|Don Walker warms to
Melbourne with a backhanded compliment, reports ADAM ZWAR
There are two Dons in the life of every Australian.
Both are thoughtful, introspective men who value privacy and have a strong connection with
One may have had a Test batting average of 99.94, but the other wrote Khe Sahn.
Don Walker, the latter, but never the lesser, starts slowly.
The former Cold Chisel keyboardist and songwriter allows a few questions to go through to
the keeper and ducks a couple more.
After 15 minutes in the middle, Walker, one of Australias most educated musicians
with a degree in quantum physics effects a reverse sweep and it is Melbourne
that cops a back-handed compliment.
"Sydney has never had the tradition that Melbourne has, where people can get up on
stage and workshop with each other." Says Walker, speaking from his home in Sydney
where he is "trying to bring up a family".
"Of course, its a lot colder down there and people have to get together and
reduce their surface area. Next thing you know, theyre discussing Marxism and
talking in blank verse.
"Melbournes always been a bit like that. In short bursts, it can be
enthralling. Over a lifetime, it just drives people insane."
It has been two years since Walker orchestrated Cold Chisels brief comeback and
He says he has only "just recovered" from the ordeal.
And, to celebrate, he is taking his roots rock band, including renowned guitarist Red
Rivers, on a brief visit to Melbourne.
Walker last released a solo album in 1995. Although Were All Gunna Die was
received warmly by the critics and fans, the master lyricist has baulked at making a
"The blunt reason is that I havent written songs of high enough quality to
follow up that last album," he says.
The former member of Catfish, Tex, Don & Charlie and songwriter to everyone from
former Chisel-mate Ian Moss to Slim Dusty, says he always dreamed of leading a band
dedicated to roots, blues and a bit of country.
"It was just a question of whether I was capable of doing it," he says.
Still, as far as product analysis is concerned, Walker says the buck starts and stops with
"I can only talk to myself about whether or not a piece of music is good or
bad," he says. "Theres not too many people I can bounce things off
One friend did, however, recently tell Walker exactly what he thought of Chisels
recent Last Wave of Summer album.
"I pulled the album out about six months ago and played it," he says. "It
sounded pretty good to me. But I had a close mate a hard rocker who said
that it was not the Chisel of old. I found that quite puzzling.
"But sometimes you can be blind to your own shortcomings when youre in the
middle of it"
And like its predecessors, Walker says Last Wave of Summer did not bow to fashion
"There are no fashionable tricks on it," he says. "There are no concessions
to the fashion principles that existed in 1998 and that is why its not
obsolete in 2000."
Asked about the legacy of his music, he
says, "At the University of New England (in NSW), where I went, there is this
"And it is the tradition of this collage that its members unbuckle their belts and
drop their trousers to their ankles and stand to attention whenever they hear Khe Sahn.
"They have to do this regardless of where they are in the world or what time
it is or the situation theyre in.
"Now I just think thats great."
The Don on
Jimmy Barnes: "I heard that Jim got
locked in a dressing room for 12 hours before the Olympic Games closing ceremony. With the
Olympic security, he wasnt allowed to leave. I find that extraordinary. Jim has
never been in any one room in his life for longer than five and a half minutes without
On writing for others: "Its not
rewarding. I dont get a kick out of the result. And when you look at the hard bucks
of it, it doesnt make a lot of money as it should."
On Slim Dusty: "Now theres a
bloke I enjoy writing for. The first time he did a song of mine it surprised me. I thought
hey, this means something to me."
Don Walker will perform with Red Rivers and special guest Maurice Frawley at the Corner
Hotel, Richmond, On Wednesday. Table reservations: 9427 9198.
© 2000 Melbourne Herald Sun (26/11/00)