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Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Chinese Takeaway

by Lang Reid

Chinese Takeaway (ISBN 981-04-5495-3) is the second novel from Peter Dorney, an English writer who has lived in Australia and is now resident in Singapore (first novel “Chip Butties”). The front cover promises a “fun-filled tale of humour and wit”.

Chinese Takeaway describes the exploits of a group of young Australian teachers in Singapore. The opening chapter has about every Australianism that has ever been coined, from ‘pointing Percy at the porcelain’ to ‘I’ll tickle me tits till Friday’ other than ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’, but that comes in chapter 2, and everyone is referred to as ‘yewz’. Having met more than a few young Australians, the characterizations did seem a little strained and stereotypical, and the use of ‘Strine’ somewhat out of character for today’s young educated Aussies. But I persevered.

The book deals with the lives of the young teachers from down-under who go to Singapore on a year’s contract. The main character, Simon Skeer, falls in love with a Singaporean girl, who attempts to teach him all the things he should have learned in Australia, if not at mother’s knee, at least by the time he reached grade 5.

To expect the reader to swallow that the principal character, an educated teacher of English, albeit from Australia, does not know what sweet and sour pork means in a Chinese restaurant is really too much. To write that he asks his dinner date which pork piece is sweet and which piece is sour, is not gut-busting humour. I was left with the feeling that author Dorney was not describing today’s Australians, but rather those of the 1950’s, who were insular and gauche when dumped in the world outside of Australia. However, that is not representative of young people today.

However exaggerated the persona, the art teacher Chauncy was for me the only one to come across as a true character, and I have indeed met more than a couple of these flamboyant artistic extroverts. But I still came back to the ‘over the top’ young teachers, feeling that the book and its humour was too contrived. To produce characters like Sonny and Gail who say that they sound like a weather forecast, is not spontaneous wit but instead is manifestly manufactured. Likewise, to give the headmistress the name of Matilda, who says that she doesn’t waltz, or the assistant head the name of Dorothy Comardy, or Dot Com for short, diplomats called Horace, Boris and Morris (Minor) no, no, no! All that was missing were the three brothers Martin, Barton and Fargo. All too laboured for me.

I have to say that I could not get to grips with this book. I did not find it “irreverent, irresistible and incredibly funny” as described on the back cover, but rather, contrived, self-serving and boring. However, I should also admit that I did not make it through to the end. Not my sort of humour, though it may be yours. Flick through it first before purchasing.

The review copy was provided by Bookazine and had an RRP of B. 399, but should be available in all good bookstores.

Music CD Reviews: Ian Hunter’s Dirty Laundry

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

What an album! The perfect party album, every track takes off like a locomotive with the brakes off and the wheels rolling freely as it takes you on an express ride around the frantic world of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the minds of the people that create this medium.

This album started out as a fun venture in Abbey Road Studios when Norwegian keyboard player and long time friend of Ian Hunter’s (ex Mott the Hoople) Casino Steel was going in to record a few numbers with some of his friends going under the name of Gringo Starr’s All Stars (cheeky little name if ever I have heard one), knowing that Ian Hunter was at a loose end after just tragically losing his off sider, main collaborator, and all round good guy Mick Ronson to the dreaded cancer the previous year (1993), after completing the Mick Ronson memorial Concerts at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. (The building that used to be the Hammersmith Odeon may be called many different things due to commercial reasons over the last few years, but it will always be the Hammersmith Odeon to me, and one of the finest venues ever to go and see your favorite band.) All the artists on this album in some way or another took part in this concert.

Of course in true Rock ‘n’ Roll style when all the musicians were called together at Abbey Road, a very embarrassed Casino Steel had to admit he did not actually have any songs to record, but with a band like this put together and fourteen days booked in the studio, something had to be done. The band in the studio was Casino Steel, well respected solo artist from his Norwegian homeland; Ian Hunter (ex Mott the Hoople); Honest Plain John of the Boys and the Crybabies; Darrell Bath of U.K Subs; Dog’s D’Amour, and The Godfathers; Vom of Doctor and The Medics, surely one of the most underrated drummers of his era.

The infamous Blue Weaver took turns on keyboards with Casino Steel, and holding down the bass guitar responsibilities was a certain Glen Matlock of Sex Pistols and Rich Kids fame.

In fourteen days eighteen songs were completed, twelve of which appeared on this fine collection, three of which are Hunter songs, four of which are Hunter collaborations, and the other five are shared by the rest of the band. Subsequently the record company asked for a name change and Gringo Starr’s All-Star’s was dropped for the more original and more amusing “Ian Hunter’s Dirty Laundry”.

