Introducing the Amateur Historians

The Past Is Never Where You Think You Left It

The Past is Never Where You Think You Left It - Charles Jenkins and The Amateur Historians

Charles Jenkins & The Amateur Historians have crammed a lot of history into just six months: a clutch of superb new songs inspired by Melbourne past and present; two sold-out shows at Fitzroy and Northcote Town Halls; two limited-edition albums; and now a “best of” collection!

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend one or both of the Amateur Historians’ gigs, then this new release “The Past Is Never Where You Think You Left It” presents an accurate historical record: 14 of the trio’s songs captured in the studio very much as they were performed live with tasty playing, clever but economical arrangements and brilliant, soaring harmonies.

It’s hard to pick favourites, but “The Melbourne Eye” is an instant Jenkins classic and sets the tone for what follows. Likewise, the melodies and heartfelt lyrics of “Beautiful William” (a love song to escaped convict William Buckley), “Blue Lagoon” (a lament for the long-lost wetlands just west of the city) and “This Is How You Say Goodbye” make them moving and memorable.

“Dennis” is whimsically romantic, and I love the only-in-Melbourne humour of “Hook Turn”, “Victoria Market” and “Little Audrey”, and the wacky gold rush romp of “The Theatre Royale”.

Not surprisingly I have a soft spot for “Stephen Street”, a rocking exposé of Melbourne’s dark Victorian underbelly. “Trams of Love” and “Statues of Melbourne” tell tales of petty street crime, and the spoken-word piece “Beneath the Maniacal King” brings the childhood horrors of Luna Park’s Giggle Palace flooding back.

But “Chloe” is truly chilling, the tragedy of the story behind the iconic painting told simply and compellingly, with a bitter edge to the refrain.

Let’s hope this great selection keeps the wolf from the door while Charles Jenkins, David Andrew Milne and Douglas Lee Robertson regroup for another history-making live performance in the not-too-distant future.

Stephen Downes
Touch My History / Batmania, 3RRR-FM

Have a listen here to opening track The Melbourne Eye

Lyrics

[toggle title=”1. The Melbourne Eye”]

Dropped into the docklands on the edge of Melbourne
Silent surreal
Beautifully flawed and cracked
A big blinkered wheel

The Melbourne Eye
Looking over the likes of you and I
The Melbourne Eye

It don’t see the museums
Nor the coliseums
But those that shake into bars
Or cry in their cars

Are you comfortable in your own skin?
Ever wondered what you would change and why?
Who gets to decide on what is beautiful?
Who gets to decide?

The Melbourne Eye
Looking over the likes of you and I
The Melbourne Eye

It don’t see the great halls
Nor the Winter Balls
It sees the love going wrong
And those struggling to hold on

It don’t see the big ships rolling in
But the little men within
All with a flame that might burn
And a wheel that might turn

The Melbourne Eye
Looking over the likes of you and I
The Melbourne Eye

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”2. Hook Turn”]

Flinders St Station
And the MCG
Both come in second best for me
Ponyfish Island and Bernard’s Magic Shop
And though Wunderkummer has got the lot

Blame it on the weather
Blame it on the wine
Blame it on the Tram Line

I love the hook turn we got the hook turn
I love the hook turn let’s do the hook turn

Melbourne wins medals
For the fairest and the best
And so we wonder what gets put to the test
If it’s because we can turn right from a lane that’s left
Then there’s no doubt we’re better than all the rest

Blame it on the weather
Blame it on the wine
Blame it on my star sign

I love the hook turn we got the hook turn
I love the hook turn let’s do the hook turn

Blame it on the weather
Blame it on the wine
Blame it on the Tram Line

Hook Turn

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”3. Trams of Love”]

All the way from Brunswick East
Down to St Kilda Beach
Hoping that the tram would find me

From the University
Out to the rich folk of Carnegie
I’d be daily dreaming of

Love

Before the world was pixilated
Before the internet was where we dated
I was always there

From Richmond North to Prahran
You could find me on the tram
With a sparkle in my eye and wishing

That someone would ring my bell
On the ride to Camberwell
I was always scheming daily

Love

Armed with flowers and stolen verses
Pockets full of ladies purses

I was always hoping

Love

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”4. Statues of Melbourne”]

Next to Bourke and Wills there’s a low rider
So a low rider I will ride tonight
Across from Justice Barry there’s a little chemist
So a little chemist I will roll tonight

All is fair
What’s yours is mine
What’s mine is everywhere
Oh yeah

Across from Matthew Flinders there’s his train station
Gonna get me the last train tonight
Nearby Francis Ormond there’s always a few students
Gonna get me some loose change and a few books

All is fair
What’s yours is mine
What’s mine is everywhere
Oh yeah

When the heat is on there’s so many of places to hide
There’s statues in Melbourne everywhere
So when the heat is on there’s so many places to hide
Cause no one stops to think to look there

All is fair
What’s yours is mine
What’s mine is everywhere
Oh yeah

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”5. Little Audrey”]

Well Barry Humphries found her in a rubbish tip
And noted we should all maybe help her a bit
Let’s dust her off and find a rope she can skip
Little Audrey

