The Chamberlain Hotel was unusually crowded for a late Saturday afternoon. The bar staff had been augmented, a couple of extra kegs ordered and all the reserve glasses stacked in wire trays behind the main bar. The licensee, Mark McCartney was standing at the side of the bar, ready for action as either barman, bouncer or wrangler of the stage. Most likely all he'd probably do was down a few schooners of Reschs but give him his due, he was diligent with the beer pouring when it was needed and wasn't averse to using his knuckles to sort out trouble makers. The fact that he'd never decked Max Jackson spoke volumes for the man's patience.
The "No Smoking Within a Metre Of The Bar" sign served Max Jackson well as an improvised ash tray while he surveyed the back part of the bar where the Dog Shit Killers were about to perform in public for the first time. He kind of thought it would be the last time as well. Rehearsing, trying to learn enough songs to play a couple of sets and booking rehearsal space was a lot of farnarkelling around, especially when there were races to bet on, girls to molest and drinks to be had. The band consisted of himself and Wayne "Sniper" Blake on guitars and vocals, Kerry James on occasional back-up vocals, her boyfriend Ian Reep on bass and Senior Junior on skins. Senior Junior was a ringer, a young bloke studying the art of bashing drums in some sort of rhymical fashion under the tutelage of one of Jacko's work colleagues, Senior. No-one knew Senior Junior's real name and they couldn't really give a stuff given that he was only a drummer. Reep and Kerryn were checking mic leads and twiddling with a small sound desk, Junior was sitting on his drum seat looking through a vintage copy of Viz Magazine, the issue with the Spice Girls Wank Hat.
Sniper Blake was busy trying to tell the bar manager, Margie that their rider included a keg's worth of beer and a bottle of Bundy O.P Rum. Margie didn't blink but informed Blake that the only rider they had was a clip behind the ear and a long pole up the back passage if they gave her any more cheek. Blake grabbed a tray of assorted drinks and brought them back to the band members. He looked at Reep and called out,
"Hey Reepy, don't bother with that crap. Just make sure its all plugged in and the volumes are right up. Do one of those sound check things."
Reepy glanced over and replied,
"Check two poofs. Check check. Jacko and Sniper. Poofs. Poofs. Check."
As he said that he noticed the curvy form of Jacko's girlfriend, Gayle sneak up behind the guitarist and run her hand down Jacko's spine
"About time to fire up, Max. Good luck." She kissed him and stepped back to let Blake's girlfriend, Tina squeeze past.
"Wayne, you sure you know all the songs?" she asked,
"Fucken oath mate. Its all sweet. If I get in strife I'll just do some growling and thrash a few bar chords. Piece of piss." Blake downed his beer and went over to the stage area. He tapped Max on the shoulder,
"Hey Jacko. Didja get those extra plectrums? I've only got one left."
Jacko shook his head,
"Nah, forgot 'em, but I've still got two." He then looked at Junior who was chuckling at the Fat Slags episode in his Viz mag.
" The Wank Hat issue? Its a fucking classic!" Junior nodded as Jacko went on "Fuck, we should have learnt a Spice Girls song. Margie hates 'Wannabe'. Would have been a pearler."
Ian Reep strapped on his bass and ran a walking blues shuffle up and down the fret board as a warm up Blake played along, making sure his Ibanez was in tune. Jackson's Rickenbacker looked the goods in Max's hands as he joined in the tune up twiddle by picking out a few bar chords and running the intro riff to "Day Tripper" over the top. He fiddled with the machine head and played another couple of chords, satisfied with the tuning. "Come on Kez. We're on." Kerryn stepped up and moved to the left of Blake, ready to share his mic. Blake looked around trying to count heads. A lot of their work colleagues, footy and cricket team mates and other friends had come along for the party, mixing in with the usual crowd of drunks, bar flies and lost tourists. The place was crowded, stretching around the front bar, along the front and snaking down the side. The stuffed dingo perched above the centre bar had glass eyes, remarkably like those sported by the lead guitarists. The crowd was big and that was a relief after all the promises they'd made to McCartney, the pub landlord. He smiled and waved at the overweight and happy figure of his boss hanging at the bar, talking to Margie. His boss was a few years older and had cut Sniper a few breaks during the first months of their work relationship. He'd even introduced Sniper to the charms of the pub and had spent a few after work sessions splitting beers and occasionally giving helpful advice. From these sessions and owing to his boss' range of contacts Sniper had met the likes of Jacko and Ian Reep. Sniper was glad his boss, Eric Barton was there to enjoy the festivities.
