Avalon Cassettes

by Jamie Hutchings

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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    Jamie Hutchings
    Avalon Cassettes CD
    (Laughing Outlaw 2011)

    1. Invisible Coat
    2. Slack Magic
    3. Smoky Dawson
    4. Ned Kelly Indoors
    5. Man vs. Train
    6. When It'll Blow
    7. Gimme Failure
    8. New Vagabond 04:31
    9. Ways to Fall
    10. Cicada Symphony
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      $18.99 AUD




"It’s a feathery slice of Australia stalked by a looming shadow, at once as beautiful as it’s ever dark. Avalon Cassettes is a reminder of what’s been missed of Jamie Hutchings, a superb release by a prolific musician that isn’'t just a highlight within his discography, but a highlight for Australian music."

Letters and thoughts and emails about Avalon Cassettes...

Like a letter from a long-lost friend, the CD arrived in the mail. Unexpected. Unheralded. 10 tracks with hand-written song titles and album title Avalon Cassettes. It was accompanied by a short, friendly note in Jamie Hutchings' familiar scrawl. The package filled me with mystery and intrigue.

I had to pick up my daughter Anna from somewhere, which was perfect. I love listening to music in the car, uninterrupted. I had only got through three and a half songs by the time I got to my destination...and I was floating. I drove around the block and snuck in the rest of the evocative 'Ned Kelly Indoors'. Anna jumped in the car and immediately switched the stereo to a commercial radio network and I was plucked out of my dreamstate, into the real world. I couldn't explain to her all of the beauty and colour and warmth I was immediately hearing and feeling in these tracks - they actually sounded like stories and sounds written and meant for an old friend, intimate and personal they made me lean in and listen.

I wanted to play Anna Track 1 'Invisible Coat' and tell her about how the part at 2:31, where Jamie's repeats and riffs the line 'I'm swimming with sharks' for 37 seconds mesmerises me with it’s blend of rapture and repetition . I wanted to point out how Track 2 'Slack Magic' references streets in Sydney's inner-city and the actor Geoffrey Rush (playing an idiot-savant) and how rich this was, how the way Jamie again uses repetition ('to you or me/to you or me/to you or me/to you or me' and 'give me a quote/give me a quote/give me a quote/give me a quote') and how it again inspires rapture. I would love to have been able to play her the intro to Track 4 'Ned Kelly Indoors' and then play her Bluebottle Kiss' 'Now' or 'Stained Mouth' and show her why I fell for Jamie's songs and voice in the first place. But Anna's too young, too impatient.

I keep listening over the next two or three weeks (it's a listening-required album). The mystery, the intrigue only grows. I email Jamie, telling him I heard some Astral Weeks in there, wondering if the 'Avalon' in the album's title was referring to the legendary island from Arthurian legend that has captured and haunted Van Morrison. But I was wrong, it was a more grounded reference to the Sydney beach suburb where Jamie and friends/family recorded the bulk of the album.

Jamie writes back, saying Astral Weeks is definitely a good reference, "and perhaps (Big Star's) Third/Sister Lovers too. The brevity and semi impro nature of the sessions gives it that hazy, loose feel that's similar to way those albums feel. The title comes from the where and how of the recording which had a very strong impact on the end result. It was recorded in a run-down shack out the front of a property in Avalon that was lent to us. Thus the bleeding, spilly, haphazard non-studio quality. Secondly, it was all recorded mostly live to an 8 track cassette recorder by my friend Chris Colquhoun. It does sound kind of evocative and fantastic-like too though so I think it's apt. I like it's unanchored 'private reverie' kind of feel."

I email Jamie asking him about the albums strong sense of place, of Australia particularly on tracks like 'Ned Kelly Indoors' ; 'Smoky Dawson'; 'Cicada Symphony'.
He writes back: "I think there’s some of that fetid balminess you get from Sydney summers,
especially on ‘Cicada Symphony’. Heat, moisture, insects, etc. Kind of open and claustrophobic at the same time. That’s probably the main ‘Australian’ thing really. It’s not something I’ve thought about too much, it just finds its way into the way it sounds in the same way the beach shack did... I have a habit of taking characters and displacing them and watching what happens. I saw a Sidney Nolan retrospective which featured a lot of his Ned Kelly series paintings and learnt how it was a way for him to express his post war isolation via an outlaw. He’d come back from the war to normal family life and felt extremely estranged from everything. A lot of the situations/characters on the album are similar in that respect. Ordinary people finding themselves in an extraordinary situation or recovering from one. Same with 'Smoky Dawson' in a way. I read his eulogy in the paper and was thinking about his attitude and life in a modern day context. How sweet and foreign it read."

