Song Of The Day 7/10/2015: Painters & Dockers – “Die Yuppie Die”

Australian Pop with Colin Donald: I always felt that naming your band Painters & Dockers was akin to having a death wish. In American parlance, it’s similar to calling yourselves We Know Where Jimmy Hoffa is Buried. The dockside Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union has a chequered, violent criminal history where disputes were often settled with a shotgun. Whenever police removed yet another body from a waterside pub they would lament, “Every potential witness says they were in the toilet when the shit went down. They saw nothing.”

But a fatalistic approach is not surprising considering the family history of mainstay Paul Stewart (singer-songwriter and trumpet player). His brother, Tony Stewart, was one of the Balibo Five, a group of five journalists executed in 1975 while covering the independence war of East Timor. The tacit agreement between governments to blame it on crossfire is still viewed with contempt by many. As well as setting up the Painters & Dockers in 1982, in the ’90s Stewart also co-founded the Dili Allstars – a politically driven band consisting of East Timor and Australian musicians. Dili is the capital of East Timor.

Painters & Dockers song titles give a clue to their particular Australian style of mockery and parody of the social mores that annoy them, but their punk-infused power pop approach is also motivated by seeking a better deal for the human spirit. “Nude School” (contains a great put-down of Madonna) and “Die Yuppie Die” made brief forays into the charts in 1987, while “You’re Going Home in the Back of a Divvy Van” is a concert favourite. This last title is a popular chant at parties when police turn up to take a reveller away in their divisional truck for being drunk and disorderly. Other titles like “Eat Shit Die” point to their raucous, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, which is probably why people wearing “Eat Shit Die” T-shirts are stopped from boarding Virgin Australia airplanes.

Paul Stewart had another reason to consider mortality in 2009 when he underwent a liver transplant. Not being one to waste the opportunity, in 2012 he and fellow Dockers Colin Badger and Michael Badger set up The Transplants, a band where most members have had lifesaving liver transplants. In a similar vein you can’t kill off the Painters & Dockers. They might go through protracted periods of quiet – but give them a reason, or cause, and they’ll reunite and delight cult followers again. -- Colin Donald
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