Keith Dunstan said “That would be more than fair
But I think this one is gone she is beyond repair
Bring on another and let her jump through the air”
Little Audrey

Oh oh oh…
Little Audrey

Salt vinegar mustard pepper if I dare I can do better
Oh oh oh… Little Audrey

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”6. Chloe”]

She stands there in silence year after year
She’s worth fortunes that she never knew
Spare her a thought shed her a tear
She stands naked for bastards like you
She stands naked for bastards like you

Chloe the French masterpiece that became a Melbourne icon was painted in 1875 when the beautiful young model who graces that frame was just 19 years old
Our dear Marie

Chloe was an over night success in Paris winning the hearts of all who gazed upon her and winning the most prestigious awards

She arrived on our shores a couple of years later where she hit ’em for sixes in Sydney and made her way to Melbourne for more of the same

She was bought and sold offered to galleries but rejected until she ended up in the pub of one Norman Figsby Young

That was in 1908 and she’s been there ever since

Keeping company with soldiers and sailors artists and poets Prime Ministers and dignitaries drunks and celebrities knights dames and connoisseurs

Through two world wars the diggers would come and have a drink with her before being shipped out
Letters were written to her from the trenches of Turkey France and Papua New Guinea – all swearing their true love for her and promising to return

As Chloe she’s been damaged and abused over the years
Had beer thrown at her
Suffered lacerations
And been the target for untold verbal abuse

As Marie the fetching French model of 140 years ago she became damaged by the very man responsible for immortalising her beauty

Marie fell hopelessly in love with Jules Joseph Lefebvre for whom she so often posed and with whom she shared her body

But the cad Jules Joseph was also bedding Marie’s younger sister and before too long the two of them were married

Our dear Marie held her head up high
She threw her hands in the air and she threw a big party for all her friends

And as her guests drank Champagne and Cognac in her dining room
Marie slipped off into the kitchen to knowingly drink the concoction she had prepared earlier

This was only two years after she posed as Chloe.
And our dear Marie was only 21 when she took her own life.

She went into the kitchen out of her mind
And she drank from her poisonous brew
She went out of this world just to wind up in mine and stand
Naked for bastards like you
To stand naked for bastards like you

Of the countless who have stared few have known her name
She is Marie
She is and shall always be

Marie that prized possession so proudly presented naked forever on public display yet anonymous under glass and false identity

Marie the object of so many desires
Marie so vulnerable
Maybe “Chloe” could take it in her stride – ogled over and gawked at like a freak

The only totally nude person in a crowded room and she’s there day and night Constantly greeted by silent eyes that in the past failed to hide their dour judgement overt discomfort or downright contempt.

Maybe if it were Chloe
But hanging on that wall is a portrait of a real person
Not merely a thing of fiction
Not simply the product of imagination
Within that frame lies somebody’s daughter
Marie
We look at Chloe
We see Marie
Our dear Marie

She stands there in silence year after year
She’s worth fortunes that she never knew
She went out of this world just to wind up in mine
And stand Naked for bastards like you
She stands naked for bastards like you.
Stands naked for bastards like you

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”7. Victoria Market”]

My baby likes his shoes all the way from Rome
He likes his aftershave to come from Cologne
My baby likes his scarves to travel the silk road home
He likes his gold watches to come across several time zones

And it all comes from Victoria Market
All of it from Victoria Market
I get this shit from Victoria Market
And he don’t need to know no no no no

My baby likes his wine to wind its way across the waters
He likes silver for our sons diamonds for our daughters
I don’t do things by halves I do them by quarters
This bag of Spanish Donuts smuggled across Spanish Borders

And it all comes from Victoria Market
All of it from Victoria Market
I get this shit from Victoria Market
And he don’t need to know no no no no

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”8. Dennis”]

If I were to ever wait in the rain
I’d wait in the rain at Dennis
If I were to ever catch a train
I’d catch the train at Dennis
And If I were to ever cause you pain
I’d promise not to do it again
I’d make those promises promises
On the platform at Dennis

If I were to ever catch the bus
I’d catch the bus to Dennis
If I were to ever think of the two of us
I’d think about us at Dennis
And If I were to get down on my knee
Well you know where that would be
I’d make those promises promises
On the platform at Dennis

Aint it good good good to know?

And when the crossing bells ring loud and true
Well you know where they lead me to
I’d make those promises promises
On the platform at Dennis

Aint it good good good to know?

I’d make those promises promises
On the platform at Dennis

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”9. Beautiful William”]

Beautiful William
Of 1000 forms
I know what you feel like when you feel like you’ve been torn
Beautiful William of a 1000 forms

So far so few
Nights with you
And where you are

So black or white
Wrong or right
To get to where you are

Beautiful William
Of so many nights
I know what you feel like when you feel like a fight
Beautiful William so many nights

So soft and loud
So broken and so proud
Of where you are

So far so few
Nights with you
And where you are

Beautiful William
Leads a lively dance
But I know what it feels like when it feels like you’ve no chance
Beautiful William

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”10. Stephen Street”]

What’s in the past when it don’t remain?
What’s in a name that gets changed?

