Every year, the arrival of triple j’s Hottest 100 fills me with sorrow. Not because my near-total ignorance of the songs in the countdown is a sign of my ever-increasing age, although it is. Nor because for the past few years, nobody has invited me to a bangin’ Hottest 100 party, although they haven’t.
No – I mourn because every year, the Hottest 100 features a grand total of no songs by my band. Zip, zero, zilch.
It’s been that way for ever since the countdown started. A whopping 2300 songs in all, and my band has none of them. How is that fair, when Powderfinger have something like six hundred?
Now, triple j and its listeners can’t be held entirely responsible for this slight. The fact is, despite spending much of my teenaged years and twenties playing bass in various uni revues, jazz combos, weird theatrical productions and other ill-advised projects, I never actually started a proper band or recorded any music.
In other words, my number of Hottest 100-eligible recordings to date is also zero. But this wasn’t for want of trying. And when I say trying, I really mean dreaming.
If all it took to become an international pop sensation was sitting in one’s bedroom, strumming an acoustic guitar with fingers too chubby to strum the notes cleanly while feeling sorry for oneself, then I’d be Taylor Swift. Or, more likely, Ryan Adams doing mopey covers of her.
Like Taylor, I wrote love songs, although unlike Taylor, mine weren’t so much about breakups as never-happeneds. Like Taylor, I wrote songs about the haterz, although in mine, I didn’t manage to shake them off.
Unlike Taylor, I never spent time recording country music, though, so there’s that.
The closest I came to rock ‘n roll superstardom was playing one gig at Bar Broadway near Sydney’s Central Station with a singer-songwriter friend. Performing under the name ‘Mending’, we weren’t too bad, I think; and the name of the band seemed to promise better things to come.
But my friend retired from performing serious music immediately afterwards, and has never done so in the 15 years since. I’m not certain that it was my fault, but I’m not certain that it wasn’t, either. My musical career, at least, would remain resolutely unmended.
My one other rock gig was the time some friends and I went into the legendary Sydney University band competition, birthplace of the Cruel Sea and the Whitlams, under the name The Be-Dazzlers. Even though two of the other four bands didn’t bother to show up, we lost to a band known only as With Pins. In contrast, we were short of talent, rehearsal time, adequate songs, and pins.
That said, it was a miracle our gig happened at all after the car with all our gear in it broke down outside the uni gates. It was also a miracle we survived after the crowd began throwing things at us midway through our set.
We didn’t deserve any better. The only sustained effort I’d put into the occasion, despite being lead singer, rhythm guitarist slash bassist and main songwriter, was the goatee I’d grown especially. In my defence, it was still more than our lead guitarist, who only managed to get an amplifier the day of the gig.
Even though it was the mid nineties, we found out that there were limits to the whole ‘slacker rock’ thing. But as terrible as we were, I still reckon we were better than Bush.
It’s a shame I couldn’t get a proper band together in the nineties grunge era. That really was my time. Not only was I was very good at angsty self-loathing, which seemed to be the qualification for musical success back then, but my wardrobe of misshapen knits and unironed flannies had somehow become the latest fashion.
Plus the brilliant thing about grunge rock is that you don’t need much in the way of guitar skills. Just basic chords through a dodgy distortion pedal will do, meaning that for once, my inadequacy was entirely sufficient.
And of course even though I was half-decent at the bass, I wanted to play guitar – who listens to Nirvana and wants to be Krist Novoselic?
I’ve had to accept in the years since then that my rock dreams are dead. But listening to the past few years of Hottest 100 countdowns has given me fresh hope. Forget bands – we are now in the era of the knob-twiddling producer.
Flume, Chet Faker and Gotye have all done brilliantly in recent years, to name but a few. It seems that all you need to make the countdown nowadays is digital music software, a weird stage name and hundreds of hours to pour into mucking around with a computer.
Facial hair seems to help, too; and I’m certainly sorted for that as required.
I’m qualified. I’ve got GarageBand (which is free, after all), the awesome nickname ‘Dom Juan’ which a friend gave me – ironically, obviously – and the hundreds of hours I currently spend aimlessly surfing the web. If I redirected these attributes to music production, why couldn’t I make next year’s Hottest 100?
Well, my lack of musical talent, for starters. But my dreams always unjustifiably assume I’ve got lots of that despite all the evidence to the contrary, so why not give it a go?
So – Hottest 100, here I come! Just as long as I can solve one more problem besides the whole ‘writing and performing a great song’ issue – or at least coming up with a song as good as The Rubens’.
On Australia Day 2017, I’ll turn 40. Surely that’s way too old to get played on the national youth station?
My best hope of countdown immortality now, surely, is if triple j’s middle age-oriented stablemate Double J launches its own list of the year’s hottest songs.
So, bring on the Lukewarm 100! Dom Juan is on his way.