I was thrown up into this world Or born into it Or cast down Some time ago When everything was grey Mostly Although some things were black Or white And your skin colour Could be wrong or right Regardless of your heart And actions It made me nervous That one could so easily Cross the line And be punished For who you were So I locked myself away In my room My tomb And listened to the radio But mostly the music was grey too Like Johnny Ray And Doris Day So I dreamed in Vistavision And lived in the movies Where the hero stood up to the mob And did the right thing Regardless of the cost Sometimes getting the girl In the final reel Sometimes not For the hero was mostly a loner A man who'd seen too much And didn't want to see anymore For he too Found that the world was grey And was not above sacrificing his life So that others may live I continued on Looking forward to Christmas And my birthdays When suddenly there was kindness And laughter And glimpses of the colours Of joy And what the world could be If only we tore the walls down And embraced And displayed our brokenness And vocalised our care for others Imagine I was about eleven years of age With my mum in the Myer department store In the city When I heard a sound that changed my life It was unlike anything I'd ever heard I stopped Transfixed My mother asked me what was wrong I smiled because Suddenly Everything seemed somehow right I wandered away Toward the music Leaving my mother to follow me The singer's voice Was the most exciting and dynamic sound I'd ever heard He sounded like a caged animal That had just been set free As I had The record was "Twist And Shout" By a group called the Beatles And on the front cover of their EP They looked to this kid from St. Kilda To be from another planet Their hair, their clothes, their boots, their sound It seemed the planet they came from was called Liverpool I needed to know what the singer's name was And was told by the girl behind the record counter That he was John Lennon And he played rhythm guitar and co-wrote moat of their songs John Lennon saved my life that day And he has had my staunch loyalty ever since I grew to read much about him In fact, everything And have since met many people who knew him He was a complex, fascinating, contradictory and flawed man All of which made him even more interesting And still does to this day Scarred by the early loss of his father, then his mother And then his best friend He put up a guard to protect himself From any more hurt His singing tone sometimes snarled to hide his pain But we heard it in his soul And in the words of his songs And knew that behind the tough guy facade he was the kindest And most caring of all My friend Phil Sloan told me that John's spirit was so huge That you actually felt his presence enter a room Before you'd even seen him Another friend of John's who'd known me for some time Told me that he would've liked me I hope so Because I have spent a long time Loving him He was my liberator, my hero, my friend He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me angry, he made me care And sometimes when I am lost or despairing I think about how Johnny Rhythm would handle things And it gives me the inspiration to go on To try and find a way I guess it was destiny That he left us after such a short time But perhaps his spirit was too big for this world As his beautiful boy Sean said to his mother when she was grieving, "Don't worry, Daddy's bigger now...Now he's part of everything." (c) Frank Howson 2017
In this business of show The best advice I can give is Don't take no for an answer Your work will be judged by idiots And by genius And guess what? Sometimes they all get it wrong And if all these experts know everything Then how come they make so many flops? Your greatest guide And you must protect it Is your instinct For those of us who believe in a higher power I believe our instinct is God talking to us But guess what? Most times we second guess ourselves And go against it Or allow ourselves to be talked into doing Something that doesn't feel right And the end result is always disaster And recriminations If everyone followed sound advice And stuck to the tried and true formula We'd have had no DaVinci Or Glenn Gould Nikola Tesla Or Picasso Marlon Brando Beatles Elvis Hitchcock Bob Dylan David Lynch Breaking Bad And so on and so on... The Beatles were told that "Guitar bands are out of fashion" Tesla was told that "his ideas wouldn't fly" Yet he lit up the world And in return it broke his heart Elvis was threatened with jail if he continued to rock the boat And Dylan was laughed at as a freak I'm not saying that sticking to your inner voice Wont be a difficult road It will be But when was anything worth having easy? All the people I have mentioned had only one thing in common Persistence Fuelled by a total self belief Don't get me wrong I'm not saying don't listen to good advice Do For only a fool turns their back on a good idea But trust your own instinct as to what is right for you And what isn't My mother once told someone that if you want Frank to do Something for you just ask him and he will But order him to do it And he'll do the opposite just to piss you off So I guess I was born with a rebel soul And all I know is this Every time I was told "You'll never make a film because you haven't made one before. So go home and forget about it, sonny, and leave it to the experts" It somehow made me stronger and more determined to prove them wrong Every time I was told "Don't bother trying to get that big name star For your movie, because it won't happen" It did Or "You can't make a film about that because it's too personal and no one will get it other than you" That was the one the people responded to In an era that I believe is the darkest age for movies When they are only making films about comic books Don't give up Where some see a wasteland Others sees a golden opportunity Never before has an original idea been such a valuable commodity Be bold and mighty forces join you The future belongs to you If you are brave enough And strong enough And stubborn enough to grasp it And to those who are We at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival Salute you (SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 2017 MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL) (c) Frank Howson 2017
