GREEN AND SUBMARINE

The first inkling that scuba diving was perhaps not going to be my new favourite thing came when I experienced an anxiety attack in the training pool. Spending the rest of the lesson sitting in the shallow end staring through a thin layer of chlorinated water above my head and trying to breath slowly and evenly, I could have reflected on the experience and cut my losses but instead I pondered the outlay of dollars on the full wet suit encasing my dolphinesque body, not forgetting the belt whose lead weights stopped me floating the six inches to the surface and breathing real air. In… Out… In… Out… Clearly Darth Vader’s breathing apparatus was adapted from an air tank regulator, though we’d never heard of the Dark Lord back in 1974.

I did complete the course: theory exam, pool test, sea test. Even went on one dive with the University Diving Club, somewhere near Rye surf beach. It was cold, the ocean was choppy and I used my full tank in less than half the expected time due to the huge anxious breaths I was taking. The dive leader pointed towards the surface twenty feet above. Even through his face-mask the disgust was clear.

And that was it. The wet suit, flippers, weight belt, face mask, snorkel, neoprene balaclava and booties all sat in the wardrobe, a black reminder of my lack of intrepidity. Soon my tertiary education would be in the same cupboard, but for the time being I was hanging in with Optometry largely because I’d attached myself to a group of science students who were nice, welcoming and confident in that way posh private schools seem to inject into their alumni. I was grateful, both for having somewhere to go at lunchtime and for the occasional invitation to a party in the leafy eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

It was during a party at Cindy’s parents home in Balwyn that Scott approached me. I was sitting on the carpet leafing through Cindy’s records and had pulled out the soundtrack of the Aussie surf film Morning Of The Earth. Scott squatted next to me, nodding at the record. “You surf?”

I admitted I did not, though I did claim a degree of oceanic knowledge based on having achieved my Sea Card in scuba diving, a somewhat desperate attempt to salvage credibility and/or self-esteem. Scott was a diver and student of Marine Biology so we chatted about diving and the coastal regions of the state. Well, he chatted and I danced around the topic steering it towards the surface of the ocean rather than the treacherous depths. That wasn’t difficult, as Scott surfed. “You should get a secondhand board,” he said. “Surfing is great.” 

It made some kind of sense. Years of family holidays on the Mornington Peninsula had made me familiar with both the bay and ocean beaches; there was no doubt I was more confident on top of the waves than under them, whether sailing or body surfing. And I already had an almost new wet suit.

Having no idea what distinguished a good board from a bad one, I bought the first one that didn’t look like it had been dragged along a bitumen road, then waited for Scott to invite me to go surfing. In the meantime I searched out Morning Of The Earth at the shop where I worked part-time and recorded it onto cassette. I think I put part of Carly Simon’s No Secrets on the remaining blank tape. A perk of the job.

It is fair to say that I appreciate Morning Of The Earth even more now than I did then. A collection of twelve original songs by Australian artists friendly towards the surfing scene, it is full of fantastic musical moments and provides a refreshing counterpoint to the hyper-masculine balls-to-the-wall blues rock dominating Aussie music at the time.

G. Wayne Thomas produced the record and contributes three songs, including the opening title cut. This opener manages to combine melody and a fine chorus with a Gaia approved sentiment regarding appreciation of the environment. It seems even more relevant today. The vocal “Hallelujah”s don’t cloy; they seem to add a spiritual dimension to the song, connecting us to the natural world in ways both respectful and protective. Really makes you wonder why hippies got such bad press. What is so funny about peace love and understanding?

In “I’ll be alright” Terry Hannagan sings wistfully about the pull to get out of the city—another dream that seems far from irrational these days—before the legendary Tamam Shud offer “First things first”. Next up, Brian Cadd—Australia’s answer to Leon Russell—pitches in with the upbeat “Sure feels good”, full of bounce and optimism.

There was a single from the album when it first came out in 1972. It was “Open up your heart” by G. Wayne Thomas. It’s a truly lovely song that, I’ve just realised, could be a summary of the last thirty years of my life.

There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends 

And how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start

When you open up your heart

Try not to hide what you feel inside

Just open up your heart

Side one finishes with “Simple Ben” by John J. Francis, a parable of nature versus human construction. Structured like a Bob Dylan story song, it unfolds as a dialogue between a younger man and elderly Ben, a wanderer. At over seven minutes it could perhaps have been relieved of a couple of verses and thus gained some focus, but the chorus is a beauty you’ll hum to yourself as you turn over the record.

