X relaunch At Home With YouX are re launching the CD 'At Home With You' on Aztec Music on 3rd May at the Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne, Vic. and on Thursday 17th May and Saturday 19th May at the Excelsior Hotel in Surry Hills, Sydney. Tickets for the Excelsior launch are available at the bar at the Excelsior.
Ian Rilen (1947 - 2006)
Ian passed away peacefully at home at Shoreham on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular early morning on 30th October 2006, at 10.10am, aged 59.
He had been battling cancer since early 2006. His children Gentilla, Jay Jay, Tallulah and Romeo, along with his partner Brigitte and former wife Stephanie were all present.
Ianrilen.com is being revamped to reflect Ian's music career and will serve as a unique source of information for all aspects of his varied projects.
Rose Tattoo bassist was “bad for good”
By Andrew Stafford
Of all the misfortunes that could have taken founding Rose Tattoo member Ian Rilen from this earth, few in Australia’s music community would have been laying bets on cancer. Notoriously hard-living, Rilen was often compared to Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and Motorhead’s Lemmy – both for his authentic rock ’n’ roll spirit and for his freakishly robust constitution. He seemed genuinely indestructible.
But to focus on Rilen’s lifestyle risks reducing him to a cliché, something he most assuredly was not. Rilen, above all, was uncompromising. Even if Bad Boy for Love was the only Rose Tattoo song you knew, it should tell you something about its co-author that he legendarily left the band in 1977, on the cusp of mainstream success, because they weren’t “hard enough”.
That might be difficult to imagine – the first Rose Tattoo album, released after Rilen’s departure but with his fingerprints all over it, is as tough an album as any released by their only real peers, AC/DC – but Rilen’s new band, X, proved he wasn’t kidding.
Rather than relying on the hard rock/boogie that was Rose Tattoo’s stock-in-trade – and very much Australian rock orthodoxy at the time – X (not to be confused with the Los Angeles punks of the same name) were true originals; stuck for a pigeonhole, writers often simply described their sound as “X-music”.
Neither metal nor really punk, despite being a vital part of the original late 1970s Sydney punk explosion, the X sound was more intense than either. With Rilen’s sheet-anchor bass flanked by novice guitarist Steve Lucas and the late Steve Cafeiro on drums, the band never played with anything less than total commitment. Police were a frequent presence at the band’s riotous early gigs.
X were heavy and incredibly loud, but also capable of surprising tenderness, a quality Rilen had shown as far back as the Rose Tattoo ballad Stuck on You – a song frequently and reverently covered by Hunters & Collectors, whose singer Mark Seymour also adopted Rilen’s blue-collar singlet as stage uniform.
The band split not long after their first album, the landmark X-Aspirations, was released in 1980. Rilen then formed Sardine v with then-wife Stephanie. Sardine v represented an unlikely move towards electronic pop, even earning Rilen a Countdown appearance, but a 1983 EP titled I Hate You probably ensured he would remain marginalised.
In 1985, Rilen reformed X in Melbourne with new drummer Cathy Green and released a second remarkable album, At Home with You. A third, And More, appeared in 1988. Far from fading away, Rilen produced some of his most lauded work in recent years, with two solo albums, Love is Murder (2001) and Passion, Boots and Bruises (2004). A final album was completed before his death.
Rilen continued to perform until close to the end, including a recent benefit for Lobby Loyde, the producer of X’s three albums, also battling cancer. Rilen himself was the subject of a benefit gig three weeks ago, where better-known luminaries including the Hoodoo Gurus, Paul Kelly and Cold Chisel songwriter Don Walker – who referred to Rilen as a “national treasure” – paid tribute.
The show raised $40,000, which will now be donated to Rilen’s family. He is survived by his partner Brigitte, their one-year-old son Romeo and his three children from previous marriages, Jai Jai, Gentilla and Tallulah.
Andrew Stafford is the author of Pig City: from the Saints to Savage Garden (UQP).
IAN RILEN TRIBUTE
CRAIG REGAN (I94BAR)
I knew Ian Rilen as well as some but not as well as others. In common with everyone that came into the Rilen orbit, however, I have a few stories. Many are about his penchant for living at or near that rock and roll place called the edge. Others that you won’t hear so often are about a loving father to four people, a de facto husband to another and a friend to many, many others.
