There’s movement at the side of the stage. The cheering has turned to yelling. There’s no music yet and it’s loud.

The band gets to their positions. Jimmy runs straight to the mic. He talks to it. I hear something like, “wellvermetchmsmnnntt fuckin vssit.”

Words burst at the microphone again. All I can make out are ‘Fuck’ and ‘Fuckin’ dotting his sentences. Let’s get to the singing. Jimmy turns to the band and yells. The audience is screaming with hysteria. The song starts with the drummer. The rest of the band kicks in. I hear the sound volume shoot up, just bursting with its intensity. Then I look around. Something is not right. I see the musicians playing their instruments. I see people yelling. But I don’t hear anything. The music has become so loud that there’s no distinguishable noise. My ears no longer register anything. I am temporarily deaf.

Now the intro has finished and Jimmy is about to sing. He sucks the microphone. He starts yelling in to it. I can’t hear him and I start laughing. Jimmy is moving his mouth and there’s no sound. I look around at the people around me. They are all watching Jimmy, singing along to the words that I know he is singing but that I can’t hear. Is this a practical joke? I’ve come out to see the Jimmy Barnes Band and all I can do is look at them.

The song ends. My hearing returns. I turn to the person standing next to me, my friend Damian.

“Can you hear them? I can’t hear a thing?”
“You what?”

Jimmy talks to the audience. I manage to understand a ‘fuck’ or two. The next song starts. The music goes loud again and I reenter my quiet space. This continues for the whole night.

After the show I talk to Bruce the bass player.

“You know the band was so loud I couldn’t hear the music? Jimmy started to sing it made no difference. It was all noise. My ears are half deaf now.”
“How do you think I feel? I’m on the bloody stage. I stand by the bass amp.” Bruce takes earplugs out of his ears. Smart.

Next morning my ears were still ringing. But that had happened many times before. Monday morning my ears were still ringing. That’s my record for loud. A two morning eardrum buzz.


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