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Location: New South Wales, Australia

Born in Yorkshire, raised in Australia. I love Poetry, Guitar (especially Spanish classical & Delta Blues), Tudor, Jacobean and Stuart England, Archaeology & good Ale. I edit The Flea & The Chimaera (with Peter Bloxsom), and Shit Creek Review

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How many plays for two bob?

You'll need to turn the volume right up on this - one of my favourites though. They don't make bands like this any more.

On the Jukebox

- Micky Mick and the Stones belt it out. If they can't get none, who can?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tales of English Paul

Peter Granger (pictured right at Mission Beach around the time he visited the Frank's Cafe bus at Kuranda) contacted me through the email address on the side-bar after reading about English Paul on this site. Here is his letter with reminiscences of Paul, which he has kindly agreed to share on this blog. I will post it on the Frank's Cafe site as well.

Peter provides an interesting view from the outside of Frank's Cafe and its workshop. I guess the shop he refers to was the Challis Avenue, Potts Point shop. The workshop would have been the Glenmore Road Paddington one where I was one of the "incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers... residing in various parallel universes."

The story of the origin of Frank's Cafe as a leathershop name is typical English Paul. I suspect that the name "Frank's Cafe" owed something to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" which was popular among this group at that time. Then there was Frank Hammond, junkie dogman (he used to work as a dogman on cranes swinging on loads 12 stories up stoned out of his brain) who became a leather worker at the start and was known as Frank of Frank's Cafe. Paul was very creative in his explanations of this that and the other, and would often make up stories on a whim.

Here is Peter Granger's account:

Paul Adams/Clarke was an extroadinary person in more ways than one. Here it is in 2006, and this is the first I have learnt that Paul and Vyda had died long ago in quite extraordinary circumstances. It is quite a shock, but then again not so totally unexpected.

I was in Sydney about 1966 - having been unwillingly conscripted for the Vietnam conflict - when I first set eyes on his Frank's Cafe in Sydney. It totally blew me away, and is still burnt in my brain as if yesterday. I was delerious over the leatherwork - like nothing I could have dreamt up in my wildest imagination. It sure was a long way removed from the prevailing plastic, spit polish and patent leather of my world. I was convinced THAT 'look, feel and lifestyle ('hippy') was going to completely change the world - and I wanted to be part of it. I couldnt wait to get out of the Army and set up something similar back home in Melbourne. Paul subsequently came down to Melbourne by train, and helped me set up Stuff Leathery in a small shop in Caledonian Lane, Melbourne. We were up and away - and with the later arrival of Ron Collins, Ivor Udris (are you guys still with us?) and later again Andy White, we relocated to the big shop in Swanston St, cnr Little Lonsdale - near the RMIT and museum. It lasted almost a decade, with three shops in Greville St Prahran (pre-bastardisation days) one in Oxford St Paddington, and a wholesale business. By the time I had set up the Oxford St shop 6 years later Frank's Cafe was gone... but I would walk down to where his shop was located and reminisce on that day I first looked in his shop window and was completely transfixed.

"Frank's Cafe" - what a brilliant name for a leather shop. "What was the inspiration?" I asked Paul. "Nothing at all - the previous tenant was Frank and it was a cafe... we just didnt bother changing the name." But as was his way, it was a name more by design than mere accident. He would chuckle when telling the story of trying to register the shop name with the State Business Names Registation Office. The official refused, saying he couldn't allow him to call a leather shop a cafe. I don't think Paul thought "Frank's (or Paul's) Leather Shop" had the same cachet, and of course, he was completely right.

A visit to Frank's Cafe Paddington workshop was quite an experience - subject to the time of day. Not uncommonly there were incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers and hangers on residing in various parallel universes. Communication was not always the most productive experience.

Paul finally decided to move up to Kuranda with the double decker bus/home - another brilliant idea - with the intention of becoming a crocodile hunter/shooter. That sure came out of left field - but nothing seemed beyond the reach of that man - except perhaps merchant banker. I believe he did the croc shooting for some time until it was banned. My late (now deceased) partner and myself visited the bus in 1972. There it was in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited rainforest, wide open, like Thomas the tank engine - waiting to depart for the next station - but where? It looked like it had been plonked there by a helicopter. But sadly, there was no sign of Paul and Vyda. With mobile phones not yet invented, and a rather large back yard to search, we regretfully abandoned the bus.

I never saw Paul again, but have never forgotten him. He was a creative genuius/visionary at the forefront of change. How hippies evolved out of the stultifying conservatism that prevailed at the time is difficult to comprehend, but at the time, people like Paul were not an incremental generational change, they were a totally radical departure. He was the manifestation in one artistic individual of the extreme changes society was about to undergo. He detected those winds of change long before most others, and had the courage, talent, charisma and wit to live by them.

I would love to hear of any other news/stories about Paul.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Little Dick's About to speak!"