Ian passed away at a house on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular earlier this morning, aged 59. He’d been battling cancer since the start of 2006.
Ian had a reputation for partying harder, longer and more determinedly than just about anyone else in Australia rock and roll. That was the public persona, and it’s one that he both rejoiced in, and struggled with.
You should already know the bare bones of his band history: Bass-player for ‘70s prog-blues band Band of Light. The writer of Rose Tattoo’s first and most enduring hit, “Bad Boy For Love”, who left the Tatts to pursue his own (arguably harder and more dangerous) muse. The diminutive ball of energy pumping out thunderous, rib-crunching bass-lines for Australia’s ultimate beyond-the-law rock soap opera, X. Debonair leader of Sardine v whose “Stuck On You” became a hit for Hunters & Collectors. Bare-knuckled rabble-rouser in Hell to Pay, the portable party with guitars. Iggy Pop-like frontman for inner-Sydney legends Skindiver. Frontman/guitarist for Australia’s ultimate gutter-blues rockers, the Love Addicts.
Ian was a renowned partier on any number of fronts, with as many alcoholic and chemical dance partners as you could imagine. I don’t know that Ian as much bought into that side of the rock and roll lifestyle as got swept along with it. You could take it or leave it.
One-on-one, he was the mirror image of his on-stage persona; quietly-spoken and a shy until he got a handle on you. It must have taken some effort to morph into the cocky, swaggering, guitarist, bouncing around a stage and mugging like it was his exclusive turf. There was a stunning presence about Ian Rilen with a bass or six-string guitar in hand. He was seemingly indestructible.
Of course, no-one is and there was a time when the odds were pretty short on something other then The Big C claiming him. His abuses were no secret, many of them carried out in public. Ian said he couldn’t give a shit. He once told me that, on the score of reputation, people (and most pointedly, “the industry”) could take it or leave it. He was what he was and if you didn’t like it, well you know the rest of the story. Deep down, however, Ian was always about the music and it was hard not to get the feeling that he thought his detractors focussed on the man when they should have been listening closer to the music.
Ian existed outside the so-called industry for most of his musical career. He’d had a brief taste of what was on the other side of the wall, working as a hired bass hand for ex-Cold Chisel guitarist Ian Moss. He was quietly shuffled off the payroll after notoriously getting so shit-faced with the owner of the pub they were playing at that he couldn’t stand up.
He was invited to the Jack Awards earlier this year, to play in an all-star tribute band for his departed Tatts mate Pete Wells (another claimed by cancer). I asked him how it was and Ian replied: “OK…but those young blokes were fucking kidding with their road stories…bunch of pussies…” At that stage, Ian was well in the disease’s grip and was moderating his drinking. A few red wines and a smoke was as far as he went. A few months later he actually left hospital to be at Rose Tattoo’s ARIA Hall of Fame induction - and found himself heading back there by ambulance at 5am after over-doing things at a post-awards party.
Rose Tattoo royalties may have bought Ian a Buick (and more about that later) but he was just as happy to consign the Tatts and his other bands to the past to concentrate on the present (and future). The Love Addicts were his band of the moment, and there was every sign that they did have a future before cancer crept up and tapped their leader on the shoulder.
Ian loved to play live. He desperately wanted to take this band overseas, after prospective 1990s tours for X to Japan and the USA fell over. But he wanted to do it in his own right, not as the infamous white singlet guy from X or Rose Tattoo’s Bad Boy For Love. Love Addicts manager Greg Sawer (more a close friend to Ian than anything) and industry veteran Sebastian Chase were solid believers in the man and the band, and had ambitious plans that would finally send the Love Addicts to Europe, on the back of an as-yet unreleased album.
There was a lot to love about Ian and a lot of love about him. He was, in the broadest sense of the term, a hopeless romantic, a sharply dressed knock-about with an effortless charm and a long line of wives, ex-wives, other peoples’ wives, girlfriends and other people’s girlfriends around him. Little wonder he and Bridget named their brand new son Romeo. Ian told me being a father again so late in life was one of the most magic things to happen to him. On his own admission, down the years he hadn’t been the best husband, but increasingly he was a devoted father. Although all members were Melbourne-based, the latest Love Addicts album was recorded in Sydney with the band surrounded by partners and kids. A family affair.
