Photo: Scott Gelston
The inclemency of Hobart’s weather was in fine form this summer in Hobart, Tasmania when ‘TheNews.com.au -The Finer Things in Life’ ran the gauntlet of rain and bluster to make their way to the sanctum of Tim Freedman’s green room at the Altar to interview him on his current solo tour and new song ‘The Ballad of Bertie Kidd’.
Irreverent curiosity led him to ask us why the ‘Finer Things in Life’, known for covering all things luxurious wanted to interview him. Well here is the answer – to us luxury encompasses an awareness of a combination of senses all working together, whether it be a gastronomic immersion into the unctuous aged indulgence of Le Dauphin cheese (an unusual hexagonal cheese that takes its name from the term once used to describe the heir apparent to the throne of France), or the searing pick me up of a penetrating piccolo, both of which we have heard Freedman is partial to, but in this case it was to absorb the sound, energy and vibe of one of Aussies truly creative musicians – the experience of Tim Freedman live in action.
Relaxed and hospitable, Freedman told us that he was in a good mood because he had just finished a great show, including some funny banter with the audience – a member playfully referenced Tinder dating, and with razor sharp wit Freedman responded “…I can’t go on Tinder I’m too well known, probably lucky for me, I’ve heard it’s a minefield, my profile would just say 56, shaved, sexy, wants to do it all day and a silhouette and guess who?…” This performer, we are quickly learning, turns moments into creative nuggets with his witty and creative improvisational skills – if you can keep up – the actual lyrics from ‘No Aphrodisiac’ (Verse 4) are: “Forty, shaved, sexy, wants to do it all day” and then there’s the silhouette.
Speaking about quick improvisation, the song ‘No Aphrodisiac’, from the album ‘Eternal Nightcap’ in the late 1990’s took Freedman just 15 minutes to write. Freedman said at that time, he would have liked the film clip to be simply a black screen. This gives us thought to ponder the creative mystery that surrounds the black square/screen -think the ending of the Sopranos, and Malevich’s ‘Black Square’. At this time The Whitlams had not made it big, however after their album ‘Eternal Nightcap’ won the 1997 Triple j top 100, Triple j joined the party, and gave a lot air time to the band and from there they took off.
Eternal Nightcap, 1997
Ever the irreverent, Tim Freedman takes to the stage to launch the first new song written with The Whitlams in 14 years: ‘The Ballad of Bertie Kidd’. A hapless tale of a criminal caper rendered ludicrously impotent. Australians seem to love a balls up, they love to laugh with the hapless, and so through the once smoky haze and hop scented watering holes of Australia’s pubs grew the spinning yarn of Bert’s one monumentally thwarted heist, the potential crime, an orphan child of an otherwise outstanding career has been taken into the hearts of many Aussies and grown a life of its own. Four blokes en route to an art gallery in a stolen Sigma with intent to possess a collection of Pro Hart and Ken Done masterpieces don their balaclavas too early. The props of anticipation and anonymity now shriek as unintended beacons of skulduggery . They are spotted as suspicious by passing coppers. When pulled over and questioned as to their appearance, they relay to the cops that it is cold, and that they are going fishing, it didn’t wash, it’s now the art heist that never was. You can see why Aussies roar over their cans of Resches Pilsner with the retelling of this audacious grandiose stunt gone awry.
Whilst ‘The Ballad of Bertie Kidd’ is slapstick in nature, with emphasis on hilarity, the backstory of Bertie Kidd, aka ‘Bert the blue eyed killer’ himself is no joke. We must add here that Kidd is regarded as criminal Royalty. Known as an audacious safe cracker, with shadows and echoes of murder in his wake, more material is expected to surface as three volumes of his biography are being released.
Emigrating from the UK to Australia at 14 Bert Kidd is not on the average persons radar, being so underground that none of the criminals even echoed his story in daylight, due to fear of reprisal. Housed in Pentridge Prison next to Ivan Milat, Ivan is reputed to avoid walking the yard with Kidd for the belief that Bert would kill him. Bert has been out of jail for two years now, and upon release, at the age of 85 Peter Dutton attempted to have him deported, believing him to be so dangerous. By accounts, he is legendary. Legendary. We assure our readers that Freedman is safe and clear of reprisal, he took a shot through the dark, going through the channel of Bert’s biographer to get the go ahead to pen the ‘Ballad of Bertie Kidd’.
While in Tasmania, Freedman caught up with Bert, who has retired quietly in Launceston to ponder a life lived large. Freedman was gratified to hear from Bert over a quiet dinner together dinner that he had achieved about 80 to 90% accuracy in the ‘Ballad of Bertie Kidd’. Bert also revealed to Tim the true details of the words spoken between the four comrades and the police that day. Freedman says he took some artistic licence with the yarn to fit with the structure of the song.
Freedman’s solo tour is a prelude to The Whitlams ‘Gaffage and Clink’ National tour originally planned for 2020, has been rescheduled for August and September 2021. Gaffage and clink is backstage lingo referenced in a new yet-to-be released song that celebrates the relationship between the band and their long-time tour manager Greg Weaver, who passed away suddenly last year. The time off has allowed the band to write a new album, due for release in mid-2021.
‘Ballad of Bertie Kidd’
Melissa Lockley, Arts Correspondant TheNews.com.au