Andrew Ramadge: Jimmy, The Dale And Me
From the backseat of a taxi en route to see Barnsey, ANDREW RAMADGE muses on 10 years of The Annandale with a Russian cabbie. Photos by DANIEL BOUD.
This is what happened on Sunday night.
My cab overshoots the mark on Flinders Street. An old Russian man, maybe 50, with wild grey hair to his shoulders and a bald spot at the back apologises.
“Sorry. There was a bus behind me. I didn’t know if you wanted it or me.”
“No worries. I’m off to The Annandale on Parramatta Road.”
“I can do. Who is playing tonight?”
“Wow. He is legend. How much is door charge?”
“About 40 bucks, but it’s sold out.”
“How many people fit in there?”
“A few hundred.”
We turn into Cleveland Street.
“My wife she is a very big Jimmy fan. A few years ago she saw him play at the State Theatre. I don’t know what album he had out then, but he had lots of African musicians. Some of them were very talented. But to see him at a pub with only two, three hundred people? That is very special.”
“He’s playing because it’s The Annandale’s 10th birthday.”
“Wow. He is very nice man for playing, for supporting the music venues. There are not so many places that rock bands can play anymore. All the pokies.”
“That’s right! Fucking pokies! That’s why The Annandale shut down, in the ’90s. Then these two brothers, called Rule, they bought it. And then they opened it to music again, 10 years ago.”
The small stretch of City Road.
“Do you play instrument?”
“Nah, mate, I’m hopeless. What about you?”
Onto Parramatta Road.
“I play a little guitar. But I mostly like to sing. I sing in a choir, in the Serbian church choir. We sing mostly Russian songs. But I play guitar as well. I ask because up here near The Annandale there are all those guitar shops, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Sometimes I park the cab and I get out and look into the windows. All those guitars, the acoustic ones and the electric ones and whatever, and I press my face onto the glass.”
We approach the pub, where Bridge Road splits off.
“We are here. I hope you have fun.”
“You know, if you see Jimmy tonight, tell him for me that we love him. Taxi drivers, they all love Jimmy Barnes.”
And then I get out and get smashed.
And did you know the first proper pub rock show I ever saw was at The Annandale? Ten years ago, just after the Rule brothers must have bought it. Back then, someone told me that live music had just started again, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. I was 18 and a few months living in Sydney, after leaving Newcastle. And I’ve seen a hundred bands at The Annandale since that night, and only a handful of them rocked it like Jimmy did.
I’m not going to pretend I know that much about Jimmy Barnes or Cold Chisel – any more than anyone who grew up in Australia in the last three decades. I went half out of debt to the stories my mum used to tell, about going to see Chisel in the ’70s and the riot at the Star Hotel, a few blocks from the house I grew up in, which they wrote a song about. And half, you know, just to see an Australian rock legend at one of my favourite pubs.
But when he came on, and when I heard his voice, I got it. And when he played ‘Flame Trees’, the entire pub, packed to the rafters, happier than I’ve ever seen it, sang along. The guys behind the bar had their arms around each other and tears in their eyes.
The Annandale’s 10th birthday celebrations continue tomorrow night (July 1) with Richard Clapton. For tickets and a full list of shows click here.