Dave Graney was initially wary when a new venue, Memo Music Hall, which was about to open in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, approached him about presenting his 1993 album, Night Of The Wolverine.
“So I said, ‘Well, what do you want? Do you just want the songs of do you want me ’n’ The Coral Snakes [photographed above by Stewart Hazell] to reform and do it?”
“And I have been asked to do things like this before and have always said, ‘No, they are my songs and still I play them anyway’,” Dave continues. “I mean, would anyone ask Paul Kelly to get The Messengers back together just to play Paul Kelly songs?
“That had been my attitude, but the guys said, ‘Oh, we’d really like you to do them with the original band’,” he then says. “And it’s been great getting back together with [keyboard player] Robin Cassinader and [guitarist] Rod Hayward because there’s a new kind of energy. So it’s been quite amazing.
“That’s been a great part of doing these Wolverine shows because the friendliness of it has been really good. And we are all not as connected to the ‘music business’ as we were back then. We’ve also booked all the shows ourselves through Premier Artists and are hardly doing any interviews. But people have been turning up.
“And I also realised that we never really played Wolverine much because, when we did the album, we went out on the road with Hunters & Collectors and found that the music was a bit too delicate for that kind of audience.
“So we then recorded You Wanna Be There But You Don’t Want To Travel – the album with I’m Gonna Release Your Soul on it – and that was much more of a rock’n’roll album which we put a lot of energy into and we kind of forget about most of the songs from Wolverine. Only a couple of them, the more rock’n’roll ones, ever stayed in the live set.”
“So we agreed to do it because Memo Music Hall is in an area we were operating in around the time of the album which was long before everything moved to Fitzroy, Brunswick and Northcote in the following decades,” Dave says. “We used to play at The Prince Of Wales all the time back in those days and this is an attempt [by the new venue] to get back to that.
“So, we do two sets,” he then says. “We play Night Of The Wolverine in the same order as the album with the same arrangements and then come back and do another set of songs that were before that album and some that came after it.
“And it’s been epic,” Dave enthuses. “In fact they shows have been so epic I’m going to repeat that and say they’ve been epic. And the staging of it is very epic as well. It’s an epic night.”
Night Of The Wolverine kicks off in fine style with You’re Just To Hip Baby and includes Three Dead Passengers In A Stolen Second Hand Ford which was penned with Stephen Cummings.
“Stephen had always been very supportive and there was a thing in his contract with Polydor that said he could produce another of their artists,” Dave says. “So there was some talk of him producing The Coral Snakes but it never happened.
“But I’d gone around to his place with a bunch of songs and, with Three Dead Passengers, I had the verses and the chorus and Stephen just came up with the chords.
“Stephen is much better than me at writing songs quickly in an improvised way,” Dave suggests. “I can do that, but it’s usually only with the band I am playing with at the time.”
There’s also an Adelaide connection in that the eight and half minute, three-song suite, Night Of The Wolverine II (If I Could Have Stayed At Home, The King Of Adelaide and You Could Always Make The Band Laugh), makes reference to Tex Perkins living in Adelaide for a while with the studio version featuring a cameo from the singer.
“The song Night Of The Wolverine was a bit of a nod to Lou Reed’s Street Hassle,” Dave acknowledges, “and on that he had a spoken-word thing from Bruce Springsteen. So I thought I’d get Tex in to do a similar thing.
“And Tex was another one who was very supportive,” he adds. “We did lots of gigs with Cruel Sea and it enabled us to bust out of inner-city Melbourne.”
Dave concludes by saying that Night Of The Wolverine was premiered before it was recorded when the band opened for Bob Dylan in Melbourne in the early ’90s.
“Dylan did a run of shows at The Palais Theatre with a different opening act each night,” Dave says. “So we did one and played the entire album as our set.”
Dave only chuckles wryly when I ask if he got to meet Dylan.
“Oh, it was all quite strange,” he then announces. “There were a couple of managers running around who looked like they were straight out of [Scorsese’s] Goodfellas and Dylan was never at any of the soundchecks.
“They had someone stand in for him at soundcheck who impersonated him,” Dave laughs. “It was a very dark period for Dylan back then. He had hardly any lights on stage and had to cope with the audience wondering why he was messing around with all his songs.”
Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes, who have not performed together since 1997, is set to play Night Of The Wolverine in its entirety at Crown & Anchor, 196 Grenfell St, on Friday 23 October and also a now SOLD OUT show Saturday 24 October. Tickets are also selling fast to Friday’s show via Moshtix.
By Robert Dunstan