I signed Jamie's band Bluebottle Kiss to their first record deal, to the Murmur label, through Sony Music back in 1994. I was naive. I thought Jamie's brilliant, poetic songs (which were, by turn, beautiful and explosive), the band's powerful dynamics and Jamie's matinee idol good-looks were an undeniable formula. But the band's musical wanderlust and unpredictability (which were always there and I didn't yet appreciate or understand that) couldn't be hemmed-in, contained and controlled. For a million reasons it was a mistake to sign them to an impatient major, but it is a mistake I would immediately make again today if I had my time over again.

Jamie's musical journey, twisting through Bluebottle Kiss' albums Higher Up The Firetrails (1995), Fear of Girls (1996), Patient (1999), Revenge Is Slow (2002), Come Across (2003) and the double-CD masterpiece Doubt Seeds (2006), their countless EPs and his solo albums The Golden Coach (2002) and His Imaginary Choir (2008) is one the most interesting, passionate and singular musical odysseys in Australian music.

In an email I remark to Jamie that having lived with the album it really has a strong, singular sonic identity, "heavy mellow" is how I described it. Jamie writes back: "I always wanted it to be beautiful and ominous at the same time. Heavy mellow, like you say. I’d tried to get rid of that heaviness on the last album for something different, but now I wanted to let it back in but in more of a simmering, subliminal way as it’s a pretty intrinsic part of what I make. It just happens. Like a summer storm or something. I’d initially wanted to make it super bare, but with alien sounds falling in and out with lots of space for them to reverberate. It did change once we all started playing together, particularly with Scott and Jared both on traditional and found percussion. I rehearsed a lot with Reuben on bass but for everyone else it was like I was leading them through a dark tunnel with a torch. The others might not agree, but I don’t feel I over prepared them compared to usual. So there’s an intuitive ‘playing by the seat of one's pants’ feel to it and this feeling very much informed and guided the recording. There were 14 songs recorded but I culled it to 10."

After some more written toing and froing, Jamie concludes: "I think the main points are the format and circumstances of the recording. That it has a kind of ‘fever dream’, ‘heavy mellow’ feeling to it. I think I’ve let the tension of my previous work with Bluebottle, etc... seep under the skin of the songs in a way, the lyrical themes: the everyman taken out of his comfort zone and thrust into alien terrain."

- John O'Donnell



Amanda Case
AIC Entertainment


Stuart Coupe
Laughing Outlaw


released April 15, 2011

All songs by Jamie Hutchings (APRA/AMCOS)

Jamie Hutchings - Guitars/Vocals
Reuben Wills - Bass
Jared Harrison - Percussion
Scott Hutchings - Percussion
Sophie Hutchings - Piano/Background Vocals
Erin Hutchings - Background Vocals
Lee Hutchings - Flute

Recorded on Eight Track Cassette in Avalon, NSW, AU
Recorded & Mixed by Chris Colquhoun


all rights reserved



Jamie Hutchings Sydney, Australia

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Track Name: Invisible Coat

It’s not up for discussion
Not that we talk that much
You catch me mumbling in Russian
But I swear you’ve been cussing in Dutch
What have you been doing to yourself?
You look shot like a school child left behind
I’m heading out in my invisible coat
I’m heading outside

I get sick of lighting candles to look
impressive in the dark
And I’m tired of braking for orange lights
Of vertigo, long shadows, of always
swimming with sharks
You say “If you keep doing this to
yourself you’ll turn to ghost
Am I right Mr Cellophane?”
Yes that I am
And I ride the subways for free
And I sleep on the tracks of those -
phantom trains
Well I’m heading out
In my invisible coat
You can all set yourselves aflame
And I’ll watch the keys dissolve in my hands
And I’ll help the register

In erasing my name
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming with sharks
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming with sharks
I’m swimming I’m swimming
I’m swimming I’m swimming
Track Name: Slack Magic

Well I parked my car at Taylor Square
Despite it being near impossible to fit into a
spot there
And I chipped a little bit of paint
From the car behind me
I was nervous I was running late
And we got on a roll cracking funnies
Being generally unkind
But before we knew what hit us
Time had bolted we were running
Chasing minutes down the street
With you leading
Me not far behind

Then we crept into that cinema
Geoffrey Rush was playing an idiot savant
I felt breathless alert
And that feeling turned to solid air
Then it put it’s shackles around me
And I felt my body turn to dirt
Like being woken from a dream
Where everything is rosy
Just as you’d idealised it to be

And people always told me
‘Nothing in this world can ever
come for free’
But I thought I’d found a loophole
It couldn’t possibly apply
Not to you or me
To you or me
To you or me
To you or me

