Duet for jackhammers, with Cream, 6 pots, steak, eggs and chips ( Warning: no wine mentioned below)

Way, way back, I worked on the soi-disant Kew Navvy Gang (KNG), for the now extinct PMG. The gang was a wild bunch of hippies, musos and dope freaks; labouring was the only work available then for long-haired guys in a very conservative Melbourne.

Mick Elliott (guitarist) and I (both smartly outfitted in blue PMG bib and brace overalls) were using a couple of jackhammers to rip up the footpath in Kew Junction for the laying of telephone cables. Nearby, smartly dressed office workers read their morning papers as they waited for the eight o’clock tram to the city.

KNG, left to right: Plod, Noddy, and Mick (lead Jackhammer)

“Mick,” I said, during a quiet interlude. “Why don’t we play a duet?” (We were sort of avant-garde labourers.)

At that time, Mick was in a band with another KNG member, Ian Ferguson. They played a few Cream numbers, so, without rehearsal, we launched into a shaky version of Spoonful: “Drr-drr, drr-drr, drr-drrrr, drr…”

When we’d finished, a be-suited chap looked up from his Sun News-Pictorial and asked, “Do you know Sunshine of your Love?”

A one and a two and a three, a pull on the hammers’ triggers and off we went, “Drr, drr-drr, drr-drr, drr-drr, drr-drr-drrrr-drr…”

After this modest yet decibel-laden performance, there was scattered applause from the bemused tram queue. Sadly, before anyone could yell “Encore!” or “Bravo!” or call for the lead jackhammerist* to play a solo, the eight o’clock tram rolled up and we went back to work. (*Mick on lead, I doubled on bass and rhythm.)

At morning tea, (coffee scrolls, vanilla slices, takeaway coffee, unfiltered Camels) we planned a farewell performance. (It never happened.)

At midday, worn out by the impromptu concert and digging concrete and asphalt all morning, we adjourned for a counter lunch at the Clifton pub. I had a T-bone steak with a fried egg on top, a pile of tomato sauce-anointed chips and six pots of beer. I think Mick had the parmigiana but he also downed six pots.

Then it was back to a sunny afternoon in the trenches.

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