X might have been the most dysfunctional band in rock and roll at times, but it also ran on love. Cathy might have split with Ian (and threw him out more times than either can recall) but they never really parted. Steve Lucas was sometimes barely speaking to either of them but there was an unspoken bond between him and Ian particularly, despite the pair going through some extreme times, that undeniably ran deep.
Ian also loved cars. Two years ago, while staying at a live-in conference in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, I dropped into the nearest pub to have a quick late afternoon drink before heading to an official dinner. I spotted a Buick in a No Standing zone outside the Darlo Bar and had an inkling who’d be in the pub. Ian and close mate Mick Cocks (of the Tatts and now glam-rockers Doomfox) were holding court with a crew of colourful characters. They’d been there a couple of hours as Ian had inexplicably locked his keys in his new car’s boot and everyone was debating the best way to retrieve them. No, you couldn’t get the backseat out, and although there was any number of people in the house who would probably know their way into a Commodore or Falcon, the boot of a Buick was a whole other kettle of fish. Ian was going to catch a taxi to his Bondi flat and break-in to grab a spare key, but only after we’d had a beer…or two…while we watched for parking cops.
Ian’s love affair with cars had a chequered history. That same Buick had been bought in Brisbane and driven halfway down the NSW coast before its transmission fell out, to languish in a country mechanic’s shop until the money could be raised to repair it. More recently, a similar mission to buy another Yank gas-guzzler with easier access for a baby seat resulted in a blown radiator when Ian ignored a temperature gauge. Someone who knew him better than me said it was typical Ian: Strike a problem and press on. Just as he was determined to lean on non-traditional medicine when chemotherapy failed and keep playing through his illness.
The T-shirt from a two-night benefit concert at The Prince in St Kilda told the same story, with the star billing on the back (Rose Tattoo, Hoodoo Gurus, Don Walker, Beasts of Bourbon and Tim Rogers, among others) competing with a simple phrase on the front: “Rock Till You Drop”. Ian never planned to perform – playing at your own tribute was just too silly – but wasn’t well enough to attend.
I saw what was to be his second-last performance in Sydney, upstairs at Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel. It was the first of a two-night stand and Ian’s medical condition had been made public via a story in the Sydney Sunday press a week or two earlier. I was told the Saturday show was the one to see, in which case it must have been a helluva gig because Friday was terrific. All recorded, too. You could feel the love in the room for Ian, even without seeing the odd teary-eyed fan (most of them women). There was a sense that this might be one of the last times we’d see Ian grace a Sydney stage. Sadly, it was, and planned return gigs at the same venue were quietly blown out a month ago.
Back home in Melbourne, the Love Addicts played a few more gigs, mostly at The Greyhound Hotel where I’m told a similar mood pervaded. The band’s performances at those shows, by all accounts, were remarkable. They were simply in another place and a gig at a country football club inspired one of the organisers of the Meredith Festival to rush the Love Addicts onto the bill. With Ian’s health in decline, that had to be blown out. Fittingly, however, the replacement was Spencer P. Jones, a Hell To Pay band-mate and dear friend.
Perhaps the most telling moment in Ian’s battle came about a month ago when the band assembled to rehearse. Ian had taken a lease on a house on the Mornington Peninsular where he quietly went midweek to gather his strength and rest. Friends couldn’t but notice the physical wasting in him as the cancer attacked from the inside. I’m told a drawn Ian walked in, plugged in his guitar, strummed two chords and said: “That’s it. I can’t do this.”
That’s no way to remember Ian, so let’s not. Let’s remember a musician who was so full of life there was no time to consider the alternative. Mr Rock and Roll. Cathy, Dave and Kim have lost more than a band mate – they’ve lost an inspirational friend. Most of all let’s remember Ian as a father to Romeo, Tallulah, Gentilla and J.J., de facto to Bridget and ex-husband to Stephanie. There’s a spot on his myspace site where you can leave tributes, or simply do so here if you want them made public.
