The Australian pop icon joins Grey Matters as a regular contributor. In this, his first article, he reveals how a live show that went downhill fast ended up as a true revelation about getting older.


Beingasked to contribute to a website dedicated to giving seniors a voice was a request I found hard to deny.

However, it did make me stop and ask myself, “This is just like when I was asked to play a series of Morning Melodies concerts at centres from Cairns to Brisbane – is this the beginning of the end of my career?”

After all, Morning Melodies were for the likes of Barry Crocker, Kamahl and Julie Anthony. Their audiences were a generation older than mine, surely I’ve got years to wait for that, don’t I?

Well the deal for Morning Melodies was pretty good so I agreed. And I trotted out a setlist of songs that my Mum would’ve loved: Red, Red Robin; Bye, Bye Blackbird; Only a Shanty in Old Shanty Town; and as they say in those TV ads, “many more”.

I rehearsed the setlist with my friend and pianist Cos Russo, and we headed to far north Queensland.

We opened the tour at the Cairns Arts Centre to a full house and we ripped into our set thinking “they’re going to just love this”.

About 10 minutes in I had an uneasy feeling. And there is no more irksome feeling as a performer: I was dying on stage.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

So, knowing the audience just wasn’t digging my show and being as honest as I’ve always felt I had been with my audiences, I stopped and asked, “Is there something you’d rather me sing for you?”

The answer was a blaring wake-up call.

Que Sera, Sera; Shaking All Over; It Ain’t Necessarily So and so on it went – all the songs that had been hits for me in the ’60s.

Suddenly I realised they just wanted to feel what it was like to be young again, to hear those songs. I’d realised that the people I’d grown up with had also grown up.

And, most beautifully and importantly, we’d all grown up together.

I was no longer a young kid but I was a member of that part of society I’d always respected as the most experienced. The people whose opinions should be heeded. Seniors.


I was no longer a young kid but I was a member of that part of society I’d always respected as the most experienced. The people whose opinions should be heeded. Seniors.

That revelation has inspired all my thinking since.

We have lived through some of the most monumental changes in history. We can remember when Australia had fewer than 10 million people. We can remember life before photo IDs and when drivers’ licences were on a piece of paper.

We can remember when there was no TV. We remember when Don Lane in Sydney and Graham Kennedy in Melbourne spoke to each other on a newly laid cable that was to carry communications between the two most populous cities in this great land.

There was no political correctness, government interference in our lives was minimal, and the rule of thumb was common sense.

We remember when politicians represented their constituents and not the mores of their own parties.

Grey Matters CartoonAnd best of all we remember great music. And yes, there was mostly great music. I’ve tried to stay across the music of each era, but it beats me how the words rap and music can be used in the same sentence.

My evidence is here, rapper Kanye West attempts Queen’s masterpiece Bohemian Rhapsody. This is hilarious.

We were and still are the most powerful demographic in history: “The Post-War Baby Boomers”.

And these days I just love my wisdom-empowered life. I hope you are loving yours, too.