So many fucked up people in the world Monstrously negative feelings about every living person Every word from their mouths another poison bullet Aimed at someone, anyone Most times they actually kill the person who was attempting To help them But I guess to them we all look the same Eventually they implode and eat themselves But don't breathe easy There are many who will follow They weren't loved enough by daddy So now they reach out frantically to everyone they meet To give them the loving family they were denied But when such immediate desperation hits They frighten off their targets And their baby love turns to a cold-hearted hate Within a blink of an eye They hit out at the world For not giving them what they wanted Yet they can't tell you what that is They want to be celebrities Without doing the hard work They want to be successful writers Without facing the pain They want to top the charts with songs That touch us without ever exploring themselves They want babies But marry those who don't Almost as though this self-fulfilling prophecy Will forever more be their excuse For not having to love anyone Or give of themselves Or try If you are trapped by them There is no escape Only a small room where death awaits The living are always under attack from the dead The spiritual vampires Of the new millennium Sucking off your light force Until you are done And then they will mourn you Because now you are safe to be Whoever they choose to invent As their next excuse (c) Frank Howson 2017
Give me something that won't hurt Give me someone who won't desert Give me a reason to change my mind Give me sight where I've been blind Show me where I'm supposed to be Show me the road that will set me free I still believe in you Even if the good book ain't all true But I surely know Even in the darkest night You care enough To shine your light Take me someplace I ain't been Take me to harbours I ain't seen Take me away from myself Tempt me not with greed and wealth Show me where I'll be welcomed home End all those nights that I've been alone I still believe in you Even if the good book ain't all true But I surely know Even in the darkest night You care enough To shine your light I know we're not made to last And we're just all passing through And there's a price that must be paid For every thoughtless thing we do But I want you to know, before I go That I still believe in you Make me open in my heart Make me grateful when old friends part Give me the pleasure of memories Of my joyful reveries Even though some drift and are gone Give me the strength to smile and go on I still believe in you Even if the good book ain't all true But I surely know Even in the darkest night You care enough To shine your light
(c) Frank Howson 2017
I don’t usually remember my dreams, well the in-your-sleep dreams I mean. Maybe three in my life. But the other night I was awakened in the middle of one and it’s a little bizarre to say the least.
Anyway, in this particular dream I am arrested for killing Ayn Rand. Still with me? Not sure if I actually did it or not but as we know newspapers are only interested in the charges and not so much in the final judgement, so, pretty soon I am in big hot water. Boiling in fact. And as if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough they are throwing the book at me. Perhaps The Fountainhead, I was too busy ducking to check. I then remember going through a very lengthy trial that was straight out of Kafka. I have to say things weren’t going well for me as the cavalcade of witnesses were called. Drunks, the heavily medicated self-published, real estate agents, Mormons, one armed guitarists, fortune tellers, gypsies, tramps and thieves.
My court appointed lawyer was an elderly Chinese gentleman who appeared to be about 500 years old and dribbled from the mouth when he got excited. Still, he had his wits about him and had he been able to speak or understand English he may have been quite effective. His cross-examination of the witnesses had to be seen to be believed. If the Judge had’ve been awake at the time I’m sure he’d have called a halt to the circus. He did wake a few minutes before the end of proceedings and grumpily pronounced Hemingway to be “…a cunt!” I wasn’t quite sure how this applied to me or my case but was too intimidated to enquire. My Chinese representative seemed to take it in his stride and smiled in a knowing way. Perhaps this was a good sign? Taking the positive angle I smiled at the Judge who smiled back at me. He then announced in a disappointed tone that the jury weren’t very well hung and adjourned the case until they could be re-cast. On that note everyone went home to be greeted by their loved ones and a hot meal, followed by re-runs of classic football matches, while I was beaten to a pulp in my holding cell which the guards took literally and, having no TV set to watch football, they attempted to kick a goal with my head. In all objectivity some of them did show promise as league players. I did at one point attempt to convey the news that the football they were using had a migraine but this was met with increased hostility and I was accused of using too many big words.