The Rolling Stone story by Clinton Walker
"I play rock’n’roll for a livin’, I ain’t doin’ all that well,
I play rock’n’roll for a livin’, as if you couldn’t tell.
I’m a rock’n’roll man,
We’re just doin’ it ’cause we can"
- Ian Rilen, “Rock’n’Roll Man”, 1999
Ian Rilen was doing a short stretch at Long Bay in 1970 when he made the decision that changed his life. He decided he was going to be a bass player, and not just any bass player, but a great bass player. There were nights, later – and more than a few – when he was just that; when, in fact, he was one of the great rock’n’rollers. The story goes, as he’d told me, that when he was inside there was another young inmate there who wanted to be a drummer, and so the pair would run their exercise in the yard like a rhythm section, stamping out and mouthing their respective parts.
“Got out of jail,” Ian says, “went to the Cross, had a coffee and a steak, it was beautiful, met these working girls, went back to their place, then this bloke comes along, selling pot or buying pot I dunno, we got talking, I said I wanted to play bass, and the next day he bought one around me for me.”
He’s told other versions of how he first got a bass. In another story, he put a down payment on one with Reno Tehei, of the La De Das, because Tehie wanted to put a bet on a horse. But then Tehei got busted and deported and Ian still owes him $120 for the axe!
Either way, Rilen – who died in Melbourne on October 30, aged 59 – obtained a bass, and this was the instrument upon which he writ a legend large. Once called a national treasure by Don Walker, you don’t have to trot out all the clichés: The original bad boy for love (he wrote the song, after all), Ian Rilen was a star. A force of nature. Ian was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder only maybe nine months back. But even then it had already spread. Ian was too unwell to attend the benefit held in his honour over two nights at Melbourne’s Prince of Wales Hotel in early October, which boasted a bill including Rose Tattoo, Don Walker, the Beasts of Bourbon, the Hoodoo Gurus, Tim Rogers and Phil Jamieson. The end came quickly but peacefully, surrounded by family and friends at home. Ian was the loving father of four children.
I first met Ian in 1980 when the first X were still just going and he lived in a big house on Palmer St, Darlinghurst, with his family, and he drove a 1959 Pontiac. I wrote reams of material on Ian in the 1980s and we lived in the much the same world, and I’d have to say I considered him a friend. Not close but a friend. But that was one of his great graces – he made everybody feel like they were his long-lost last best mate. He would greet everyone, male and female, with kisses, big wet, tonguey kisses. You just have to start to adjust to the fact that he’s not going to be around anymore.
But if there’s anyone about whom you could say their spirit permeated the scene and the music even in their lifetime, it’s Ian Rilen. Whether in his early bands like Band of Light and Rose Tattoo, or his real life’s work X, or Sardine or Hell to Pay, the Love Addicts and solo, Rilen laid down such a monumental groove and swing and attitude, it not only immortalised all his own music, it spread an influence, a huge influence. If there is any sort of Australian classic rock sound, Ian helped shape a huge swathe of it.
He could have been a bigger name, he could have made more money, but then it probably wouldn’t have been Ian Rilen any more. He was always rich in life and music. His legacy has already survived him.
“He had a special, natural instinct and that’s something there’s not enough of anymore, and something we should admire,” says Sebastian Chase. Chase’s relationship with Rilen had a unique symmetry, since it was Chase who helped him start his career and, as it turned out, helped him end it, as the manager of Band of Light and co-creator of Rose Tattoo and, currently, boss of MGM Music.
“He was just the most awesome dude – he had heart, soul, style, he was a romantic, he had attitude, he could play, he was just everything I love.”
“Rilen is one of the great visionaries,” says Lobby Loyde. “The music industry never understood him.”
“He was full of energy, as usual, right up to the end, until he couldn’t get around any more,” says Cathy Green, long-time partner in crime. “When he had to hang up his guitar, that was hard, and it happened pretty quickly after that. He was all grace and style. I can’t liken him to anyone, like, say, Keith Richards – I can understand why some people would, because they need a reference point – but to me, there was no-one like him.”
The last time I saw Ian, about three months back, the news was out and so I wanted to see him, see the Love Addicts and try and get together. One last time as it turned out. The Love Addicts were terrific. At the Sando in Newtown on a Saturday night after a football match, I inducted a couple of younger friends to the world of Ian Rilen, and they loved it too. Ian, the band, it was great. Really that was what Ian lived for, just to get up there and play. It was his church, his ritual, his transcendence. Part of ours too.
