The Brisbane band – who received a Golden Guitar nomination for their previous longplayer – explore Byron Short's life as a down and out rock & roller walking the line between damnation and salvation.
Byron Short & The Sunset Junkies
Byron shares five rock & roll revelations with scenestr:
Van Morrison’s Masterpiece – Silence Is GoldenIn 1968, a young Van Morrison walked into a New York City recording studio and didn’t say a damn word to anyone. The musicians assembled, the cream of the New York jazz scene, were mystified by the behaviour of this strange, little alien. Over the course of two, late-night sessions, Van poured his twisted soul into his performances, isolated in a vocal booth and still seemingly completely unaware of anyone else, the band scrambling to follow the chord changes and to read the subtle ebb and flow in mood and tempo.
Miraculously, it came together as 'Astral Weeks': the greatest album I’ve ever heard. Van Morrison shifted direction after that record and became a mega star. But the ethereal fragility and mystic beauty of 'Astral Weeks' is still unparalleled in the rock canon.
Bowie In Berlin – Words Out Of A HatWhen David Bowie finally hit the wall after a decade of prolific music-making and super-human cocaine consumption, he retreated to Berlin to dry out, clean up and rediscover his artistry. One technique he employed while constructing his brilliant album ‘Low’ was to leave his lyric writing in the lap of the gods. On more than one occasion, to shake things up, he’d write down a series of unrelated and disconnected lyrical phrases and pull the pieces of paper randomly out of a hat, piecing together a surreal sentence or two to kickstart his imagination:
Sula vie dilejo
Sula vie milejo
Cheli venco deho
Cheli venco deho
See? I may keep this tactic up my sleeve for my post-cocaine phase.
Jerry Lee Lewis – The Killer’s QuartetWhen Elvis Presley dropped into Sun Studios in 1956 to say g’day to his former record label boss and producer Sam Phillips, he was pleasantly surprised to find he had interrupted a recording session for Carl Perkins’ latest single. The piano player for the session was Jerry Lee Lewis, a young troublemaker from Ferriday, Louisiana who had recently been signed to the Sun label. Elvis went over and booted Jerry Lee off the piano and began to rattle through some gospel favourites. Carl and Jerry Lee joined in, Johnny Cash even stopped by briefly.
After a while, Jerry Lee reclaimed his rightful position behind the keys, prompting Elvis to exclaim: “Man! We’ve had the wrong guy at the piano this whole time!” To which Jerry Lee replied” “Don’t you forget it.” The Killer went on to take control of the impromptu jam session, on a mission to blow the King Of Rock & Roll out of the water. Jerry Lee Lewis would go on to give Elvis a real run for his money and may even have laid claim to the throne were it not for his questionable decision to marry his 13-year-old cousin and subsequent drop off in popularity. When I saw him perform in Memphis at the age of 80, he had lost none of his vitally and passion.
Dylan In Nashville – ‘What Do You Guys DO Around Heeeerrrree?’At the height of his fame and phenomenal artistry, Bob Dylan turned his back on the New York folk scene after being unfairly disowned for ‘going electric’ and travelled to Nashville to record his incredible album, ‘Blonde On Blonde’. Thrown into the studio with little material and a band full of Nashville country session musicians, Dylan had to break the ice. “So what do you guys do around here?” asked the bard. “Well ya know, we like to play music and…….”; “No, no, no, what do you guys DO around here?”; “Well, we like to drink beer!” answered the guitarist.
Dylan ordered in a few cases of beer, rolled some numbers and got down to the serious business of record making. The stoned and drunken chaos of that session can be heard clearly on the track ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. Occasionally I treat my band to some booze to loosen up into a session or a gig. It’s a fine line, I tell ya!
The Ghost Of Syd Barrett – Wish You Were HereThe shadow of former frontman and tragic, acid casualty Syd Barrett had been hanging over Pink Floyd since Syd’s descent into madness around 1970. Roger Waters had taken over as lyricist for most of the band’s material and had alluded to his fallen friend in songs such as ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Eclipse’. 1975’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ was something of a tribute to Syd, with songs like the title track and the majestic ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ retracing the poor fellow’s steps into the dark wood.
During the sessions, a strange, faintly recognisable chap wandered into the studio muttering something about ‘pork chops in the freezer’. He then declared that he was feeling better and that he was ready to get to work on the album. Despite the fact that the man was completely bald and had shaved his eyebrows off, the rest of the band eventually recognised him as Syd. Sadly, he was in no state to contribute to the recording session and was politely shown out.
Syd lived the rest of his life as a recluse, passing away in 2006 at his mother’s house in Cambridge. Syd’s solo album, 'The Madcap Laughs', is hauntingly beautiful, seething and soothing at once. In his prime he was a wonderfully creative artist, fearless and bold, something I aspire to. I am also ever vigilant to avoid the pitfalls that consumed him. Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs etc.
Byron Short & The Sunset Junkies Live DatesFri 9 Sep - Langford's (Mackay)
Sat 10 Sep - Glenmore Tavern (Rockhampton)
Sun 11 Sep - The Rocky Glen (Gladstone)
Sun 18 Sep - Mitchell Creek Rock N Blues Fest (Sunshine Coast)