Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Melbourne - The Chris Judd Remix

So Chris Judd’s mum has written a song to celebrate her star son’s homecoming, hey? The former West Coast captain claimed that he would even contribute a ‘rap verse’, at which point the press gallery duly laughed along. But little do they know that the best footballer in the country has been hard at work penning an ode to the Eastern Coast, although since he’s a busy man, he needed a little help with the tune. For those who can't wait until the great man himself returns, here’s a sneak preview:

(To the tune of the Whitlams’ ‘Melbourne’)

Woosh, the writing’s on the wall
Cuz eats all of the garden
Kerr has an aversion to moderation
It’s more than I can bear

In love with this club
And with its fans as well
Strutting round the sunny oval
What a pity there’s things to do at home

Perth, the writing’s on the wall
Half the Eagles’ list is lying in the hospital ward
Kerr vomits on the garden, it’s a circus out there
Time to cross the Nullarbor

In love with my cup
And my Brownlow as well
Crashing through the Swannies’ midfield
What a pity there’s things to do at home

If I won three flags
I’d stay in Perth for two
I’m dreaming of a time
When Rats and I hold up the cup

I have a squillion dollar contract
More property than ever
A hot girlfriend, I wonder when those jerks will get her
My groin feels like a pear
Time to move round the corner
From Caulfield Grammar

In love with this club
And with its fans as well
Strutting round the sunny oval
What a pity there’s things to do at home

Monday, September 17, 2007

We don’t get no respect: Who gets snubbed by the All-Australian selectors? - Postscript

Last year, around the time that the AFL All-Australian team was announced, I looked at which teams have been under-represented since 1991. This year, I thought I would mark the first-time selections of footy super-stars Jonathan Brown and Daniel Kerr by looking at the best players never to be picked in the All-Australian team. Unlike my earlier post, this list is purely subjective. To be fair to players who were on their last legs in the early 1990s, I only picked players who began their careers from 1991 onwards. The top 10, in alphabetical order, are:

Mark Bickley (Adelaide)
Why he should have been picked: Apart from being a two-time premiership captain, he’s now on the selection panel and could make others suffer for his previous snubs.

Cameron Bruce (Melbourne)
Why he should have been picked: So his name can be written as ‘Cameron the Bruce’ on the team sheet.

Peter Burgoyne (Port Adelaide)
Why he should have been picked: To even things up with his brother Shaun (why do you think the Cornes boys have both been selected twice?)

Tyson Edwards (Adelaide)
Why he should have been picked: Every other gun Adelaide midfielder has been picked by now.

Ben Graham (Geelong)
Why he should have been picked: He could have been the first player to make the AFL All-Australian team and the NFL All-Pro team.

Kane Johnson (Adelaide/ Richmond)
Why he should have been picked: He was a great player once upon a time. No, really he was.

Scott Lucas (Essendon)
Why he should have been picked: With Brown and Kerr having finally been selected, he is clearly the best player never to get a guernsey.

Mal Michael (Collingwood/ Brisbane/ Essendon)
Why he should have been picked: For being traded by the Magpies and subsequently decimating their forward line in two consecutive Grand Finals.

Peter Riccardi (Geelong)
Why he should have been picked: He has played the most games of anyone since 1991 (288) without being selected. (Of course, he only would have had to step foot on Skilled Stadium to be selected this year.)

Russell Robertson (Melbourne)
Why he should have been picked: He can out-'lair'ise Alan Didak and Steve Johnson any day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Greatest Album Ever

Of all the albums released in the summer of 1967, ‘none caught the strangeness of those days, or captured their combination of beauty and dread, quite like Love’s Forever Changes.’ [1] Contradictions abound across the eleven tracks of this album, both musically and lyrically. Luscious string arrangements are suddenly punctuated by insistent horns; a jingly harpsichord heralds the creeping onset of doom. Words are layered over one another, flow into each other, lead off into unexpected directions. On the opening track, ‘Alone Again Or’, what appears to be a sentiment straight from the Summer of Love, ‘I could be in love with almost anyone’, is stopped just short of a universal endorsement of the human race, while the line that follows, ‘I will be alone again tonight, my dear’, itself stops just short of reputing it. Song titles obliquely refer to the tracks they are assigned to, simultaneously illuminating and mystifying their subject matter. Instruments wander in to change a track’s direction mid-stream and then fade away, yet you can still hum the melodies to yourself hours after you’ve turned the record off.