And you said on the way home
“Well here is good enough
Just drop me at the curb”
But your silence cut me like a knife
I knew something wasn’t right
You were disappearing down the road
I felt like I had seen a ghost

So I got back to Taylor Square
Found that car proceeded to write a note
I said “Hey I’m just so sorry
Tell me how much will it cost?
Just give me a quote
Give me a quote
Give me a quote
Give me a quote”
And in the end I guess that it was nothing
At least I never heard from them
It was like some kind of slack magic
Some reoccurring dream
That I awake from now and then
That I awake from now and then
Track Name: Smoky Dawson

Chained up and beaten with a lamp
By a father who fought with distinction
You could have let it turn you to ash
Ah but you wouldn’t now would you?
So you found yourself a Stetson hat
And though by your own admission
You were a small man actually
A giant you grew to be
And put an axe to your captivity

You left a ghost by the Yarra creek bed
Where your mother eternally rests her head
But you wouldn’t stay alone
Us dirtbags we don’t ask much
Just our little vanities and such
And something to call our own
Our own

When Herb tried his first cigarette
Well he very nearly coughed himself to
And from then on he was ‘Smoky’
To everybody
He became a hero on a palomino
And he could split an apple with a whip
And write songs on a golden guitar
About riding the range
Don’t it seem so strange how

Somebody can loom so large
Even having their own membership cards
And then just fade like anybody?
Yeah like anyone
It’s true about you I don’t know much
Maybe some footage in Tamworth once
Some faded pictures
A home movie

We’ll I’m glad to hear you fell for love
Way back in 1943
And you stuck to it eternally
I’ve put my kindness and my courage
to the test
Oh but I always or mostly come off
second best
Things are changing around here
No doubt you have seen
How we let our attics fill up with dust
A room can only remember so much
Before it just becomes somebody’s
It could be anyone’s
I see the clouds heavy with rain
On our hands the tired earths stain
Let’s have ourselves a Jamboree
Track Name: Ned Kelly Indoors

And I’d forgotten how my sense of smell
was over
That chrysanthemum could well be a
rotting corpse
Now that I’ve come back with the eyes
of a soldier
Wet and leaden heavy weighed down
with remorse

Oh and honey don’t you ever get
to thinking?
Or are you one of those who never thinks
at all?
It stole something from me I just
can’t remember
How it is to feel a cold rain’s about to fall

So I take you to the pictures on a Monday
And on Tuesday we go to your sister’s place
We go blanker and its winter and then
one day
We both vanish into thin air not a trace

And if someone locked Ned Kelly in
his bedroom
Or left him out to sea and weighed down in
a dress
Would he try to paint a picture break it to
Us down in the trench one soldier to the
In the frontline on the coal face and the rest
How am I to know a cold rain’s about
to fall
Or how to name a speck waving at you
from ashore?
Track Name: Man vs. Train

Wheels were a’ blurring
A dancing of spokes
As my tyres turned to powder
And ground to a halt
And what once had beat torpid
Now thrashed through my chest
As my idiot vehicle
Came to an unwelcome rest
And the sky looked amused
In it’s mute sullen way
At ground not built for feet
But the tracks of a train
And I waved and I waved and I waved…
At that spectre a’ heading my way

Well I’d left the city
A ghost of a mess
With you raving and ranting
And me doing my best
To turn you into a speck
A distant dull roar
Like the sea beneath a cliff top
Or traffic from the top floor

And when I burst from the seat
Ran to the top of the road
Swivelled at the impact
That impossible load
And that train it was a’ flaming
All fire engine red
As it ran through the forest
A metal torch around the bend
And it sang beneath that funeral moon
Like a match in a cavernous room

You’ve been unwilling
To lay it to rest
And I am unable
To comprehend this
All of your violent feeling
Shadowed on the wall
When to me it don’t make
Much sense at all
Track Name: When It'll Blow

“Would you meet me in the middle?
You’re one magic sailing ship
But it’s one marathon long paddle
And I’m not up for the trip
Because you leave me reeling
With your feather blows
Well you’re my glass ceiling
And God only knows when it’ll blow”

“Don’t offer no surprises
Go on being half a man
You say you don’t want a Delilah
Well I don’t want no Peter Pan
Because you leave me reeling
With your feather blows
Well you’re my glass ceiling
And God only knows when it’ll blow”

“Don’t turn this into a rock opera
You know there’s no reason to shout”

“Well I’ll make all the noise I want to
And you can shut your mouth”
“No I won’t!”
“Yes you will!”
“I’m not your Jack!”
“I’m not your Jill!”
“You think you’re perfect never wrong!”
“And you refuse to get along!”

