Ezy Reading-
'Tone Deaf'- A Misstep In Musical Stardom
Evan Kanarakis

Yes, sadly, this tale is true, though names have been changed to protect the rock and roll victim...

‘David’ had eagerly been spreading the word among his friends and family for weeks in 1995 that he was preparing to make his solo debut at the Australian National University’s Student Bar in Canberra. This, he told them, was his big step forward into a career in the music industry, and after months of preparation he informed them that they would be suitably impressed by his debut. He promised his wary parents that the engineering degree he’d been barely working on would no longer be needed what with his talent, his enthusiasm, and a little bit of luck. All would fall into place after the big date.

On the day of the highly anticipated event David was already running late in his tiny Ford Laser when he was held up at a traffic light beside a construction site on the outskirts of the city. The workers had been installing a new gas line that afternoon and were experiencing a few minor difficulties, but all of them were surprised when one of the fittings cracked and unexpectedly ignited. The minor explosion sent three metal drums weighing about two hundred kilos each rushing out of the site and onto the roof and bonnet of a small white Ford Laser waiting in traffic across the road. Though no one was really hurt in the incident, the Laser didn’t fare so well. All of the windows on one side of the vehicle and the windscreen were destroyed, and the dents were dramatic to say the least. The workers rushed to the car and pulled out David who was now obviously stunned and disoriented as well as covered in hundreds of chips of broken glass. Still, he refused their help and, mindful that he was running late for the gig, quickly exchanged numbers with the site manager and drove off in his wreck of a car to the ANU.

Five minutes before arriving at the venue, David realised he was experiencing a severe ringing in his ears. The ringing was so loud that when he ran into the bar⎯now packed with over a hundred dedicated friends and family members⎯he couldn’t make out a word of what anyone was saying amid the din in his head. The thud of the steel drums landing on the vehicle combined with the crash of glass had almost burst his eardrums. Still, the trooper that he was, he took to the job at hand, grabbed his guitar and, seeing as there was no time for a sound check, was rushed on stage lest he miss out before the next band was due to perform.

It was as he took the first strum at his guitar and sang the first few lines of ‘Days Away’⎯his big opening number⎯that David realised he was in trouble. With the ringing in his ears at full volume he was not only unable to hear what he was playing, but beyond a few vibrations, he couldn’t make out whether what he was singing was too loud, too soft, or even in tune at all. The increasingly strained faces and forced smiles of his guests obviously alarmed him, but as he fought on, attempting to raise and lower his voice, strum harder or softer in an attempt to find the right middle ground and find some improvement in the audience’s demeanour he did no better. At one point he looked up to see his mother crying, but unsure whether they were tears of joy or tears of despair he offered her a keen thumbs up. He received his answer when his mother’s grief stricken face tightened in agony yet again and, sobbing uncontrollably, she plunged her head into the supportive arms of his blank-faced father who was no doubt calculating the costs of David’s previous three years at university.

David’s hearing returned a few days later, but he never performed again.


This extract originally appeared in ‘Sex, Drugs & Mum In The Front Row' by Evan Kanarakis (Allen & Unwin, 2004).

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