Sniper nodded to Junior to count them in to the introductory piece, a ninety second punk piss take of the "Playschool" theme which they called "There's A Fucking Bear In There and Its Rooting Goldilocks." There was a round of cheering and applause with a few enthusiastic whistles, mainly from their friends and workmates, but it was a promising start. Jacko looked at Blake, asking,
"Well my sniping friend, what do you think happened to me last night?"
"Dunno Max. You got pissed I reckon."
"Fuck yeah. And this morning I realised I'd had a visit."
"And who were these mysterious visitors Jacko?"
"Well, young Sniper, from the amount of crap in my room and the way I felt I reckon they must have been Hangover Gorillas." With that Blake launched into the opening riff of the Dog Shit Killers first ever song, "Hangover Gorillas."
Seated at the bar amongst the regular drunks and ne-er do wells was Alan "Owly" Blake and one of his army mates, Benny Hanley, Owly's radio operator. They'd come to the pub dressed as regular pub pissheads still sporting the beards they'd grown for Afghanistan and using devices such as shoulder pads, glasses and coloured contact lenses to stave off initial recognition. Owly had a plan.
For their next songs DSK covered the Sunny Boys "Alone With You Tonight" and a couple of Beatles numbers, "Day Tripper" and "Birthday". Luckily for Blake and Jackson the drummer was good and Reepo proved to be a usuable bass player. This covered a number of missed chords and muted picking, but eventually the two guitarists started to find some form. They'd been a bit slow and nervous early on in the innings with ball beating the outside edge and occasionally hitting the pads. They weathered the early overs and began to hit a few runs. They warmed into the gig, covering Nirvana and hitting the bullseye with the Stones' classic ""Honky Tonk Women". Sniper then called for a break as he looked at a broken string which needed replacing. He also fancied a cold beer and a smoke.
Owly Blake was getting bored with wearing his disguise as was his SAS mate Benny who asked his sergeant,
"So when are we gonna do this? There's sheilas and beer on tap and I'm fucked if I'll keep this crap on for much longer."
Owly nodded and replied,
"Yeah, let's do it now. You go out the side door and I'll go around from the back bar. When I pull the plug, do a runner and we"ll meet at the back of the car park, ditch our disguises and come back."
Benny got up from his stool and went out the side door as Owly lurched up and edged his way around to the back bar. From there he had access to the back of the small stage through a short hallway which led back to the front bar. He waited for a largish bloke to make his way through the same door. Then he realised he'd met him before during a night at this same pub with his brother. It was his brother's boss. Fuck! Would he recognise Owly?
Barton turned around as he made his way from the back bar toilet through to the front bar. There was something familiar about the bearded, ragged looking bloke he'd just edged past. He'd met him before. Was he one of his Department's many unemployed, desperate customers? He sure looked it. Oh well, he thought, may as well do a bit of PR.
"G'day mate. Haven't seen you for a while. How ya going? Still on the government's tit?"
Blake blanched. He'd been fucking tumbled despite the subterfuge. Oh well, the plan to unplug the band was now off. he pulled out his phone and dialled Benny's number. After three rings Benny answered and Blake curtly told him,
"Ït's off mate. Back to the bar." He then look at Barton, saying,
"Good to see you again mate." and shook Barton's hand before taking off the shabby coat, glasses and carefully removing his prosthetic nose.
Barton was shocked at first then confused as Blake removed his disguises. Then he looked carefully at Blake and recognised him,
"Fuck me! Its you. Geez mate, that's a bit weird all that gear you had on. Love the beard though. I thought you were one of our punters from Darlinghurst that I'd recognised."
Blake then realised he hadn't been tumbled at all but mistaken for some welfare recipient. Barton went on,
"Sniper never said you were coming today."
Benny walked into the back bar, saw what was happening and took off his grubby overalls, cap and glasses and walked over to Owly.
"Thank fuck for that Owly. Now we can enjoy ourselves." he then nodded a "g'day mate" to Barton and headed for the bar.
To assuage Barton's confusion Blake explained how he was going to unplug the band as a joke and then reveal himself to his brother later on. Barton frowned for half a minute and then said,
"Top idea mate. First song into the next set we'll do it. Dead easy. I'll suss out the switch cupboard from Mark and let him know so he doesn't blow a gasket. Margie will love it. She hates Jacko. Grab a beer and wait here out the back." Barton then headed through the doorway into the front bar and found the publican. After five minutes he was in the back bar again with a fresh beer and clinking glasses with Owly and Benny.