Because you leave me reeling
With your feather blows
Well you’re my glass ceiling
And God only knows when it’ll blow

Let’s take it all for granted
Let’s act like there’s nothing wrong
Let’s feed each other silence
Let’s pretend to get along
Because you leave me reeling
With your feather blows
Well you’re my glass ceiling
And God only knows when it’ll blow
Track Name: Gimme Failure

Gimme failure
Why lie awake?
Over thinking
Staying up late

Like the time I saw it
Looking down up in its booth
Like a spectre in the rain
Up there pale and strange
And I’d been making headway
Getting out in front
For it’s all I’d ever wanted
All I’d wanted to become
Some stranger told me
“You and I’ve been fooled”
I said “Well speak for yourself
I don’t dance to those rules”

He said “uh uh I can see how
You’re just like everybody else
It’s just you’re stalling in the right lane
And not wanting any help

You kid yourself you’re noble
Saying ‘Man this ain’t a race’
When you and I we both know
There ain’t no second place”
Oh it’s like the world’s a giant wedding
You sit where you see your name
Be you wild or be you tame

It’s like your conscience is a bride
She takes you into town
She drags you all around
I should have seen it coming
I should have let down my own tyres
Sometimes in the long run
It’s best to cut off what you desire

Then I dreamt I was skating
On the thinnest ice
Paving something new
Digging up my roots
And in this secret country
I was the subject and the king
And I could laugh at my own jokes
Sniff up my own smoke

And I’d been making headway
Getting out in front
For it’s all I’d ever wanted
All I’d wanted to become
It’s like the world’s a giant wedding
You sit where you see your name
Be you wild or be you tame
It’s like your conscience is a bride
She takes you into town
Where she drags you all around
Track Name: New Vagabond

She hit me with an umbrella
She said “Is that you Harry?”
I thought-
‘Well surely this sad woman
She’s deranged!’
Carting several plastic bags
Blocking up the sidewalk
Whilst I stood feeling sorry for myself
A prime target for the rain
She said “Don’t you remember me?
Hey it’s Louise!
Back in 1973 after the war?
At Deakin university
I’d loved your principles
I recall you as a great man
Though I don’t quite remember what for”

I gazed into her watery eyes
It was around then I realized
That beneath this bag of bones
This wasted frame
Was a girl who’d filled me with such lust
Lust that’s long since turned to dust
For me I’m sixty nine years old
And I look like her
Well much the same
And then she grabbed me by the arm
Her putrid breath against my face
She said “We’ve got a lot of talking
yet to do”

While me I’d just got out of jail
I’d once been hard as nails
Oh but it’s funny
What a little bit of punishment can do
And my faded suit was getting wet
It was the only one I had left
As she dragged me
Down an endless flight of stairs
To a place made out of cardboard
covered junk
As the trains rattled above
Serenading us
With their broken voice
Down to our cold arthritic bones

She said “My heart it’s given out
I thought there was nobody left
There’s a fight that I just can’t keep
kicking on
Oh but now that you’ve arrived
I surely am alive well I knew
Somebody just like you would come”
Track Name: Ways to Fall
Take it from me
There’s a smorgasbord of ways to fall
I chose gracelessly
Arms akimbo
Back against the wall

Try this
Just count the seconds
As you light a match
Come to light
A flame
A spore

A damp thumb and forefinger
Puts it out to lunch
Ash on the floor
Time won’t wait you see?

I asked the sleepy sea
As it washed a box up on the shore
Do you have something for me?
Could it be what I’ve been waiting for?
She said “Is that some kind of joke
Exactly what is it you take me for?

You can shove your sonnets
Where the sun don’t shine
And shout ‘Man overboard!’
Time won’t wait you see
And I sleep easily
Time plays darts with me”

Oh I won’t make believe
Track Name: Cicada Symphony

Well the Rocks and the Quay
Secrets of the city
Come on and help me out
Dig me up a little history

Bottle mossy greens
Cicada symphony

My friend wed and I danced
Faked a reverie
My arms around the waist
Of a girl too large for me

And when I held the door
What were you waiting for?

Demon girl said
“Hey porter
Now you’re doing exactly what you oughta”
And when I winced it rained
And I was staring
At that blurry wretched bridge again
Those lights were drunk and shaking
Under the rains caress
Like liquid needles
Like a strangers tenderness

Spittle from a window
Or sleeping by a river

Legs were jelly aching
Squelching balminess
Some chorus of bats
Leading me into this
Hot mess

All these rotten weeds
Into the earths damp seed

Oh come on and to and fro me
Steal some magic carpet ride
Honey roll me
Into moss
Into moss
Into soot

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