What you get is a hybrid of Rock ‘n’ Roll songs that sound as if they were written in the sixties and recorded in the nineties by a band that had been together for three decades not three days.

First song is ‘Dancing on the Moon’ and its title reflects how the band felt being in this position, total freedom. So let’s just go out and enjoy ourselves, written in the studio (which is often the best way to keeping it spontaneous), done in the studio in one take and the band didn’t know what they were doing at all. Vom just sort of keeps time, because he didn’t know where to roll as Hunter kept on changing the song as it was going along. It isn’t a song as such, just something that happened in the studio whilst fortunately the tapes were rolling. What you are left with is a great slab of party time Rock ‘n’ Roll that is as fresh as a daisy.

After this we get another rocker in the amusing ‘Another Fine Mess’, with lyrics from Hunter about the old touring days of the Hunter/Ronson band.

“Well you say I’m kicking up too much of a fuss.

But twenty-four hours on the bus.

The band’s all moaning, the driver’s slow.

There’s not enough people, too many shows.

Down in the dumps, with the birthday blues.

Another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Then, showing that life is not all laughs and frivolity, we get the somber ‘Scars’, showing that in all personnel relationships we have to get through the troughs as well as the peaks. Hunter’s singing of his own lyrics has never been more poignant.

Of course as soon as this little ode finishes, boys will always immediately revert to being boys and we get the first non-Hunter song in the fabulous romp through Darrell Bath’s ‘Never Trust a Blonde’ with delightful sexy lyrics (not sexist, could be a bloke dying his barnet), a booming drum beat, raucous backing vocals, tinkling piano, screaming guitar solos, and a knowing wink to life on the wild side.

To show this really was meant as a band effort, we then get a jaunt through Honest Plain John’s ‘Psycho Girl’ with it’s jangly guitar refrain and hypnotic chorus.

The centrepiece of the album is a rolling take on what could be the follow up to Mott the Hoople’s final single ‘Saturday Gigs’, which was a look back at the six years of the life of a band, their achievements and failures. ‘My Revolution’ looks back at the proceeding twenty years, how things have not really changed that much apart from the slow aging process we all go through, and how we all think we have become smarter. But that I leave for you to decide.

‘My Revolution’ does have the knowing lyrics “No one told our wrinkles what to wear”. The song is brought to a rousing conclusion very much in “All you need is Love” Beatles style with Ian Hunter adlibbing lyrics over the top of the fading chorus. ‘Good Girls’, another Honest Plain John song, could be “The Kinks” from their sixties heyday.

‘Red Letter Day’ is a great Hunter song that he had held onto for years without ever getting a decent occasion to get it down on tape. Well, this seemed the perfect time and was a beautiful ballad about returning home to your loved ones after time spent apart whilst going through rough times, and the determination to try and make up for lost time. It also includes a stunning emotional guitar solo from Darrell Bath.

The band then romp through three road songs that most people would die for to have in their repertoire, each single one would get people leaping about on the dance floor at a college hop.

Hidden away as last song on this collection is one of Ian Hunter’s most honest soul bearing laments, ‘The Other Man’, a song about taking your partner back after an affair with your best friend and how someone may take the partner back and never forget, but possibly forgive. But not the Other Man, who should have known better than to mess with your lady. ‘The Other Man’ has to be one of the best songs that Ian Hunter ever recorded. It is a shame that it did not get much exposure on its release, as it sure would of tugged on a few heartstrings and perhaps twanged a few guilt strings in other directions.

“Ian Hunter’s Dirty Laundry” suffered from very little fanfare when it came out (although great critical acclaim including one British journalist, who wrote “In a perfect world we would hear more from pros like Hunter and less from too many younger lesser talents with too little to say”), and was very badly distributed by record company NorskPlatproduksjon. They probably never had such a high quality product on their roster before, and only let the rights go begrudgingly to different countries over the next two years. It has only been available on general release for the last couple of years. But if you are a lover of good, old fashion, honest, basic Rock ‘n’ Roll, “Ian Hunter’s Dirty Laundry” is something you should pick up and take home.


Ian Hunter - Vocals, Guitar, Casino Steel - Keyboards, Honest Plain John - Guitars, Vocals, Darrell Bath - Guitars, Vocals, Glen Matlock - Bass, Vom - Drums, Blue Weaver - Keyboards


Dancing on the Moon, Another Fine Mess, Scars, Never, Trust A Blonde, Psycho Girl, My Revolution, Good Girls, Red Letter Day, Invisible Strings, Everybody’s A fool, Junkee Love, The Other Man

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]