Friday, June 01, 2007

Now That’s a Hit: Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner

Baseball has spread its reach around the globe the past three decades, but who knew that it could hook one of Australia’s most legendary bands? I jumped at the opportunity to interview Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner for my day job when the band returned to the U.S. for the first time in 14 years. The Gurus were one of my favorite discoveries working on college radio. Their mix of witty lyrics with garage-rock inspired pop hooked me from the first time I ever heard the opening lick of 1987’s “What’s My Scene.” During our time catching up on the band’s activities, Faulkner was talking about the band doing the theme for the Australian rugby league (“What’s My Scene” became “That’s My Team”) and getting the chance to watch games from a luxury box. That in turn led to this discussion of his love for America’s pastime. (Interview by Steve Reynolds)

Dave: Now are you a Mets or a Yankees fan?

Steve: I’m a Mets fan.

Dave: I’m a Mets fan. Have you ever been to the Diamond Club suite?

Steve: I have been through there, yes.

Dave: I saw a game from the Diamond Club suite, so [seeing the rugby championship game was] kind of like that.

Steve: Well, I have a friend who works for the Mets radio station...

Dave: All right!

Steve: I’ve actually gone into their corporate suite and also where the TV and radio boxes are...

Dave: Not Ralph Kiner? You know Ralph Kiner?

Steve: No, no. But he’s walked by me a couple of times.

(Then I hand him my cell phone to show him the picture of the Bob Murphy radio booth plaque that is the wallpaper on my phone.)

Steve: So when you go to the radio booth you see this plaque. Bob Murphy was the long time Mets broadcaster...

Dave: Oh, okay…

Steve: ...and he did strictly radio for the last 25 years or so, and they put that up right next to the radio booth.

Dave: Ah. I haven’t heard of Bob Murphy. When did he work?

Steve: He was one of the original Mets broadcasters.

Dave: Oh, from 1962 then.

Steve: Yup. Him and Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson. Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy stayed the entire time. Bob Murphy retired in 2003.

Dave: Oh, I should have known that then.

Steve: And they had a whole big night for him when he was retiring

Dave: So Ralph did the TV and Bob did the radio?

Steve: Yup.

Dave: Well, I think I just proved my actual fandom of the Mets there, knowing that [about Ralph]. And you know there’s a song on one of our albums that is all about the Mets.

Steve: What one is that?

Dave: It’s called “Where’s that Hit,” on the Magnum Cum Louder album. It’s all about baseball. Well if you think about it, it says—the lyrics specify “bottom of the ninth, here you are at Shea” so it’s gotta be the Mets batting. (Laughs)

Here’s the lyrics to “Where’s That Hit?” from Hoodoo Gurus 1989 album Magnum Cum Louder:

"Bases are loaded,
Two out and you're at the plate.
Time to start swinging
"Don't think too hard, son, you'll be great."
You know about pressure.
Two down and you're on the brink.
The stadium's shouting
So loud you can't hear yourself think.
(Strike One!) Let's play ball!
(Strike Two!) One bad call.
Just up from the minors
A kid with potential, they said.
You've dreamed of this moment,
One game you'll never forget.
(Ball!) Ball one: now you spit
(Ball!) Ball two: Where's that hit?
Bottom of the ninth, it depends on you.
You can save the game , you can lose it too.
You could make your name when you get that hit.
Winners never quit waiting for that hit
Remember in high school
The way you could knock ’em all dead?
Now you're in the big league,
A man with a price on his head.
The pitcher is winding
You pop behind third: it falls safe.
You're getting your timing.
Another like that, you're on base.
(Ball!) Ball three, this is it!
(Foul ball!) Foul back: where's that hit?
Here you are at Shea, your hearts in your throat
Will you make the grade? Will you miss the boat?
Hero of the day, hero, or the goat?
Winners never quit waiting for that hit.
Where's that hit?"

Steve: So when you wrote that, had you been to a bunch of Mets games?

Dave: Oh god yeah, I’ve been to millions of them. Cause apart from all the touring—we’d catch Mets games on the road, not just in New York City. I went to Busch Stadium, and in San Diego against the Padres. Also I’ve been here for visits many times as a tourist because I’ve made friends here over the years. My first time in New York City was actually 1979, before the Gurus formed. And I lived here for eight months. Not really living, I just came on a holiday, but I ended up staying eight months. I met people and they said, you can stay on our couch and I somehow turned that into eight months and saw lots of rock and roll and that kind of inspired me to form the Hoodoo Gurus. Particularly seeing The Cramps and The Fleshtones. Those two bands particularly set something off in my brain that years later sort of hatched as the Hoodoo Gurus.

Steve: So you must obviously feel a special connection to the city then?

Dave: Oh absolutely! I’ve been all over it. I spent a lot of time on the Upper West Side, that’s where I was staying mainly. Oh, and on the Upper East Side too, on 91st street was where I first stayed. And then I had friends who lived on 10th avenue and 57th street, so I spent a lot of time up there as well, just between tours or the very beginning or end of a tours I’d spend a couple of weeks and it was great.

Steve: Too bad South By Southwest wasn’t in April, so you could have worked a Mets game into your schedule.

Dave: Exactly! You don’t think I didn’t look at that? I was thinking like, “Ahh, what’s going on?” And when we come back again—we’re talking about coming back again hopefully in October, and the World Series will be on and hopefully the Mets will be in it, but I think it’ll be too late for me to get a ticket or to go to the games.

Steve: Yeah, if the Mets are in the World Series, tickets will be very tight.

Dave: Ha ha, yeah!

Steve: I went to Game 7 of the NLCS last year, and that was the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for, for a ball game. Alas, it was that heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals.

Dave: Now here’s a funny one. One of our songs, I think it might have been “Where’s That Hit,” they used it in Boston one year for their end of season highlights thing to show on the scoreboard, which I thought was very ironic. (Laughs)

Steve: And like me, they probably missed that Shea reference and had no idea! (Laughs) And I had that album on vinyl, cassette and CD!

Dave: The song’s kind of like “Casey at the Bat.” It’s constructed deliberately to lead you to a conclusion about what’s going on to the pitcher in the game. It’s meant to be fairly specific.

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