My baby she done left me, didn’t leave me on my own,
She left me with my teenage babies and a hire-purchase loan,
Friends ask me did I see it comin’, I have to answer yes,
Cause I’m a bad man when I’m drinkin’ – you can guess the rest
It was only when Ian came around one Friday afternoon after the Sando gig that I learned, after all these years, that he was born in the same place I was, Bendigo. Birthplace of the Chiko Roll! Ten years before me though, in 1947.
He never ever seemed a day over 23, except you could see every mile on his face. But it was in the eyes. The glint in his eye never left him.
As everyone’s been saying for years now, his life would make a great movie. But no-one would believe it! To say he lived large would be another massive understatement. As he himself told digTV only a couple of months ago, “I’m surprised I’m still here!”
Everybody’s got an Ian Rilen story. Ian made a lot of friends in his life, and he took everyone into his world. For Ian, art and life were intertwined. This was another feed into his music that helped make it greater, more real.
Most of the millions of people around the world who own an AC/DC album, or a Rose Tattoo album or Jet album, or a Guns & Roses or Rollins album, or Beasts of Bourbon album, will never have heard of Ian Rilen. This was his blessing and his curse. He was the eternal outsider, the baddest bad boy for love, the most likeable rogue. But as his friend Paul Kelly sang in a song that was always understood to be about him, What makes such a sweet guy turn so mean? He could be his own worst enemy. X always seemed somehow able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Yeah, sure, they were always capable of turning over a record company boardroom table, but isn’t that part of the rock’n’roll job description? It was one of the few things that rankled Ian, his ‘bad reputation’. Sure, see him at 4am after a gig and he could be in any kind of state. But as most will say, did X ever blow out a show without good reason? Did they ever perform giving less the 130%?
“Ian never approached anything half way,” says Sebastian Chase, laughing at his own understatement. “He lived for the music, that time on stage, but after the gig, well yeah, that’s when his outrageous personality really kicked in, he liked to have fun, and he was always great fun. Maybe for some people he was too much fun!”
You don’t have to talk up Ian’s seminal status when you just consider his biography. As a teenager growing up in Geelong in the 1960s, he banged around on guitar a bit, but it was only after he went to the Thumpin’ Tum in Melbourne and saw Yuk Harrison playing bass in Max Merrit and the Meteors that he was given to feel the stirrings that led to the decision he made in jail in Sydney. (That rock’n’soul sound of the Meteors in their late 60s/early 70s incarnation remains vastly underrated.) Ian’s first recording was Band of Light’s 1973 debut Total Union, an album that’s only now getting its due with an Aztec Music CD re-release. To a young teenager like me when it came out, I loved it as much as Chain’sToward the Blues or the Masters Apprentices’ Toast to Panama Red. Great records.
Band of Light was led by former La De Da Phil Key, but the band’s not-so-secret weapon was (not Rilen! but) slide guitarist Norm Roue. Roue had short hair and a white SG and a bottleneck slide; Australia had never seen or heard anything like him. Rilen and Roue left Band of Light and Roue joined Buffalo, alongside guitarist, the late Peter Wells, whilst he and Rilen continued trying to get their own thing together.
But Roue drifted away from music – and that was a nameless loss that Ian Rilen would be the first to tell you about! But then after Buffalo broke up, Pete Wells, who sadly died earlier this year too, learnt to play slide, and he and Rilen, under the guiding hand of Sebastian Chase, founded Rose Tattoo. The Tatts’ story is well-documented. After Melbourne sharpie band Buster Brown broke up, drummer Phil Rudd joined AC/DC and singer Angry Anderson joined Rose Tattoo. Rilen (and Sebastian Chase) left the band just as its first single, Rilen’s “Bad Boy for Love,” produced by Vanda/Young, was climbing the charts. Rilen walked out on the
Tatts and straight into a rehearsal with a couple of young blokes in church hall in Balmain. Nominally named Evil Rumours, they played so hard their guitars were covered in blood and thusly was X anointed.