More from Cass Cumerford:

Around 1965

First person I saw in the back room of the George was Little Africa . He was small and almost as thin as I was. He reminded me of a bird who'd seen too many cats. He had a love of Methedrine - the white stimulant tablets that gave more pure energy and elation than anyone who'd never experienced it could even imagine. When they were high enough, he and Black Alan would let me sit in and play my little flute. Whatever they were playing, at some stage I'd come in with a few bars of "Maria" the only bit I could play, and they'd go off their heads with delight at the dadaist weirdness of "Maria" popping up inside their arrangement. Sometimes we were joined by Jeanie Lewis... before she became well known. Her voice was so strong and good it intimidated us a little, so she usually sang with the better musos who dropped in only at night.

I saw "Little" Dick in the bar. He was called "little" because he was, and he spoke always in the softest voice. In order to hear him speak, you needed to get close to his mouth and listen intently. Like me, he read a lot about Buddhism and his mumbling, besides being hard to hear, was heard rarely. He'd gained the reputation of being a wise holy man, so when he did speak, the word went out,

"Li'l Dick's about to speak!".

People moved closer to hear the latest wisdom. What great enlightenment he spake never reached my ears, because by the time I ever got next to his lips he'd always finished. The one time I did make it in time I heard him mumble,

"Have you ever tasted a Boston bean?"

He would later be the first of our mob to leave the Cross and discover the joys of Nimbin ( at a place called The Buttery).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A fragment of poet-talk

From the now-hibernating Burgundy poetry critique website, a discussion of "The Days of The Royal George":

By Paul Stevens (Caratacus) on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 10:23 pm:

This is meant as an ott sentimental piece of well-outdated-doggerel-pub-song written by a bleary-eyed old codger living in the past. It has obvious clanks and clunks, which I feel are right in the spirit of the thing. I posted a picture from the cricket match at my blog here.

By Bob Bolton (Bob) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 6:20 am:

and what was the name of the famous dark-haired witch whose portrait was on the wall...?

Well, you managed to subvert the cricket thread back to poesy, didn't you!

By Paul Stevens (Caratacus) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 10:17 am:

Was it Roslyn Norton? Was that at The George? Don't remember that bit... A lot of it's a blur...

By Bob Bolton (Bob) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 12:26 pm:

Yes of course, and wrong pub - I was thinking of the one down the Harbour end of George Street. Ah, also, the poor old Forth and Clyde at the bottom of Darling Street Balmain - now offices I think, then Hell's Angels etc ...

Plenty of scope here to avoid poetry altogether...

By Paul Stevens (Caratacus) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 7:14 pm:

The Newcastle on George Street was a Push pub - is that the one? I remember a coffee shop at Kings Cross with Roslyn Norton paintings - was it the Appolyon? Sort of Norman-Lindsay-goes-bent stuff: didn't like it much myself. The London at Balmain throve on in the 80s a bit, & The Rose, Shamrock & Thistle, but I don't know of anything much re: Push now. The Old Push moved out of The George in the aftermath of Bogle-Chandler deaths, & rather despised the Young Push as brainless pleasure-seekers, & didn't come in there much except for occasional raids to carry off nubiles for philosophical purposes. I think they drank at The United States for a while & then the pub whose name I can't remember up near Hyde Park. A large section of the Young Push morphed into hippy leather workers centred around Frank's Cafe in about 1967 or so. A double-decker busload of them drove up to Kuranda & dispersed around about the time of the Ourimbah rock festival. English Paul, "King" of The George & of Franks Cafe, & his lady Vyda were shotgunned & incinerated in their house at Mareeba in a case that was never solved. Not much has been written about the Young Push: I'm trying to get some of it down before the brain cells flake away.

By Paul Stevens (Caratacus) ( on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 7:20 pm:

Here ya go: Rosaleen Norton - here. Thanks for reminding me of her, Bob. Any more cues would be welcome as I try to piece it all together. Where did that brain-cell go?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Royal George Days (and Nights)

Cass Cumerford is a Royal George regular who has survived on into the twenty-first century. His blog, Beatnik Casbah, is a goldmine of information, memories, names and outrageous anecdotes - well worth a visit. Here he walks us through a typical day at The George, around 1965.

In the morning it awakes at 10-00 and allows the hung-over ones in to rest up and hide in its back room. Then the exceedingly lonely come sauntering in, shyly trying to appear as if they belong. They are its favourite clientele - but they don't yet know it. Regular devotees drift in around 11, hoping some group booze-up will soon develop. Around 11-45, a laughing Mrs G flogs her counter lunches. Dockworkers crowd the public bar. They're always hungry. By 12-15 their big boots possess 70% of the bar's foot rail. A pint of Millers dark tastes better with one foot 6 inches off the floor. It costs one shilling and nine pence for 400 ml! There are no chips or peanuts laid out in poofy little dishes for nibbles like in classy joints. Any free food would last but two minutes.

