Sunday, April 26, 2009

John Vincent is dead. He can't be.

My family told me the news, casually, when I was back in Adelaide two weeks ago.

I felt a jolt. Some of me vanished. "No!" I wanted to shout - an eternal source of love, fun and optimism had vanished.

My feelings were mirrored everywhere.

Here's fellow blogger Lee Hopkins:

"John Vincent is dead.

As I type this the tears are rolling down my face. I hurt, I hurt so bad. I want to cry, to shout, to punch, to kick, to belittle my stepchildren, to pick a fight with my wife, to scream at the top of my lungs, to howl from the rooftops in psychic pain.

The man who was an integral part of my youth, who helped me define who I was and who I wanted to be, is dead. The man who would live forever in my mind is dead."

Probably neither of us have met John Vincent, though I went to see him at a fanstastic free scratch concert he put on by the beach at Glenelg when the scheduled band couldn't turn up, though he made me laugh and I felt I knew him, though I played his "Monday's collection day" song on The World Today to illustrate a story about garbage, and tried to look up his phone number in Adelaide to tell it was on (and indirectly that I loved him), though I happened to be listening to him at 9.05 on the morning my mother died as I drove into the hospice for our last hour together, and that his optimism and love of life and the sun on that day made me know the world had a good heart.

"Radio announcer" may have been his job description, but what he put out was some of himself, with the message: take this, I am yours. It was usually "hello listener" - he was in communion with you.

This MP3 is a tiny fragment that has survived recorded. I would love to know of others.

Everyone felt they knew him, but no-one felt the need to intrude. What we got was what there was, over and over and over again.

'To be honest, he was just a big kid who didn't take life so seriously and told us never to grow up," recalled his daughter Heidi Vincent in her eulogy. '

'Comedian and former SAFM colleague
Adam Hills visited Vincent in hospital when he was here to perform at the Adelaide Fringe last weekend and had his audience yell a greeting to Vincent's comic pseudonym, "Ken Oath".

"I was telling him that he was the person who taught me that you can be funny and be positive at the same time," Hills said.'

John Vincent taught me a lot about radio, and doubtless inspired me to get into it. I could make a lot of people happy in a way that would never be measured or even more broadly acknowledged. My good works would be hidden in plain view, just as his were.

And he wrote brilliant songs...

The Garbo song - "Monday's collection day" is one of my favourites. Couldn't find it on the web, but the lyrics are etched in my brain:

"Keep Australia beautiful
Up goes the cry
If we're not more neat and tidy
we'll have garbage eight feet high
It'll stretch all the way from Perth
across to Syd-en-eye
So when you dispose of rubbish
don't pass your garbos by"

"Cos Monday's collection day,
crash go the bins,
all the city's garbos
cart away our sins..."

And Take Me Back To Innamincka, The Ten Days of Christmas, How ya going Santa Claus, Rosie, The Watermelon song.

Sort of cultural.

Culture lovers have put up O.S. and Junk Mail on youtube. Thanks. I love the interviews at the beginning of each:

And here's his big hit - Tuneless flaming Jungle Music:

As clever and fun-filled as the songs were, it was his humanity that mattered.

He never let us down, unlike his contempories with humanity Leon Byner and Bob Frances.

I can't believe he isn't still here. I am reminded of the remark about Peter Allen - "Why did he have to die? It was so unlike him."

Adam Hills of Spicks and Specks fame will host a rock and roll radio quiz night in his honour at the Arkaba on Tuesday May 19.

Here's a video of his final performance:

To know him was to love him. We all knew him.


JonH said...

You obviously don't have too many mid-40 Adelaide readers (what demographic do you appeal to?), judging by the number of comments.
I also grew up in the 70s/80s in Adelaide, and have fond memories of John Vincent. To me, he'll always be the radio announcer that the others are pale imitations of.

Thank you for the memories (even some I wanted to keep suppressed!)


Lee Hopkins said...

Ah Peter,

What classic moments they were, what memories they are. Thanks for finding those YouTube vids and that rare (some would argue *priceless*) fragment of JV from his 5KA days - it must have been an audition tape somehow salvaged from the detritus of our past by some kind and perspicacious soul.

Thanks, too, for finding and quoting me [smile]. Now, if you can only let Matt and Dave at the ABC know I exist... I keep trying to contact Helen their producer but can never get her. Oh well...

Cheers and fun in Canberra as the temperature starts to drop. I spent a winter in Canberra once.



greg champion said...

I am planning to re-release Take Me Back to Innamincka on a new CD. John gave me his blessing to re-do it in 1992. Below, is the text for the CD notes:

Take me back to Innamincka was written by legendary radio announcer and iconic, loved Aussie, John Vincent, in the Seventies. John’s original version is very different to the one here. He allowed me to change it all around, while keeping the basic chorus.
Like many, I grew up listening to John on pop music stations 5KA and 5AD in Adelaide. In my young band days I became aware of his songwriting alter ego, Ken Oath & his Ockestra. John/Ken had cult hits in Adelaide with ocker-style classics Havin’ A Barbie, Owyergoin-Orright, Bash Bash Thump Thump Tuneless Flamin’ Jungle Music, & Wendy The Trendy. His vinyl records still surface, and sit on my shelves today.
Sometime around 1990, when our Coodabeen Champions radio show was up and running nationally on ABC, John must have written to us in Melbourne and told us how hugely he enjoyed the programme. He continued to share his enthusiasm for years, and we declared him our Number One Ticketholder. He also continued his radio career in Adelaide, becoming a veteran of nearly fifty years as an announcer.
In 1992 I told Vinnie I would love to do a Western Swing version of his Take me Back to Innamincka. He gave me his blessing. Later, he indicated he wouldn’t exactly have fancied it my way, but he did not protest at all. I wrote new verses, lyrics and tune. We recorded it in 1992, on Live in Studio 320, with the Coodabeens. Now, we’ve finally given it the studio treatment – and by doing so, we hope to remind the world what a brilliant, ahead-of-his-time, larrikin Aussie songwriter John Vincent was.
John struggled with his health during his last ten years or more, and it was with great sadness that Adelaide mourned the loss of John Vincent in 2009. He has an underground, but fiercely fanatical following.

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