X are the great power trio of all time. Guitarist Ian Krahe died of an overdose virtually even before the band got out of the blocks, but singer Steve Lucas took a crash course on guitar and for more than two decades he was one of Rilen’s most enduring musical partners.
In a short-lived post on Wikipedia on October 30, Lucas credited Ian as the early ‘creator’ or leader of X, who showed him “how to go to the well and reach the water.” Rilen was already 30 and the father of three kids when X started. He became a godfather to many, many more.
With Rilen’s old mate Lobby Loyde behind the desk, X recorded the album X-Aspirations in 1980. It was brilliant but a cult secret. The band went into retirement. That was when Ian put Sardine V together with his then-wife, the extraordinary and beautiful Stephanie Falconer, mother of Gentilla, J.J. and Talullah. Ian sold his car, a ’56 Chev, to buy her a Farfisa organ. Sardine was inner city modern and looked like a million bucks with Ian in a powder blue suit and his hair all slicked back like a gangster and Steph in an evening gown, but it just fizzled out and X re-formed in 1983.
Taking over on drums was the exceptional and beautiful Cathy Green, who would become another of Ian’s enduring if typically torrid partnerships. With Lobby Loyde at the helm again, the band cut At Home with You in 1985 and it was flooring the Strawberry Hills or wherever. Sometimes in those days Chris Wilson would guest with them on baritone sax and the all-engulfing power became almost unearthly. X is better than sex, all the girls used to say. Hunters & Collectors were a different band after Mark Seymour saw Ian Rilen at work.
It was only after I’d written half a dozen articles about Ian and his bands that I think I got close to the truth, in a 1987 piece for the late lamented RAM magazine, which opened like this (if you’ll excuse the ripeness): “Love: It’s not a quality you’d usually associate with this sort of sound, something so loud and obnoxious, so mean and nasty and ugly… It’s love that’s the fuel that fires them.”
Music was always purely visceral for Ian Rilen. He said it himself, X was physical music. Elemental. Again, Ian made no distinction between art and life. X was totally about chemistry and nothing else mattered and it oozed through the music like a lightning rod. X didn’t so much play music as the music played them. I coined that cliché so I reserve the right to use it again here. There was absolutely no intellectualisation about it.
When I asked Ian about any Australian sound he might have had a hand in forging and he replied, “I dunno, I never really thought about it,” he wasn’t being disingenuous. He was an intelligent person, it was just that the question held no interest for him whatsoever. He was the kind of person who couldn’t sit still.
Besides, he was smart enough to leave well enough alone: Why mess with the magic?
Ian was a cipher of pure sensual pleasure. I don’t think anybody who knew him would think it a stretch to call him a sensualist. Those who mistook the seeming brutality of X for a lack of sophistication missed the point.
As Iggy Pop once said of the sense of buoyancy and power the Stooges generated and gave him, “The process is far more important than the result.” The connection – for X too – was spiritual, a parched and yearning power-drive.
One thing Ian always took great pride in was the diversity of X audiences. It was a measure of his common touch. From bank robbers to architects he used to say, and he took them all in the same way: Openly.
But in commercial terms, X just couldn’t take that step up. The weakness of their third album, 1989’s … and more (Mushroom), was a harbinger of the band’s second break-up. Rilen and Cathy Green formed Hell to Pay with Ian on guitar and vocals, Cathy on bass, Spencer Jones on guitar and Tony Biggs, drums. After one album for Red Eye Records, Hell to Pay split in 1993 and X arose again.
Along the way, Ian weighed in with two significant bands that went unrecorded, Illustrated Man (in the mid 80s, basically the original Tatts minus Angry) and Skindiver (in the mid 90s, with Bones Martin). In 1999, he played a real Rose Tattoo reformation tour of Australia (he never would play outside his own country; but then neither did Elvis). Angry and Wellsy required that they be treated as separate entities from Ian and guitarist Mick Cocks in terms of travel and accommodation arrangements! “Rilen and Cocksy put the oomph back into it,” Lobby Loyde told Col Gray.
