Gavin Miller, legendary host of 96FM’s The Café on Sundays, is filling in for Clairsy & Lisa while they take a break.
One of the best, most opinionated music writers also just happens to live in Perth…
“It’s because I’m a nerd,” Barry Divola told Gavin Miller on Wednesday.
“Most music journalists, and I put myself in that number, are basically music nerds from when they were kids and teenagers and we become obsessed with it and that’s why we end up writing about it, and some of us end up making a career out of it.”
I mean, it was an introduction straight out of the movie Almost Famous.
Divola has a new book out: Driving Stevie Fracasso, and Gavin Miller got him on for a chat about it and what life has been like over the years as a music journo.
As a music writer, Divola has met a stack of his own heroes such as Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer (The Clash), Paul Weller (Style Council), Pete Townshend and Tom Jones, but even those highs come with their own shortcomings.
“When you’re reviewing, you’re talking about opinionated writing and it’s really important to say exactly what you think but as a result you get hate mail, like this was pre-social media and even pre-email, so I used to get physical hate mail like letters – people would bother to write letters to Rolling Stone or Who Magazine.”
Miller, who had already recently chatted to Divola on his podcast, went straight to the good stuff – including spilling the tea on celebs who weren’t so nice.
“I’ll start,” Miller said. “I didn’t find Meatloaf very nice on the phone.”
“You know what?” Divola chuckled, “I spent a night with Meatloaf in a great big old place in Sydney, where he was doing a promo event and he was actually a total sweetheart!”
“Maybe he’s got two sides to his personality… we’ve now found out, since that great Grand Final thing, he’s got two sides to his performance skill as well. He used to be able to sing and now he can’t sing, at all.
“But I found him to be quite lovely.”
Lou Reed, however, was a different story.
“My 15 minutes of hell,” Divola described his interview with the Velvet Underground frontman.
“I’m a huge fan and he was here in 2000 doing a tour and after he got here, he promptly cancelled every single interview and the record company said ‘no, you gotta do something,’ so he said ‘I’ll do two’ and went down the list and said ‘I’ll do that one and that one’.
“One was Sunrise, he obviously had no idea what he was doing, and the other one happened to be me. I got unlucky, I guess.”
Divola said everyone that missed out on interviewing Reed effectively dodged a bullet.
“He walked into the room and the temperature plummeted 10 degrees and the first thing he said ‘I wanna know who everyone in this room is and why they have to be here’, so that’s how we started,” he recalled.
“The second thing he said was ‘I’m not sitting in that couch’ so [the Sunrise producer] had to redo everything, I was just watching this interviewer dying and I knew I was next in line.”
He described the interview as “15 minutes of root canal without anesthetic”.
Divola’s story ended up included everything that happened, and not just what happened in the 15 minutes, but everything he did, said and how he treated people.
“I called it – and I’m very proud of this title – Walk On The Riled Side.”
Another ripper was this story about the late Glenn Frey.
“So, Glenn Frey released a solo album in 1992 called Strange Weather,” he said.
“It was terrible, and I expanded on that thought for about 500 words in a review I called ‘The Eagle Lays A Bad Egg’ and it turns out, the week that it runs, Glenn is winging his way to Australia to do a promo tour.
“On the plane, there’s a selection of magazines – including the one which ran my review.
“The publicist later told me that, when she was standing there waiting for him in the arrivals lounge, he walked through the gate with the magazine, held aloft in his hand, and the first words he said to her were ‘Who the f–k is Barry Divola?!’… I’ve never felt more proud in my life.”
Tune in to Gavin Miller filling in for The Bunch, weekdays from 5.30am.