Off The Wall – Episode 2, JUKE, December 5th, 1987.

[Thanks to Daniel from Adelaide for this.]

Let us out of here! THIS IS SERIOUS MUM take MARA SMARRELLI on a guided tour through their beloved (?) Melbourne.

Interview This is Serious Mum? A flashback recalls one windy, fog bound oval upon which seven men in balaclavas and one bemused journalist were trying to hold a taut piece of string and conduct a conversation through megaphones.

When the string slackened, the balaclaved figures would refuse to answer questions. Such are interviews TISM style. Knowing this one still succumbed to the lunacy.

This Is Serious Mum, from what one can gather, are seven, piece Melbourne band with names like Humphry B. Flaubert, Leak Van Vlalen, and Les Miserables. They are responsible for the performance/electro throb beat that's currently sweeping our East coast. Radio interviews have seen them answer questions with texts on pieces of paper. Their merchandise include such essentials as Choose Bad Smack smocks and TISM string. And when awarded 'Most Original Band' at the 3RRR/Najee Rock Awards earlier in the year, the band assaulted their trophy with a bunch of flowers!

The band have Just released a 12" white vinyl with black label giving no details, ‘40, Years (Then Death)' b/w 'The Back Upon Which Jezza Jumped' through Elvis Records (which has been sitting in the Juke alternative chart for weeks). Amongst other things, I wanted to ask them if they thought it was a big concession to the public to put a hole in the middle. But asking questions in hope of a response is too much to ask. Thus was the purpose of the ‘Interview' - to find out what it all means.

This time The Mums dragged me into a car that was when it really hit me that the interview had commenced. A cup of coffee was passed to me with the first of several statements - "You are the unnamed narrator". It was then that I asked what must have been (judging by their response) the Worst question of all. "Where are we going?" The man in the balaclava just looked at me like a fisherman who has felt the fish take a bite, and then stared out the window." The only sound in the car was the cackle of the CB radio. I know, I knew, I know, I shouldn't ask questions for the thing about TISM ‘encounters' is that you read more than you speak. And as my emphatically balaclaved companion didn't seem in the nattering mood, I read my Instructions. I quote:

"Melbourne explained. Melbourne has three great classes: 1. Those who are exploited. 2. Those who pretend they are exploited. 3. Those who know the meaning of the word exploited. We are going to visit them all. You are the unnamed narrator".

Not a lot to go on really. We drove on uninterrupted until The Mum next to me said, "We are about to view some Bograns. Please try not to look like a Mod". Now how would you handle an instruction like that? Just as I was frantically wondering which bits of my clothing were 'mod', the car stopped and outside were - Well, I'll let my TISM tour guide describe;

"The industrial western suburbs are where the working class lives (using the word 'lives' loosely). The kids there are into genuine rock, they hate their school, their parents, their lives. The music they like is for people like them: Bon Jovi, Starship, and any other dreadful American super group that is thrown at them. Let me say finally that neither I nor any of my friends ever been there".

I was beginning to catch on. The Mums were sort of taking me on a 3-D sociological Melways road traffic guide with them looking up the index for me. I demanded some answers from my garrulous companions. No response. A visit to a well known inner-city night spot illicited a muttered "pine head territory" from the mysterious Mum. My literature explained:

"The Inner-city eastern suburbs, places like South Yarra, Toorak and Prahran are richer. This is where you'll find the 'punks' with "The Exploited" written on their leather jackets, presumably referring to the people their fathers employ".

Next port of call - Glen Waverley shopping centre. The black enshrouded hand pointed out the window in command. My eyes followed his arm to fall upon a Jack Is Back promo poster.

"Then further east, 15/20 miles out from central Melbourne, you get the middle class suburbs: not poor enough to be angry, not rich enough to pretend to be angry", read my instructions.

All in all a TISM interview raises more questions than answers, which is strange considering it contains neither. At each stop one of the balaclaved tour guides beckoned over passers by at will. But why did life [ad in Footscray with bubble gum denims. and a Motley Crue army jacket approach the car with qualms? How did The Mum know leather jacketed girl with a blonds pony tail would be prepared to approach us In Chapel St? And the sneakered boy with acid-wash denim in Glen Waverley - what was he thinking as a TISM member held him by the shoulder whilst commanding me to read my tour instructions out loud to him? Surely they were all TISM plants, but how, when my tour guide allowed me to pick who we called over?

And how did they keep the soufflé hot that they offered me on the way hone, with the words: "You are the unnamed narrator. Eat?!"

Will one ever be able to drive through the streets of Melbourne with a Melways ever again?


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