He raised his glass and said to the two soldiers "Welcome "home boys. Good to see you back safe."
As he did, the Dogshit Killers banged out a few chords and Sniper Blake spoke to the crowd,
"I reckon its time for some animal sex Sniper. Animal sex."
"That would be with the neighbour's alsation wouldn't it mate." He then launched into the opening chords of"their latest collaboration "Ï Really Love My Neighbour's Alsation". It was an improbable tale of giving a guard dog hand relief to calm it down so one could then access the next door neighbour's virgin sixteen year old daughter. As the song seemed to be heading to both of its climaxes Barton led Owly to the power cupboard. Benny stood guard. As the final drum beats crashed through, Owly flipped the circuit switch for the stage area.
Benny, Owly and Barton slipped into the back bar.
On stage Jacko hit a few strings. Nothing through the amps.
"Fuckety fuck fuck fuck!"
Sniper looked at Junior then at Kerryn, then at Reep. Then back at Jacko, saying,
"Remember Dog Shit Machine?"
Jacko nodded, then turned around looking at their uselss equipment. He saw Sniper's Martin acoustic knock-off and pointed to it.
"Tune it up Sniper. We're gpoing soft."
Sniper nodded then turned to the crowd,
"The pub didn't pay its bills so we've been cut off. But that won't stop us folks."
A few desultory cheers came from the crowd who were now more suddenly interested in getting drinks while the problem was sorted out. Jacko passed the acoustic guitar to Sniper who fingered a few tuning runs and then nodded his satisfaction. After a quick conference with Kerryn and Jacko he did an introductory shuff;le of "Fairytale of New York." It wasn't best suited to just a single acoustic guitar but Kerrtyn's voice was strong and Jacko's drunken warblings passed muster for the Pogues'classic number. Their voices were just enough to slowly grab the crowd's attention.
In the back bar the two soldiers were laughing fit to burst and Sniper's boss wasn't far behind. Barton fetched another round of beers, chatting to the barmaid longer than was normal for such a transaction. He brought the beers back explaining,
""We're to switch it back on in ten minutes. Mark wants to keep the punters here a while longer yet. Geez that's a fucking ripper you guys thought up. can't wait to see their faces when they find out."
He then heard the fainter sounds of an acoustic guitar and Kerryn's voice launch into the tale of drunken love, broken dreams and new hope. Owly looked at both of his beer buddies, smiling,
Ï love this song. Let's go and listen." they went out the rear door and around the side of the pub, around to the front, finding a spot in the crowd behind some taller football friends of Ian Reep's.
As Kerrtyn and Max finished the song the three saboteurs were the loudest with their applause and cheering.
While the crowd's acclamation continued Owly went around the side again and walked into the small hallway to the electrical cupboard. He flipped the circuit switch back on and heard some horrible feedback which was quickly killed by a desparate Reep. Jacko was divided, both basking in the crowd's acclaim and pissed off by the shenanigans with the power. Eventually displeasure won out and he stormed off the stage,
"Fuck this Sniper. I'm having a rum!"
Blake put his acoustic guitar back into its case and picked up his Fender rip off. It reminded him of the days when he and his brothers used to thrash away in the garage, trying to mimic his brother Alan's favourites of the punk-postpunk era. bands like The Jam and The Clash. He looked at Reep, Junior and Kerryn and hit the opening chords of The Jam's "Going Undergound".
Owly saw Jacko's dummy-spit, the Rickenbacker lying plugged in on the stage and watched to see how his brother would react. When Sniper started in on The Jam, Owly pushed his way onto stage, winked at his brother and strapped on Jacko's guitar. He started fingering the familiar chords, watching his brother, getting the timing. The Rickenbacker felt good, the best he'd ever played and he wondered how Jacko had ever acquired such a marvel. When he was into the rhythm of the song he nodded to to his younger brother and started playing with venom.
when the fast band plays my feet start to pound, going underground.
Jacko nursed his double Bundy OP rum as he watched the interloper make his guitar sing. When the band started in on The Clash's "Lost in a Supermarket" he ordered another large rum and went and put his arm around his girlfriend. Gayle wrinkled her nose at the rum and removed his arm,
"Don't be such a fucking sook Max. Get back up there before this bloke completely shows you up."