1999/2000, Ian cut a debut solo album Love is Murder. When Cruel Sea keyboardist James Cruickshank first proposed producing an Ian Rilen solo album, people were terrified at the prospect of these two reprobates loose in the studio together, but the result remains one of the great
Australian albums of the era bar none, wth Rilen mining an extraordinary vein of songs and feels. And when he most needed it, Sebastian Chase rode to Ian’s rescue to release the album on Phantom as part of a three-record deal. It was scarily up-close both sonically and artistically, personally. When Ian opened his mouth to sing you could hear every pockmark on his face.
Cath was still playing drums in X but it was another Cath, Cath Synnerdahl, when in 2003, to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary, they recorded a live album at the Basement in Sydney. When Laughing Outlaw Records released the album, Evil Rumours, following Spiral Scratch Records’ release of a 1978-vintage show called Live at the Stagedoor Tavern, it did seem like an epitaph.
By then, Ian was already lost in the formation of the growling, swampy
Love Addicts with Cathy Green on bass and Kim Volkman, guitar. This band released Passion, Boots & Bruises in 2005. If not for what Steve Lucas called his ‘rejection of fame’, Ian Rilen could always have made more money out of music, but he wouldn’t prostitute himself. He deliberately got himself fired from Ian Moss’s road band. For a wild man of rock, he had very real moral code. Besides, as he always said, he’d been drinking “Bad Boy for Love” for years. Recently, when the song was licensed for a car ad, Ian, armed with a fat cheque, flew straight to Brisbane to buy a new car for himself, a ’63 Buick Riviera. There’s a whole story to that too, but it’s just another of the hundreds there’s not the space for here.
As Steve Lucas put it, Ian was “a man who showed his feelings, paid for them at the time and therefore did not live a fantasy.”
“He was flawed,” said Sebastian Chase, “and he understood that, who he was, he was full of contradictions, but he always wore his heart on his sleeve. That made him a sort of super-human being. He always exuded camaraderie, love and friendship.”
For all his rust and scratches and dents, he retained a terminally charming, almost child-like sense of wonder and naivety, and an uncanny ability to bounce back. These qualities are perhaps not unrelated. When he came over to visit, he didn’t seem like a man ready to die. I was disappointed he didn’t drive the Riviera, so we could go for a cruise, but once he got it to Sydney, he explained, he left it garaged at his hotel.
Maybe there was a touch of sombreness there, and certainly tiredness, but in all the mood swings in a long and tempestuous life, Ian had touched on the bottom almost as much as he did the top. No, correct that – he touched on the top more:
Anyone that ever saw him play one of the thousands of great gigs he played in his life can testify to that. It didn’t matter if he had no money, if his life was in a mess, he would get on stage and play it all out and that was his gift, the pay-off. He had a habit of turning conversation around to the now. He never wanted to talk about his place in music history, it was always the music he was yet to make. He was busy. His mobile kept ringing. He was wanting to pack as much in as possible. But again, he was always like that. He had come from the studio, and had to go back there. He was working on a new Love Addicts album virtually up to the day he died (the album will be released by Phantom early in the new year).
He showed me a photo of his new baby boy Romeo. Ian lived on the edge by most people’s standards, but he was dedicated to all his children. Special sympathy must go to one year-old Romeo, and his mother Bridget. Ian was pleased to enjoy the Tatts induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, but, as everyone felt, it was a shame it was too late for Pete Wells. But what does that shit matter anyway, he said. When was anything but the music a core promise?
Ian was unable to play his last gig. Just a week after his benefit show, the Love Addicts were booked to play the Greyhound in Melbourne.
“He was determined,” says Cathy Green, “he said, I’m coming up, and he drove all the way up. Everything was set up for a sound check, and so he strapped on his guitar and we started “Booze to Blame” and we really only got about half a line into it and he just couldn’t do it, couldn’t sing. He just didn’t have the breath, the tumour was pressing onto his lungs.”
His funeral was held in Melbourne on November 4. Seating for 800 at the service was insufficient for the crowd. Ian’s newest car, a white Cadillac, led the procession, followed by a Cadillac hearse carrying the coffin. All St.Kilda was at half mast.
The corporeal frame of Ian Rilen is gone now and we won’t see his like again. The music was always ageless.
I think I’ll just keep playin’, in those all-night whiskey bars,
Playin’ guitar and singin’, stayin’ up with the stars