Tag Archives: Australian rock bands of the 1980s

Harts seems to be describing musical synaesthesias

The Indian born singer-songwriter who was invited to hang out and jam with Prince. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Broadcast: 22/04/2016 on Lateline
Reporter: Simon Smithers


I was just watching Lateline on ABC television (Australian), and following the passing of the legendary American musician Prince Lateline ran a story about the young Australian musician Harts who has been a guest of Prince and has also been mentored by the famous musician. Both musicians clearly share a major influence from the late synaesthete guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In the Lateline story, which is yet to be posted for viewing at the Lateline website, Harts described associations between colours, textures and music that is clearly synaesthesia. It seems to be a very common thing for synaesthetes to experience coloured music, and synaesthesia itself is a quite common phenomenon so the fact that Harts seems to be a synaesthete is not hard to believe or that big a deal. I do think it is interesting though. Harts, Prince and Hendrix all typify the notion of the musically creative individual, as artists following their own creative paths, playing a style of music that is full of colour and innovation and improvisation. Synaesthesia is thought to be linked to creativity. Could even be true.

I’m not an expert in music but I think the music of all three would all be regarded as psychedelic rock, a genre of music that has fascinated me since I was a child despite no cultural nor family influences pushing me in that direction. The music that I grew up listening to was cheesy nonsense that my folks enjoyed, hideous trad jazz, 1970s musicals, theatre organ music, disco….. And I survived! The closest things to psychedelia that I heard as a child was early electronic music and psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s played on the radio, including the Beatles later stuff. Right until my 5th decade I hadn’t realised I had been a mad fan of psychedelic rock all my life until I started reading music reviews on Allmusic, and found that a the very disparate collection of musicians and groups who are my musical favourites all produced some music that had been categorized as psychedelic, even a favourite Australian musician Ed Kuepper, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently. Colourful as it might be, the colours aren’t the reason why I enjoy this type of music. I think the appeal is the strange and otherworldly feelings evoked by the music; the mesmerizing repetition, the emotionalism, the surprising twists, the fear and the awe. Maybe you need to have a hyperconnected brain to get all this out of mere sequences of sounds.

I’d bet my hat that the colourful and creative purple Prince was also a synaesthete, one way or another, but unless he spoke about it in the past we will never know.

The Models – I Hear motion (1983)

The Models probably didn’t have motion -> sound synaesthesia in mind when they wrote this tune, but I still like it. In 1983 there was nothing wrong with a straight young man looking very beautiful. Such a pity about James Freud. Such beauty is never forgotten.


At First Sight by The Stems (1987)

Some more music from an old Perth band with a music clip that features scenes from WA from long ago. This clip includes many scenes from the grounds of the unforgettable Cottesloe Civic Centre. This place is connected to my synaesthesia because when I think of the concept of Charles Darwin (the biologist who gave us the theory of evolution) I see, as though it is an automatically appearing illustration or backdrop for the concept, particular scenes of the lower level of the grounds of this Civic Centre, the level that is, and has been for many years, a children’s playground. At one point in this music clip the band members are shown spinning around on the large metal roundabout that used to be found in this playground. I don’t think it has been there for a long time, as it did offer as many opportunities for serious injury as it did for fun. Lawyers design children’s playgrounds these days.

The Charles Darwin thing is fairly complex. Different scenes of this area are linked with different aspects of Darwin’s life. The concept of Darwin being a failed clergyman (and was he also a failed doctor?) while coming from an aristocratic family, leaving him with the opportunity to pursue a much more original, free-thinking, productive, influential and brilliant life triggers the vision of the scene around one of the stairways that lead down to this lower level of the civic centre grounds, as seen from the playground level. The concept of the death of one of the much-loved children of Charles Darwin and Darwin’s reflections on that sad event evokes a vision of the stairway that goes from the lower playground level to a street below, Overton Gardens, as viewed from the playground level.

I could speculate about why in my mind these concepts and these scenes have become wedded. It is easy to see how a person who has not travelled overseas might unconsciously view the grounds of the Cottesloe Civic Centre as a place to house the spirit of Charles Darwin. This place is like a little taste of living like an English Victorian aristocrat, with a grand estate on stunningly landscaped grounds. This is why it is an incredibly popular choice as a wedding venue. But why is Charles down in the kids’ playground? Did Charles Darwin ever really grow up? Did he ever get a real job? One could perhaps argue that his brilliant intellectual adventures were exploratory and unstructured and free like child’s play. Perhaps the stairs leading down to the playground symbolize Darwin’s descent to a lower level of the social ladder after failing to meet expectations regarding his career as an adult. Perhaps the stairway leading down from the children’s playground to exiting the civic centre grounds altogether is a suitable symbol for the death of a child. I know that I never consciously chose these symbols, and these neurological connections formed in a natural process.

At First Sight by The Stems (1986)

Wide Open Road by The Triffids

I’ve found another great Perth band that was popular in the 1980s that had a video clip with scenes from around Perth from years ago. I’ve always thought the mood of this song subverts the impression that one gets from the song’s title. One can get so lost among the possibilities offered by a wide open road.


Perth 80s indie band Holy Rollers perform Above the Law from 1985

How’s your memory for Perth locations from about a quarter of a century ago? Where do you think this video clip was filmed? Where can I buy a pair of those sunglasses?  http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/-Dg97sseKtk?version=3&hl=en_US

I think I’ve still got this single somewhere in the house. 45 RPM. This is just too good a piece of music and a clip with too much nostalgia value to be forgotten, don’t you think? Are you old enough to remember the Perth to Fremantle line powered by diesel engines, with orange-coloured passenger cars? I loved the gentle, deep drone of a diesel engine. So many memories…..

One of the guitars in this track makes a lovely warm sound that is about the same tint of brown as the lead singer’s hair colour. The scenery in the background of this clip is just the type of thing that I often involuntarily “see” in my mind’s eye while I’m doing manual chores around the house, in a form of synaesthesia in which fine-motor movements of the hands trigger visual memories of scenes, often scenes from the distant past, of places which I didn’t visit often or didn’t expect to visit again. There’s obviously a lot of connections in my brain between the part of parts of my brain that do fine motor movement, or maybe procedural memory, and the part or parts of my brain that store visual memories of scenes. It is especially interesting that I’ve got synaesthesia involving visual memories of scenes because the part of the brain that does scene recognition (the parahippocampal place area or PPA) “is often considered the complement of the fusiform face area (FFA)” according to the Wikipedia and some people who can’t recognize faces also can’t recognize scenes. As well as being a synaesthete I get perfect scores in face recognition tests, and am thus probably also a super-recognizer.