Jacko threw down his double rum and lurched towards the stage. Sniper finished the song and winked to Owly. As Jacko stepped up to the stage he shook Owly's hand, remembering a wild night he'd spent with Owly and his SAS mates over twelve months ago.
"Thanks mate. I'll take it from here."
As Jacko strapped on his Rickenbacker again Kerryn left the stage to get some drinks for herself and Ian.
Jacko yelled into the mic,
"Well if its Eighties you want its Eighties you'll fucking get." then he hit the crowd with US Forces, giving a jaunty salute to Owly and Benny who had sequestered Margie between them, giving her an army squeeze.
As Sniper looked over the crowd as they performed a reprise of Hangover Gorillas for an encore he saw his brother in the middle of the crowd doing a pogo dance in line with Benny, Barton, Gayle, Tina, Kerryn, Mark and Margie. The Dog Shit Killers repeated the first verse and chorus to keep the vibe going. jacko yelled out
"Thank you Sydney! We've been the Dog Shit Killers and you've been great. Farewell!."
Junior's van was packed with borrowed speakers, amps and the Dog Shit Killers gear thanks to some help from Owly and Benny. Junior was due at a gig at the Caribbean Soul restaurant, filling in for his mentor who had been slammed with a periodic detention order for being an accomplice to petty larceny. Junior drove off wondering how the fuck he copped such shit gigs. At least they'd given him a hundred bucks in cash.
Back in the pub Sniper was pummelling his brother with shoulder punches while Benny was making time with Margie. Jacko noticed that Barton was still there, talking to Tina and Kerryn and buying drinks. Gayle poked him in the back,
"Thought it would go well. You shouldn't have stalked off stage like that. Don't do it next time."
"There's no next time. We're skipping the Difficult Second Album and solo projects that fuck up all bands and we're chucking it in. Face it, we're crap. We have three or four songs, only one of which just meets the basics and we're not that gifted. No, that's it." He then raised his voice to Sniper,
"Hey Sniper poof. That's it for DSK, yes?"
"Fuck yeah. We have ten parts of fuck all. It's all too hard. Better off being crap at sport and going broke on the punt."
Kerryn heard this, adding
"Ëven my high school crap band was better. But we did have our moments today. Thanks to Alan."
The older Blake looked up from his bar stool,
"Yeah, youse were fucked except for Kerryn. That Pogues song ripped.".
At Jacko's flat people sprawled on an assortment of chairs, lounges and carpet. Beers, rum, bourbon, champagne and gin were flowing and Jacko put on one of his party mix CD's. Ian Reep led Tina to the spare bedroom. They needed to talk about their impending move to Tasmania and attempt to conceive during her ovulation cycle. Benny succeeded in his attempt to win the attention of Margie and they discretely exited, noticed only by Owly Blake who gave Benny a surreptitious thumbs up as he closed the door. Barton poured himself a tall bourbon while explaining to Sniper the benefits of travel allowance and interstate junkets. Jacko manfully attacked a bottle of O.P. rum while Gayle tended a warming tray of party pies.
Kerryn and Sniper huddled over glasses of champagne and Bourbon talking about Ian and Tina's obvious long term commitment, dancing around their own desires for the future.
Owly Blake looked at the group of friends. They easily could have been hapless loners with only the prospect of booze and crap TV to occupy their time. But through the power of individual and shared circumstances and needs, their own intelligence and characters they'd formed what were obviously long term bonds. He then thought of the Taliban fighters he'd last seen in Afghanistan and who were destroyed by modern precision munitions under Blake's direction. One thing he knew for certain and it was a gold medal certainty; thank fuck he'd had the good sense to be born in a country where war making was the preserve of the few, not the majority. If it meant putting up with crap one-off bands such as the Dog Shit Killers then so be it. Of most importance was the arrival the following morning of his wife and children. That was something worth fighting for.
Wayne Blake crossed Pitt Street heading to the front door of The Chamberlain Hotel. as he stepped onto the footpath he saw a dried up dogs turd sitting adjacent to the wall of the pub. It had that white powdery look which was likely to explode when run over by a lawn mower. Its appearance reminded him of the night he and his friends had seen Flange Gasket and come up with the idea of the Dog Shit Killers. It brought a smile to his face as he kicked it into dust and stepped into the pub.
"What are you smiling at Wayne?" was the greeting he faced from his girlfriend Kerryn.
"Track one my, dear heart. Track fucking one."