Excuse Me, Mr Walker - By Robert Dunstan

 

Cigar smokin' Don Walker - the former Cold Chisel pianist and songwriter and, more recently, with the Tex, Don & Charlie outfit - has recently released his third solo offering, We're All Gunna Die. Having toured back in July prior to the release of the album, Don (and his band Catfish) now make a welcome return to Adelaide this weekend to play The Tiv and The Oriental.

We're All Gunna Die is a magnificently moody musical masterpiece and has already scored good reviews. The album's closing piece is Three Blackbirds, an epic work with some 24 verses.

"Is it?" Don asks. "I've never actually counted the verses, but I know it's around 18 and a half minutes long. Three Blackbirds was a song I wrote for fun and was kicked off in '84 when I was living in a tent just outside of Broome [WA] at a place called Cable Beach which is now a huge tourist resort. It's spoilt things somewhat but the place is a very exciting area with a very exotic history.

"I was hanging around the historical society one day and came across this book of tales of the pioneering times and Just started putting one of the stories into a Banjo Patterson-type verse," he continues. "The melody suggested itself and it's a song I've been tooling around with without considering it would ever be recorded. It was Just a fun exercise.

"I just gave them the okay to go ahead with it," Don replies when asked if he had anything to do with the recent coupling of Cold Chisel's 'Best Of Collection' with an extremely rare live EP which has since sold by the truckload. In fact, Don is a little non-plussed that particular release has already outsold Teenage Love, a collection of Chisel rarities the band painstakingly put together last year.

"Despite all our best efforts, Teenage Love was viewed as scraping the bottle of the barrel for old material," Don sighs. "But it was a labour of love and what people didn't realise is that everyone involved with the band privately think Teenage Love is the greatest Cold Chisel album ever. They'll all tell you that, myself included."

Former Chisel guitarist Ian Moss guested on Don's last tour in July but is unable to continue with the band. (Mossy will play at the Tiv on Friday November 17')

"I've now got a young bloke from Sydney called Ben Nightingale," Don explains. "People have been talking about him for some years even though he's only about 20. He's a guy who has a certain touch. Ben started playing when he was 13 listening to [the late blues guitarist] Albert Collins which is not a bad way to kick off."

The artwork for We're All Gunna Die was designed by Simon Day and I wonder if it's the same guy from Sydney band, Ratcat ("That's correct," Don verifies) while recent publicity shots have shown Don with a snake around his neck.

"That was actually a photo room a few years ago," he explains. "I did a gig up in Gladesville [NSW] and Phil Emmanuel was playing in the band with me at the time and brought one of his snakes along." I once recall hearing the guitarist (and elder sibling of Tommy Emmanuel), was somewhat of a snake expert.

"He's an absolute snake fanatic," Don confirms. "I'd say Phil is as much into snakes as he is music. He's extremely knowledgable and very much connected into a network of snake collectors all over Australia. In fact his house is overrun with snakes. And, if you open Phil's garage, instead of cars he's got thousands of white rats."

White rats?

"Yeah, he breeds them for his snakes."

Of course!

Don Walker (with Catfish) play The Tivoli Hotel this Friday November 3 with strong local support from Don Morrison's One More Mile and power soul outfit Double Wammy. On Saturday November 4, Don Walker and hand grace the stage of The Oriental Hotel.

1995 Rip It Up (Nov)

 

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