A super Tamam Shud instrumental called “Bali Waters”—all drifting flute and laid back vibes, including a subtle quote from “Morning of the Earth”—opens side two. Then Caddy is back singing “Making it on your own”, another upbeat soft-rocker, before Thomas winds things back with the reflective “Day comes”. G. Wayne’s light voice adds a precious yin energy to the music, expanding its reach and emotion.

Probably my favourite track is next, Tamam Shud’s final contribution “Sea the swells”. There is a wonderful folk/psychedelic feel to this piece that captures the sea, the surf and the album as perfectly as a mid-summer sunset over the ocean. 

Scott and I did one trip down the surf coast, taking to the water at Lorne, Apollo Bay and Torquay. I paddled out and sat on my board, full of wonder at the restless tranquility of the ocean. Not having received any instruction, I couldn’t surf for quids, yet it was wonderful. I bobbed gently on the undulating swell at Apollo Bay and looked back at the steep hills running from the blue distance of the Otway Ranges to the coast. A palette of greens to compliment the sea-sky blues. When I’d had enough I’d catch a wave, lying on the board, and slide over the water to the sand, emerging, teeth chattering a little, to a brisk towel down and the promise of a hot pie and sauce.

My surfing phase was short-lived, the equipment sold long ago. The guy that bought the board observed that it was a rubbish choice for a beginner. “The rails are too hard,” he said. “Much too fast to learn on.” Ah. 

Still, I always choose an ocean holiday over a bush retreat. And hope at least once or twice a year to don a new wetsuit (Sperm Whale-sized) and bob about in the surf for a bit, catching a few waves on a boogie board. If the waves are of any size, I’m sure to get tumbled and tossed, but I know how to relax when you’re dumped by mother ocean; the suit’s positive buoyancy is a guarantee of finding “up”. Next day the body aches in new places and there’s sand in my ears, but I’m almost always smiling. 

*

Morning Of The Earth — A Film by Albert Falzon — Original Soundtrack 
  • 1972 Warner Brothers
  • CD re-issue by east-west, year unknown but probably late 1980s
  • 2014 Anthology Recordings, USA

 

24 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Have you gotten out this week? Hope you got closer to the water than these remembrances, though they’re sure fine as-are. And balls-to-the-wall masculinity? Uh…Bon Scott by any chance? Ha ha ha. Hope your times are good this week my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bon was a, um, trailblazer in that arena. But plenty of contributions from other bands.
      Yes, managed one ocean immersion during the curtailed holiday. We came back early because the accommodation was so depressing and the weather mediocre.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Oh bummer! I’m sorry to hear that…but glad you got in the water anyhow. Salt in your hair right?! Ha ha.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It sure clears the sinuses. 😆

          Liked by 1 person

  2. getsomeactionnow · · Reply

    I must have been about 9 or 10 when I went to see Morning Of The Earth at the University of New England Union Hall. I still remember the colour filters used with the cinematography. The film left me with a sense of appreciation for the potential for humans to respect the ocean environment. This is one of my favourite movie soundtracks and goes to show how good various Australian musicians and bands were during the day. Well done Supreme Being Bruce. A cracker album!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is amazing how some films/books/experiences stay with us, informing values development and our view of the world. Wonderful contribution. Thank you!

      Like

  3. I saw that cover, and said,’ Yeah, I “know” that one’, but after what is close to 50 years since I heard it, all that remains is the belief that it was good. I will refresh my memory this weekend (and hopefully it will sound extra good with the DAC that arrived today fitted between the TV and Stereo in the Sunroom, and courtesy of YouTube, unfortunately).
    Thank you, Bruce.
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you enjoy a nostalgic summer spin, DD. New DAC sounds good!

      Like

      1. A very good piece on your marine experiences too. The scubaring tale reminded me of my growing nervousness when I snorkeled at the outer reef, off Hamilton Island. Wherever I went, a sizable Groper followed me, always staying at the edge of my vision, looming in and out of perception. Paranoia completely overwhelmed me at around the 40 minute mark and I called it a day. Absolutely stunning experience though.
        All the best, DD

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s an impressive duration to go head-to-peripheral vision with a groper, DD. Well done.

          Like

  4. I hadn’t thought of it that way; thanks for re-framing. At the time I felt ashamed to be the first to return to the pontoon anchored near the reef.
    But back to the music.
    The Topping e30 installation was easy and ‘Morning of the Earth’ is as good as you made it sound.
    Thank you.
    The film is on YouTube too, which I’ve bookmarked for a predictable future bout of iso.

