Australia

Wenner book outrages as Jet lands in Hall of Fame


The co-founder of Rolling Stone has released a book being accused of racism and sexism, while the ARIA Hall of Fame has honoured a one-hit wonder. IA’s music reporter, David Kowalski, brings you the latest.

IN THE NEWS this week is the founder and former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner, upon the launch of his new book, The Masters. The book features a series of interviews with a number of legendary musicians who happened to be ageing (or dead) White males such as Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan.

I have no issue with the artists he has chosen to feature in his book. I quite enjoy their music. However, he has been quoted in The New York Times as saying that artists like Stevie Wonder (a Black artist) and Joni Mitchell didn’t articulate themselves to the same “intellectual level” as someone like Bono or John Lennon, and it is at this that I must take umbrage.

Is this guy serious? For a person whose work changed the value and nature of music journalism, and could be regarded as an authority on rock music in the 20th Century, this is a bit beyond the pale. Joni Mitchell has proven time and time again in interviews and documentaries to be more than erudite and articulate enough to run rings around most people, especially someone like Bono.

What about Janis Joplin? PJ Harvey? Patti Smith? Tori Amos? All of them are brave, strong and intelligent women who could have given any of the aforementioned musicians a run for their money.

Even in his defence, he seemed to sweep the history of contributions from Black artists and women away to the side by saying:

“Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a [expletive] or whatever. I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe he’d have been the guy. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.”

At the end of the day, that’s a cop-out. If Mr Wenner had spent five minutes in conversation with either Harry Belafonte (God rest his soul), Little Richard or Chuck D from Public Enemy, I’m pretty sure he’d realise how wrong his assertion of what an articulate “master” is.

The ARIA Hall of Fame for 2023

Also, this week is the startling news that Melbourne band Jet is being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2023. Cue the cries of What about [insert your favourite Australian band here]? The Hall of Fame award at the ARIAs has had a couple of years out of circulation due to COVID-19 and it returns this year as a singular addition to the long list of inductees.

To be fair, I think the critics have a point. Jet did have one massive single (Are You Gonna Be My Girl?), selling loads of records in America and Europe as well as getting the song used in a global advertising campaign for the Apple iPod in 2004. Beyond that initial flourish of success, there was… not much to write home about. A few mildly successful singles, two subsequent albums and then they went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Hall of Fame worthy? Can a one-hit wonder really have a lasting influence on subsequent generations of Australian bands?

Perhaps I’m missing something that the ARIA selection committee has clearly picked up on. I would’ve argued that Jet deserve a place in the Hall at some stage in the future, but surely not before a trailblazing act like Warumpi Band gets a look in. And surely after such a long break in handing out the accolade, they could’ve found more than one artist to induct.

Vale Paul Woseen, late of the Screaming Jets

It would be remiss of me, as a Novocastrian born and bred on Awabakal and Worimi land, not to remark on the passing of the bassist and songwriter for the Screaming Jets, Paul Woseen. The Jets were a staple of the Newcastle music scene in the ’90s and they were very much a product of the working-class nature of the city back then. They were a formative musical influence on me and many other young musicians in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley areas, as I’m sure they were to many others all over the country.

Paul was gifted with an amazing voice that always floated beautifully over the top of lead vocalist Dave Gleeson’s tenor on tracks like October Grey, Helping Hand and, of course, their biggest hit, Better.

Both powerful and subtle, turning from one to the other in a short breath, it’s perhaps no surprise then to find out that with a voice like his, Paul was a former choirboy at Newcastle’s Catholic Cathedral as a boy. I saw him perform a solo set at the 1997 (or was it 1998?) Dogbite Festival (the precursor to Groovin’ The Moo) at Maitland Showground and that voice was a thing of beauty, especially when he sang what is probably my favourite song of his, Think.

Even as late as January 2023, Paul was still doing acoustic sets at festivals all over the country, playing shows with the band as of early September, so this news has come as quite a shock. His songwriting and his talent will be dearly missed.

Thanks for the music, Paul.

Melbourne band Feelds is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist James Seymour and the music he creates is a fantastic blend of warm emotions and conflicting sounds. Feelds’ second album, Brilliant Mud, has just dropped and is a varied collection that creates a world unto itself for the listener to immerse themselves deeply in. The lead single, Kaleidoscope, features brilliant duetting vocals with Katie Wighton, set against a dream-pop backdrop with some tasteful pedal steel blended in.

LISTEN TO THIS WEEKS SPECIALLY CURATED PLAYLIST BELOW:

David Kowalski is a writer, musician, educator, sound engineer and podcaster. His podcasts ‘The Sound and the Fury Podcast’ and ‘Audio Cumulus’ can be heard exclusively here. You can follow David on Twitter @sound_fury_pod.

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