All well and good, but what does it all mean, and just who were Love anyway? They were an ever-changing psychedelic rock combo from Los Angeles, headed by the reclusive Arthur Lee, the self-professed ‘first black hippie’. While they were reasonably well-known in L.A. they had only a couple of minor hits on the national charts, which has been attributed to Lee’s refusal to tour. ‘By Forever Changes – when I did that album, I thought I was going to die at that particular time, so those were my last words…,’ said Lee, ‘I just had a funny feeling.’ The final track on the album, ‘You Set The Scene’ contains the most explicit expression of this ‘feeling’: ‘I’ll face each day with a smile/ For the time that I’ve been given’s such a little while/ And the things that I must do consist of more than style.’ Although, in light of words like these, it’s tempting to view Forever Changes as primarily being Lee’s final testament, I think the way it really operates is to show how death and destruction pervade life, and vice versa. Water turns to blood (‘A House Is Not A Motel’); the teeming life of the Go-Stop Boulevard is filled with ‘sirens and... accidents’ (‘The Daily Planet’). Yet there is a hint of pleasant resignation in Lee’s voice when he sings about ‘Sitting on the hillside/ Watching all the people… die,’ on the semi-apocalyptic ‘The Red Telephone’. Forever Changes may be a dark album, but it is far from a dismal one.

The album didn’t fare too well on either side of the Atlantic, and it’s fair to say that if it weren’t for the swell of critical appreciation that has attached itself to it, few people would know of it today. So does that simply make it the ‘hip’ choice for the greatest album ever for assorted music snobs? In a funny sort of way: yes. Because the album never gets any radio airplay and your average punter doesn’t know about it, listening to Forever Changes is like discovering a lost treasure, and even after repeated listens this feeling remains. The aura of mystery that surrounds it would dissipate if we had heard it as often as the Beatles or the Stones. (Which is not to say that I’ve uncovered a hidden gem here: the New Musical Express placed the album at #6 on its list of the 100 greatest albums ever in ‘03.) But forget all that, pretend that I haven’t built it up, and just leave it in the back of your consciousness in case you happen to come across it in a shop one day. And then pick it up and ask yourself: why not? You only live and die once…

[1] Ben Edmonds: notes for Forever Changes CD release.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Fallacy of the Anti-Priority Pick Brigade

Even casual AFL fans would be aware of the recent controversy over priority draft picks. In its original form, the priority pick rule meant that teams that won less than a certain amount of games in a season would get an extra pick in the first round of the draft. Nowadays you have to be really crappy over two years to be eligible for a priority selection. The AFL says the rule is here to stay, while opponents claim it encourages ‘tanking’ in the hopes of getting a ready-made star. In his column in The Australian on August 30, Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse wrote:

‘Andrew Demetriou has a short memory. The AFL chief executive recently declared no side receiving a priority [draft] pick had won a premiership. Actually, the Eagles won last year's flag and fell short by a point in 2005 with a side containing one of the greatest players many of us have seen. Yes, Andrew, Chris Judd was a priority pick.’

And, on August 11, Patrick Smith of the same newspaper wrote:

‘In 2001, West Coast picked up Chris Judd as a priority selection and won last year's premiership by a point. Without Judd the Eagles would not have won. He had 28 possessions and kicked a goal. In the 2005 grand final, which West Coast lost by four points, Judd had 29 possessions. He has been critical to the club's success.’

All seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Without Chris Judd, the Eagles would not have won the 2006 premiership, so Judd’s selection is proof that having a priority pick can get you a flag. In fact, this argument is fundamentally flawed. Sure, West Coast did use their priority pick (and the third pick overall) in the 2000 AFL Draft to select Chris Judd. But even if there were no priority picks, they would have been able to pick Chris Judd anyway. Regardless of whether priority picks existed or not, West Coast would have had the third pick that year because they finished third-last. What the priority pick did enable West Coast to do was to pick third and sixth that year, whereas without the priority pick they would have had to wait until selection number 19 to pick again. So who did West Coast get with pick number 6? Anyone remember Ashley Sampi? It’s fair to say that he wasn’t quite as critical to West Coast’s premiership success.

Instead, opponents of the priority pick should turn their attention to the year before, when Fremantle had picks numbers 2 and 4, whereas if they didn’t have the priority pick they would only have had selection number 2. The Dockers used pick number 4 that year to get one Matthew Pavlich. Other helpful additions over the years that have resulted from having an extra pick include Justin Koschitzke (St.Kilda, pick number 2), Lance Franklin (Hawthorn, pick number 5), Brock McLean (Melbourne, pick number 5) and Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood, pick number 5). But none of these players have been part of a premiership team.

Now, under the new system, things are a little different this year because Carlton will have the No.1 and No.3 picks, when in the absence of a priority pick they would only have had No.2. So Carlton’s advantage is really pick No.3 and the difference in talent between picks No.1 and No.2. In any case, it may still be a few years before one of these picks carries the Blues to a flag.