Hence another three quarters were played. This time I kept quiet and assumed my role. Finally I threw my voice and did a very convincing imitation of the final siren which they bought, hugged each other, shook hands, copped a feel of each other’s bums, and left the field complaining about the lack of good umpiring decisions these days. I couldn’t, in spite of my intense pain, help thinking what great sportsmen they were. Dreadful human beings – but great sportsmen. This was the last thought that stampeded through my mind before I lost consciousness.
I was shaken back into this world bright and early the next morning, in dream time, in order to return to court. I told the guard, who smelled of cheap bourbon and herbal cigarettes, that I had to postpone my court appearance before our esteemed Judge as I was fairly convinced I was in the initial stages of a brain hemorrhage, but this was met with “well who gives a fuck you dumb fucker fucking your way through life and fucking every fucking thing up for every other fucking dumb fuck!”
I took that as a “no”.
I found that if I tilted my head till it was resting sideways on one shoulder it relieved some of the pain. So, that’s how I appeared back in court. Looking like an amateur theatre version of Quasimodo. I’d fretted needlessly over my appearance as the Judge looked past me and mistook a nun in the next row to be me, stating that he was going to take into account that I was a lady of the cloth and not to worry.
My lawyer, the very learned Mr. Dim Sim, gave his final impassioned summation, in Cantonese, to a silent ovation from nonplussed creatures inhabiting human-like bodies. The Judge finally broke the stunned silence by burping and muttered, “Better out than in” and the really hung jury and those in attendance took this to be the final judgement and a deafening uproar broke out in the courtroom, along with several fistfights, a rape, a child birth, and a scattering of small time thefts.
As everyone had lost interest in me, and noticing the open door, I slowly made my way best as I could, considering my head was still laying sideways on my left shoulder, through the crowd of rioters and those with an axe to grind. Soon enough I found the sunshine and a busy city street awaiting me.
Within seconds I was lost in the crowd. Well, as lost as I could be given my new appearance.
I bear no grudge against anyone who mistreated me, but if Ayn Rand was still alive, I’d kill her.
(c) Frank Howson 2017.
I saw a crazy man in the heart of the city cursing the people he passed, cursing the buildings, cursing someone long gone, cursing God for this Purgatory.
People reacted in different ways. Some froze and willed themselves to be invisible, some scurried away in the opposite direction, some watched in that detached zombie way people stand transfixed at car crash sites, fascinated by the sight of real disaster and yet non-reacting as though watching a movie play out.
So what does it take to make someone just crack one day? One huge life tragedy too much, or a series of small ones too close together that defy our idea of logic and fairness? Perhaps if we raise our voices above the rumbling wearing down drone sound of the busy city traffic, God will hear us?
Why does our Maker withdraw his grace and allow us to free fall through darkness and scorn so far from home? Or are we meant to always be alone in search of ourselves in others, a perilous journey not for the fainthearted. Or the dreamers.
Maybe the crazy man in the street had been chosen to heed his inner calling to join the wild throng and it is therefore in the madness that lies the ultimate truth?
Was Don Quixote mad because he chose to see the world as it should be? Or were the people who gathered to ridicule and laugh at his expense the mad ones?
John Lennon, during his time, was called mad by many, especially the press and the conservative establishment. But his brutal death at the hands of, ironically, a mad man has now elevated him to the status of martyr and messiah. Today, his human flaws have been sanitised to fit what is acceptable in the gospel of his life. The nobody mad man who shot him for a shot at immortality got a life sentence, while the famous mad man got death. And then in death, rose again.
When you look closely at it, most of our true heroes in history were called mad during their lifetimes because they attempted to do something different. To shine a light into the darkness that most of us are afraid to acknowledge. To take us where we would never have dared go if not for them. To make us think and, more importantly, to make us feel. In achieving this, a great many of them paid with their lives so that we may live.
