for the love of You
I REMEMBER pretty clearly the first time I saw You Am I.
It was at Fremantle Metropolis in 1992, I think, and they
were supporting the almighty Beasts of Bourbon.
Three blokes with hair down to the seats
of the jeans ambled on stage and started kicking out fuzzed-out
rock tunes, augmented with moves straight out of The Who
encyclopaedia of stage moves.
I clearly remember thinking: "Is this Tumbleweed?"
More than a decade later and there's no
mistaking You Am I, nor their rock'n'roll legacy; six studio
albums (three of which debuted on top of the Australian
album charts), ripsnorting tour after ripsnorting tour and
nearly enough ARIA awards to open a bowling alley using
the trophies as pins.
The Cream & the Crock, a two-disc
Best Of released next Monday, attests to the almost-legendary
status of You Am I - almost-legendary because it ain't over
yet, according to affable frontman Tim Rogers.
Despite the fact that Rogers lives in
Madrid with his wife Rocio and young daughter Ruby, and
the "end of an era" signified by a Best Of, he
insists that You Am I are a busy little band.
They've just played the length and breadth
of the UK, touring on a superb all-Australian bill with
The Vines and Rocket Science.
"That last English tour," Rogers
says from Sydney, "was probably the best one we've
ever done. It was great fun.
"I loved meeting people on this tour.
The young kids going to shows - especially The Vines shows
- were really passionate about their music, very obsessive,
which I enjoyed."
You Am I - Rogers, bassist Andy Kent,
drummer Rusty Hopkinson and guitarist Davey Lane - have
watched with fascination from the sidelines as the British
media and punters fell all over The Vines. They've also
witnessed the recent infatuation with their good mates,
Perth's The Sleepy Jackson.
Meanwhile, the Sydneysiders - among this
country's finest guitar bands ever - couldn't get arrested.
"We got told, 'We would write about
your band if you weren't making your seventh record',"
Rogers explains. "I appreciate that we got told that
to our faces.
"That's just the way it goes. We're
building up something really good in England at the moment,
on a small scale. We're doing it by people coming and seeing
our shows, then coming back and bringing their friends."
Rogers is deeply cynical about the whole
"rock is back" hype, championed by Rolling Stone
and UK magazines NME and Q. What's next, "jazz is back"
or "polka is back"?
"It's ridiculous," he snaps.
"I guess in popular culture there's a bit of a resurgence
but there's always been great rock bands and there always
But he does concede that a front cover
or strong review in those publications can "save you
a couple of years ploughing around".
"We like the ploughing around,"
he continues, "and doing the actual work. It's not
a means to an end, as far as we're concerned, it's an end
in itself. We really enjoy doing that night after night
. . . with the occasional night off."
While the British slowly catch on to You
Am I, helped by the May release of taster compilation No,
After You Sir . . . An Introduction to You Am I, there are
also moves afoot in the US. Smallish label spinART is poised
to release last year's Deliverance album and the band toured
there not so long ago with another buzz band, The Strokes.
Rogers, again, has nothing but good things
to say about that US tour.
"I'm enjoying touring more than I
ever have, which is ironic because it means I'm away from
my family. But I guess because I'm away from them I want
to put more attention into playing.
"Each night we're out, we feel like
we have something to prove and want to put on the best show
we can. It's fun, dude," he says. "It's totally
fun and emotional and dangerous - all beautiful."
This is not the talk of a seasoned campaigner
but more a hungry youngster. Rogers is writing songs for
the next You Am I album, and even penned two new ones for
The Cream & the Crock - Mr Kermode and the Million Matches,
and What They do at Night.
He says the latter song came from "watching
a rockabilly band at a pub in Melbourne and wondering whether
these guys worked in offices the next day or cleaned your
Both tracks were recorded in a North London
studio during the recent UK tour, and Rogers loved recording
it with his bandmates and "eccentric" producer
Mike Pelanconi. They appear on the ill-named Crock disc,
which features personal favourites Cool Hand Luke (off 1993's
Coprolalia EP), Sound as Ever, Applecross Wing Commander
and Minor Byrd.
Rogers agrees that there's plenty of cream
on the Crock disc: "I'm glad it's a two-disc thing
so it's not just the singles, because I don't think the
singles tell the whole story."
However, he is not a fan of You Am I's
early work. He describes the Coprolalia EP as horribly dated,
and is also somewhat dismissive of their excellent debut
album Sound as Ever. "I wrote and played that record
when I was 22," Rogers explains. "I'm not the
same person I was then. It's odd listening back to it and
what my obsessions were."
The forthright frontman is even guarded
about Hi Fi Way, their first No. 1 album and the release
that earned them a legion of fans in 1995.
"People who are really into the band
love that record," Rogers begins. "I feel very
affectionately about that record, it was a really exciting
time for the band . . ."
But? "I think, just personally, that
the lyrics weren't that good," he continues. "There's
a lot of songs where the lyrics just didn't mean anything.
Like Cathy's Clown. What it's about is the performance of
the band, it highlights that and the words were just something
to blah blah blah along and add a bit of melody to it.
"I just didn't have the ability to
put my thoughts into words as much as I do now. I think
I'm better at it now. I prefer anything that we do now a
million times more."
Nonetheless, Rogers is still glad that
You Am I have issued the Best Of, mainly because of the
opportunity to come back to Australia and tour with his
"Any excuse to get together with
those guys and have a drink is a good thing," he chuckles.