1-15, the pub is now full of boozy workmen on very long lunch breaks. It was perfect for we "beats". Mrs G occasionally slipped a free counter lunch to a few of her favourites if she knew they were broke. "But don't go telling everyone," she'd whisper. The first time she gave me a free meal I thought, "Wow, this is great .At last I've arrived! I've made it." It was my ultimate status symbol. I'd spent the rest of the afternoon mooching drinks, discussing the philosophical dimensions of the new revolution we were certain would soon transform the world into a heaven of loving enlightenment, or keeping a lookout for a "tourist" to con, or even rob.

Around 1-30 the beatniks and Genuine Old Push are assembling, eyeing every incoming stranger like gunfighters in a western movie. By 2-30 they've all mingled into one Democratic formation of bon homie.

Walk with me now from the bar through this connecting door and into the passageway. Hear how the bar noise behind us diminishes? Look, here's the inner sanctum, the "back room". It's relatively quiet. Have just a quick peek in and a listen. Folks are quietly conversing at two of the three big oval tables.

"Who's here?" someone asks.

"No one of any great note."

"Seen Les Robinson today?"

"He got a job at Garden Island"

"Poor bugger."

"No - it's a grouse job. He's a tally clerk!"

"What a bludge!" A dozen individual conversations begin growing until the joint buzzes with sound. Walk four paces north and come into the saloon bar. Here are small intimate tables where you could chat up a potential lover. The drinks cost a few pence more but you could connect with some influential shakers and movers if you're lucky. There's some tourists who'd heard the joint was a great place to mix with the underbelly of Sydney. And in the corner, a couple of intellectuals fervently debating art, politics or sociology. Libertarians also meet here to discuss and pursue freedom.

Some days around this time, if we were excessively broke or weak with hunger, Dutch Andy, Bates and myself would roam around holding out empty tin pie plates and begging, "Small change please! Help feed the starving beatnik!" Not many gave, but we'd get enough to buy hot salty two-penny potato scallops from the next-door fish shop.

3 P.M.-- a longhaired spunky brunette feeds a two bob coin into the public bar jukebox slot (five plays for two shillings) She chooses "Satisfaction"," Out of Time", "House of the Rising Sun", Dylan's "Rainy Day Women" and "Gates of Eden". Cats on nearby stools nod approvingly at her choices. Phil the Pill yells, "Press 'Subterranean Homesick Blues!’" but Mrs G tells him, “Shut y' cakehole -- it's her money." The public bar smells of spilt beer .

By 5 pm, the three sections have mingled, and the joint floats on a warm cloud of bonhomie. Mrs G now flogs the evening hot meals. By 8 pm the day's alcohol has taken effect, and The George swings with loud rock'n'roll, arguments and laughter. There's no security guard, only a couple of barmen, who can handle any biff-ups.

As a teenager, I'd left Adelaide to search for the kind of people Kerouac had written about. It took me 5 years and 5 vagrancy laggings, but eventually I'd found this joint of beat subculture. The mixing with what I considered "real" individuals was a turning point in my life. No longer was I so alienated. I had found my Greenwich Village, Soho and Montmartre. That was the beauty of The George.

At 10 pm closing time, I 'd mingle on the crowded footpath outside while the Push decided where to continue grooving. Two or three nights a week there'd be an all-night party of some sort. An invitation was not necessary. It was assumed that if you'd found out where the party was you'd earned the right to attend. On nights when nothing was happening, I'd head for the 'Cross.

In those days it was sometimes dangerous to have long hair. Yobbo youths enjoyed picking fights with "longhairs". Heading toward the Cross, we'd walk fast and try to look butch, so that no bodgies or squares would pick on us. The route we took was like the journey to Mecca. Always the same: East along King St then through Queens Square, Cathedral Street Woolloomooloo, turn right at McElhone, then through two alleys and we were in the zone.

The first place to check if it was swinging was the Piccolo Bar, a coffee lounge in Roslyn Street. It's the one beat joint still open today with the same style and décor. A balding stocky bloke called Ossie ran it in '67. Bi-sexual Ali shared a house with Ossie. It was (and still is) a magnet for anyone a little different.

A loveable Italian movie aficionado named Vittorio is the present maitre D. Many famous show biz folk have hid in there ever since the '50s. Bobby Darin, the blonde rocker Heinz, Marianne Faithful, Gordon Chater, Rick Nelson, James Taylor. Vito has their signed photos on the walls. The chairs and tables are jammed close together and it's impossible not to become involved with other customers. It was one of only five joints in the Cross that stayed open all night. The jukebox was the only one in town that featured modern jazz.

The second coffee shop to check out was the Aristocrat (where Hungry Jacks stood until 2004). But it wasn't as intimate as the Picc.