How does a street acquire
Such a seedy reputation?
And get seen as being way below its station?

Now this town holds a big secret
And it sure wants to try and keep it
Whatever happened to Stephen Street?

Let’s sweep out the brothels
And the opium dens
The ungodly looking
Women and men

It’s what we do now that we did back then
The stroke of a quill the stroke of a pen

Whatever happened to Stephen Street?
Spelt with a PH not a V
Kind of lost in history
But it always comes back to me

Whatever happened to Stephen Street?
I heard he went on to produce The Smiths
I heard he became Exhibition St
Wrapped it up all nice and neat

Whatever happened to Stephen Street?

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”11. Beneath the Maniacal King”]

Fuckin’ “Rollup rollup” they used to say
You buy the ticket you take the ride
Ah the giggle palace
The place of wonder
The house of pain
Subtly decorated with the skin and blood
Of a thousand weaklings
Because most of us paid a lot more before
We made it to those beautiful
Majestic and hallowed hardwood bumpy slides
Only to find like a lot of other shit later in life
They were just out to get ya

The adrenalin kicked in
The moment that whistle blew
And you knew you were a part of the stampede
Of puppies kitten and lambs

Most of us made it over the crunching steps
Up and down they went
Hungry for exposed fingers and toes
We always lost a few of the littlies on those

Nothing romantic about the swing bridge of chains
That kept biting and pinching again and again
Many a child was left behind lame
Giggle Palace oh that house of pain

Have you ever been smacked in the nose by a hose?
That jungle of rubber held a thousand of those
Me and the young ‘uns who’d somehow got through
Were soft easy targets for the slap happy few
Marksmen like archers marksmen like archers
The evil king’s soldiers with their wicked job to do

“Welcome to the Barrel Come on come on
Onto the Barrel onto the Barrel”
Where boy upon boy crushed bone upon bone
We were screaming for “Mummy I want to go home!”

Imagine yourself in a washing machine
On permanent spin cycle it seems
A blistering battering brutal regime
That keeps turning and turning and turning
And turning and turning and turning

Barely alive I managed to strive
To the ultimate goal the ultimate ride
For which many a young feeble child had died
Or at least that’s how most of us felt at the time

But some of us whom death did deny
Were able to say “I rode the slide”
And we remember the skin and the blood and the bone
And that feeling that we just wanted to go home

And the cries of our comrades left all alone
And the cries of our comrades
And the cries of our comrades

81’s blaze saw the palace burnt down
A smoldering heat a smoldering crown
An unexplained fire a complete mystery
An electrical fault hell don’t look at me

Suffice to say that king and I
Never did see eye to eye
Never did see eye to eye

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”12. The Theatre Royale”]

Gold gold gold gold

Oh the butter and the milk
Freshly squeezed from the cow
Are placed upon the table that looks dandy
She’s been told that the gold
In the valley down below
Is close and accessible that it’s handy

Oh the shepherd drops the sheep
The Drover drops the cow
The Merchant and the Lawyer drop their quill
The Captain and the Crew
Have no more sailing to do
For there are golden deposits in them thar hills

The Theatre Royale hurrah
The Theatre Royalee hurrah
Built by gold made of gold
Flung from far and near
We’ll all get drunk and arse about
And swing from the chandelier

Oh they’re out to break our backs
Here comes another tax
They’re sending all out gold back home to mother
We’re sober now and then
But gold brings out the worst in men
And it can make us turn on one another

The Theatre Royale hurrah
The Theatre Royale hurrah
Built by gold made of gold
Flung from far and near
We’ll all get drunk and arse about
And swing from the chandelier
And swing from the golden chandelier hurrah

 

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”13. Blue Lagoon”]

Where there once was a bountiful blue
Now there’s nothing for me and you
Now there sits a lonely place such a lonely place

Where there once were creatures great and small
Now we’ve got our backs against the wall
We could have had a lovely place such a lovely place

We could have had our own blue lagoon

Where there once was quintessence and everything you’d need
Taken over by cold stale greed
We could have had a lovely place such a lovely place

Baby steps wont shine a light
On the giant steps to make it right
See it all in black and white
We could have had it all tonight

Now there sits a lonely place such a lonely place

We could have had our own blue lagoon

[/toggle]

[toggle title=”14. This is how you say Goodbye”]

Don’t text don’t call
Don’t droop against the lane way wall
Don’t drink so much don’t smoke
Read Byron read Pope

Don’t run and hide
State your case to the Williamstown tide
Don’t get angry let it go
Go see a band see a show

Stand up don’t stare at your shoes
Let the sadness sail on through
This is how you say goodbye

Aurevoir Adios
What once was found is now lost
Write your letters
Sing your songs
Burn those letters
And sing along

Walk through the gardens
Walk through the day
Walk ‘til you drive the demons away
Buy a Basement record a Paperback book
Don’t you dare take a second look

Stand up don’t stare at your shoes
Let the weirdness walk on through
This is how you say goodbye

Stand up don’t stare at your shoes
Let the madness march on through
This is how you say goodbye

[/toggle]