Tag: Beth Orton

30 for 30: Birthdays

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.


Happy birthday

I was born on October 11th, 1980.

I have a pretty good memory, a collector’s bent, many on-and-off diaries and a list of all the shows I ever attended til around 2003 – which is how this little column can even exist.

Yet I have no recollection of birthdays until I was 18. It was just never celebrated. I never had a party – we just weren’t that kind of family. It was never a big deal.

I remember other kids birthdays. In particular I remember Josh’s bar mitzvah at Randwick Racecourse where in an inspired moment for one so young, he showed Star Wars on all the betting screens.

I don’t even remember being punched at school for it, or anything. And to this day, I don’t treat my birthday like a big deal.

October 11 is a day when very little happened/happens. Compared to friends of mine who share birthdays with Woody Allen, Alex Chilton or Bob Dylan, I have Luke Perry. And Marcus Graham from E Street.

The number one song when I was born in the US was The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close To Me. The Police are one of those bands I just think I will never get into. If it hasn’t happened by now. It’s not going to.

In the UK, it was Another One Bites the Dust by Queen. I love Queen, but this song is pretty average. When compared to the pop delights of You’re My Best Friend or Don’t Stop Me Now, it seems very second rate.

In Australia it was Upside Down by Diana Ross. Ok. I give this song a pass. It’s a pretty good pop song. And an important song for many people. It was disco though.

In the end, 1980 was a pretty shit year for music.

(The Goldie Hawn vehicle Private Benjamin was the US number one movie when I was born)

The first birthday I can remember doing something specific and interesting was my 18th. It was the end of high school and everyone was studying (I perhaps should have been). So with no one around, my brother’s girlfriend took me to see The Truman Show at Auburn cinemas.

Life became music after that – and that’s what I think of. I would see bands on my birthday. I spent my 19th birthday onstage with my favourite band – You Am I – and support band Shihad, in a small NSW town called Tumbi Umbi. I was serenaded on stage for a little bit, got embarrassed, walked off, tripping over Davey’s guitar lead, unplugging him. Great night.

I’m not sure how the Thai restaurant Doytao came into my life. Maybe cos it was close to my first flat out of home and it was recommended. I had a birthday dinner there with my parents the first year I moved out of home, and that tradition continued. Ross told me recently that the place has changed – I hope not.

Mainly though, I took my birthday off work and would just wander into Sydney city and do whatever the hell I wanted. Spend hours in record shops, talking to friends who work in the city, walking by the harbour. Not drinking meant not having a party was expected. Some simple drinks sometimes. It was never a big deal.

My best birthday was 24, because that was the day the very first album by my band – Last Impressions by The Reservations – was released. Nick, the guy who owned our label, did this. Even though we moved it back a week, it is still an amazing gesture. So it took me 24 years exactly to make that first album.

Even without people knowing it’s my birthday, people were calling all day about seeing our album in this shop or that shop. MySpace and digital was still quite new in Australia (our album only just got on iTunes) so you had to get it from a shop. Anyway – it was old school and it meant more. Before digital tore up the rule book, I’m so happy to have made an album that was released the old way.

And that was my 24th birthday. When I look back at all the amazing things that happened to me on my birthdays, I’m not sure how this one could be beat.

Second favourite was my 26th, where an amazing woman cooked me a steak.

In the last few years I’ve had some big birthdays. Maybe cos it always feels a little like a holiday here. A big night at the Westborne. A big night at North Nineteen. I even spent one at Berlin, after Popkomm. Thomas and various friends helped me to live it up. I’m also not very used to getting presents – that’s something new.

This year will be quiet, once again. I am so disorganised. And the next few weeks will be a lot of farewells. As interesting as they are, they are just a day. And it’s more important to get these farewells right.

I was pretty obsessed with Beth Orton’s Central Reservation album, from 1999. I still am.

Since it’s come out, there’s a song – the title track – that I listen to every birthday. It’s my only real birthday indulgence. It’s like a little prayer. If you have the album with various mixes, it’s the “Then Again Version”. Those bubbly William Orbit keyboards kill me. But it’s got that escapist spirit of Thunder Road. It fills me heart with life. But the line, the chorus, is why it’s great.

Today is whatever I want it to be.

(A different remix but still pretty great)

Top 10 of 2006: 9. Beth Orton – The Comfort of Strangers

9. Beth Orton – The Comfort Of Strangers

I figured this album would be a loyalty purchase. I loved Beth’s 1999 album, Central Reservation, with all my heart, but only liked about 2 tracks from her follow-up, Daybreaker. I didn’t really cared to see her live anymore and barely put her records on anymore.

I’d like to say that Comfort Of Strangers blew me away, but it’s not that kind of record. Where Beth’s best work was tinged with dance rhythms and electronica, here she’s just a girl with an acoustic guitar for most part. It’s her singer-songwriter record. Acoustic guitar picked, hushed confessional lyrics, soft muted production – it’s a mellow affair.

It’s what’s so lovable about this record – it’s a sweet, intimate thing. I spent a lot of time listening to this record late at night, just softly you know? With a book or something. A cigarette. The night sky. And Beth’s voice, always great, singing fuzzy wuzzy female singer songwriter proverbs – well it just hits the right spot.

Take the winning chorus of the title track: “One love is better than not enough/I’d rather have one love than messing with the wrong stuff”. Terrible fluff and teenaged poetry, but somehow it comes across as honest and heartfelt.

Still, the album drags on a bit. And yeah, it’s samey I guess. But it’s a great part of a bigger career. All those little ballads that made up two or three songs on previous albums, well, here’s ten of them. And the album does have moments where it glides brilliantly – Concieved and Shopping Trolley amongst the best.

It’s not going to put a big spring in anyone’s step, but it’s a great midnight record. Ever so jazzy in many ways, especilly feel. And that voice just gets better with age.

Danny Yau