Had Gough Whitlam broken into song following his dismissal from office in 1975, what would that have sounded like?
My answer: a handful of Jimmy Barnes, a dash of Michael Hutchence, and just a tiny sprinkling of Lady Gaga.
I have learned more about that most poignant moment in Australian politics through writing the music and lyrics for The Dismissal than I ever did in my modern history class at high school (sorry Mrs O’Brien!)
But more significantly for me, it has been an education in the power of a catchy tune and a sharp lyric.
Most people underestimate pop music. Any idiot with a guitar and four chords can write a good pop song, right?
But the craft lies in taking a huge concept or big emotion and compressing it into a relatable, succinct, rhyming lyric, paired with a memorable melody that feels like it goes exactly where you want it to go.
And let’s be honest, we all feel satisfaction when we hear a song like that, whether we want to admit it or not. Just as a connoisseur of food with impeccable culinary standards can still enjoy a cheese toastie.
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This story is complex and populated by complicated people whose intentions and actions were a contradictory combination of admirable, misguided and damaging. So I needed to write songs that bring both clarity and relatability to the narrative – particularly because the events of The Dismissal take place at a time when the political and social climate was far different to the Australia we know today.
I wanted the music to reach out to the audience, as if to say, ‘hey there people of 2019 with your iPhones and your Married at First Sight, in case you missed it in the scene, this is what’s going on here!’
We have become both apathetic and complicit when it comes to what the big guns are doing in politics. We feel outrage but we’re not really sure what to do with it. And our leaders are capitalising on us accepting our perceived powerlessness.
The idea of an elected Prime Minister being ousted without the people’s choice is merely run of the mill today, whereas in 1975 it was completely unheard of and a symbol of the death of democracy.
We feel more divided in our political and social opinions today than ever before.
We can’t possibly agree on anything anymore.
So it’s comforting to know that at the very least, 10 billion people of all sorts of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation can agree that MMM Bop by Hanson is an absolute banger.
The Dismissal has a very short run at the Seymour Centre.
I hope audiences come along and enjoy our punk rock Queen Elizabeth II and the greatest boy band of all time in the form of the Liberal Party.