    Incidentally, the first test of the system hook-up was John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, which I grabbed off the shelf at random to test the DVD player and its link through TV to DAC etc.
    It produced a fuller richer sound than DVD ~ RCA ~ AMP, yet voices and instruments are crisp and distinct, with a stable soundstage.

    I might let the little bugga burn-in a bit before playing with EQ, to back off a little of the crispness (which verges on being harsh on something like ‘Getting back’ or ‘Simple Ben’). However, tracks like ‘Bali Waters’ sound terrific.
    It’s a definite improvement on the soundbar anyway.
    Thanks,
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the update, DD! New kit is always a bit thrilling, don’t you think? I’m starting research for a new CD player as the twenty-year old Pioneer player/recorder seems to be tiring.

      And I really must have a proper listen to the Coltrane / Hartman LP. Don’t know it at all.

      Like

      1. Indeed the Topping is part work around to supplement an ageing Pioneer. I found that the rubber feet of the laser assembly had shrunk with age, bringing the reading head too close to the disc. A 75 cent set of tiny washers from Bunnings allowed me to bring the old six-stacker back to life by raising the laser assembly just a fraction.
        My favourite ever repair.

        Good luck on the CD player search. Rotel have a new CD player coming, which I think lets you tap the DAC for other purposes. (For example, I have 3MBS classic radio routed from TV through the e30 DAC at the moment and it definitely rivals a reasonable FM tuner). That might be worth checking out.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is one impressive repair, sir!
          Sadly, my technical expertise is limited to plugging in RCA leads, but I’ll investigate the Rotel for sure. Cheers.

          Like

          1. Fitting an external DAC definitely improves sound quality on a range of digital devices. Up a notch, at least.
            For example, I listened to Wiener Philharmoniker NY day concert, courtesy of YouTube (TV ~ DAC ~ Stereo) and each group of instruments was correctly located in the sound stage, with some sense of height and depth too. Discernibly better than the set up sans DAC.
            So I do recommend covering it off as an option in your search for a new CD player.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s strange to read all of these posts from Aussies about beach vacations while I’m trying to figure out how to get home from dropping my daughter at college ahead of a major snow storm. My body surfing and boogie board days are done. Without my glasses, I just can’t see well enough to catch a wave. Tried last summer with my son. Couldn’t get myself in the right place. I had a similar diving experience. My best friends (a couple) were divers. I got certified so I could go on dive trips with them. They got divorced immediately after I got certified. None of the three of us ever dove again. I got a good bit of use out of my custom prescription mask though. It was fun to wear every time I went swimming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prescription mask. What a fine idea. I’m comforted by the realisation that others have dallied only briefly with scuba diving. All that oceanic Jungian energy has an impact I guess.

      Sorry to hear about the eyesight problem. Would prescription swimming goggles be an option, I wonder? The problem with surf is that it’s so relentlessly powerful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Really enjoyed this Bruce. I’m pretty scared of water I can’t stand up in but the IDEA of surfing appeals to me, quite Zen in a soggy way, I’d imagine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the title of your memoir, right there. “Soggy Zen-A Welshman’s Journey to Enlightenment”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Im going to give this a listen. Ive been doing the N American surf music (Mermen, Shadowy Men et) sort of vibe lately. I was stuck on it for a few days. Good story fella. You can spin a tale that keeps my attention. Not an easy thing to do with CB.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a wonderful compliment, CB, and I thank you. 💛
      As for the soundtrack, I’d really love to hear your response if do have a listen. Because of course my review is ‘tainted’ by my own story with the album and the music’s inspiration.

      Like

      1. No problem Bruce. You are welcome.
        I totally get the personal connection. Why I like these takes. How the music moved or grabbed us at the time and what was going on in our own worlds. I had a listen to a few cuts last night (more listening today). They were a more laid back easy feel but they work for the subject. Not seeing the film it’s harder to get the full effect.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Bruce – Enjoyed listening to John J. Francis and Graham Wayne Thomas on YouTube, Taman Shud’s “Sea the Swells” and now “Sure Feels Good” going now while I get some tea. It’s iceboating and icetrucking season around here, -14C tonight (which is considered pretty balmy for Wisconsin), so particularly nice to read your beach/surfing theme and hear some gentle seventies tunes with harmonica and flute in the background. I’m not a strong swimmer, and never considered tackling scuba, tried snorkeling in the Galapagos but they had strict regulations about how much protected salt water you were allowed to swallow and spit up, so it was a one-day experiment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] the beguiling but not-so-easy-to-master sport of surfing (read about the writer’s efforts here). In the early 1970s a number of iconic surfing films were made, all needing appropriate […]

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