So next time you see a mad man or woman in the street, spare a few seconds to ponder the forces that shaped them. And perhaps in those seconds we may awaken the humanity in ourselves.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
I loved listening to the radio when I was a small boy. My ear pressed up against the speaker of the mahogany radiogram, a furniture feature in our modest living room. All those amazing artists whose voices shaped my life, i.e., Guy Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney, the young Elvis, Buddy Holly, Harry Belafonte, Anthony Newley, Eddie Cochrane, Patsy Cline, Sammy Davis Jnr., Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers, Bobby Darin, Johnny Desmond, Louis Armstrong, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Horton, Ned Miller, Burl Ives, Johnny Ray, Tommy Steele, The Ink Spots, etc., etc. An eclectic bunch, and I loved ’em all.
My mum said I had an acute ear for voices and as a party trick she and my dad would challenge the guests to put the radio on and I would guess the singer within a few bars. I was four.
My parents were slow to get their own television set so unless we visited relatives on a Sunday we had to settle for listening to the radio. It was our only outlet for news updates, music, plays and comedy sketches. Oh, and serials. I’ve always felt so sorry for my mum. She was addicted to a daytime radio soap opera serial entitled “Doctor Paul” – it ran for a phenomenal 4,634 episodes and my mum listened to 4,633 with rapture. I could’ve been hanging from a rope in the bathroom and she wouldn’t have noticed. Unfortunately she had to go out one day for a real doctor’s appointment and came home to the devastating news that she had missed the final episode. I tell you, the grief I witnessed from that poor woman rivalled Jackie’s after the J.F.K assassination. She never did find out what exactly happened. So I guess she shared that with Jackie too.
Those radio plays and serials were magic and a real art form, creating a visual world in our minds using just voices and effects. Orson Welles learned much from his radio days and brought a lot of his sound tricks to his film-making. If you close your eyes and listen to “Citizen Kane” it is as aurally interesting as its visuals.
When I was 14 and a child no school room could teach, I ran away and never went back, no doubt much to the relief of my teachers. My mum, who always took my side when I was in trouble and despairing, accepted my decision without judgement or debate, and took me into the city to try and get me a job as an office boy at radio station 3DB. She knew I loved music and the entertainment business so in her intuitive wisdom she felt this was the right starting point for my future life. And that I would learn a lot. And so I did. For the rest of her life my ambition was fuelled by my efforts to repay her faith in me.
As fate would have it, 3DB were not looking for an office boy at that time. Another lesson learned – success is all about timing. So, not taking no for an answer my quick thinking mum walked me a few blocks to radio station 3UZ. And yes, a meeting with destiny. The general manager, Mr. Lewis Bennett, a man of such class and distinction he has had a lasting effect on me, gave me the once over, liked the fact that I dressed like him in a nice suit, polished shoes and a bow tie, and gave me the job. I smiled at him with tears in my eyes as I felt the joy of finally being accepted in the outside world after years of humiliation and rejection in the then cruel school system. The warm inner joy I felt at being wanted and appreciated made me work my guts out for $16 a week so as not to let Mr. Bennett down. Sometimes he even sent me his leftover lunchtime crayfish sandwiches, and I sat in my chair in his secretary’s office, and slowly savoured them bite by bite, feeling like a king. And silently giving thanks for how lucky I was.
That job imbued me with many lasting ethics – the pride of working hard, not letting anyone down, being on time, not leaving until the job is done, being polite to people, the unselfishness of always presenting a positive attitude even if you’re down, and not taking the job for granted but, instead, always remembering that you have that job because someone had faith in you.
I learned so much in my three years at 3UZ that it’s too much to detail but, because it’s so ingrained in me, even today I may do something, or give a young person advice, and then realise it’s a lesson learned from those radio days.
In those magical days of the Sixties, dee jays were gods. And I worked with the best of them – Stan Rofe, Ken Sparkes, John Vertigan, Allan Lappen, Don Lunn, Graham Cherry, Sam Anglesea, Noel Ferrier, Mary Hardy, Jimmy Hannon, etc, etc, etc. We will not see their like again. Because, like a rare vintage wine, those days are gone.
But some of us remember.
(c) Frank Howson 2017