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Peter Combe

Ever belly-flopped on a pizza or cleaned your teeth with bubble gum? Okay, probably not. But in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, nearly every Aussie kid considered giving it a go.Referred to as the original "King of Kids", Peter Combe is an iconic Australian songwriter who holds a place in the heart of every kid who grew up with his music

Now he's back, bringing his favourite songs and unique brand of humour to a pub near you. A series of over age shows are giving 20- and 30-somethings a chance to relive their childhood and dance around like their parents are letting them stay up on a school night. So what brought on the urge to get back outand give the people what they wanted?

 

“Well, it’s like most things in life – it all sort of happened by chance. I was playing a gig in Adelaide, at a beer festival actually, and halfway through Toffee Apple this guy started crowd-surfing. Everyone was chanting the lyrics and I realised that they were genuinely pleased to hear all the songs again. It just seemed obvious that there was a tour there.”

Now, after four years of touring pubs around the country, Peter is still playing to sell-out crowds.

 

“I’ve played to crowds of about 300 adults in their late 20s and early 30s,” he says, “And it still amazes me just how many of them know the songs and can sing along 20 years after they used to hear them.”

 

This time, Peter will be playing two separate shows in Thornbury – an 18-plus show and a children’s matinee. “The matinee is intended for adults who used to listen to my music and now have young children of their own. These parents have grown up with the music and can now introduce it to their kids. The over age shows are a bit rockier. I’m playing with a great band, who are just really good musicians. It’s not as hard-core as AC/DC, but it is a great live act.”

 

When I ask him if there was much difference between performing for kids and entertaining drunken adults, he laughs. “Well, the crowds at the 18-plus shows aren’t really drunk, they’re just at that happy, mellow and jolly stage. They’re only drinking two or three beers as opposed to ten, so they’re just having fun.”

 

Mind you, he does recall one odd instance of heckling. “Well,” he laughs, “Not so much heckled, but at my last show in Melbourne there was this one woman who was off her face. She kept yelling out to play this song that I didn’t actually play. I tried to ignore her but she was persistent, so after about five songs I had to explain that it wasn’t my song. She was a little disappointed.”

 

Certainly, Combe fans have their favourites (even, if in the case of the drunken heckler, they are actually someone else’s songs), but like any other performer, Peter still has songs that he enjoys playing live most: even if it is difficult to single them out.

 

“That is a hard one. There are about 300 songs! Of the old stuff, I love All Good Things from Newspaper Mama, Spangle Road, Lullaby (for Thom), and Rain from Spaghetti Bolognaise.” He divulges, “You know, I received a lot of mock complaints but the main complaint from parents was ‘If I have to hear that song one more time!’ I also had this one guy who insisted that the F-word was used in one of my songs – obviously it wasn’t there.”

 

No expletives then, but perhaps there are more contemporary themes within Peter compositions than we ever really gave him credit for. He may well have predicted a drought with Juicy Juicy Green Grass. Any truth to the concept that his lyric “fix the fence with sticky tape” is a stark commentary in Australia’s immigration policy? He laughs amiably. “Well, the short answer to that question is no.”

 

What about the possibility of addressing the print vs digital argument with an upgrade on Newspaper Mama. Perhaps Facebook Mama? This strikes a humorous note with Peter, though he does turn the idea over in his head for a moment. “I hadn’t actually thought of doing that with Newspaper Mama. There was actually a song on that album called Syntax Error, I’d thought of writing a sequel with updated terms.”

 

As children’s programs like YoGabbaGabba – the show’s musical guests have included The Roots, Ting Tings, The Shins, MGMT and Weezer – reach peak popularity with the little ones (and their Gen X parents) the conversation rolls around to collaborations. “Well, I’d love to collaborate with Paul Simon but that won’t happen. I think it would be fun to write a song with Paul Kelly too, because he’s a great songwriter and is as serious about his songwriting as I am.”

 

Phoning either Paul is not on Peter’s today list today though: “I have no intention of retiring. I just want to continue writing good songs. I try to make every album better than the last and steer clear of reproducing the same melodies. I’m hoping to get out to in Canada, the U.S and U.K. The thing with kids is that they’re the same all over the world, so I’d love to get over there and play.”

 

Peter Combe plays The Thornbury Theatre on Friday July 22 July at 8pm, tickets available here.