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The High Priest of Magik
© 2001 Duncan Fry
Did you watch that history of Australian
Rock show on the ABC recently called It's a Long Way to
the Top? (subtitled 'It's a very, very long way to the
top if you don't live in Sydney')
The week after the third
show in the series, the one covering the late 60's, I
started to get a whole lot of emails and phone calls from
people wanting to know more about a part of my life that I
had almost totally forgotten.
So now my secret's out. Yes, I was the first guitarist in Geoff Crozier and the Magic Word.
In 1967 or thereabouts I had answered an ad in Go Set magazine along the lines of "musicians wanted for sensational new act". The previous band I was in ('The Rave' - cool, huh?) had imploded, and I was looking around for something to do. So I went along to the audition, not really expecting much.
The auditions were held in a rambling guesthouse in Hawthorn run by his parents on a huge block leading down to the river. Geoff lived in a large subterranean closet underneath the house that was jammed to the roof with magic tricks and props. There was barely enough room for three people to stand, let alone setup drums and guitar amps. Various musicians turned up all through the afternoon; some took one look and left immediately, some played a few notes and then left, some just stood and stared as Geoff whirled around doing magic tricks.
What he wanted was free-form continuous
music for the 30 minutes or so that he performed, while
clouds of oily smoke, flashpots, and strobe lights
alternately choked and dazzled the audience.
"But what songs are we going to play?"
they would whine.
By a process of attrition the band was
whittled down to me, a bass player called Cal, and a drummer
called Tom. We just banged around on various chords for a
while in a no holds barred continuous solo reminiscent of
the final chaos of My Generation. Tuneful it wasn't but I
think it had just the right amount of anarchy for Geoff, and
by having no fixed form it could be stretched out or
shortened as required.
Pity the act that came on after us!
Geoff's daytime job was as a set painter at Channel 9, so with his connections there we did quite a few TV performances (see photos). At first they were live, but the production people had a hard time coping with the lack of a fixed, rehearsable format, so later TV appearances were mimed to a couple of tracks we put down in their recording studio.
Many people I'm sure thought Geoff was as mad as a cut snake, and it's true, he did occasionally appear to have a tenuous grip on reality, but he was a hell of a nice guy to work for. I never once saw him crack the shits with anybody, apart from the occasional promoter who richly deserved it, and he never had a bad word to say about anybody.
He was also a shit hot magician, and very
well respected by his peers in the magic biz.
Like all good things it eventually came
to an end. They say you can't stand too close to genius
without getting burned, and I was certainly feeling its
heat. Playing in the band seemed to be costing me much more
money than I was earning from it (some things in the music
biz never change, do they) and the amount of stage equipment
and sets we were carting around was getting out of hand.
So one day I told him I was leaving to just to get my brain back in some kind of order. He shook my hand, we parted on amicable terms, and I never saw him again.
I'd follow his career from time to time, and see his name on posters with the Indian Medicine Magik Show, and then the business of getting on with my life took over.
When I read of his death in 1981 I felt just as sad as I did when Jimi Hendrix died. A great talent had suddenly passed.
But hey, although I don't think in his wildest dreams Geoff would have expected to be compared to Hendrix, at least people are still talking about him and his influence on the face of Australian live music.
Can't really ask for more than that, can you?
Here are MP3s of a couple of TV
backing tracks you can download and listen to.
Quality is OK - they're taken from the original
acetates and are actually in stereo!. The vocals
are exactly as Geoff wanted them. He couldn't sing,
so he spoke them down the end of a long tube held
up against the microphone. The distortion on them
was quite intentional! Right
Click on the link
and use the
As/Save Target As option
Users drag the link onto the
desktop) All Music
2001 Duncan R. Fry
Here are MP3s of a couple of TV backing tracks you can download and listen to. Quality is OK - they're taken from the original acetates and are actually in stereo!. The vocals are exactly as Geoff wanted them. He couldn't sing, so he spoke them down the end of a long tube held up against the microphone. The distortion on them was quite intentional!
Right Click on the link and use the Save As/Save Target As option to download them (Mac Users drag the link onto the desktop)
All Music © 1968, 2001 Duncan R. Fry
This story first appeared in Connections, (now CX) magazine